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Full text of "How to serve God in a Marxist land"

UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




HOW TO SERVE GOD 
IN A MARXIST LAND 



HOW TO SERVE GOD 
IN A MARXIST LAND 



by KARL BARTH 
and JOHANNES HAMEL 



with an introductory essay 

by ROBERT McAFEE BROWN 



ASSOCIATION PRESS • NEW YORK 



HOW TO SERVE GOD IN A MARXIST LAND 



Copyright © ig^g by 
National Board of Young Men's Christian Associations 



Association Press, 2pi Broadway, New York 7, N.Y. 
Library of Congress catalog card number ^pij^i^j 



Printed in the United States of America 



CONTENTS 



Publisher's Note 7 

Introductory Essay 11 

by Robert McAfee Brown 

Letter to a Pastor in the German Democratic 

Republic 45 

. by Karl Barth 

\ 

An Answer to Karl Barth from East Germany 8 1 
by Johannes Hamel 

The Proclamation of the Gospel in the Marxist 

World 84 

' by Johannes Hamel 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/howtoservegodinmOObart 



PUBLISHER'S NOTE 



Many people have been involved in providing this 
book of materials for Americans. The authorized 
translation into English of Karl Earth's Letter to a 
Pastor in the German Democratic Republic was made 
by Henry Clark and James D. Smart, of Union Theo- 
logical Seminary, New York. This letter was originally 
published by Evangelischer Verlag Zollikon in 1958, 
under the title Brief an einen Pfarrer in der DDR. It 
is translated and published fully in the United States 
now for the first time, with their permission and on 
authorization of Karl Barth. 

Thomas Wieser, of the United Student Christian 
Council, made the authorized translation into English 
oi An Answer to Karl Barth from East Germany, by 
Johannes Hamel. This was first printed as "Antwort 
an Karl Barth" in Kirchenhlatt fiir die Reformierte 
Schweiz, March, 1959. 

Mr. Wieser also made the authorized translation 
into English of the essay by Johannes Hamel, "The 
Proclamation of the Gospel in the Marxist World," 
which originally appeared as his contribution to 
Gottesdienst—Menschendienst, Festschrift fiir Eduard 



8 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

Thumeysen, published by Evangelischer Verlag Zolli- 
kon, 1958. 

All material is used by permission. Without the in- 
itiative and assistance of Mrs. Marguerite Wieser, 
these writings would not have been brought together 
in this book. 



HOW TO SERVE GOD 
IN A MARXIST LAND 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

by Robert McAfee Brown 



This is one "how-to" book that isn't offering Easy 
Rules for Success. In fact, if there is one over-all 
theme in the pages that follow, it is that in trying to 
serve God in a Marxist land, Rule Number One 
goes: There are no Easy Rules for Success. This 
doesn't mean that discussion of the problem therefore 
ceases, but that discussion of the problem therefore be- 
comes more important than ever before. Christians 
faced with perplexing issues must always try to "talk 
them out" together, believing that if the interchange 
is conducted in the light of Scripture, God can use the 
intercliange to help His children discern His will 
more clearly. 

"How to serve God in a Marxist land" is obviously 
a burning issue for any Christian living behind the 
Iron Curtain. And it ought to concern Christians 
living in the West as well, for at least two reasons. 
First of all, we need to become sympathetically aware 
of what is happening to our Christian brethren in 

U 



12 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

other parts of the world: "If one member suffers, all 
suffer together" (i Corinthians 12:26). Secondly, we 
need to realize that we have much to learn from fellow 
Christians who are facing ethical dilemmas that at 
least on the surface seem much more agonizing and 
difficult and acute than ours. It may be salutary for 
us to discover that— as these writings show— the agoniz- 
ing, difficult, acute dilemmas are not all concentrated 
on one side of the Iron Curtain. 

The incident tliat refocused the problem in the 
minds of Americans was a typically sensationalistic 
newspaper account, several months ago, of a letter 
Karl Barth had written to an East German pastor, on 
the problem of serving God in a Marxist land. The 
dispatch reported only a few rather extreme state- 
ments from the letter, which, taken out of context, 
put Barth in the worst possible light and suggested 
that he was practically a Communist informer. There 
was a great deal of subsequent comment on Barth's 
letter in the American press, most of it based on a 
few brief extracts from the letter, which actually ran 
to forty-five pages in the German edition. In the 
present volume, this letter is translated into English 
in full for the first time. Thus it is only from this text 
that a significant appraisal and critique can be made. 
Karl Barth has never been one to inspire lukewarm 
reactions, and part of the value of an "occasional" 
piece, such as the present letter, is that it can and does 
invite vigorous rejoinders. 

In his letter, Barth refers to an essay by Johannes 



Introductory Essay 13 

Hamel which had been published only a few months 
earlier in a Festschrift for Eduard Thurneysen, a life- 
long friend of Earth's, entitled "The Proclamation 
of the Gospel in the Marxist World." No portions of 
this essay have previously appeared in English, and its 
publication in the present volume is a notable ad- 
dition to the materials available on the problem of the 
life of the church in a world dominated by the Marx- 
ist gospel. Pastor Hamel knows whereof he speaks. He 
has been proclaiming the gospel in the Marxist world 
for well over a decade. For ten years he was pastor 
to students at the University of Halle, where he often 
had Bible classes of over 1,000 students. He has paid 
the price of arrest and imprisonment for his convic- 
tions, so that without trying to glamorize his story it 
can be said very directly that his courage has earned 
him the right to be heard. He is likewise the author 
of the brief answer to Earth's letter included in this 
volume, which indicates the kind of reception that 
Earth's comments received in East Germany, where 
what he had to say was both warmly praised and 
roundly condemned. 



In order to see the famous Earth letter in the clearest 
possible context, it will be wise to consider first of all 
the less well-known but equally important essay by 
Hamel, since it is written out of precisely the kind of 
situation to which Earth is attempting to speak. 



14 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

Pastor Hamel is like many other men who, at the 
end of World War II, found themselves living in a 
sector of Germany which, largely as a result of a 
geographical accident of war, was under the control 
of Russian Communists. The Christian pastors were 
faced with the very perplexing problem of discovering 
how the gospel could be proclaimed under a regime 
which was actively hostile to that gospel. Many Ameri- 
cans, bred on the most vigorous kind of anti-Commu- 
nist propaganda, tend to feel that the gospel cannot 
be proclaimed in a Marxist world, and that anybody 
who stays and tries to do so must by that very act 
have sold out to the regime in power. They feel that 
the really prophetic Christian must either be captured 
or escape to the West where religion is respected and 
honored. But it is not necessarily a prophetic thing 
to be preaching in the safety of lands where "religion 
is respected and honored," and it is not necessarily a 
prophetic action to leave the difficult situation where 
God has placed one in order to avoid the dilemmas— 
and dangers— which may result. And there are Chris- 
tian pastors like Johannes Hamel who have not tried 
to escape, but who have stayed behind the Iron Cur- 
tain in order that they may engage in the infinitely 
perplexing task of seeking day by day to relate their 
Christian faith with directness and courage to a very 
un-Christian situation. 

Some day the story of these men will be told, and 
it will be an epic chapter in the history of the church 
of Christ under persecution. At the present time, 



Introductory Essay 15 

those of us in the West do not know very much about 
how they have been able to serve God in a Marxist 
land. And we must first of all recognize that we are 
not morally entitled to the easy posture of condemn- 
ing them for what we may too easily assume to have 
been "capitulation to the demands of a totalitarian 
state." We need above all to listen to what they say 
about what they are trying to do; and the essay by 
Johannes Hamel gives us the chance to do just that. 

Since this is a fairly long and complex essay, it will 
be helpful first of all to give a brief summary of its 
main points. The author begins by urging us to avoid 
stereotypes of the Marxist world. We must not be 
betrayed into interpreting Marxism by its own pre- 
suppositions, nor by any presuppositions other than 
those which biblical faith provides for us. As Chris- 
tians, he says, we must realize that the phenomenon 
of Marxism exists in a world in which "the princi- 
palities and powers" have already been overcome by 
Jesus Christ. This world is God's world; and Marxism 
must therefore be understood as something which 
exists within God's world, and which cannot ulti- 
mately and finally threaten God's sovereignty. 

This is followed by descriptions of four situations 
from biblical history, in which the people of God 
found themselves under the oppressive rule of alien 
and pagan powers. The four situations described are 
the overlordship of Assyria in the eighth century b.c; 
of Babylon in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.; the 
domination <?f Persia in the sixth century B.C.; and 



16 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

the subjugation of the early Christians under Roman 
rule in the first century a.d. 

The question must now be faced: In what ways 
does the Bible give us direction when we too have 
to live under a regime which does not acknowledge 
the reality of the God we worship? The next section 
of the essay points out some of the lessons which can 
be drawn from the biblical examples cited above. 
Pastor Hamel finds that there is a significant alterna- 
tive both to revolt (i.e., open opposition) and to 
alignment (i.e., submission). It is the alternative 
suggested by such passages of Scripture as Isaiah lo, 
where the pagan power, Assyria, is understood as "the 
rod of God's anger," and "the staff of God's fury." 
The same theme is traced in various portions of the 
New Testament, particularly in Paul (Romans 13), 
and in 1 Peter, an epistle written during a time of 
persecution. This appraisal of the role of the domi- 
nant power rules out either revolt or alignment, and 
makes it necessary for the church to walk a precarious 
kind of path, but a path which presents real oppor- 
tunities for the church and its proclamation of the 
gospel. 

Pastor Hamel highlights four facets of this ap- 
proach: (1) the foreign powers and their rulers must 
be seen as "God's instruments," i.e., means which he 
can employ in the carrying out of his purposes; (2) 
they must be seen as agents of God's judgment, and 
the message which the Christian hears in their activity 
must therefore be a call to repentance; (3) it must 



Introductory Essay 17 

be recognized that the promise of redemption is al- 
ways present in the midst of judgment, and that out 
of what appears to be grievous evil, God can never- 
theless work good; and finally (4) the Christian may 
never forget that God remains the Lord of history, 
and that God is God even in the midst of Babylon. 
This being so, the Christian may find himself called 
upon to live out his Christian witness right in the 
midst of Babylon. 

After this analysis of the biblical materials relevant 
to his subject, Hamel devotes the remainder of the 
essay to an attempt to apply these biblical insights to 
the central problem of "the proclamation of the 
gospel in the Marxist world." There are a number 
of points in this section that are worth highlighting 
for our purposes. For one thing, the author counsels 
us at considerable length to avoid attacking or defend- 
ing the Marxist order for what can only be called 
crude anti-Communist or pro-Communist reasons. He 
gives telling examples of the mentality of each 
position. 

What, then, is the real issue? The real issue is 
whether or not the Christian Church in the Marxist 
world can really believe that God is meeting her in 
these encounters with Marxism— and Marxists. Hamel 
makes the very bold statement that the Marxists can 
be seen as "servants of God," even though they do not, 
of course, acknowledge that they are such, and would 
either vehemently or amusedly deny such a descrip- 
tion of themselves. And since these words will surely 



1 8 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

sound offensive and even shocking to Western ears, 
it should be pointed out that Hamel is speaking 
here in nothing other than the terms that Isaiah lo 
uses to describe the despotic Assyrians. He is trying 
to say that in God's world God can use even the 
Marxist for the fulfilling of his own purposes, even 
though, like the Assyrian, the Marxist "does not so 
intend, and his mind does not so think" (Isaiah 10:7). 

There is another issue that the Christian must face 
as he wrestles with the problem of proclaiming the 
gospel in a Marxist land. Is the Christian willing to 
hear the Marxist critique of the church without either 
accepting it in terms of Marxist presuppositions, or 
becoming so defensive in the face of it that he turns 
to uncritical defense of the existing activities of the 
church? Here Hamel is obviously describing actual 
reactions by Christians to what Marxists have said 
about the church. It becomes a betrayal of the gospel 
simply to accept the Marxist criticisms of Christianity, 
and particularly "organized Christianity," from the 
standpoint of Marxist ideology. But it is no less a 
betrayal of the gospel for Christians to close ranks 
and refuse to listen to the critique simply because it 
is being made by nonbelievers. 

This suggests, therefore, an important further in- 
gredient in the situation. This is the absolute neces- 
sity of repentance in the life of the church. Behind 
all of the human accusations about the inadequacy, 
the impotence, and the irrelevance of the church, 
the Christian must listen for the voice of God. God's 



Introductory Essay 19 

accusation must be heard for what it is, and his 
saving act must be recognized in the very midst of 
this human judgment. It is Hamel's contention that 
an attitude of this sort can free the Christian from 
the necessity of being a fellow traveler of Marxism or 
a fellow traveler of anti-Marxism. 

In these terms it is possible to see why Hamel can 
describe so enthusiastically the vivid and immediate 
relevance which the Bible has for Christians living 
behind the Iron Curtain today. 

The essay concludes with a call to Christians to 
recognize that in different kinds of political situations, 
they will understand their political responsibilities in 
different ways. He urges Christians outside the Marx- 
ist orbit to make a real effort to understand that 
Christians inside the Marxist orbit must address the 
gospel to Marxists, unless they are going to be irrel- 
evant in the situation where God has placed them. 

II 

How are Western, non-Marxist, "capitalist" Ameri- 
cans to appraise this essay? It is safe to assume that to 
many English-speaking readers the viewpoint Hamel 
expresses will be almost totally new, either in its 
theological perspective or its practical conclusions, or 
both. It is therefore all the more important that it be 
read seriously and carefully, with the realization 
that English-speaking readers may have some impor- 
tant things to learn from it. 



20 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

Perhaps the most important thing to see at work 
here is Hamel's genuine wrestling with a contempo- 
rary problem in the light of biblical faith. He does 
not just pluck a verse from here and there, but tries 
to examine his own situation in the light of the full 
sweep of the history of the people of God. His starting 
point is not Marxist ideology. It is not Western 
democratic ideology. His starting point is the Bible. 

As he looks at the world through biblical eyes, 
Hamel realizes that this world, even this difficult 
world of East Germany, is the world which is under 
the sovereign sway of the living God. It is the world 
into which the very Son of God entered, in which he 
did battle with "the principalities and powers," and 
in which he conquered them. He is the Lord of this 
world, not someone in Moscow or Washington. Every- 
thing one sees in this world must be seen from the 
perspective of this faith. This means that the Chris- 
tian cannot abdicate from the task of trying to live 
responsibly wherever God has placed him. And it 
means seeing the given situation where God has 
placed that Christian as a situation in which and 
through which God is saying something and doing 
something, using (with a kind of divine nonchalance) 
whatever means come to hand, whether they be the 
Assyrian empire or the Persian empire, the Roman 
overlords or the Marxist overlords. So the Christian 
must endeavor to see God at work in and through 
the given events of world history. 

All of this, it seems to me, is incontestably biblical; 



Introductory Essay 21 

and Hamel, rather than being accused of having said 
something "new" and original, should rather be de- 
scribed as having tried to take the New Testament 
seriously, and then having looked at the whole history 
of the people of God, in Old and New Testaments, 
in the light of it. Isaiah lo is a key passage which 
the reader should re-examine if he wishes to see what 
Hamel is saying in biblical terms— but Isaiah lo as 
read in the light of Paul's assertion in Colossians con- 
cerning the cosmic victory of Jesus Christ. 

Does this mean, then, that the adoption of the 
biblical-theological perspective, so rapidly sketched 
above, leads with a kind of inevitability to the specific 
conclusions to which Hamel comes vis-a-vis the pres- 
ent Communist government in East Germany? Here 
we need to see Hamel in his own context, and not 
try to put him in our context. It would not neces- 
sarily follow that if he were a pastor in East Lansing 
or Amarillo or Spokane, he would be led by his 
biblical faith to the specific political conclusions ex- 
pressed in his essay; for, as he points out, "The task 
of Christians to recognize and accept political re- 
sponsibility in accordance with their faith and their 
ethics is commensurate to the opportunities which 
are actually open to them in any given situation." 
But by the same token it follows that a Christian in 
East Lansing or Amarillo or Spokane should not be 
too hasty in concluding that Hamel is not sufficiently 
critical of the government under which he lives— 
particularly in the light of the fact that the Comma- 



22 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

nists have found it impossible to make Hamel play 
their game on their terms. The American reader 
needs to take with utter seriousness the way in which 
Hamel refuses to speak from Marxist presuppositions, 
and tries instead to speak from Christian presupposi- 
tions to that segment of the world which has, tempo- 
rarily at least, accepted Marxist presuppositions. 

The perplexing dilemma which Hamel's essay high- 
lights is how to know when, from the biblical 
orientation described above, the power of the state 
has become so demonic that it can no longer be 
viewed as an instrumentality of God, but must rather 
be seen as an instrumentality of evil working against 
God, which must therefore be opposed, in the name 
of God and the gospel. It is clear that Hamel does 
not view Marxism in this way, though it is clear that 
both he and Barth did so view Nazism. (One cannot 
imagine Hamel or Barth saying about the Nazi state 
the same things that they say about the Communist 
state.) And as to whether Hamel's assessment of the 
Marxist as the "servant of God" is in any sense 
descriptive, or must be rejected as a failure to measure 
accurately enough the demonic power of Marxism— 
this is a decision which every Christian must make 
within the depths of his own soul. That most Chris- 
tians in the West unhesitatingly make the latter 
assessment is all the more reason for them to read 
Hamel's essay with as much openness as possible. 

