The Danger of Privatized Christianity

Christianity has been described as “Socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging.” Phil Johnson, executive Director of Grace to You, a Christian organization that features the preaching ministry of John MacArthur, writes that it’s wrong for Christians to lobby, rally voters, organize protests, and harness the evangelical movement for political clout. Is it any wonder our nation is a mess? No one I know believes that government can save us. Most Christians I know who get involved in politics do so to restrict the power of the State. They believe they have a responsibility to check and balance the authority and power of the State.

Consider what happened in the decades prior to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Christians were being taught that “Religion was a private matter that” only “concerned itself with the personal and moral development of the individual.”1

These ministers believed and taught that the church’s sole concern was man’s internal spiritual life. Here’s a sample of German theological thinking that shaped the mind‑set of the nation and brought Hitler to power:

  • Christian Ernst Luthard wrote in 1867: “The Gospel has absolutely nothing to do with outward existence but only with eternal life, not with external orders and institutions which could come in conflict with the secular orders but only with the heart and its relationship with God.”
  • Rudolf Sohm (1841–1917), speaking to a convention on the main Christian social action group, the Inner Mission, asserted: “The Gospel frees us from this world, frees us from all questions of this world, frees us inwardly, also from the questions of public life, also from the social question. Christianity has no answer to these questions.”
  • Wilhelm Hermann declared in the 1913 edition of his book on ethics that once Christians understood the moral significance of the state, then they “will consider obedience to the government to be the highest vocation within the state. For the authority of the state on the whole, resting as it does upon authority of the government, is more important than the elimination of any shortcomings which it might have.”

With Christians out of the way, Hitler had no real ideological opposition. Many Christians fell in line because they believed the nonsense (heresy) of these social philosophers. It’s unfortunate that there are well respected theologians in America today who spout similar dangerous nonsense. It all sounds so “spiritual,” but in the end, such thinking only opens the gate wide for tyrants to enter and oppress the people.

  1. Richard V. Pierard, “Why Did Protestants Welcome Hitler?,” Fides et Historia (North Newton, KS: The Conference on Faith and History), X:2 (Spring 1978), 13. []