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 a 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.
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