There are, of course, other points along the way 
where the reader will wish that he could press Hamel 



Introductory Essay 23 

further. 75 the church, for example, freed from the 
responsibility of developing "theories about the na- 
ture of the state," as Hamel suggests toward the end 
of his essay? 75 our place "below the powers and the 
rulers"? Does not all this smack a little too much of 
the Lutheran doctrine of the "two realms," which in 
the past has so often led to an attitude of acquiescence 
on the part of Christians toward rank injustice in the 
activities of the state? In lesser lives than Hamel's, this 
can be the beginning of an approach which ends by 
sanctifying the status quo, whatever status quo it may 
be. At the very least, a caution flag should be hoisted 
at this point. 

There is another difficulty which arises when one 
sees God's activity in history too precisely. Is the pat- 
tern of God's historical working quite as coherent as 
Hamel, and many others, seem to think? Can we be as 
sure as we might like to be that these specific events 
are the ways in which God is positively working out 
his purposes, when these events may be ones in which 
God's purposes will be at least temporarily thwarted 
if his children do not rise up in protest? 

This problem is closely related to a final problem— 
again a variant of the others— which can be stated by 
asking, "Where and how does the Christian finally 
draw the line between capitulation to a government 
(which may actually be an evil government) and 
revolt against a government (which may actually be 
a relatively good government)?" Hamel, as we have 
seen, denies that these need to be the alternatives, at 



24 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

least in East Germany today. At the very least, he has 
sketched a compyelling statement of another possible 
alternative. It is even possible that he has done much 
more, and laid the groundwork for a recovery of a 
"biblical politics," albeit a precarious politics, subject 
to the kinds of difficulties stated above. 



Ill 

Some of these basic and deep-seated questions can be 
brought into sharper focus by turning to look at 
Karl Earth's Letter to a Pastor in the German Demo- 
cratic Republic. Our examination of the Hamel essay 
gives us a context into which we may fit Earth's letter, 
but before we look at the letter itself we must engage 
in the further task of fitting the letter into the context 
of the development of Earth's own thought. 

Swiss by birth. Earth was a professor at the Univer- 
sity of Eonn in Germany when Hitler came to power 
in 1932. He very soon became aware of the danger 
and menace of Nazism, and from 1933 on was increas- 
ingly outspoken in his condemnation of it. He lost 
his University post almost immediately because he 
refused to take the required oath of allegiance to 
Hitler. During the years up to 1939 he turned out 
an astonishing number of essays, articles, and pam- 
phlets, warning his fellow Christians of the demonic 
character of Nazism, and particularly of the subtle 
ways in which it was making inroads into the life of 
the church. He was incensed by the activity of the 



Introductory Essay 25 

so-called "German Christians," who engaged in an 
almost total embrace of Adolf Hitler and welcomed 
him as a new messiah sent to the church and the 
German nation. 

Barth was active in the formulation of the Barmen 
Declaration of 1934, which began with a stirring and 
unequivocal affirmation of the sole lordship of Jesus 
Christ, thereby making plain that no other "lords" 
could claim any place in the life of the church. The 
first article was as follows: 

Jesus Christ, as He is attested to us in Holy Scripture, 
is the one Word of God, whom we have to hear and 
whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death. 
We condemn the false doctrine that the Church can 
and must recognize as God's revelation other events 
and powers, forms and truths apart from and along- 
side this one Word of God. 

That this is still Earth's position is symbolized by 
the fact that he quotes the first paragraph above at 
the very beginning of the latest volume of his Church 
Dogmatics^ as normative for his approach to ethics 
in that volume. 

In such pamphlets as Theological Existence Today, 
Church and State, and The Church and the Political 
Question Today, Barth made his position of active 
opposition to Nazism clearer and ch irer. In the latter 
pamphlet, for example, he asserts that the church 
cannot remain indifferent to Nazism, or adopt a pose 

1 Cf. Barth, Die Kirchliche Dogmatik, IV. 3 (Erste Halfte), p. 1. 



26 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

of neutrality when confronted by it. Nazism js not 
only a political movement, it is a religious movement. 
Furthermore, it represents the dissolution of the just 
state, and the church must have a concern that the 
state be just. Opposition to Nazism is a political de- 
cision, but it is prescribed by the decision of faith. 
The church must pray for the destruction of Nazism 
and the restoration and maintenance of the just 
state. It must not only pray, it must act. And this 
means being willing to bear arms against injustice. 

Similarly in his Gifford lectures in 1937-38, pub- 
lished as The Knowledge of God and the Service of 
God (Scribner), Barth outlines the conditions under 
which resistance to the state can be justified and even 
urged in Christian terms. 

This brief historical review is given to dispel the 
common American stereotype that Earth's theology 
leads to ethical quietism. On the contrary, Earth has 
always been deeply involved in the ethical issues of 
his day, and his stand against Nazi tyranny, as we 
have just seen, was unequivocal. All of this was more 
than just a matter of political preference; it pro- 
ceeded from the very heart and core of Earth's theol- 
ogy. Unfortunately, not too many American readers 
have delved very deeply into Earth's mammoth 
Church Dogmatics, of which seven "part- volumes" are 
now available in English. Suffice it to say tliat in this 
attempt to deal comprehensively with the Christian 
faith. Earth links dogmatics and ethics more closely 
than perhaps any other systematic theologian has 



Introductory Essay 27 

ever done. The indissolubility of the two is inherent 
in his entire approach to dogmatics. The over-all way 
in which this relationship is established is spelled 
out in the latter half of Church Dogmatics^ II, 2. In 
III, 4, he deals very explicitly with such matters as 
marriage, war, suicide, and a host of other ethical 
problems as they emerge from a study of the doctrine 
of creation. Volume IV, 3 (Zweite Halfte), due this 
year, will engage in the same kind of grappling with 
the problem of the "calling." Earth's theology, then, 
is emphatically not one of lofty unconcern for the 
given ethical problems of man's specific situation, but 
precisely an attempt to show how at all points the 
gracious God relates himself to man's situation, and 
how man is to live in the light of the fact that the 
gracious God has done this. 

Given, then, this central ethical thrust in Earth's 
theology, and given also the fact of his uncompromis- 
ing and courageous opposition to Nazism throughout 
the Hitler regime, most people expected that at the 
conclusion of World War II Earth would turn his 
polemical sights on the "totalitarian" character of 
contemporary communism in almost exactly the same 
terms. With the change of a word here and there. 
Earth's anti-Nazi writings could presumably have 
been turned into almost equally effective anti-Com- 
munist writings. 

Eut the fact of the matter is that these anticipations 
turned out to be quite ill-founded. Earth did not be- 
gin an attack on communism. He did not align himself 



28 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

with those who looked upon it as a menace to the 
future of Western civilization. In fact, partly goaded 
by Emil Brunner, who from a vigorously anti-Com- 
munist orientation publicly asked Barth again and 
again why he was so uncritical of communism, Barth 
began once more to turn out pamphlets and speeches 
and essays in which he took a very difEerent line 
vis-a-vis communism from that which he had taken 
vis-a-vis Nazism. Fortunately for the American reader 
(though perhaps unfortunately in terms of getting 
a full picture of Earth's specifically political writings) 
a number of these essays are available in English, 
having been translated in the collection entitled 
Against the Stream: Shorter Post-War Writings 1946- 

For our present purposes, it will be enough to high- 
light a few comments from "The Church between 
East and West," an article which first appeared in 
Unterwegs in 1949. Here Barth outlines some of the 
reasons why he is so unwilling to engage in the all-out 
offensive against communism which Brunner was 
urging upon him. He feels that the post- World War 
II struggle is basically a struggle between Russia and 
the United States. They are both children who have 
very suddenly grown up into giants. Each would like 
to master the other, and Europe is in tlie unhappy 
position of being a buffer between them. 

2 Published by Student Christian Movement Press, London, 1954. 
For a very full appraisal of Earth's attitude toward cx>iTimunism, 
cf. also Charles West, Communism and the Theologians, Westmio- 
ster Press, Philadelphia, 1958, especially chaps. 5 and 6. 



Introductory Essay 29 

What, then, is to be ''the Cyiristi^-n, attitude'' toward 
this conflict? Barth says that the answer can be simply 
put. First, "we must under no circumstances take 
fright" (p, 130). A single hymn by Paul Gerhardt is 
actually stronger than the worst things people can 
read in the papers about the American-Russian im- 
passe. But secondly, and for our present purposes 
more important, the Christian isJ^ottQ Jake part in • 
the conflict. As Christians it is not our concern at all. 
It is not a genuine, not a necessary, not an interesting 
conflict. It is a mere power-conflict" (p. 131). Barth 
rehearses the charges which America makes against 
Russia, and the charges which Russia makes against 
America, and decides that neither side is very con- 
vincing. So he exhorts his European Christian friends 
not to join "in the battle-hymn of the West." "It has 
pleased God," he continues, "to bring us into the 
world as men of the West. But it does not follow by 
any means that it pleases Him that we should simply 
give way to Western prejudices and especially to the 
pressure of our Western environment" (p. 135). 

This does not mean joining the cause of the East. 
Jt means rather joining neither cause. The only pos- 
sible way is a third way. 

This essay was something of a bombshell to the 
churches of the West. Was this the Barth who had 
led the attack on Nazism? Was this the man who had 
seen the perils of totalitarianism so perceptively when 
they arose on German soil? What had happened? As 
if anticipating that this question would be raised, 



30 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

Barth concludes his essay with an attempt to describe 
why the attitude toward communism must be dif- 
ferent from what the attitude toward Nazism had 
been. He claims that the decision against Nazism was 
simple, and that one could say "no" with a clear con- 
science. But there are no simple repetitions in history, 
and the word against the Nazis is not by that token 
necessarily the word against anyone else. Barth also 
tries to discriminate between communism in practice 
and the communist ideology, a distinction he has at- 
tempted to maintain in other wTitings as well. He 
then launches into an attack on the West— a theme in 
his writings which has certainly been increasing in 
vigor rather than diminishing since 1949— and points 
out in effect that if the East is not very good, the 
West is not much better. One could be considerably 
more vigorous in one's opposition to communism, he 
feels, if Western democracy were appreciably better 
than communism: 

As long as there is still a "freedom" in the West to 
organize economic crises, a "freedom" to dump our 
corn into the sea here while people are starving there, 
so long as these things can happen, we Christians, 
at any rate, must refuse to hurl an absolute "no" at 
the East (p. 140) . 

There is another important difference for Barth 
between communism and Nazism. It is that commu- 
nism makes no pretense at being Christian. One of 



Introductory Essay 31 

the subtle lures of Nazism, Barth felt, was its attempt 
to present itself as a new form of salvation for the 
German people, with a new messiah, a new gospel, 
an eschatology, and all the rest. And many Christian 
pastors were willing to preach this gospel from their 
pulpits. Communism is not anti-Christian; it is simply 
and coldly non-Christian. It does not try to falsify or 
assimilate Christianity as Nazism did. It is brutally, 
but honestly, godless. Thus it does not pose the same 
kind of threat to the life and message of the church 
that Nazism did, and the church should not get exer- 
cised about it, since it is only one option in a power 
struggle which need not concern the church. 

So for these and other reasons the church must C ^^ \ 
stand neither against the West nor the East. "It can 
only walk between the two." The church's real task jf 
in this situation is to call all men back to humanity, 
and that will be its most important contribution to / 
postwar reconstruction. 

IV 

Even this brief precis will make clear to the Ameri- 
can reader that Barth has for some time been saying 
things which are most uncongenial to Western ears. 
We have become accustomed to insisting that a Chris- 
tian must take a stand in the current world struggle, 
make a decision as between West and East; and that 
his decision, if he is free to make a real decision, 
will be a decision for the West. These are precisely 



32 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

the things Barth refused to do in 1949, and they are 
what he again refuses to do in 1959, as the Letter to 
a Pastor in the German Democratic Republic makes 
clear. In fact, the reader who has read Against the 
Stream will perhaps wonder why there was so much 
fuss about the East German letter when it first ap- 
peared, for in it Barth is saying substantially the same 
things that he has been saying for a decade about 
communism and about the struggle between East and 
West. 

Perhaps the significance of the East German letter 
is mainly that it has come ten years later, and that in 
that ten-year period the posture of world communism 
has, to most people in the West, become clearer and 
clearer. Probably the most notable event in that dec- 
ade was the unsuccessful Hungarian uprising of Oc- 
tober, 1956. Before this revolt, Barth had written in 
somewhat glowing terms of the situation in Hungary 
—at least he seems in retrospect to have been overly 
sanguine about the Communist regime there. After 
the Hungarian uprising, and the instances which it 
provided of the brutality and terrorizing tactics of the 
Communist regime, Reinhold Niebuhr asked, in 
The Christian Century, "Why is Karl Barth Silent 
about Hungary?" For whatever reasons, Barth kept 
his silence, and the present East German letter makes 
clear that the Hungarian uprising has not notice- 
ably changed his appraisal of twentieth century 
communism. 

In 1948, a pastor in East Germany, writing on be- 



Introductory Essay 33 

half of a group of his colleagues, wrote to Barth and 
asked him for counsel about the difficult task of pro- 
claiming the gospel behind the Iron Curtain. In 
particular, he put eight specific questions to Barth 
and asked for his reactions. The now famous Letter 
to a Pastor in the German Democratic Republic, 
written at the end of August, 1958, was Barth's reply. 
We need not summarize this letter as fully as we did 
the essay by Hamel, for the letter is a much more "oc- 
casional" piece of writing and is more easily assimi- 
lated even after one reading. After only the briefest 
summary of its contents, we will make some comments 
upon it. The letter falls in four parts.^ 

First, Barth greets the East German pastor through 
whom the questions were asked, and gives a brief ex- 
planation of why he has not spoken a word to them 
before— an explanation we will discuss below. 

Secondly, Barth devotes the main body of the let- 
ter to exhortation, counsel, and encouragement to his 
fellow Christians living in a difficult situation. This 
is a vigorous and compelling setting forth of a bibli- 
cal basis for living in the midst of a time of troubles. 
This part of the document will have relevance long 
after the specific problems which prompted it have 
passed and have perhaps been replaced by other spe- 
cific problems. Here again, as was true in the Hamel 
essay, we see how the forces of biblical faith can be 

S In the following paragraphs I am expanding material which ap- 
peared previously as "Barth's 'Letter to a Pastor in East Germany,' " 
in Christianity and Crisis, April 27, 1959, pp. 53-54. Used by per- 
mission. 



34 Hem) to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

related helpfully to specific and discouraging situa- 
tions. The gospel remains true despite outward cir- 
cumstances which seem to deny its truth. This is still 
God's world despite all signs to the contrary. The 
faith can speak to men in desperate circumstances 
today just as it has spoken to men in desperate cir- 
cumstances in former days. Barth makes a great deal 
of 1 Peter 5:8-9: 

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil 
prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone 
to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing 
that the same experience of suffering is required of 
your brotherhood throughout the world. 

Barth is concerned, quite rightly, to point out that 
the "roaring lion" cannot just be equated with com- 
munism, and that to "resist" is not just to be an anti- 
Communist. For the real "roaring lion," the real 
devil, the real antichrist, may be much more diffi- 
cult to distinguish, and the power of this adversary 
may well be at work in the West in less discernible 
forms than communism. Therefore, the manifesta- 
tions of the "roaring lion" need to be resisted just as 
much on the western side of the Iron Curtain as do 
those manifestations of his presence which appear on 
the eastern side. 

What shines through this part of the letter is 
Barth's positive faith in the gospel of God's sovereign 
grace— the note which pervades volume after volume 
of his Church Dogmatics. There is a joyfulness which 



Introductory Essay 35 

is possible in the service of God, wherever he has 
placed one. Since God is sovereign, the Christian can 
live in the assurance that God's purposes will endure 
and triumph, no matter how the events of the moment 
may seem to deny the strength of those purposes. The 
Christian should feel no regret that he is called upon 
to rely simply upon the Word and the Spirit. For 
these are the true weapons of his warfare, and the 
church resists, and is "firm in the faith," only when 
the faith of the church is this faith. 

The third section of the letter consists of Earth's 
answers to the eight questions which were addressed 
to him. Here he offers quite specific (and quite de- 
batable) advice, and it is from this section that most 
of the quotations in the American press releases were 
drawn. The reader who turns to this section will dis- 
cover why. Here, for example. Earth seems to have no 
difficulty whatever in urging East German pastors to 
take the required loyalty oath to the East German 
Communist government— even though he doesn't 
know the precise content of the oath. Nor does he 
think it proper to try to "pray away" the Communist 
government, because the alternative might be the 
(apparently) worse fate of having to live under "the 
American way of life." 

Finally, Earth offers a closing salutation, and urges 
the East German pastors to remember that those liv- 
ing in West Germany have their problems too, and 
that they have in their own way to cope with the 
"roaring lion" referred to in i Peter. 



36 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 



V 

What are we to say about this document? Let us 
first of all point out some of the areas in which criti- 
cal questions can be raised, and then go on to sug- 
gest some of the reasons why westerners can be grate- 
ful to Barth for this letter. 

1. One must ask whether Barth does not perhaps 
purchase his vantage point above the struggle at too 
high a price. Can one really be permitted the luxury 
of refusing to make a choice— however discriminating 
and intelligent and qualified— between East and 
West? Is there really so little at stake in this struggle? 
Is not the Christian forced to involve himself a little 
more decisively in the kinds of decisions which may 
in the long run determine whether our civilization 
will be under Communist or democratic rule? 

