Archives For Gene Edward Veith Jnr

On December 1st, 2018 the state owned Church of Sweden, which claims to have 6.1 million members, boldly proclaimed on Twitter that Greta Thunberg was the appointed successor of Jesus Christ.

The Church of Sweden isn’t alone.

American Comedian, leading anti-Trump figure and Leftist Twitterarti celebrity, Sarah Silverman revived the idea of Greta being a second revelation of God, proclaiming as recently as September this year,

Proclamations like these are dangerous because the world has been down this road once before.

Karl Barth was a reformed Swiss theologian, and opponent of Nazism. In 1934, he helped pen the Barmen Declaration. The declaration was a protest against aggressive policies of the state forcing people into allegiance with its ideology; and a stand against compromising Church authorities, who were keen to maintain a place at the table of power, merging theology with ideology.

The Barmen Declaration was part of a larger revolt among German Confessing Church Pastors, who refused to take an oath of allegiance to the state, unless newly added direct references to Adolf Hitler were removed.

The oath of allegiance had been changed to include “unconditional obedience to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, Supreme commander of the Wehrmacht”, earning the updated oath of allegiance the term, ‘The Fuehrer Oath’ (or Hitler Oath).

As a consequence, Barth was removed from his teaching position at the University of Bonn and forced out of Germany.

Barth’s no to Nazism coincided with his famous “nein” to natural theology. For Barth, the starting point of faith is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Natural theology, which seeks God’s revelation in nature, is a road fraught with peril. This is no more powerfully evidenced than in the spiritual, emotional and psychological vice-grip the Nazis were able to slowly close around the German people, with their consent.

Hitler stood on the podium of natural theology, and was falsely raised up as the second revelation of God.

Leni Riefenstahl’s well known Nazi propaganda film ‘Triumph of the Will’ portrayed him as omnipotent; powerful, transcendent. The film concluding with Hitler declaring the Nazi party to be “unchangeable in its doctrine, hard as steel in its organization, supple and adaptable in its tactics, and in its entity, like that of a religious order…”

Responding in 2018 to the Swedish Church’s proclamation, Danny Bloom of The Times of Israel, said it best: “Jesus Christ is now a 15 year old autistic “climate activist” who speeches are written by her parents and other adults for her?’ Bloom called the proclamation of the Church of Sweden, and the media’s obsession with Greta, ‘child exploitation.’ He then asked, ‘is Greta to be called an “oracle” or a “savior” all of her teenage years, then what? What happens to her in her 20s and 30s?”

Bloom’s point is valid. What are the long term consequences of telling a 16 year old girl, who suffers from mental health issues, that she is a victim of injustices on par with the Versailles Treaty? What are the long term consequences of telling her that she is the answer to those perceived injustices; that she is, like Hitler was before her, the second revelation of God?

As presented to the world last week, the apocalyptic climate change narrative is the mein kampf of activists. Greta’s grief, anxiety, frustration and anger, is induced by an hypothesis turned dogma. All of which is justified, not by science, but by an interpretation of the scientific data.

Bill Muehlenberg’s criticism of Leftist activists exploiting Greta is the same for any church denomination who chooses to surrender Christ to climate change histrionics. Those who, under the dubious banner of natural theology choose to lead that child, and others, to believe that she is the Messiah.

It’s imperative that we say “no” to this surrender. Instead of raising Greta to god-like status, we remind her and the world of the cost and necessity of the Theological Declaration of Barmen, with its “no” to Nazism, and natural theology, in our “no” to child exploitation, and hysterical apocalyptic climate change histrionics:

8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

8.12 We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.

Karl Barth wrote that ‘Christianity is the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ [i]

Lutheran theologian, Gene Veith brilliantly expands on this stating,

‘Nazism was a calculated crusade to deny the transcendence of God and usurp Christianity’.
Without theology being free and independent of ideology there is nothing to challenge ‘the ideas that led to Auschwitz with special scrutiny. This is especially true when those ideas, often adopted uncritically, are still in vogue today.’ [ii]

Karl Barth’s punishment for not following the party line and refusing to pledge ‘unconditional obedience’ to the state and its Fuhrer, is an eerie precedent, and it’s being repeated in society today.

