Could Hitler happen here?

We asked three American historians, each with a background in German studies, to respond to Helmut Thielicke’s comments on Nazi Germany.

Each man is a professor of history. Richard V. Pierard, the first to comment, and Robert G. Clouse, the last, teach at Indiana State University in Terre Haute; Robert D. Linder teaches at Kansas State University in Manhattan. Linder and Pierard have written a book together to be published this year by InterVarsity Press, “Twilight of the Saints: Civil Religion and Biblical Christianity in America.” Clouse is the editor of “The Meaning of the Millennium, Four Views,” published last year also by InterVarsity.

Although we may not agree with all the views they express, their analyses are thought-provoking responses to the question, Could such things happen in this country?

The German Church and Authority

Ever since the Third Reich collapsed people have asked how and why such a demonic force could have arisen. How could people nurtured in the bosom of the evangelical church have been taken in by Hitler and his cronies? Professor Thielicke frankly and forthrightly deals with these matters, but his remarks raise troubling questions with which every thoughtful American Christian will have to wrestle.

First of all, the German Lutheran Church was by its very nature a conservative institution. Almost from the time of the Reformation it had come under the protective wing of the civil authorities in the various German states. In the early nineteenth century the connection between pietism and the German national awakening enabled patriotism to flower under the umbrella of religion, and the struggle to advance the interests of the German ...

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