It is Barth's refusal to descend to this level of 
choice which so vexes a critic like Reinhold Niebuhr. 
He claims— and in terms of Barth's attitude concern- 
ing East and West, he claims with some justice— that 
Barth wants a "pure" choice before he commits him- 
self. That is to say, if America and the West are not all 
Barth thinks they should be, he will remain neutral 
rather than align himself with a cause that may be 
somewhat tainted. Or, if Barth feels that communism 
does have certain unfortunate qualities, he will re- 
fuse to say so out loud, for fear of being used by the 
propaganda mill of the detestable westerners. 



Introductory Essay 37 

2. That these comments are made by an American 
will no doubt cause those of Earth's persuasion to 
discount them in advance. Such comments will seem 
to them a perfect example of the self-righteous atti- 
tude of Americans which they deplore. But I would 
assert that the question of whether or not there is a 
significant difference between East and West must be 
asked, and that it need not be asked self-right- 
eously, but can be asked with a high measure of self- 
criticism. An American can acknowledge that there 
is a great deal wrong with American foreign policy, 
that American identification of its power with God's 
will is monstrously perverse, etc., etc., and still won- 
der whether Barth is in a position to speak quite so 
surely as he does about the utter chauvinism and 
moral flabbiness of America, Many readers have felt 
that Earth's political position is informed more de- 
cisively by being anti-American, than it is by being 
pro-anything. Here one can only wish that Earth had 
at some time in his life taken the trouble to know 
America at first hand. For political decisions, as Earth 
is elsewhere the first to acknowledge, must be based 
not only upon the Word of God but upon a solid re- 
spect for facts rather than fantasies. 

3 /Earth himself raises the question of his refusal 
to comment on the uprisings against communism in 
Hungary. But he simply resorts to ad hominem po- 
lemics of an unworthy sort in trying to explain why he 
kept silent. It is surely not unreasonable to have 
asked Earth for his reactions to the Hungarian situ- 



38 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

ation in 1956, when he was so free with comments 
about it in 1948 (see Against the Stream, pp. 51-124). 
If words of praise are uttered when things seem to be 
going well, and a dignified silence is maintained 
when the cause becomes tarnished, observers are en- 
titled to wonder whether the judgment of the gospel 
on all aspects of human life is still being exercised, 
or whether there are certain areas which the gospel 
is not supposed to judge. At all events, Earth's feel- 
ing that Reinhold Niebuhr's question was an im- 
proper question shows that America is not the only 
place where one can become insulated from the fate- 
ful day-to-day decisions men must make. 

4. Specific criticisms could surely be raised about 
Earth's answers to the eight detailed questions. He 
wisely says in several places that he is not acquainted 
with the East German situation at first hand, and that 
therefore his answers may not be just what they 
should be. But one wonders a bit at the confidence 
with which he can then go on, from the isolation of 
neutral Switzerland (and the Eernese Emmenthal at 
that), to give such confident replies to men in situ- 
ations which he has not experienced, where life and 
death and moral integrity might well hang in the 
balance if Earth's replies were taken seriously. One 
must hope that in the cases where Earth did not 
know the details of the situation, his answers did not 
become wrong answers in the light of a true knowl- 
edge of those situations. 



Introductory Essay 39 

5. In conclusion we must raise once more a ques- 
tion that Karl Barth has surely answered for himself 
a hundred times. But the question persists: What.3re 
the basic reasons for the amazing^ shift of attitude 
from Nazism to communism? Granting all the things 
Barth says in earlier essays about American interna- 
tional irresponsibility, granting that America to a 
European seems much more menacing than Ameri- 
cans are able to understand, do not the moral indigrni- 
ties, the callous disregard for human life, the gradual 
warping of the original Communist ideology to fit 
the present Communist practice, the purges, the 
secret police, the rule of the few over the many— do 
not these and a dozen other realities of the commu- 
nism of the 1950's make necessary a more penetrat- 
ing kind of criticism than anything Karl Barth has 
yet offered us? 

The above comments are typical of criticisms 
which have been raised since Barth's letter was first 
published. But it would be far too easy simply to 
offer these criticisms as though they thereby "dis- 
posed" of Barth's letter— or even of Barth. On the 
contrary, we must conclude by pointing out some of 
the reasons why we in the West can be grateful that 
Barth wrote his letter. 

1. We have already commented on the fact that 
this letter is an attempt to let a word from the Bible 
speak to the world today. As is always the case in 



40 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

Earth's theology, the message he proclaims is not pri- 
marily a word from man, though it is of course a word 
through man, but rather an honest attempt to find a 
word from the Lord. In this letter we have a stirring 
attempt to spell out what it means to affirm "God 
above all things." And we have an attempt to listen 
to a word of Scripture originally addressed to 
churches under persecution (i Peter), and a word of 
Scripture originally addressed to the Jews in their 
time of captivity (Jeremiah 29). The bulk of the 
latter chapter is a letter from Jeremiah to the Jews 
who are in exile under Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. 
The following verses are typical of the advice he 
gives them: 

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat 
their produce. Take wives and have sons and daugh- 
ters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters 
in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; 
multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek die 
welfare of tlie city where I have sent you into exile, 
and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare 
you will find your welfare Qeremiah 29:5-7) . 

Thus it will be seen that much of the advice that 
Barth gives to the East Germans is simply an attempt 
to let a relevant word from Scripture be heard today. 
The question, of course, can still be raised: Is this 
the relevant word from Scripture? Why this passage 
and not some other? Surely Barth would not have 



s^ 



Introductory Essay 41 

thus counseled— and did not in fact counsel— Chris- 
tians who were under Nazi persecution to behave in 
this way. This question is no new question, and it 
need not be addressed only to Barth. It is the ques- 
tion which must always haunt the Christian who is 
seeking to see life through biblical eyes: Which por- 
tion of Scripture speaks most clearly to my situation 
today? 

2. A second helpful thing that we gain from this 
letter is a clearer insight into why Barth has been so 
loath to raise his voice against contemporary commu- 
nism. Aside from certain personal reasons, such as 
the desire to press on to the completion of his Dog- 
matics, Barth points out that to speak a word against 
communism means almost immediately being picked 
up and used by anti-Communists of the crudest sort, 
and transformed against one's will into an uncritical 
and holy crusader for the West. We have already 
noted that Barth may be asking for more here than 
history is ever going to give him, but we in America 
must still feel the force of his charge. Our anti-com- 
munism, however justified on some levels it may be, 
is usually clothed with a self-righteous proAmeri- 
canism which is certainly impossible to justify in the 
light of the gospel. Barth may be wrong in assuming 
that this entitles him to avoid "taking sides," but he 
is surely right in cringing before the unholy alliance 
between America and God's will which seems to re- 
sult if he does. 



42 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

Furthermore, Barth is at least not quite so blind to 
evils under Communist regimes as some of his critics 
have assumed. He says, "I disapprove just as much the 
spirit and the words, the methods and the practices 
of the system under which you live [i.e., in East Ger- 
many] as I do the powers and dominions that rule 
over us here in the West." This may not sound like 
much of a concession to Western ears, but it is more 
than many critics of Barth had ever led us to believe 
would be forthcoming. 

3. It may sound strange to say so at first, but we 
need to thank Karl Barth for his very harsh words 
about the West, and even for his comparison of "the 
fleshpots of Egypt" and "the American way of life." 
Whether we think this is either fair or accurate, it is 
a fact that Barth and many other Europeans see 
America in precisely these terms. We are not entitled 
to assume that this picture is merely the product of 
the distorted imagination of the persons who are 
looking at us. We must be ready to acknowledge that 
there is some relationship between what we are and 
what the Europeans see when they look at us. Ameri- 
cans do not like to admit such things but it behooves 
us to do so, not merely in a kind of public acknowl- 
edgement of guilt, but with intent to repent. In 
speaking of us as sharply as he does, Barth says a word 
we need to hear, for he describes the image of our- 
selves which we have projected on the rest of the 
world. And we are not entitled to take the easy out 
of saying that Barth's picture is such a caricature as 



Introdtictory Essay 43 

to be irrelevant. Even a caricature can convey a 
needed truth. 

4. In more positive terms, Barth says an important 
word to the West in warning all his readers that the 
"roaring lion" does not just exist behind the Iron 
Curtain. Evil in the twentieth century is not embod- 
ied solely in communism. Evil in the twentieth cen- 
tury may be even more dangerous in its more subtle 
forms, those forms of evil which masquerade as good. 
It may even prove to be the case, for example, that in 
the long sweep of history American self-righteousness 
will have more baleful effects on mankind than the 
overt evil which communism represents. Americans 
would no doubt find it hard to be persuaded of this 
possibility— and yet the very strangeness of the notion 
to Americans may simply be a further indication of 
the subtle force of evil at work in the West. Those in 
the West, Barth reminds his brethren in the East, 
"must withstand an 'adversary,' though in an entirely 
different disguise, as well as they can, and must prove 
their solidarity with you in doing it." 

". . . their solidarity with you ..." A solidarity 
between East and West as they confront a common ad- 
versary in differing guises! Let the West remember 
this— we, too, face an adversary, and we, too, need to 
be strengthened for battle. And the one who thinks 
that the adversary is only communism will already 
have lost the battle, for he will have blinded himself 
to the possibility of seeing the adversary that exists 
within his own heart. 



44 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 



VI 

So we learn many things— both pro and con— from 
Earth's letter. Let the last thing be a recognition 
that Christians may quite legitimately disagree when 
it comes to their specific political decisions. If one 
thinks that Earth has made mistakes here, let him 
profit from the mistakes. But whatever the specific 
political decisions may be, let every reader learn 
from Earth that he, too, in his own situation, is called 
upon to do what Earth does— to read the Eible hope- 
fully and expectantly, eagerly believing that God 
will bring forth yet more truth from his Word. 



LETTER TO A PASTOR 

IN THE GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC 

by Karl Earth 

Dear Unknown and Well-known One! 

Your letter, accompanied by what you wrote 
to our mutual friend, reached me, and I have read it 
more than once with great sympathy and attention. 
You wish to hear from me something about your 
situation and your problems. You have furnished me 
with an informative account (on which I will not 
directly comment in the following, for reasons known 
to you). Finally, you have approached me with eight 
concrete questions. 

"Why doesn't Karl Barth say a guiding word also 
to us?" Let me first deal with this question which 
you addressed to our mutual friend. It reminds me 
for a moment of a "why?" which was posed to me 
publicly by a well-known American theologian just 
two years ago, when tlie East- West storm was raging 
fiercely for us here, "Why is Karl Barth Silent about 

45 



46 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

Hungary?" At that time I didn't say a single word in 
answer, for obviously it was not an honest question. 
It was not inspired by the real distress of a Christian 
seeking genuine conversation and fellowship with 
another, but it was addressed to me by a hard-boiled 
politician safe in his castle. He, as is customary with 
politicians who lead an opponent onto slippery ice, 
wished either to force me to profess his own brand of 
primitive anti-communism, or to expose me as a 
secret pro-Communist, and thus in one way or an- 
other discredit me as a theologian. What should I 
have said to that? Your question— though I detect 
even in it a faint trace of ill will— is of a quite differ- 
ent sort. In any case, you ask from a place where the 
sterile anti or pro can play only an insignificant role, 
since where you are you must come to grips daily 
with the reality of communism and, whatever the 
cost, make the best of it. You fear, in your own words, 
"nothing more than a liberation according to Ade- 
nauer's ideas, which would lead us back to the flesh- 
pots of Egypt." You evaluate the socialism of your 
country as a respectable attempt to cultivate some- 
thing new and, as you wish for it a healthy, free de- 
velopment, you are not led astray by the gloomy pre- 
dictions of the West German radio. To be sure, you 
then list a number of harsh facts which cause trouble 
for you as a pastor and a Christian in the East Zone. 
And you want me to think through the meaning of 
these facts with stark realism and to give you my 
counsel. You approach me, trusting that I may be 



Letter to a Pastor 47 

capable of this, capable of saying to you a "fatherly," 
a "guiding," and even a "liberating" word that will 
"make you glad." I wonder whether what I can say 
will partake of these high qualities even just a bit? 
This much is certain: when a man questions me as 
you do, I can, I must, and I want to try to answer as 
well as it is in my power. 

First of all, why have I not done this long ago? I 
know very well why not! For one thing, it is because, 
as time goes on, I like less and less to discuss a matter 
unless both outer necessity and inner necessity com- 
pel me to say something definite. Up to now, no one 
has required me so explicitly and compellingly, as 
you have just done, to say something regarding the 
problem of Christian existence under God in the 
German East Zone. Furthermore, one would need to 
have spent all these years with you, to have experi- 
enced in one's own life the growing pressure under 
which you stand. One would need to have tried out 
personally the various possibilities of withstanding it, 
in order to avoid coming up with some kind of wis- 
dom which, because of a deficient knowledge of the 
facts, situations, and persons, might be totally irrele- 
vant to your questions. Moreover I confess to you 
that rather than give you advice from afar, I would 
ten times prefer to learn to my own edification and 
instruction what good people in your own ranks are 
writing on the subject. I think at the moment of the 
excellent essay which Johannes Hamel contributed 
to the Thurneysen-Festschrift, which appeared this 



48 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

summer under tlie tide "The Proclamation of the 
Gospel in the Marxist World." "You have Moses and 
the prophets," I might have exclaimed with Father 
Abraham; "what more do you need?" Furthermore, 
fifteen or twenty-five years ago I still had enough 
breath to write Church Dogmatics with my right 
hand and give various -"guiding words" with my left: 
first concerning the Kirchenkampf , the struggle of 
the Confessing Church against Hitler's Germany; 
then to stir up and sustain my Swiss countrymen 
when they were threatened in 1940 with "weak 
knees"; and lastly for the benefit of the oppressed 
Christians in France, Holland, and elsewhere. But 
today I have neither the time nor the energy to do 
both. Were I forced to choose between the two, I am 
inclined to think that Christians on both sides of the 
Iron Curtain will be better served on the whole if 
instead of making direct pronouncements, I do what 
I am yet given to do for the Dogmatics. Finally, I 
should like just to whisper in your ear, if that were 
possible, one more reason for my past silence that 
dare not be missing from the list. How can I write 
to you without revealing that I disapprove just as 
much the spirit, and the words, the methods, and 
the practices of the system under which you live, as 
I do the powers and dominions that rule over us here 
in the West? I would find it quite bearable that such 
an exposure might easily lose me the little glory of 
being counted among the "progressive theologians"— 
a reputation which I have so far enjoyed in miany 



Letter to a Pastor 49 

places in East Germany. But how can I speak my 
mind without unwillingly casting all kinds of fuel in 
the fire of anti-communism which flares up glaringly 
enough in our part of the world and no doubt con- 
stantly glimmers in yours? How could I avoid being 
praised and used by people whom I consider to be 
notoriously the worst enemies of all truth, all justice, 
and all peace? But enough of this. All these argu- 
ments have their obvious weaknesses. I will put them 
aside this once, give my heart a push, and, moved by 
what you have written to me, say what I think. 

The First Epistle of Peter, I should think, is a por- 
tion of the New Testament that today is read with 
special attentiveness in the East German Republic by 
all who want to be true Christians. In that epistle, 
the churches are challenged to "resist . . . firm in 
faith" (5:9). To resist whom? "Your adversary, the 
devil," says the passage, "who prowls around like a 
roaring lion, seeking some one to devour." The au- 
thor certainly had in mind some very concrete diffi- 
culty, temptation, and danger that was threatening 
the members of these churches. To many of you in 
East Germany— and to the more of you, the nearer 
you live to the western boundary— the "adversary" 
is probably communism, which in its specifically Ger- 
man and therefore thorough and consistent form 
looks like an especially fierce and ravening lion. Still, 
to identify that "lion" with communism as such is to 
fall into the trap of a dangerous optical illusion. 
Those who make this identification straightway con- 



50 Hoiv to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

elude that the "resistance" of the Christian is opposi- 
tion to communism. In other words, Christian re- 
sistance is to take the form of an openly or subtly 
active "anti-communism." 

The matter, however, is more complicated. Of 
course, communism as such has something, and not 
just a little, to do with that "adversary," but to be 
exact, only insofar as it has the form and power of a 
tempter who can seduce and mislead men (and espe- 
cially Christian people) into anxiety, blind submis- 
sion, blind hate, indecision, and double-talk, into 
serpentine wisdom from dovelike simplicity, into 
howling with the wolves or fear of being eaten by 
them, into collaboration or obstructionism, worry, 
and the subsequent use of all false means and 
weapons to which care-ridden mortals are accustomed 
to resort. In short, into that godlessness in action 
which is truly atheism. Where and insofar as com- 
munism thus misleads and seduces men— and only 
there and only insofar— is it to be identified with the 
lion that prowls the East today. Communism that 
would willfully create this ruin is to be resisted. 