The Barmen Declaration is still relevant. It’s a source of encouragement for anyone who wants to take a stand against the exploitation of Greta and children like her. It’s a light for theologians and pastors who are still determined to push against the tide of compromise.

Not compromise in a diplomatic sense, where an exchange of understandings is metered out in order to establish mutual respect, but in the perilous decision to abandon discernment and theological critique as unscientific, intolerant, anachronistic and therefore ultimately irrelevant.

In our own “no” to hysteria, and the resurgence of tyranny via natural theology, may we find the strength to graciously echo the stand taken at Barmen, and the “no” of those same Confessing Church pastors, some of whom paid for that “no” with their lives.


References (not otherwise linked):

[i] Barth, C.D IV/II p.524

[ii]  Veith Jnr, G.E. 1993 modern fascism: the threat to the Judeo-Christian worldview Kindle for P.C. Ed.

Brave German Pastors Defy Nazi Control: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/10953135?fbclid=IwAR3J3hIcZGpBkfl2r5hdx9nAkL-xUdH3FT7Rg99h5dKRvB7Isdyl3RwJ50A

First published on Caldron Pool, 1st October 2019.

©Rod Lampard, 2019

My interest in Gene Edward Veith Jnr’s work began in 2012 after reading ‘Modern Fascism (1993).

In it Veith shows himself to be a fearless, sharp, forward thinking academic[1] who isn’t afraid to stick his neck out when presenting sensitive facts. For a scholar, this isn’t just risky, it often means standing alone, on uncomfortable truths, that have either been conveniently buried or ignored. Taking a stand can end in ostracism or excommunication.

One potent example is Veith’s thunderous proclamation that ‘fascism is back in academia’.[2] This rides on the coat tails of a discussion about the defence (and for some, the denial) of German existentialist philosopher, Martin Heidegger’s[3] ‘extensive involvement in the Nazi Party.’

All the evidence suggests that Heidegger ‘was an activist in the Nazi party’. The most damning, according to Vieth, was Heidegger’s  alignment with the Sturmabteilung (Stormtroopers) of Ernst Röhm (‘a radical [Nazi] faction’, ‘rife with homosexuality’), which led to Heidegger being ‘considered too extreme, even for Hitler’[4].

Another example of Veith’s tenacity, and lack of fear, despite the current culture of silence, and suppression in academia, of anything that doesn’t fit a particular political narrative, is found in his unpacking of the relationship between fascism and academia. Veith unpacks how the culture produced by revisionist deconstructionism, contributed to the rise of fascism; and how this culture opened a door to the National Socialists (Nazis), allowing them take total control of the German (Weimar) parliament through a democratic process.

The straight-talking tone of his 2003 revised edition of ‘Loving God with All Your Mind’, remains consistent with ‘Modern Fascism’. The text is a manifesto on how Christians, in an era of subjective relativism, can participate in that culture, without becoming one with that culture.

By looking to relevant Biblical examples Veith describes a way forward. He states (rightly),

‘the intellectual resources of Christianity are vast and rich […] The tolerance for paradox, [within Biblical Christianity] with its combination of openness and scepticism, means that the Christian life and the biblical worldview not only can withstand critical inquiry, but they can inspire critical inquiry […]‘ (pp. 146 & 97).

Beginning with the Babylonian exile of Daniel (and Israel), Veith argues that the Bible already sets the bar for exiled Christians in a postmodern; post-Christian world.

Daniel’s example is one of steadfastness, submission to authority, ‘respect and courtesy towards his enemy’ (p.103). Added to this is the importance of prayer and community. For the Christian in exile, the ‘application of Daniel 2:17-19 seems to be that Christians in a hostile environment need to seek out other Christians in that hostile environment to support each other in fellowship and prayer’ (p.104)

Vieth notes that the two popular responses of Christians in this kind of environment is often ‘withdrawal[5] or compromise’ (p.11). Both are toxic because both acts reject the vocation and intellectual inheritance handed down to Christians. The act of withdrawal contracts Christianity leading to apathy, or esoteric elitism[6].