But the New Testament passage, as it continues, 
affirms that Christians who are tempted in this par- 
ticular way should consider "that the same sufferings 
befall your brotherhood throughout the world." 
Since you write me that you fear nothing so much as 
"liberation according to Adenauer's ideas," I ven- 
ture to assume that we are agreed on the matter 
which I should like to discuss next. The roaring lion 



Letter to a Pastor 51 

has other, no less threatening forms besides the one 
in which he seems to meet you in the East. You prob- 
ably know that the people in the sixteenth century 
spoke of the Turks and the Pope as of an Eastern and 
a Western antichrist. I prefer not to use that term 
either for the Eastern or the Western power. Nor, 
for that matter, did I want to have it used for Hitler 
in his time. I conceive of the "antichrist" as more 
inspiring and more inviting, because friendlier and 
more convincing in character than the Pope or the 
Turks of the sixteenth century, the wretched Hitler, 
or the two contemporary antagonists. The real anti- 
christ will be much more difficult to distinguish 
from Christ than any of these; in fact, he will be a 
kind of Christ-figure. Who knows, he may in some 
way resemble the meek and mild representation of 
Christ like that of Thorwaldsen. Such great ultimate 
words should certainly be used with more restraint 
than is likely to be the case in the heat of controversy. 
I recall those earlier antagonists because one thing is 
certain: one cannot interpret the particular behavior 
and activity of the contemporary Eastern power in 
whose realm you live as representing the one and 
only embodiment of the prowling adversary of Chris- 
tianity. The present-day Western power has at least 
this one point in common with the Eastern, that it 
too, in its own way, seeks to dissuade the Christian 
Church from being the church. It attempts to silence 
the fearless, resounding proclamation so alien and so 
disturbing to the world, that God's rule is close at 



62 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

hand and will ultimately be revealed to the whole 
earth, that his kingdom is supreme and victorioiis 
over all economic, political, ideological, cultural, and 
also religious realms of life. 

You speak several times in your letter of your gov- 
ernment's obviously increasing "hostility to Christ," 
This might be so, although this remains an open 
question. In any event such a "hostility" exists not 
only in the Communist East but also in the so-called 
"free" West, though in a different guise. You clearly 
know that. But you must reckon with this truth and 
keep it before your eyes day in and day out. The 
church's message of Christ as the sum and substance 
of this coming reign is just as repugnant and embar- 
rassing to the West as it is to the East. Who knows, 
perhaps it is even more repugnant and more embar- 
rassing to the West. An adverse spirit and power is 
mightily at work against this testimony not only in 
the East, but also in the West; not only in the avowed 
totalitarianism in which you live, but also in the 
creeping totalitarianism in which we live. In the East 
there is arbitrary rule of the almighty party, propa- 
ganda, and police, but in the West we are surrounded 
by an equally tyrannous press, systems of private en- 
terprise, snobbish presumption, and public opinion. 
For the sake of the church's witness it is as neces- 
sary here as there to "resist . . . firm in the faith." 
Anyone who fails to resist the Western lion with all 
his might will certainly not be able, either, to resist 
the Eastern lion. Indeed such a person doesn't know 



Letter to a Pastor 53 

what he is talking about when he speaks of a "lion." 
It may be that we lack just as much as you do the 
necessary imagination to see clearly what the re- 
quired resistance concretely means for the Christian 
on the other side of the fence. But we must trust each 
other's word that it is exceedingly difficult for the 
church and for individual Christians here and there to 
find and to tread ever again the narrow path of obedi- 
ence, to resist on both sides the compulsory domesti- 
cation and, even more, the ever-present temptation to 
voluntary conformism. We must also know how hard 
it is to refrain from sterile opposition and defiance 
and to remain unswervingly faithful to the gospel of 
free grace, valid yet strange and unpopular among 
us as among you. The burden that is thus laid upon 
you may look very different from ours. We must 
nevertheless recognize it as the one burden inevitably 
to be borne by the one Church of Jesus Christ, by all 
of us together. But i Peter and the rest of the New 
Testament are equally insistent on sharing the joy 
that is assured to all who have to shoulder that 
burden. Christians in the East German Republic are 
herewith informed that we are no less in need of their 
concern for us and their rejoicing with us than they 
are of ours. 

Now don't be angry with me if I go on to state 
a homely truth: the only thing you and I can do in the 
grip of tribulation and anxiety is to lay hold again 
of the prima et ultima ratio, to practice the ABC's 
of the Christian faith. Simply put, to believe truly 



54 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

and gladly in the God as whose witnesses we are 
commissioned, you there and we here. To believe in 
him means, as you know as well as I do, to fear and 
love him, his kingdom and his grace above all else, 
and so to fear and love our Lord and Savior Jesus 
Christ above all things; to acknowledge him and sub- 
mit to him in all our problems, great and small, as 
the One who was, is, and is to come; to risk every- 
thing in our personal and in our corporate life on 
the faith that he will provide all that is good for us, 
and that all he provides will be good. This belief is, 
even in the East German Republic, the only key, the 
only treasure, the only armor. But there as well as 
here it is the one key, the one treasure, the one armor 
beyond compare. God above all things! In the light 
of what you have written me, I want to try to inter- 
pret and apply this truth. 

God above all things! He is the One who has willed 
and ordained that the Christian Church be both con- 
fident and joyful in the midst of mankind to have 
a gift and a task even under the domination of an 
alien power, a socialism that is inspired and directed 
by Moscow! An alien power? Yes, but not only an 
alien power. This power in all its characteristics can 
be but God's instrument, inescapably fulfilling a func- 
tion in his plan. The judicial function of a rod of 
discipline? Yes, even this function. This power would 
not have gained control over you had it not been for 
all the sins of past leaders and people in society, state, 
and church. You are assuredly undergoing a painful 



Letter to a Pastor 55 

process of purification and fiery refining, such as the 
Western world also will not escape sooner or later in 
some form, perhaps at the hands of Asia and Africa. 
But who sits in judgment? Not the instrument, but 
the One who uses it and holds it in his hand, the gra- 
cious and merciful One who even when he is angry 
and punishes, and especially then, does not desire that 
anyone be lost, but that all. Christians and non-Chris- 
tians, be saved and come to the knowledge of the 
truth. He judges only because he loves us and in order 
to bless us. Is there any hope for a turn for the better 
in your brand of socialism? Why not? But the West 
German radio might also be right with its mumbling 
and grumbling that nowhere is hope in sight. Never- 
theless, hope in God is not in vain, even under the 
rule of socialism— over which he reigns as well, using 
it to further his work. The Christian Church in the 
East Zone of Germany might now be gathered as a 
people that rests its hope in God alone, without illu- 
sion or reticence or complaint, putting us all to shame 
and at the same time encouraging us. Sooner or later 
this people of God will surely have reasons, large or 
small, for thankfulness. Perhaps, as you hint, it al- 
ready has such reasons. 

But far better than anything I can say to you about 
your basic attitude to the alien power that over- 
shadows you is what the prophet Jeremiah, in the 
29th chapter of his book, writes to the exiled He- 
brews in Babylon. I cannot urge you strongly enough 



56 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

to read this chapter with care, as if for the first time, 
and to let what is said there speak to you in your 
situation in spite of all other considerations. 

God above all things! Sovereign even over atheism 
and materialism, which your state really seems to 
carry to excess. I am familiar enough with the big 
textbook full of pictures which begins with the neb- 
ulae and ends with the portraits of Karl Marx, Lenin, 
and, in my copy, still with Stalin. But God is sover- 
eign also over theories! Or do you think that those 
theories could actually hurt the living God, or even 
a single person, whether child or adult, educated or 
uneducated? It would take more than a little or even 
a great deal of materialism, especially when one con- 
siders how for a long enough time we have been 
carrying our pernicious idealism to excess! Don't be 
alarmed. The bubble of a genuine and equally per- 
nicious materialism will burst at the appointed time, 
as the bubble of idealism had to burst when its time 
came. The "masterpieces" of your court-poets will not 
be able to alter the course of events at all. And what 
about atheism? Don't you think that most of what 
calls itself atheism is to be taken seriously only inso- 
far as it has arisen from misunderstandings caused by 
the prevailing teaching, attitudes, and practices of the 
Christian Church? I am reminded of a delightful but 
thought-provoking anecdote which I heard recently. 
One Berliner confesses to another that he has now 
left the Church. "So you don't believe in God?" the 
other replies. "In God, yes," the first answers, "but 



Letter to a Pastor 57 

not in his ground-crew." It is not as a rule the fault 
of the "ground-crew," of us Christians in general and 
of us theologians in particular, that people come to 
consider and announce themselves as atheists? All 
they can deny is the existence of a conceptual idol 
with which they are familiar, not the life and work 
of the eternal God whom they do not know, though 
he knows them all the better. Do they think that he, 
who in Jesus Christ has accepted all men, including 
them, would become "a-human" because some people 
dare to think that they can become "a-theistic"? As 
though they could thereby escape him! As though 
we were permitted as Christians to believe that such 
people had succeeded or could succeed in escaping 
him, or that they had the power to wrest others out 
of his hand! If you want my advice, it can only be 
this: in principle and in practice you should accept 
none of your countrymen at their own estimate. 
Don't ever honor them as the unbelieving and strong 
men they pretend to be! (As a matter of fact such 
customers are not only found in the Communist 
East.) They are just posing as the strong men they 
would like to be! Rather, you must meet their un- 
belief with a joyous unbelief in their attempted 
atheism. You as Christians must confidently claim 
that your atheists belong to God as much as you do. 
Whether they will be converted (or indeed whether 
you will convert them) may be more doubtful; but 
this is a secondary question. What is certain is that 



58 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

God is not against them, but for them. And you, for 
your part, not only may but must believe this for their 
sake and in their behalf. There is a sound basis on 
which you may live with these "enemies of Christ," 
who know not what they do: the basis for you to 
stand and to bear witness to them of the Lord who 
died and rose again for them also. To do otherwise, 
you would become an unbeliever, an atheist, and an 
enemy of Christ yourself. 

God above all things! Sovereign even over the 
legalistic totalitarianism of your state! You fear it? 
Fear it not! The limits of that system where its rep- 
resentatives must halt or else be destroyed is set not 
by its totalitarianism, but by its legalism which makes 
the state totalitarian in an ungodly and inhuman 
way. "Totalitarian" also, in a way, is the grace of the 
gospel which we all are to proclaim, free grace, truly 
divine and truly human, claiming every man wholly 
for itself. To a degree the Communist state might be 
interpreted and understood as an image of grace- 
to be sure, a grossly distorted and darkened image. 
Indeed, grace is all-embracing, totalitarian. But it is 
totalitarian grace as free and freeing action and not 
as law; not as a spider's web of theses and antitheses, 
and surely not coercingly pressing for their recogni- 
tion and realization, or ovenvhelming and crushing 
opposition wherever it appears— and where would 
that not be? The grace of the gospel, free in its di- 
vinity and in its humanity, conquers, overpowers, and 
rules from within outward and not vice versa. It does 



Letter to a Pastor 59 

not demand, it gives. It does not retaliate, it forgives. 
It does not oppress, it lifts up. It does not stir up 
wrath and it does not kill; it heals, binds up wounds, 
provides like the Good Samaritan. Under the law 
even that which is good, even that which is best, will 
inevitably be changed into evil— as constantly hap- 
pens in the East and in the West. Under grace, even 
the evil can turn out only for the good, indeed for 
the best. Do you believe in God's free grace? Of 
course you do. Then you must be able to discern 
the decisive weakness of the system under which you 
live (and of ours as well), which resides in its legal- 
ism. God's superiority, then, is plain for you to see 
at this point and casts out all fear. This means, of 
course, that you will scrupulously avoid encountering 
and counteracting your rulers on the ground unfortu- 
nately chosen by them, that is, merely countering 
their crude ungodliness and inhumanity with more 
refined versions of the same. They evidently fail (as 
do the rulers on this side of the Iron Curtain) to 
grasp a truth which we may not have made suffi- 
ciently clear to them: the Church of Jesus Christ in 
the totalitarianism of her gospel confronts them on 
an altogether different ground. The church cannot, 
and indeed dare not, retaliate, returning measure for 
measure. Were she to follow the rule of "an eye for 
an eye," she would cease to be the salt of the earth 
and the light of the world which she is intended to 
be, not to mention the fact that she would never 
succeed in the attempt. She is not to develop an 



60 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

ecclesiastical legalism as over against a materialistic 
legalism. She is not to rebut a materialistic world- 
view wdth a Christian world-view. She has no Chris- 
tian counterproposal to socialist mores and politics; 
no episcopal or synodal-presbyterial official authority 
to match the authority of police and party; no magic 
of her own whereby to counter the monotonous 
Marxist litany, the mass demonstrations, and the 
slogans of communism. She would feel no regret that 
she has to rely solely on the Word and the Spirit. 
Undismayed, she can only set out ever afresh from 
this point of departure, and ever again return to it: 
love is the fulfillment of the law, and love achieves 
the good which inevitably eludes all men who live 
only by the law. Only "firm in the faith," that is in 
this faith, can the church resist; never, in the name 
or in honor of any principles or dogmas, in an at- 
tempt to compel anyone to recognize them in theory 
or practice. She can only follow Jesus. Never in the 
hour and place of her confrontation can she fix her 
eyes on any other than the God of grace and the man 
to whom he is gracious, on the God who is free and 
the man who is to be set free by him. Then, whether 
she speaks well or badly, she must speak clearly, call 
clearly, and act decisively— questioning, warning, 
comforting. At one time she will have openly to con- 
fess her faith. At another time she will maintain an 
eloquent silence and stand aside. But always she will 
be serving God and man, and thus will never be able 
or willing to act as though she had both God and 



Letter to a Pastor 61 

man at her disposal. To "resist" in this way is cer- 
tainly what the church must never forego among you 
and among us. And in just this way her resistance 
will always be firm, genuine, and first and last by no 
means ineffectual. Whether or not her witness will 
be believed, she will at any rate be worthy of belief, 
since she herself lives from faith. What you and we 
must fear and love above all things is not any abstract 
idea, theory, deity, or law, but God's free grace alone, 
eternally sovereign and revealed to us in Jesus Christ. 
But he, God, and his free grace, is really above all 
thoughts, concepts, and usual practices by which we 
Christians ourselves in East and West have been ac- 
customed to live, seemingly serving both the glory 
of God and the salvation of man! What a multitude 
of things we have taken for granted: a church occu- 
pying a comfortable place in tlie social structure, her 
existence guaranteed, or at least respected, or at the 
very least tolerated by society in general and by the 
state in particular! Sunday as a recognized holiday 
and day of rest, and the chief church festivals which 
have somehow left their impact on the life of the 
people as a whole; infant baptism, confirmation, mar- 
riage, and burial, the Christian landmarks of the 
milieu and the existence of Mr. Everyman— means 
whereby the church has liked to reassure herself 
again and again of her obvious indispensability! The 
influence of the church in public education, instruc- 
tion and upbringing of young people; with the maxi- 
mimi claim that schools by right be Christian schools, 



62 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

or with the minimum claim that they be not openly 
opposed to "Christianity"! The prestige or at least 
the dignity of her official representatives among the 
leaders of other social and cultural organizations! 
The formal recognition of the church's freedom to 
participate in the discussion of general human con- 
cerns as a direct or indirect partner, welcome or un- 
welcome 1 Although these privileges of Christianity 
have never and nowhere gone unchallenged, certainly 
not in the last few centuries, it has seemed to us the 
most natural thing in the world that the proclama- 
tion of the gospel of Jesus Christ should continue to 
run in some such channels as these, and that we 
should do the utmost for their preservation and de- 
fense, for the sake of God and the gospel! And we 
have done this zealously and repeatedly, both skill- 
fully and unskillfully, successfully and unsuccessfully. 
Were we not motivated by the assumption that the 
Christian cause and confession can and must be 
formally understood and appreciated in the normal 
order of things by each and every citizen, at the very 
least in terms of the free practice of "religion"? Is the 
world as such obligated to grant to Christianity the 
right to maintain that form of existence in its midst? 
What is happening to your situation in the East 
German republic, and possibly in other Marxist- 
oriented lands, seems to cancel this whole bill of 
rights. The same thing will probably happen to us 
here in the West. With you it is no longer possible 
to overlook the fact that it is happening. In the so- 



Letter to a Pastor 6b 

cialist conception of the world and of man which 
powerfully asserts itself in your country, this brand 
of Christianity is gradually squeezed out. The time 
seems near or at least not far when the church in this 
form of existence will no longer have any place at all. 
The church will be foreign, despised and greatly sus- 
pect in the eyes of state and society. Membership in 
the church and confession of Christian faith will 
greatly jeopardize life's opportunities for individuals 
from school age onward. Your freedom of movement 
will be restricted to a minimum, and all that you are 
commissioned to do as a church will be done only in 
corners, in the shadow, with constant interference, 
harassment, and sabotage from without. The Folks- 
kirche or National Church in the sense of the 
"Church of the people" will be only a dream. 

It may be that the plight is not yet as bad as this 
in the East Zone, and that there are forces at work 
which are still counteracting this development. But 
the fact that this development is so obviously favored 
by your rulers is sufficient to beg questions in your 
minds as in ours: Can Christianity truly fulfill its 
task only in that form of existence which until now 
has been taken for granted? Only in the light of that 
public assistance, recognition, or at least tolerance? 
Only with the help of the whole apparatus of a na- 
tional church and on the premise of freedom of 
action? Only as one strong pillar among others in the 
social structure? Only when it possesses a legal claim 
on each and every citizen? Just exactly where does 



64 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

one read of the first churches of Jesus Christ in Jeru- 
salem, Rome, Corinth, or Asia Minor as being per- 
mitted to enjoy this mode of existence? And where 
are they promised it for some later time? Where do 
we learn that its origin was in itself a good thing, or 
that the church stands and falls with it, or that the 
church is committed to it, come hell or high water? 
I am not saying anything new to you in reference 
to this question. It was indeed one of your most re- 
nowned and ablest men. General Superintendent 
Giinther Jacob in Cottbus, who not long ago an- 
nounced the "end of the Constantinian era." Because 
I have a certain wariness about all theoretical formu- 
lations of a philosophy of history, I hesitate to make 
this expression my own. But it is certain that some- 
thing resembling this approaching end begins to show 
itself dimly everywhere, but very sharply in your part 
of the world. 

It is certain that we all have reason to ask our- 
selves each of these questions, and in every case 
quickly and clearly to give the answer: No, the 
church's existence does not always have to possess the 
same form in the future that it has possessed in the 
past, as though this were the only possible pattern. 
No, the continuance and victory of the cause of God, 
which the Christian Church is to serve with her wit- 
ness, is not unconditionally linked with the forms 
of existence which it has had until now. Yes, the hour 
may strike and has perhaps already struck when God, 
to our discomfiture, but to his glory and for the sal- 



Letter to a Pastor 65 

vation of mankind, will put an end to this mode 
of existence because it lacks integrity and has lost its 
usefulness. Yes, it could be our duty to free ourselves 
inwardly from our dependency on that mode of ex- 
istence even while it still lasts. Indeed, on the as- 
sumption that it may one day entirely disappear, we 
definitely should look about us for new ventures in 
new directions. 

Yes, as the Church of God we may depend on it that 
if only we are attentive, God will show us such new 
ways as we can hardly anticipate now. And as the 
people who are bound to God we may even now 
claim unconquerable security for ourselves through 
him. For his name is above all names, even above the 
name that we in human, all too human, fashion have 
hitherto borne in his service and in a kind of secular 
forgetfulness, confused with his own. Might it not be, 
dear brothers and sisters in the imperiled East Zone, 
that you there and we here are now to do justice to 
the old Soli Deo Gloria in an entirely new spirit of 
humility, openness, and readiness? Might it not be 
your special calling to be a living example for the 
rest of us of how a church lives that seeks for and per- 
haps has already entered upon a new way, of a church 
for, not of, the people— the church in "God's beloved 
(deeply beloved!) East Zone"? 



66 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

I now address myself to the eight specific questions 
you asked. You will understand that here I can speak 
only in part with the same definiteness which was 
possible in the foregoing discussion of the main issue. 
To say something useful to you here, I would need 
to have been with you in the thick of things, in order 
to understand exactly how your questions are meant 
and not meant. It would be better if we met face to 
face. You must excuse me in advance if I, even with 
the best intentions, should go a little astray in the 
fog. By the way, am I wrong in my impression that 
not all of these questions are your own, but that other 
persons, presumably your colleagues, have put in 
their word? However this may be, I will try to do 
my best. 

/. Is the secret longing of the heart for German 
reunification patterned after Western prosperity and 
freedom exclusively to be reckoned as disobedience 
to the gospel? 

Answer: Such a longing is certainly understandable 
and not at all without reason. Were I in your place, 
I think that I myself would feel the same longing 
very keenly. Life in the West doubtless has many 
advantages, and among them some very real ones. 
And it would be impossible, in the light of certain 
events at the borderline between the two German 
zones, to deny that life in the East has its notorious 
disadvantages. What counts is how much scope and 
importance you give to that longing in comparison 



Letter to a Pastor 67 

with your obedience to the gospel. The two can 
hardly be identical. Or have you ever met a Christian 
who impressed you as being wholly obedient to the 
gospel in that he nourished this longing in his heart 
or even let it materialize? If you distinguish between 
this longing and the voice of the gospel, then you will 
show your absolute obedience to the latter by giving 
it the first place, and giving the other voice only a 
second or third or fourth place in the order of your 
thinking, willing, and doing. Not that you feel this 
longing, but that you give it precedence over your 
commitment to the gospel, is what would be reck- 
oned "exclusively as disobedience." 

2. Can we pledge the required loyalty oath to the 
East German government, in spite of the inherent 
dangers? 

Answer: I don't know the exact wording of this 
loyalty oath. I assume it is unlike the Hitler oath 
("I vow fidelity and obedience to the Fiihrer"), when 
the one who pledged it had to buy a pig in a poke. 
The content of the oath under consideration, I sup- 
pose, is with the definition of the established form 
of government, the essence of which is known to him 
on the basis of the Constitution of the East German 
Republic. (In the following I have Romans 13 in 
mind, but also my own relation to the form of gov- 
ernment of the Swiss Confederation as defined in its 
constitution!) "Loyalty" to this established order 
means honest readiness to recognize its existence and 



68 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

to take one's place in it, perhaps assuming, but ig- 
noring in practice, certain scruples caused by the 
"inherent dangers." "Loyalty" does not mean ap- 
proval of the ideology on which this government is 
built. It does not mean approval of each and every 
measure of the actual officials and representatives 
of this government. "Loyalty" reserves the right of 
freedom of thought over against the ideology, and 
the right of opposition, even of resistance to partic- 
ular implications and applications of the given sys- 
tem. There is such a thing as a loyal opposition. 
He is "loyal" to a given form of government who 
recognizes its validity and authority for himself and 
is resolved to accept it within the limits of what is 
inwardly and outwardly possible for him. I would 
not see any difficulty, were I in your shoes, in offer- 
ing this loyalty to the East German Republic, and 
thus in truthfully pledging the oath that is required 
from you. 

5. One of our theological teachers once maintained 
that the "silent of the land" prayed aiuay the Third 
Reich. Would a similar prayer be allowed us in our 
present situation? 

Answer: That report does not make me too happy 
because, as I have read in the biography of Kraviel- 
itzki, the respected head of a religious community 
and of an order of deaconesses, some of the "silent 
of the land" were at first exceedingly co-operative in 
ushering in the Third Reich. Whether you should 



Letter to a Pastor 69 

co-operate in a possible present-day attempt to "pray 
away" the East German Republic depends upon 
whether or not you can seriously and responsibly 
come before the Lord with such a prayer. Would you 
not be afraid that he might hear and answer you in 
a terrible way? Could you not awake some morning 
amidst the "fleshpots of Egypt" and committed to 
the "American way of life"? Would you not find it 
more fruitful to pray for the East German Republic 
instead of against it and, for the rest, to beseech the 
Lord for light and strength to live and act in a truly 
Christian way right where you are? 

^. To what extent can the curtailment of the 
church's right to the freedom to speak out and re- 
ceive a public hearing be a reason for resistance, con- 
sidering the fact that this is one of the major bases 
from which anti-Communist propaganda is launched? 

Answer: The concept of the "church's right to the 
freedom to speak out and receive a public hearing" 
is in itself highly problematic. Only God himself can 
properly claim this freedom for his Word. The 
church has no "right" to make such a claim for her 
own word. The Word of God has a right to the 
faithful, accurate, and entirely unacclaimed service 
of the church's word. The freedom to speak out and 
receive a public hearing can only be granted to the 
church as a gift of God's free grace. The "curtail- 
ment" of the church's freedom ought therefore to be 
understood clearly as a divine work of love, carried 



70 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

out by the socialist state against its will, a work which 
it is not advisable to resist. The "anti-Communist 
propaganda" is launched from very shaky giounds 
indeed, theologically speaking, when it has chosen 
this as its major base. 

5. The tense situation grates on our nerves and 
badly affects our inner condition. Irritations that 
border on heart failure literally lead to almost irrec- 
oncilable differences. Therefore, in spite of the com- 
pelling urgency of these and similar questions, can 
we still afford such endurance tests? Is it not our 
duty at times of greatest stress to be more concerned 
with the strategy for maintaining the inner solidarity 
of the church than with making our own better 
knowledge prevail? 

Answer: This question causes me to tremble. Even 
to one who can care only from afar, it speaks so clearly 
and directly of what it means to be humanly and per- 
sonally involved in the situation. I think I see how 
things get on your nerves and then affect your inner 
life. You and your brothers, threatened even with 
heart failure, fall out with each other in mutual ir- 
ritation. How can I say anything helpful at this point 
when I would almost need to consult a physician for 
advice? If I can be useful at all, it is perhaps in re- 
gard to the alternative you suggest in your question. 
You ask whether, faced with the "endurance tests" 
occasioned by the discussion of the four preceding 
questions (and maybe also of those yet to come), you 



Letter to a Pastor 71 

should count it more important to secure the recog- 
nition of your own better knowledge or to maintain 
a strategy for inner solidarity among Christian broth- 
ers. You seem to incline to the second solution. It 
seems to me that the alternative is not rightly stated. 
If Christians, pastors, and theologians are not united 
among themselves, then neither the question of "mak- 
ing your own better knowledge prevail" nor the one 
of the "inner solidarity" is of more than secondary 
importance, no matter how earnestly they present 
themselves. The real alternative must be as follows: 
In confronting these questions, are we willing to be- 
gin, all of us together, with the ABC's of what makes 
a Christian truly a Christian, forgetting at first the 
question as to the better knowledge of each individual 
and the concern for finding and preserving commu- 
nity of knowledge, but remaining constantly open? 
Are we willing to return once more to the Word of 
God, which concerns and commits us all, and to which 
we are all commissioned to bear witness? Are we will- 
ing to take stock of what the gospel of his free grace 
has to say to us and to our congregations here and 
now? Or are we for some reason unwilling to do that? 
Are we willing to read the previously mentioned 29th 
chapter of Jeremiah with unprejudiced openness and 
let it speak to us? Or do we find ourselves unready 
to do it? Submit to these "endurance tests," first each 
of you in his own study, and then all together in your 
meetings, and see what happens! Perhaps there will 
be some broken pieces. Perhaps a lot of what has 



72 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

seemed to be one's "better knowledge" is really not 
worth "prevailing" and will be flung to the dogs. Per- 
haps much of what is thought to be "solidarity," but 
really is weak and corrupted or to be gained only by 
the sacrifice of integrity, will be discarded. It is cer- 
tain that by this procedure you will arrive at a new 
and more useful knowledge, and then also at a new 
and more genuine solidarity. It is also certain that 
the other alternative will either disappear or, as is 
appropriate, become relative. And it is certain— I be- 
lieve I may be allowed to make this prediction without 
being a doctor— that these "endurance tests" will ease 
your nerves so that they will no longer worry you, 
and the heart failure which has been threatening all 
of you will be counteracted in a healthy way. But 
what am I saying here? "The Word, the Word, the 
Word must do it," all along the line. In fact, the 
Word will do it. 

6. Is not self-defense of the church also laid upon 
us, since otherwise we could lose the only sphere 
where the gospel can be freely proclaimed? Does not 
the admonition of the "peace pastors" "to invade the 
world ivith the love of Christ" serve finally only those 
who want to rob us of the opportunity to proclaim 
the gospel? 

Answer: After what I have said earlier, you will 
certainly be able to anticipate what I have to say to 
this question. I cannot believe that the church is per- 
mitted, let alone commissioned, to practice self-de- 



Letter to a Pastor 73 

fense any more than she has a legal claim to the free- 
dom to speak out and get a public hearing. She may 
in good confidence expect the state and society to 
grant her such "opportunity to proclaim the gospel," 
and if it is granted, gratefully to make use of it. How- 
ever, she does not possess a right to such opportunity; 
and to proclaim it and presume upon it does not make 
sense. Is she not kept fully busy with the question 
of whether the proclamation she is going to make, be 
it a great or a small opportunity, really is the good 
news of the Kingdom which it ought to be? Is she 
not fully occupied with unceasing prayer and work 
that her message may become ever more disciplined, 
more joyful, and more wholehearted, more thor- 
oughly good news? Don't you think also that this 
good news, insofar as we are its effective spokesmen— 
though neither you nor I should too glibly assume 
that this is so— has in itself enough power to create 
new "spheres" and "opportunities" where the old 
ones may shrink more and more? Can't it even be 
true that the oppressors may one day marvel, dumb- 
founded, at these new spheres and opportunities of 
the church? Do not waste time and effort to defend 
the past, but let us run the risk and see which light 
will shine longer, provided things on our side go 
right! I am not familiar with the "peace pastors" 
whose admonition as quoted by you sounds somewhat 
bombastic to me. Perhaps some of them are right 
in their intentions, or at least not wrong. Perhaps 
others among them are collaborationists. Here is my 



74 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

advice: Do not chart your course, either positively or 
negatively, according to the "peace pastors," but set 
your eyes, as I once recommended in the presence 
of the "German Christians," "straight toward Jerusa- 
lem!" 

7. Isn't a commendable rash venture, a wanton 
haste, a premature experimenting when the appar- 
ently "crumbling jagade" of the church is allowed 
to collapse more quickly than the circumstances re- 
quire? Or has the hour struck for an extensive recon- 
struction of the church? Is there any criterion enabling 
us approximately to evaluate the momentous decisive- 
ness of the hour? 

Answer: The hour for the extensive reconstruction 
of the church cannot have struck for you, surely, as 
long as you can still ask— in a rather academic way— 
for a criterion. And who knows whether the demolish- 
ing and rebuilding of the church will ever be the 
matter of a single decisive hour? It could take place 
—and in the history of all human potentialities and 
achievements this seems to be the rule— in a slow se- 
quence, stretching over decades, of liberations from 
old and hitherto powerful strictures, and of command- 
ing opportunities for new ventures. In your place I 
would anticipate some such isolated moments which 
are not arbitrarily judged "momentously decisive," 
but hold out the necessity and the freedom for im- 
mediate and concrete decisions. I would "watch out," 
and hold myself ready for these unequivocally per- 



Letter to a Pastor 75 

mitted and commanded ventures. This would cer- 
tainly not be possible without prayer. I would, there- 
fore, look out not for what the circumstances may 
seem to require, but for the divine guidance which 
may be expected in any kind of circumstances. There 
could then be no talk of "rash venture, wanton haste, 
or premature experimenting." What is to be done 
may be and must be done with the decisiveness of 
wisdom, because it is done on the basis of guidance 
that is awaited and prayed for. I should like, without 
any intention of pressing or oppressing you, to point 
out that the Christian Church, as far as I can see, has 
at all times been well-disposed toward sweeping, if 
possible "eschatological," meditations and reflections, 
but frequently very reluctant indeed courageously to 
engage in specific and concrete ventures, because she 
has been lethargic and afraid. She has let pass many 
of those moments in which not everything but at 
least something could and ought to have been ac- 
complished. Could it not be that you in the East Zone 
have been commissioned to lead the way for us also 
in that demolition and rebuilding of the church of 
which we spoke, not with great spectacular strides, 
but with small and therefore assured steps? I merely 
ask, but I do ask. 

8. Pastors who are fugitives from the East German 
Republic are as a rule dismissed from, their offices. 
Does not this employment of legal authority contra- 
dict the essence of the church who has a supreme op- 



I 



76 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

portunity for witness as she sets herself apart from the 
state in the employment of methods? Is the use of 
corrective power in this instance a legitimate way of 
exercising church discipline? 

Answer: For a pastor to be a "fugitive" practically 
always means that he has abandoned his congregation 
at his own discretion, since his people are unable to 
follow him. There may be instances where we can 
humanly understand and forgive this. But even then 
the action is tantamount to the pastor's deposing 
himself from his office. What does the use of "correc- 
tive power" on the part of church authorities mean in 
this case except the confirmation of the fact that the 
pastor has cut himself off from the ministry in his 
congregation and from the church in which he served? 
It is quite true that the church has supreme oppor- 
tunity for witness when she sets herself apart from the 
state in the choice of methods. But I cannot understand 
why the church should refrain from officially recog- 
nizing gently yet firmly the fait accompli which was 
not of her own choosing. When a pastor leaves the 
East German Republic, when he leaves for that mat- 
ter his congregation, whatever his reasons may be, he 
cannot possibly claim before God or before men to 
possess the marks of a pastor and the rights that go 
with his office. Whether both of these can elsewhere 
be restored to him on the grounds of practical con- 
siderations is a question in itself on which I do not 
care to comment. A recollection: The Roman Catho- 
lic dean of the Cathedral of Cologne, a friend of mine, 



Letter to a Pastor 77 

once told me how in the spring of 1945, as the Ameri- 
cans approached, he strictly forbade the clergy in his 
see to join the flight of their charges toward the East 
which was gaining momentum, and how he headed 
the clergy in solemn procession to meet the enemy. 
Another recollection: We had in Basle until recently 
a sizable group of East German theological students 
who worked with me very diligently and intelligently 
and used their time in the "West" in every respect 
sensibly and responsibly, I keep hoping that the bar- 
rier which was lowered at that time may again be 
lifted some day, especially as far as Basle is concerned! 
Do you know how it was when these young people 
took their leave from us? They assured me, emphati- 
cally if I remember correctly, without exception and 
on their own initiative, that they gladly returned to 
the East Zone because they knew that their place and 
their task were there. It may be that there are all 
kinds of spyecial circumstances and conditions in your 
situation which I know nothing about and therefore 
cannot evaluate and appreciate. For the time being 
I must confess that what happened that time in Co- 
logne and this undespairing return of my students to 
the East Zone seem better to me, both from a Chris- 
tian and from a specifically theological standpoint, 
than the emigration of some evangelical pastors which 
you mention. I am therefore in no position to criticize 
the conduct of your church authorities in this matter. 