Whereas compromise, ‘reinterprets Christian doctrine according to the ways of thinking currently in vogue. This is the way of theological liberalism […] in doing so [Christianity] is changed into something else’ (p.12).

Withdrawal and compromise are inconsistent with Biblical Christian living (Rev.3). Withdrawal denies that the ‘Christian life is to be lived out in our vocations’ (p.104); lived out in the world, not of the world or separated from it. Compromise denies Christ. Is synchronistic and leads to a ‘Christless Christianity’ (p.47).

Daniel prayed, put his trust in God and negotiated with authority. He didn’t withdraw. Neither did Daniel compromise.

Daniel is, therefore, a primary example for how Christians, not only should, but can, live out Mark 12:29-31[7].

 ‘It’s important for Christianity to maintain its inherent radicalism. Christianity is not simply another cultural institution (p.70) […] Christians must be  informed by a ‘thermostatic’[8] education, maintaining heat through both a traditionalist and progressive function, in a profound way, without slipping into idolatry; daring not to make anything made by sinful human beings into a sacred absolute’ (pp.71-74)[9].

So that God’s Word is not, and cannot easily be replaced with the reason and words of the creature, ‘Christians must subject any human creation and institution to the most skeptical and critical scrutiny.’ (p.74)[10]

Through the biblical example set by Daniel, Veith rejects the withdrawal and compromise, either/or. He is confident that ‘it’s possible for Christians to engage the contemporary intellectual world without weakening or compromising the faith […] In order to do this, Christians need to be aware of the contours of contemporary thought’ (p.12).

One of the most effective ways ‘Christians can witness to people today, both to the active enemies and to the far greater number of the ignorant and indifferent, is simply to inform them objectively of what it is that Christians believe’ (p.51)[11]

Written by a seasoned Christian in the academic world, ‘Loving God with All Your Mind’ is a manifesto for Christians. Veith offers directions for how Christians can still live out the Gospel; live out their vocation, without apology, in love and service, knowing that they are very much in the world, but because of Jesus Christ, are no longer of it. Even in the pagan plurality of postmodernism and the quagmire of morality, fear, insecurity, and indecision, attached to it.

Through vocation, and the deep intellectual heritage, inherited by Christians, withdrawal and compromise are negated.

Veith is right,

‘This tradition of active thought and practical problem solving is a vital ally for Christians fighting against the intellectual trends of the contemporary world…we can and thus be freed from the tyranny of the present, the assumption that the way people think  today is the only possible way to think.’ (p.109)

In other words, Christians have every reason to stand firm. Therefore, speak truth in love. Be consistent. Be real. Be humble. Be present. Be like Daniel. Live like Jesus.

For the greatest commandment is this ‘hear oh Israel, the Lord you God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul and all your mind, and all your strength. The second greatest commandment is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mark 12:29-30, ESV)


References:

[1] Vieth is a Lutheran and professor of English.

[2] This is of special interest given the 1993 publication date. Veith’s well informed argument draws a connection between the fascism of the 1920s and 30s, and where real fascism resides today.

[3] Farias, V. 1987. Heidegger And Nazism, Temple University Press, 1989.

[4] Modern Fascism

[5] An option suggested by Rod Dreher et.al.

[6] Veith, p.106

[7] ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’ – Jesus.

[8] See Veith’s discussion on Blasé Pascal and Neil Postman, p.145

[9] ‘God’s Word has a caustic, corrosive effect on idols of all kinds’ (Veith, p.75)

[10] ‘The moral and religious beliefs of a Christian need to be shaped by the Word of God, not by the world. Christians need to be critical thinkers and to use discernment, forging their own ideology based on Scripture, not the social class that they aspire to. Christians should not be so easily labeled.’ (Veith, p.100)

[11] In applying a solid grasp of what our early Christian forebears meant by the words: faith seeks understanding (fides quaerens intellectum) ; I believe in order to understand (credo ut intelligam) (p.146), Christians can navigate through the fog of postmodernism, and be a guiding light to others.

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Also published @ The Caldron Pool, 17th February 2019