78 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

I am at the end. But before I close, let me leave 
with you a good word in favor of the West German 
brethren at whose insufficient understanding of your 
situation and problems you have hinted with gentle 
resentment. It may indeed be that the brethren in 
the West have too little operative concern for you 
and for what is going on in your part of the country. 
But you see, that could have a close connection with 
what I tried to say at the beginning, in reference to 
1 Peter 5:9. The West German brethren have been 
engaged now for years in a strenuous hand-to-hand 
fight with the powers and principalities, the spirits 
and demons in the land of the "economic miracle," 
with its thoughtless participation in NATO, with its 
remilitarization, its military chaplaincy contract, its 
preparation for atomic armament, its panicky fear of 
Russia, its crusading moods, its old Nazis, with all 
the disagreeable connotation the terms "Bonn" and 
"CDU" have there, both contentwise and personally, 
also for the Protestant churches. It ought not to be 
so, but I am afraid it is so: they simply lack the 
strength in this tribulation to take a more vital in- 
terest in your life and work. Be lenient with them, 
because they in their own situation must withstand 
an "adversary," though in an entirely different dis- 
guise, as well as they can, and must prove their soli- 
darity with you in doing it. You may be assured that 
they cannot simply forget you, and you must trust 
them even when you have the feeling that they do 



Letter to a Pastor 79 

not bear their due share of the burden. See to it, then, 
that you on your part do not forget the West German 
brethren in their battle, truly not an easy one either! 

Where do I write all this? In a little farmhouse on 
a lonely height in the Bernese Emmenthal. I certainly 
wish I could give you a quick glance at the meadows, 
forests, and fields, the hills and snow-covered moun- 
tains that stretch before my eyes when I look up. All 
this is geographically and otherwise a long way from 
the cities, villages, and fields in the Mark, in Pom- 
erania, in Oderbruch, in Thuringia, in Saxony, and 
other regions where you and your fellow pastors must 
work, "resist," and suffer! You must make allowance 
for this great distance and pardon me if you have 
the impression that here and there I have aimed and 
hit off the mark. 

It would be a quite different matter if you had the 
feeling that I have here and there, and perhaps on 
the whole, smashed through doors that were already 
open or said things which you already know, perhaps 
even better than I do. Not only would this not vex 
me; it would make me very happy. Don't we read in 
Paul's letters (with which I don't want to have this 
letter compared!) in more than one place, "You know, 
dear brethren , . ."? What can one Christian say to 
other Christians that they do not in principle and 
perhaps also in fact know better than he? We owe it 
to each other, however, to remind one another of what 
we know and to repeat it again and again. 



80 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

Whether this letter will reach you or not is a ques- 
tion in itself. If only your strict overlords will have the 
grace and the insight to let it get through to you and 
to others to whom it might be helpful! For my part 
I had you constantly in my thoughts while I have 
been writing. I think, though, that the letter will 
reach you in one way or another, even if I do not, 
as it had to be done with one of my letters to Holland 
during the war, microfilm and dispatch it in the hol- 
low tooth of a special messenger. 

So, for today, good-by. God, truly God, be with 
you! "Pray for us; we are doing the same for you!" 

Yours, 
Karl Barth 
End of August, ip^S 



AN ANSWER TO KARL EARTH 
FROM EAST GERMANY 

by Johannes Hamel 

Dear Professor Barth: 

Last October you wrote a letter to us pastors 
in East Germany. Meanwhile you have heard the 
various reactions in the newspapers of Switzerland 
and West Germany; even our own press in East Ger- 
many dealt with your letter, although the quotations 
were one-sided and the interpretation was misleading. 
While in the West you are now counted among the 
Communist fellow travelers, your letter gave equal 
offense to the East. It proved indeed too risky to 
quote it in its proper context, let alone to make it 
freely available for sale. Once again you seem to have 
chosen to sit on the fence, and, like a lonely bird on 
the rooftop, to sing a song that the roaring lions in 
the East and in the West cannot hear. How could 
they hear it! 

I should like to express a hearty word of thanks 
to you, our fatherly teacher and friend, I have talked 
to many of my colleagues in the pastorate and in 
teaching. You have comforted, strengthened, and ex- 
horted us by your letter, yet also warned us of this 

81 



82 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

and that abyss, that we may riglitly fight the good 
fight of the faith and hold fast unto him who has 
won victory. I was therefore tremendously pleased 
when the Bishop of one of our great Landeskirchen 
in his Christmas letter encouraged all the pastors 
under his care to suggest to their friends and rela- 
tives in West Germany that they send your letter as 
an appropriate gift under the Christmas tree. 

All of us who received your letter are engaged in 
a difficult struggle for the freedom of the gospel on 
two fronts: against our own evil, lazy, and loveless 
heart; and against a massive outside attack on faith, 
witness, and obedience. With earnestness, urgency, 
and relaxed humor you invite us in this inward and 
outward struggle to hold fast unto the Lord who has 
loved the godless people we are, and has embraced 
in his love the world also. 

At one point you are terribly concrete: what pastor 
indeed could leave his congregation entrusted to him 
in the East, self-confidently asserting his claim to a 
pastoral office in the West I Truly, signs and miracles 
happen. No other than Bishop Dibelius agrees with 
you here. The comments on your letter in Christ und 
Welt and in the Sonntagsblatt (though more moder- 
ate) are simply foolish and far from reality. They 
betray that German stubbornness which Swiss news- 
papers would not honor. If only your fellow citizens 
realized how, since the beginning of your career and 
now again, you have wrestled with this self-centered, 
thwarted, and unteachable "German soul"! 



An Answer to Karl Earth from East Germany 83 

Best of all, your letter gives us courage to read the 
Bible, to preach, to bear witness, and to make free 
decisions. The unhindered proclamation of the gos- 
pel in the Marxist world and the joyful obedience 
amidst a world that likes to display atheism— certainly 
a painstaking and risky task, desperate and driving to 
despair— are strengthened and affirmed in your letter. 

Why should we argue with you that the concrete 
situations we have to face have some aspects that you 
in Basle are not in a position to know at the present 
time? You make this very reservation yourself in your 
letter. The writers in Christ und Welt and in the 
Sonntagsblatt, on the contrary, betray such a basic 
distance from the way and the misery, the joy, and 
the suffering of a pastor in "God's beloved East Zone" 
that they disqualify themselves from addressing a 
word of help and counsel to us. 

May I conclude with the expression of my hope 
and joyful anticipation of the next volume of Church 
Dogmatics, asking you to continue to accept your 
joyous plight, undismayed by good and bad rumors, 
even to our benefit. 

In heartfelt gratitude and in the name of many, 
Naumburg 

Johannes Hamel 



THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL 
IN THE MARXIST WORLD 

by Johannes Hamel 



In this paper I shall limit myself to a consideration of 
that part of Central Europe which is dominated by 
Marxism. I thereby exclude the USSR and China. Al- 
though the countries of Central Europe have much 
in common historically, culturally, economically, po- 
litically, and ecclesiastically, they also have great dif- 
ferences. We only have to remember, e.g., the quite 
different political situations in Czechoslovakia, Hun- 
gary, Poland, and the DDR (German Democratic 
Republic). Similarly, the history and the present situ- 
ation of the Christian churches in these countries are 
so diverse that the task of Christian witness may mark- 
edly differ from one country to another. A closer 
look at the Marxist world reveals that it has no uni- 
formity. The churches there face situations, needs, 
possibilities, and tasks of such a different nature that 
we must strongly warn against an oversimplification 
of the problem of which Christian literature is very 

84 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 85 

often guilty. The term "Marxist world" can be used 
only to describe a number of areas collectively where 
a party is in power which bases its ideology mainly on 
Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Any other use of the term 
is erroneous and dangerous. 

Here we must face another preliminary question: 
Can the states dominated by Marxist parties be ade- 
quately conceived of as total or totalitarian, at least 
under certain aspects? It is well known that in the 
so-called free world this term is used to describe the 
political structures of Fascism (National Socialism) as 
well as of Marxism-Leninism. But is this equation 
correct? The use of the terms "free" and "totalitar- 
ian" may be understandable in a phenomenological 
description, e.g., of the difference between political 
and social life in Switzerland and Czechoslovakia. But 
as soon as we raise the question of the proclamation of 
the gospel, the widespread use of these terms becomes 
questionable. 

Actually, the terms "free" and "totalitarian" merely 
refer to a number of concrete facts different from 
place to place and which have been expressed in a 
variety of ways among European societies and states 
in the more distant as well as in the more recent past! 

The fundamental question is this: Does the Chris- 
tian Church in the Marxist world hear and acknowl- 
edge her own gospel in its sovereignty and in all its 
dimensions? If so, she will receive and accept the 
Marxist world with its hard realities in the light of 
the gospel, and she will truly recognize her own situ- 



86 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

ation and undertake her task in this world. Or does 
the Christian Church understand the powers which 
rule over her on the basis of a stereotype of ecclesiasti- 
cal, political, social, and cultural traditions? If so, she 
will neither recognize her own situation nor her own 
task. Does the Christian Church deny the total sov- 
ereignty of the gospel of God over everything in 
heaven and on earth? If so, she actually grants to the 
Marxist world to declare and to understand itself as 
atheistic and to behave accordingly. Or does the Chris- 
tian Church proclaim publicly and privately, in small 
and great things, that all powers and principalities 
are already overcome and imprisoned through the res- 
urrection of Jesus Christ? If so, she will reveal th€ 
nature of atheism as a forlorn attempt to escape from 
the reality of the Lord and Creator, or as a kind of 
forlorn opposition against this reality. In popular 
thought, e.g., in the books by Arthur Koestler, "Bol- 
shevism" assumes the role of hell, filled by evil spirits. 
Apart from objections to factual observations, we 
should ask whether or not such a view betrays a latent 
atheism as soon as it is expressed. The self-under- 
standing of Marxism in its atheistic aspect is ac- 
cepted by the Christian interpreter before he ever 
has asked himself how Marxism is to be understood 
in the light of the truth which he as a Christian has 
to proclaim, and how it is to be encountered accord- 
ing to the gospel. At this point we must ask whether 
or not the Christian Church in the Marxist world ex- 
cludes from God's creation and providence one part 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 87 

of the world, all of which is the designated realm 
for the proclamation of the gospel until the time 
of final judgment and redemption. Does the church 
want to interpret Marxism on her own strength 
alone, influenced not only by the gospel but also by 
other voices? Such an answer to Marxism will re- 
enforce its atheistic nature and merely vitalize it. The 
question has to be reversed. It is not: Is Marxist 
atheism a threat to the proclamation of the church? 
The question is: Could the failure on the part of the 
church to accept the proclamation in its divine power 
not help to spread atheism? 

The many accounts of the life of the church in the 
East remind us of reports about flood disasters. The 
waters sweep over the fertile fields and the peaceful 
villages, devastating and destroying everything. Only 
a few hills and houses remain spared for the moment, 
but for how long? How long will the courage of the 
inhabitants last to resist the deadly flood? A view 
of Marxism analogous to a flood disaster is barred 
from hearing the voice of the gospel. Once we have 
visions of evil spirits we must not be surprised to 
find that our fear swallows up the fear of God and 
the trust in him. An analysis of Marxism in the same 
atheistic categories in which it defines itself pro- 
claims the lie of a powerful, rival god. The answer 
to this fundamental question will determine whether 
or not the Christian Church will remain on the 
scene or be extinct, the words concerning the gates 
of hell or those concerning the salt which has lost its 



88 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

savor will be fulfilled, she will be silent and die or 
will live and proclaim the deeds of her Lord. 

What does it mean to accept the Marxist world in 
the light of the gospel? In the history of the people 
of God we very often find a situation where Israel 
is faced with the question of who and what had come 
upon it and what should be the right response to the 
new order, the new lords who neither know nor pro- 
claim the true God. During the second part of the 
eighth century the great power of Assyria conquered 
the area of Palestine. Nations were uprooted and 
deported, customs and laws were changed, gods were 
introduced as symbols of the new rule. The reaction 
of the people, their king, their priests, and their 
aristocracy was quite natural: a foreign power which 
worships idols has attacked the chosen people. They 
believed that they had to resist, as long as courage 
lasted, this invasion of evil in the name of the Lord; 
but if it were apparent that they were mistaken, that 
the foreign gods were stronger, they could then but 
surrender to their superior strength, reluctantly and 
facing the consequences. Israel's attitude ranged from 
illusion about the seriousness of the situation to con- 
stant attempts to line up Egypt's power on its side 
and to play this as a trump card; it ranged from 
ecstasy about partial successes to deep despair, irra- 
tional "metaphysical" anxiety, and basic doubts about 
God's gracious election. Chapters 1-39 of Isaiah pro- 
vide colorful illustrations of such actions and re- 
actions. 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 89 

This drama is repeated inside and outside Jeru- 
salem during the last third of the seventh century 
and the first third of the sixth century, now even 
more clearly recognizable and more sharply drawn. 
Assyria's power declines and Babylon rises. The king, 
the aristocracy, the nation, and the priesthood react 
in unison to the new situation, its new possibilities, 
threats, hopes, and tasks. They are supported by the 
"prophets," not a new but now a much more influ- 
ential group. "This is the temple of the Lord" (Jere- 
miah 7:4) is the uniting slogan. It is the basis of 
resistance, the source of inspiration for the defense 
of country and religion. God has no choice but to 
protect the people which call on him. This convic- 
tion determines also the attitude toward such a non- 
conformist as Jeremiah. He is all the more suspect 
as a defeatist, because the growing power of Babylon 
naturally attracts collaborators who cast their lot with 
the rising star out of pragmatic motives (there are 
even refugees in the camp of Nebuchadnezzar I). 
What else could Jeremiah be but a weakling and a 
traitor? The people had just dared an ecclesiastical 
reformation under Josiah, doing away with the As^ 
Syrian idols. Was it not a renewed church, confessing 
its Lord and putting away what was foul and old? 
Now her existence is threatened from the outside. 
When Nebuchadnezzar enters Jerusalem for the first 
time and deports its elite to the Euphrates, this group 
continues to be comforted by the prophetic proclama- 
tion that they just had to hibernate for a short time 



90 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

in the land of the foreign gods. Their God would 
soon restore the old order. In fact, he had no other 
choice (cf. Jeremiah 29)! 

The middle of the sixth century witnesses the 
breath-taking rise of Persia as a world power. Baby- 
lon's empire begins to break up. Resignation among 
the Jewish exiles turns into horror. They had barely 
managed to preserve the ancient faith in their syna- 
gogues, they had hibernated, and now the new power 
threatens to trample it all down. The waters of this 
storm are closing in on the frail boat of Israel. Is any 
other reaction possible? Is there any hope left for 
this people? Is their faith not antiquated, bound to 
be wiped out by the powers and ideologies which are 
shaping the future? 

Further, let us point to a historical development 
during the last half of the first century a.d. and ex- 
tending into the first decades of the second. Early 
Christianity emerges first as a Jewish sect and is 
thereby considered a "religio licita." Its Lord has 
been sentenced and executed by a Roman governor, 
and it faces some Jewish antagonism. But during 
these first years its existence is barely noticed. The 
situation changes gradually, partly because of mis- 
sionary activity, partly because of the intensified op>- 
position of Judaism against these apostates. Finally, 
the Jewish insurgence, leading at the outset to the 
Jewish war of 68-70 a.d., faces the church with the 
problem of how to live under idolatrous emperors, 
authorities, and laws while confessing Christ as Lord 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 91 

over the world. There seemed to be no third alter- 
native between militant zealotism and a gnostic dep- 
recation of all external realities, between revolt and 
an attitude of external submission to the emperor 
while inwardly despising him. 

In these periods of history the people of God had 
to face the question as to whether or not the indi- 
cated reactions, real or possible, to submission under 
Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and the Roman emperor 
represented the final word of wisdom. Was their 
action always to be dictated by either revolt or align- 
ment? The preaching of Isaiah, Jeremiah, the un- 
known preacher in the middle of the sixth century 
(Isaiah 40-55), and the summaries of the early 
church's proclamation in various parts of the New 
Testament, all deny this either/or alternative. 
Neither do they propagate a middle line between 
the two extremes. (This was the attitude of the Phari- 
saic party up to the Jewish war!) 

The prophets reach down to a deeper level and 
proclaim these bearers of new power and order to be 
the instruments of Israel's Lord who created the uni- 
verse. In the encounter with Assyria, Babylonia, the 
Persian ruler, and the emperor, the people of God 
meet the Lord himself. This is the good news, unani- 
mously proclaimed by prophets and apostles. This 
news has always been terrifying to God's people. It is 
illustrated by the changes in the text, made by the 
Septuagint at several points in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and 
Deutero-Isaiah. Apparently, the Jewish community 



92 Hoio to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

felt that it was too radical to proclaim Assyria as the 
"rod of anger," "the staff of my fury." "Against a god- 
less nation I send him, and against the people of my 
wrath I command him. . . . But he does not so in- 
tend, and his mind does not so think" (Isaiah 10:5 ff.). 
Similarly, it was difficult to accept Jeremiah's asser- 
tion that Nebuchadnezzar, of all people, should be 
the servant of God (25:9): "It is I who by my great 
power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, 
with the men and animals that are on the earth, and 
I give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I 
have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchad- 
nezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have 
given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. 
All the nations shall serve him and his son and his 
grandson. ... So do not listen to your prophets, 
your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, your 
sorcerers, who are saying to you: 'You shall not serve 
the king of Babylon' " (27:5 ff.). Omission and re- 
vision were likewise used by the translators of the 
Bible into Greek, to resist the message which pro- 
claimed the pagan Cyrus as the Messiah of the Lord! 
Paul continues substantially in the vein of the 
prophets when he calls the Roman authorities, even 
the tax collectors, "God's servants" (Romans 13: 1 ff.). 
The same good news is proclaimed in the following 
decades and is found in the pastoral epistles, in 
1 Peter, and in Revelation. In Revelation 13 the 
church which suffers under the anti-Christian power 
of the beast receives the following word of comfort: 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 93 

the beast is allowed to exercise authority (vss. 5, 7, 15) 
for a short while, namely, forty-two months (vs. 5). 
But the church which is defenseless in the hands of 
the beast is exhorted in verse 10 to have the faith 
and endurance of the saints. They are actually in the 
hand of the Holy One who has determined the limits 
of the beast's power. Even in the face of imprisonment 
and death the church can continue on the good path 
which is protected by God. "If anyone is to be taken 
captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is slain with 
the sword, with the sword must he be slain" (accord- 
ing to the ancient, correct version). The church does 
not end up in hell, but always remains under the vic- 
torious power of the Lamb who has conquered. She 
follows her Lord not only in spite of her defenseless 
suffering, but in it. 

The Passion stories, too, present this same good 
news: Priests and Pontius Pilate are believed to be 
instruments of God's mercy and compassion as he 
deals with the world. Matthew precedes his report 
about the decision of the high priests, scribes, and 
elders with the following saying of Jesus: "You know 
that after two days the Passover is coming, and the 
Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified." The 
Jewish authorities are proclaimed and accepted as 
the executors of God's plan of salvation (cf. Matthew 
26:1 ff.). In John's Gospel Jesus confesses in front of 
Pilate that he is, in fact, a king, that his kingdom 
is not of this world. It is as high above every other 



94 How to Serve God in a Marxist hand 

kingdom as the creator is above the creatures. He 
further asserts^ _that._the Roman governor had no 
power over him "unless it had been given you from 
above" (John 18:36 f. and 19:11). Finally, we should 
remember the message of Acts with its supposedly 
friendly tendency toward the state. The author in 
his many accounts reaffirms the original gospel. God 
uses the Roman authorities in his service, without 
their being aware of it. Here the history of the early 
church becomes a testimony to an unbounding trust, 
grounded in the revealed act of the God and Father 
of Jesus Christ who has placed the ruling powers 
within their limits and in his service. The author, 
writing during the last years of the first century, does 
exhibit a certain apologetic tendency, but, in sub- 
stance, he repeats, although in his own colorful and 
legendary style, the earlier proclamation. 

The proclamation of the gospel makes the foreign 
powers and their rule a part of God's created world. 
But it does not limit itself to calling these men and 
these powers servants of God for the benefit of God's 
people. From Isaiah to the New Testament this mes- 
sage is also the announcement of the judge. He comes 
to judge his people who refuse to obey their Lord. 
Assyria is truly the rod of anger; Nebuchadnezzar is 
sent out "because you do not pay heed to my word." 
Through Cyrus, the Lord puts to shame the despair 
and unbelief of his people. The Roman authorities 
"do not bear the sword in vain; they are the servants 
of God to execute his wrath on the wrono:doer." Paul 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 95 

addresses this as a warning to the Christians in Rome! 
Similarly, i Peter (2:11) repeats the warning, putting 
it even more sharply. In the event that the church 
receives blows at the hands of the rulers, she shall 
"let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or 
a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers 
as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under 
that name let him glorify God. For the time has come 
for the judgment to begin with the household of 
God" (4:15 ff.). It is God's will not eternally to con- 
demn but eternally to save his people. Therefore, he 
calls them to repentance in the encounter with the 
ruling powers. The call to endure arises out of the 
call to return to the Lord who searches in vain for 
the faithfulness of his people. The synagogue rejects 
the call to repentance, issued by John the Baptist and 
his Christ. Therefore, it is finally trapped in the 
revolt against the foreign Roman power in the name 
of the God of Israel. The Christian Church can es- 
cape the Scylla of revolt and the Charybdis of align- 
ment and denial only when she bows to the call of 
God's repentance, upon whom depend also the rulers 
who might afflict her. The bitterness about the em- 
peror, real or possible, is challenged by the proclama- 
tion to face God's judgment which extends to all 
powers. 

A further element of this proclamation needs to be 
underscored. The people need constantly to know 
that the rule of an idolatrous power may put an end 
to their worship and their faith, and may destroy 



96 Bam to Srrvr God in a Marxist Land 

them or at least endanger their existence. Neverthe- 
less, the announcement of God's work through these 
ser\-ants and executors of his judgment also contains 
the promise of a new era of redemption for this 
people and for all who live in this estranged world. 
The \-arious accounts of the promise of such a new 
era are well kno^sTi. I refer to Isaiah 4:9 and 11; the 
proclamation of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:33 
ff.; Tsaiah 40—55, in itself one long announcement of 
redemption for the nations and for Israel: and, finally, 
the passages in the New Testament about the em- 
peror, his oflBcials, and his judgments. They are al- 
ways the persons to whom the gospel is addressed- 
They proWde the occasions for the Spirit to give the 
word in due time. They proffer the great opporttmi- 
ties to let the word take its course. 

Ariin, Acts contains numerous illustrations of such 
a proclamation. The investigation by the Sanhedrin 
of the acriWty of Peter and John is the occasion of 
a confession wTought by the Spirit (4:1 ff.) and a 
prayer of the community, inspired by the Spirit 
(4:23 ff.; cf. also 5:17 ff.). The accusation of Stephen 
causes his powerful testimony which pierces the soub 
of his executioners, and in his intercession for them 
he enters true disdpleship C6:8 — 7:59). Saul destroys 
the church wherever he can, and many have to flee: 
'"Now those who were scattered went about preaching 
the word" (8:4, 11:19). Saul's raging opposition to 
the church, with its horrors of torture and murder 
(cL his strongest description in 26:9 ff.;, is only the 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 97 

short prelude of darkness to the light of Damascus 
and the long years of his apostolate. His imprison- 
ment in Jerusalem is interpreted as opening the way 
for his testimony in Rome and before the emperor 
(23:11, 27:23). In his letter to the Philippians he an- 
swers the anxious question of the church in Philippi 
concerning his imprisonment with the following 
words: "I want you to know, brethren, that what has 
happened to me has really served to advance the gos- 
pel, so that it has become known throughout the 
whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my 
imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brethren 
have been made confident in the Lord because of 
my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak 
the word of God without fear" (Philippians 1:12 S.). 
God has prepared the precious gift of the spread of 
his Word for the repentant church which believes in 
the power of the gospel over the world's rulers. 

A fourth insight is given to the church with this 
proclamation. She may hear, believe, and experience 
that the Lord ever again makes room for his people 
to live. He does it miraculously through these same 
servants and executors, and he does it contrary to all 
expectations. In the midst of persecutions he makes it 
possible to do good, to preserve justice, to maintain 
a greater or lesser degree of hu.nan freedom, and to 
be active in public affairs. Jeremiah's letter (29:1 ff.) 
to the deported Jews in Babylonia is a good illustra- 
tion. He encourages them to build houses, to plant 
their vineyards, to found families, to seek the best for 



98 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

their city (Babylon!) and to pray for it, "for in its wel- 
fare you will find your welfare." How is it possible 
for Israel and Babel to make common cause, as is 
suggested in this shocking letter? Jeremiah proclaims 
the God who in his goodness and mercy is also the 
God of Babel. In the midst of idolatry, no less ramp- 
ant in Babel than it is today, God creates opportuni- 
ties for his people to coexist with those blind Baby- 
lonians, while paganism surrounds them. The pious 
protested strongly this strange prophecy of coexist- 
ence. They denounced the strange prophet by letter 
before the ecclesiastical authorities in Jerusalem, with 
the friendly suggestion to put him in jail and on 
the block. 

But the pious of all times argue quite logically 
from the reality of idolatry and its imperialistic ideol- 
ogy. They conclude that the existence of the Church 
of God is made impossible because every aspect of 
life is exposed to the claims of this idolatry. They 
start out with the recognition of the terrible reality 
of idolatry and end up with an imaginary God and 
an illusionary existence. Their life at times assumes 
the form of zealotism, bent on extinguishing the god- 
less. But the proclamation of the gospel indicates the 
room for daily prayer, daily faith and action— and 
suffering. The pious mass wants to erect a theocracy, 
but the gospel tells us of God's merciful lordship even 
over Babylon. The zealots build the kingdom of God, 
but they destroy human possibilities of action. The 
gospel allows us to count on God's power only and 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World , 99 

grants us human action through its miraculous power. 
Now we can understand the positive attitude of 
the New Testament passages, already mentioned, 
which describe the responsibilities and actions of the 
governments and the contributions of the church for 
the good of the order. They are exhortations to have 
faith, to be obedient, to pray. They bespeak the truth 
that God will employ the governments in spite of 
their idolatry, that the life and actions of Christians 
are possible and meaningful in regard to and under 
the guidance of these governments. Time and again 
God creates loopholes, so to speak, open space in the 
midst of closed systems of unbelief and hatred of God. 
Here the possibility is offered and realized for doing 
the good, reasonable, and well-pleasing, although 
these systems theoretically seem to leave no room for 
such action. Only hell itself can prevent us from ren- 
dering praise and obedience to God. But here on earth 
the church will not be overcome by the gates of hell 
as long as she holds fast to confessing his name. 



We shall now return from biblical considerations 
to the question of proclaiming the gospel in the 
Marxist world. We shall attempt to remain faithful 
to the biblical insights. This means, first of all, that 
we have to free ourselves from the reaction of the 
predominant Christian middle class to the political 
power structures of Marxism- Leninism. We do not 



1 00 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

need to describe this reaction any more. It is only 
too well known and too popular. Also, it matters little 
whether or not it is advanced from the side of Roman 
Catholicism, liberalism, or official Protestantism. The 
same mistake is common to all three views, and it is 
often illustrated in sermons. First, the p)ower of sin 
is presented in colorful and concrete terms. This is 
supposed to furnish the background for divine for- 
giveness, but the latter is never quite convincing. On 
both sides of the Iron Curtain the fundamental 
assumption that "Bolshevism" spells the end of free- 
dom, of humanitarianism, of culture and Christen- 
dom, is unquestioned. The history of the last forty 
years is supposed to prove beyond doubt that Bolshe- 
vism is a basically anti-Christian phenomenon, to be 
opposed, if necessary, with arms in order to give back 
to the nations under its rule the possibility of living 
a Christian life. We are told that the totalitarian 
state by definition leaves no choice for the people 
under it but to conform, out^vardly and increasingly 
inwardly. Arguments to the contrary are refuted with 
a list of quotations from Communist literature and 
Communist newspapers. 

However, there are also quite a few Christians and 
theologians in the churches in the East who argue on 
the other side. They, too, are backed up by undeni- 
able facts and statements which seem to prove the 
contrary. They rightly point to the life of the Ortho- 
dox Church in the USSR which, according to recent 
observations, has experienced a remarkable growth 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 101 

during the last fifteen years. They remind us of the 
continuing financial support and special contribu- 
tions which the government grants to the churches. 
Churches are full in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and 
Poland. The DDR spends enormous sums every year 
for the six theological faculties, including large gTants 
for scholarships. The churches enjoy an extraordinary 
amount of freedom in comparison with the situation 
under the Hitler regime. Also, we must not forget 
that the churches in the DDR are granted a number 
of privileges which are denied to other organizations. 
It is an undeniable fact that since 1945 elections, in 
the DDR especially, of synod representatives and gen- 
eral church officers, as well as appointments of minis- 
ters, proceed more freely and with less influence from 
the outside than has ever been the case in the history 
of these churches. Nobody is prevented from attend- 
ing worship services. The violation of the Sabbath by 
a number of companies is also the practice in the 
West German steel industry and has just recently 
been introduced elsewhere over the protest of the 
ecclesiastical authorities. 

We could continue this list of facts and none of 
them could be contested. Furthermore, a quite differ- 
ent view of the social structure of Marxism-Leninism 
from that of the Christian middle class reaction is 
often connected with these indications. This testifies 
in manifold ways to the life of the church in these 
countries. I merely recall for you the replies by Dr. 
Hromadka to the critics of the Marxist world. 



102 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

wherein he reveals the impasses and the dark spots 
of the "Western" world which he knows from his own 
experience over many years. It is not necessary to 
point to the new life emerging in China, or develop- 
ments in the USSR— we have excluded them from our 
considerations. It is sufficient to have a look at the 
socialist accomplishments of the Peoples' Democra- 
cies, at least partially acknowledged by the Social 
Democratic parties of the West. Details are well 
known in this area. 

We seem to be caught in diametrically opposed 
views and reactions with regard to the Marxist world. 
Both are based on facts, so that neither can ever com- 
pletely refute the other. We shall escape this dilemma 
only if we are prepared to accept this world anew on 
the basis of the preaching of the prophets and apos- 
tles. We must desist once and for all from placing 
Christianity and its teaching into the strait jacket of 
Christian anti-communism or pro-communism. A 
process of rethinking is needed that will not allow 
either side to retain its present position. Christian 
witness must count on the fact that the good news of 
God has something new to say to us. In the face of 
the Marxist world this news cannot be used by us for 
any of our purposes. It will not elicit the consent or 
applause of the masses and the rulers on either side, 
unless they let themselves be called to repentance by 
the Spirit. It is not a matter of the "interpretation" 
of history. Interpretation is always an attempt to in- 
sert a new fact into already existing patterns of 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 103 

history in order to explain it and to gain control 
over it. But the gospel does not interpret history, it 
makes history. Furthermore, it announces this history 
and thereby it opens the narrow way for us whereon 
we can follow our Lord. 

The issue is, first of all: whether the Christian 
Church in the Marxist world openly confesses that 
her own Lord and Master meets her in the encounter 
with these powers and structures. He has taken the 
Marxists into his service, he has used them as his 
instruments and is still using them. To suppress this 
truth means for the church to deny her faith. What- 
ever may have to be said about Marxism, it is certain 
that in the encounter with it \ve do not enter godless 
territory or a no man's land outside the reach of the 
gospel. This is not a province where God's word is 
neutral, an inferno from which God should save us 
if he can. On the contrary, as messengers of Jesus 
Christ we proclaim that through the rise of the Marx- 
ist world God has opened for us a new page of his 
history which began with Easter and ends with the 
Second Coming. In the face of these jjqwers God calls 
his people, treading ,the path of the cross, to new 
obedience, ne w prai se, new prayer, new endurance. 
He calls for the renewal of our church and for the 
transformation of her patterns in order that she may 
serve him in greater faithfulness. If we hear the gos- 
pel today, we shall not be concerned with our defense 
against the numerous and frightful attacks on church, 
Christendom, and godliness. Before ever we define 



104 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

our attitude with regard to these attacks, we shall 
have to face God's salutary attack on his people by 
means of these men and these powers. He smites us 
in mercy, and the means he chooses are wholly sec- 
ondary. He does not abandon us to our evil inten- 
tions which draw condemnation upon us. He throws 
us into such a whirl that we risk losing our wits. He 
drives us out of our foul and rotten ecclesiastical 
palaces of past centuries and forces us through his 
"servants" to become strangers and pilgrims, wander- 
ing to meet their Lord. He comes to clean his house 
with an iron broom— and how much less important 
is the broom beside him who handles it? 

The Marxists as servants of God! Who will believe 
it? Who will reckon with this fact? Who will listen to 
this kind of preaching? It is not a justification of the 
Marxists, least of all a sublimation of their thinking, 
their statements and actions. It is even less an abase- 
ment or degradation. For this role ascribes to them 
a tremendous dignity. It places them in direct rela- 
tionship to the Kingdom. They stand over against 
the Christian Church by virtue of a divine directive, 
and the church must honor their service by giving 
God the honor with fear and trembling. The gospel 
places us right next to these men. It exposes us to 
their power. But we would pass God by in our prayers 
and our actions if we were to refuse to have anything 
to do with them. 

Here we must guard against a misunderstanding. 
We are dealing with messengers and servants of God, 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 105 

with his ax and his rod, his staff and the instrument 
of his power over us. But these structures in them- 
selves are not a disclosure of the Father of Jesus 
Christ, not a divine revelation, not God's gracious 
and merciful word, not "God's secular word" to us. 
The ax could also be swung by Satan's hand. The 
rod could kill instead of chastising us for our salva- 
tion. The instrument could also be used for destruc- 
tion. His Word proclaims, however, that it is he who 
uses it in order to save us, his people, from the misery 
of our sins. This same Word proclaims him as the 
Lord over these servants. "Shall the ax vaunt itself 
over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself 
against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield 
him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is 
not wood!" (Isaiah 10:15). The Lord is free to call 
his servants and to dismiss them, to swing the ax and 
to lay it aside, to use the staff and to break it. 

In the light of this proclamation it is immaterial 
whethe r we think that Marxism is good or bad. 
Either view is a denial of the gospel if it becomes our 
primary concern. The gospel opens up a dimension in 
which good and bad are no longer distributed along 
the lines defined by a basically atheistic view. This 
view is widespread even in the churches: one either 
anxiously opposes the attack of Marxism or one en- 
courages it in the name of Christ. The gospel makes 
us free people who do not rebel against the visitation 
of God calling us to repentance by sending us these 
servants. The gospel releases us from bitter silence 



106 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

and from glorifying gossip. It looses our tongues for 
the praise of God whose majesty draws into his serv- 
ice even Marxism and the Marxists. 

In recent discussions it has often been asked 
whether a Communist government (including Polit- 
bureau and Central Committee) could be considered 
as "authorities" in the sense of Romans 13. The ques- 
tion already implies that certain rules must be ob- 
served by the "authorities" before the church can 
honor them with this attribute. But regardless of ap- 
proval or disapproval this approach fails to recognize 
that in Romans 13 the authorities are announced as 
a part of God's Word so that we may give glory to 
God. He uses them as his servants for our own good, 
although not necessarily to our own liking. The 
church has no reason to develop any theories about 
the nature of the state in general or of a particular 
state. Of course, it is possible to search the New Tes- 
tament for a judgment concerning the state, but in 
so doing we shall bypass the central affirmation of the 
gospel in this area. We cannot place ourselves above 
the state and hand out judgments. Our place is below 
the powers and the rulers. We are in front of the seat 
of judgment from whence we receive our word of 
command and our judgment. 

This is our situation, and it is the gospel, good 
news, that it is so. For the gospel liberates the people 
of God from the terrible isolation, and from the pos- 
sibility of being left to themselves before the Marxist 
camp. For the church is constantly tempted to ask: 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 107 

"Are we not completely at the mercy of this power? 
Does not our future depend on its favor or disfavor 
toward us? Has Marxist power perhaps won the day 
while God remains silent?" Have we not all heard 
this voice of temptation during the last years, in our 
own heart as well as from others? Have we not all 
had occasion to observe how, here and there, few or 
many yielded to it? They immediately had to face the 
terrible consequence which presented itself to them 
under two forms, because the one cannot exist with- 
out the other. There are those in the church who rise 
to a positive appreciation of Marxism. They discover 
a philosophy of history which recognizes in Marxism 
the new era for the good of humanity. It sways the 
future while the "West" stumbles toward its grave. 
But others rise against them. In angry indignation 
they attack everything which is incompatible with 
the conception of a law-abiding state. For them it is 
of the essence of Christian faith to oppose Marxism 
and to condemn it as immoral and irreligious. 

Both sides have substituted faith for a world-view, 
judgment for listening, a self-styled position for obe- 
dience. No wonder that the boat of the church is 
aimlessly drifting, while her members hearken to this 
voice of temptation. The political powers in East and 
West will play their tricks on the church, and she will 
inevitably break apart into hostile parties because 
she refuses to be held together by a common listening 
to the Word. Behind the ecclesiastical adversaries the 
shadows or even the bodies of the politicians already 



108 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

emerge, talking about the present cold war and point- 
ing to the threat of a future hot war. A terrible mael- 
strom transforms the messengers of the sovereign 
Lord in religious communities, so that each follows 
the decisions, proclamations, and actions of the poli- 
ticians and places upon them their religious, theo- 
logical, or Christian "stamp." Nobody dares to spell 
out the conclusions, although they are obvious: It is 
possible for a Christian to allow or even to demand 
"world revolution" in the case of the East, or the 
battle for "freedom" and "liberation" in the case of 
the West, and to permit the use of nuclear weapons 
for the pursuit of either goal. In the end there would 
be military chaplains on either side of the front line 
with much to say but nothing to proclaim. Both sides 
express unbelief. The fear of further spread of com- 
munism dictates to the church the task of producing 
the ethical and philosophical attitude required for 
resistance, for the production of arms, and possibly 
for their use. On the other side, the fascination of 
Christians by the Marxist world, its manifold prog- 
ress, its impressive successes, and especially its fastly 
growing power, leads to mental and spiritual surren- 
der to this imposing reality. It leads to a Christian 
party line about the world revolutionary movement. 
At the time of Jeremiah, Israel was split into an 
Egyptian and a Babylonian party. Rescue w^as ex- 
pected either from the North or from the South. The 
prophet urged the people to break away from its 
dreams and aspirations. He called for repentance 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 109 

which would recognize and acknowledge the hard- 
headed Babylonian ruler as the servant of the true 
Israel. No simple "third way" is possible in the face 
of the Marxist world and its counterpart either. How- 
ever, we are to listen to the proclamation concerning 
the Lord over the world who knows how to use the 
Marxist regime as an instrument of his gracious will. 
Having carefully listened to it, we shall go on to find 
the narrow path where peacemakers can perform their 
rescue service, where God is feared above all things, 
where the rulers are honored, and where eternal sal- 
vation is assured. 

The encounter with the Marxist world raises a 
further question for the church. Is she prepared to 
accept God's judging and living Word as it breaks 
into her life in the form of these powers? In the rise 
of Marxism, the judge appears himself to settle ac- 
counts with his church, according to his severe mercy. 
He uses his servants to drive the accused before his 
throne. Are we preaching the Word of divine judg- 
ment over the life of our congregations and their 
members? Does his Word have free course among us, 
enabling us to examine our churches critically? Does 
our preaching break through the Marxist criticism to 
the divine criticism which is much more serious, more 
merciful, and more wholesome than the most pointed 
criticism of Marxism or our self-criticism? Again, we 
have to overcome the dilemma in which we are easily 
caught. It is the dilemma of either accepting the 
Marxist criticism of the church or of defending our- 



110 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

selves against all attacks. Both alternatives are deadly 
for the church, for they silence her as a voice for 
the gospel. 

It is only too easy to confuse the critical voice of 
Marxism with God's voice, to identify the Marxist 
policy regarding the church with God's action toward 
his people. Are not the Christian religion and the 
church groups residues of certain sociological classes, 
identified with declining social structures? Is Chris- 
tianity today more than a glorified bourgeoisie, 
doomed to collapse? Isn't faith a preliminary substi- 
tute for the emerging scientific knowledge? Isn't the 
church an ideological front for the liberal-capitalistic 
order of society? Isn't the church in Marxist territory 
a "fifth column" of capitalism? Aren't her members 
fellow travelers of the "West" against the "East"? 
Isn't the church a last resort of liberal thought and 
life? Isn't the residue of a Christian life, especially 
infant baptism, confirmation of teen-agers, wedding, 
funeral, church taxes, Christmas, Easter, Thanks- 
giving, Christian education, etc., an expression not 
of faith, but merely of pagan customs with Christian 
coating, completely divorced from the rest of people's 
life? The church's speaking and acting results in the 
creation of a bad conscience in those who actually 
have lost faith. The huge church buildings are empty; 
large membership lists are merely a facade. The num- 
ber of pastors and Christian educators is much too 
large. These can only be maintained through state 
support, the privilege of church taxation, and help 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 111 

from the West. Is not this a colossus on feet of clay? 
A structure full of cracks to be torn down with a good 
conscience, especially if the operation is carefully 
planned and carried out with all deliberate speed? 
Isn't the sermon a dull presentation, irrelevant to 
modern life, delivered by paid functionaries without 
any deep conviction? Isn't the resistance on the part 
of the ecclesiastical leaders a result of political resent- 
ment? Hasn't the courage to make an open confession 
become such a rare sight that it rightly can be con- 
sidered as the exception rather than the rule? 

Nietzsche said: "What falls, might as well be 
pushed over." Is Marxism not right to engage in this 
business with its reputable energy, wisdom, endur- 
ance, patience, and craftiness? Is not its thesis very 
logical, according to which there will be some people 
for a longer or shorter time to come who will want 
to satisfy their religious needs, and that this will be 
made possible until their natural extinction? The 
church is to understand herself as the people of God. 
But can we see any sign of it? She calls herself the 
community of Jesus Christ. But where does she act 
accordingly? What else is there for Marxism to see 
but a passive audience, listening to sermons and look- 
ing at ceremonies, and the activities of paid eccle- 
siastical specialists? 

In the light of this self-confident criticism and its 
increasing success it is not at all surprising that cer- 
tain church circles seek to align themselves with this 
power. They are eager to participate in this great 



1 1 2 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

movement at any price. They search for a spot in this 
system where they will be tolerated or even wanted, 
and where they can be welcomed and esteemed col- 
laborators. It is quite understandable to find them 
engaged in an effort to work out and prove a biblical 
basis for common goals of Marxism and Christianity: 
"The Humanization of the Social Order," the strug- 
gle for "peace," the elimination of "exploitation," the 
battle against "imperialism" and "colonialism," the 
realization of "justice on earth," the fight against 
"warmongers," "Fascism," etc.! "A Christian says Yes 
to Karl Marx!" Is this really so absurd as it might 
sound? We cannot deny that these circles are deeply 
sensitive to the corruption of the church as revealed 
by Marxism, and that they are sincerely determined 
to preserve and renew within the Marxist world 
the imperishable religious and moral values of 
Christianity. 

Against this tide stands a countermovement inside 
and outside the Marxist realm. While it admits the 
faults and weaknesses of the existing church, it rec- 
ognizes in the rise of Marxism nothing else but the 
final attack of atheism and the antichrist and calls 
for determined resistance. This is not the time for 
fatal self-criticism which only weakens and confuses 
the ranks! Now is the moment to close the ranks and 
to stand firm! A call is issued by this countermove- 
ment for spiritual resistance, for steadfastness until 
the arrival of a better day. Bible and tradition are 
marshaled and we are referred to analogous develop- 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 1 1 3 

ments in the history of the church. The "totalitarian 
state," the beast from the abyss, can only be met with 
a final No, regardless of whether it may have prop- 
agated and accomplished many positive and good 
things. Where the church is under its domination, she 
will have to suffer for her resistance. Where she is 
not yet overpowered by it, she has to call for spiritual, 
moral, political, and, if necessary, for military defense. 
Behind the Marxist attack and criticism nobody else 
but the ancient foe is at work, bent on wiping out all 
faith in God. And when the hour comes, the same 
will hold with regard to communism as with regard 
to Assyria of old: "We will speed upon horses!" 
(Isaiah 30: 16). Evil is to be fought with every means, 
even with arms, if necessary. 

Such a church, torn within herself, hungers for the 
call to repentance which places her before the divine 
judge and frees her from the two forms of bondage to 
Marxism. Only the proclamation of repentance can 
heal the hopeless and devastating divisions which to- 
day threaten the existence of church and humanity. 
God himself enters into judgment with us in the 
encounter with Marxism. He is the smelter who wants 
to separate pure from impure. He struggles for the 
renewal of the church, calling her from her long- 
standing sins in shame and remorse. We cannot con- 
fuse Marxism with God's judgment and appeal. 
Therefore, nothing is accomplished by seeking salva- 
tion for the church in the acceptance of its criticism 
and by participation in its movement. Whoever 



114 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

would save his life will lose it; this applies here too. 
Behind human accusations, God's accusation must 
be heard and acknowledged. Behind fanatic ideologies 
stands the Holy One, threatening to remove our 
lampstand from its place and to spew us out from his 
mouth. It is not sufficient to admit the weaknesses and 
sins of the existing church which "naturally she has, 
for all men are sinners." This is no basis for a call 
to defense. We shall fight with inept weapons and 
shall not endure in the spiritual battle which is, in 
fact, ours. We are not contending against flesh and 
blood, but against the evil spirits under heaven which 
cannot be limited to one form of human rebellion 
against God. Whoever limits evil is already in the 
grip of the evil one! Professor Hromadka has once 
stated that we do not need to fear a godless world, 
but rather a godless and unbelieving church. 

What is at stake is our readiness, inwardly and out- 
wardly, to proclaim and to believe the divine smelt- 
ing as our salvation, not to escape it and to trust that 
God in his grace will raise us up through his judg- 
ment. As the church accepts this two-edged sword, 
she will be given the right weapons against all attacks 
of the evil foe on the right and on the left. By re- 
penting and turning away from her trespasses, she 
will remain strong and will escape all temptations. 
The statement that a church could not survive under 
communism is just as much devoid of repentance as 
the counterstatement that life is possible given a few 
concessions or more thoroughgoing changes of her 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 115 

order and views. The church, even under Marxism, 
constantly lives from God's promise not to put an 
end to her life, but to renew her through his Word 
as it is accepted in repentance. If he calls us to turn 
around and if we hear his voice, we shall not refuse 
soberly and seriously to examine whether or not the 
uncomfortable questions of Marxism indicate that 
God calls for changes in our life. In many respects 
we shall be able to go along with its criticism, but 
Jesus Christ will transform even this criticism into 
his call for the renewal of the church. We live by the 
promise that the judge guards and protects us on this 
path of repentance. His marvelous intervention will 
keep us day by day from defending ourselves and 
from conforming to the friend-foe scheme of the 
Marxists. In his own person he presents our enemies 
to us as those whom we are to love. Then we shall 
realize, to our amazement, that "Christ did not die 
against Karl Marx, but for us all," as Dr. Heinemann 
stated during that memorable hour in the Bonn 
Parliament in January, 1958. In repentance we attain 
the freedom which leads us on the narrow path where 
we are free from being either fellow travelers of 
Marxism or its enemies. Only here the claim becomes 
valid that the church is not concerned about the pres- 
ervation or recovery of the status quo, but solely 
about the continuing advance of the gospel in the 
midst of a crooked and perverted generation. 

Does God continue to speak? This question, too, 
arises out of the Marxist claim that, according to 



116 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

irrefutable laws, the bell tolls for the Christian 
Church. Do we perhaps agree? Do we, at least secretly, 
harbor some doubts: "Could it really be true? Are we 
fighting for a lost cause? Does not the end of Chris- 
tian civilization spell the end of the Christian faith?" 
Who is not at times tired and dismayed? Who would 
not like to give up sometimes? Who would not want 
to join in the outburst of Elijah: "It is enough; now, 
O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than 
my fathers" (i Kings 19:4). Is the Western world not 
attractive, with its possibilities for impressive eccle- 
siastical activities, where the Christian faith is pro- 
tected and where privileges are granted to the church 
and her members? Look at the Middle East and 
North Africa, once the center of flowering church 
life. Are not they a sign that present history might be 
threatening to turn in that direction? Is it not true 
that gToup after group in the Marxist world— and not 
only there!— is seized by the resignation which Paul 
calls the worldly grief, producing death? 

Of course we could also point to some positive 
signs, like the beginnings of a renewed missionary 
effort in the church. But this does not provide any 
firm ground on which to stand. These signs are like 
friendly bonuses of our Lord, and they receive and 
preserve their value only in connection with the main 
gift. Some seek comfort in the speculation that a sud- 
den turn of events could restore all the now closed 
opportunities for the church's work. Objections to 
this "comfort" are numerous. The spectacle, offered 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 117 

by the churches which enjoy these greater opportuni- 
ties, robs this "comfort" of its strength and truth. Al- 
though Christians in those churches are granted legal 
"protection" or even privileges for their way of life 
and their views, they are incapable of taking advan- 
tage of this much larger room for their activities in 
behalf of the gospel. As far as I can judge, the ques- 
tion of the acceptance of the gospel is no less pressing 
and justified than in the Marxist world. We need a 
quite different knowledge and promise of comfort. 
Living within the Marxist world, can we under- 
stand the stories. Psalms, prophecies, parables, and 
letters of the Bible in any other way than as being 
directly addressed to the church in this world? In 
fact, God's Word has assumed a strange straightfor- 
wardness, whether it be in church school, the sermon, 
in group Bible study, or in personal conversation. 
The thick walls of nineteen hundred years have come 
down. Nothing stands between us and the biblical 
Word. The Bible speaks to our situation as never be- 
fore. It seems as if the biblical characters have again 
become alive among us, drawing us to their side as 
actors in the divine drama, almost against our will. 
Many of us can testify of an instance when suddenly 
we find ourselves mirrored in Scriptures, and with us, 
the estranged, the indifferent, and the enemies. A 
case in point is the reaction of a group of young 
people when their religious instructor read to them 
the 24th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mat- 
thew. It first caused breathless silence and then the 



118 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

response: "It sounds as if this was written for us." 
The aggressiveness of atheism is in itself a sign of the 
threatening effect of the word "God" and therefore 
of God's Word. "Affliction teaches us to understand 
the Word." We know that Luther gave a wrong trans- 
lation of this verse, because understanding is not a 
natural consequence of affliction. Temptation can 
also devour. But God's comfort and warning miracu- 
lously enter our lives when we read the Bible, when 
we pray, preach, listen, and teach. He sends out his 
Word to be thrown among the multitude. Many turn 
toward it in opposition or with acceptance and take 
notice of the witness of Christians. For believers it 
has become strangely simple to turn their lives into 
commentaries on the gospel. The question of how to 
live as a Christian among non-Christians has been 
surprisingly simplified, although it has lost nothing 
of its gravity. The insight breaks through that the 
field is white for the harvest and that God arises to 
seek and to save what is lost. Unless we close our eyes, 
we are bound to see with joy that God is announcing 
a new day of evangelization. If we listen to the gospel, 
we can hear only this and nothing else. 

Nevertheless: Are we perhaps stubbornly and anx- 
iously closing our ears to his Word? Are we deliber- 
ately rejecting this great divine blessing? Do we pre- 
fer our unbelief and our flesh— and the fleshpots of 
Egypt!— to the viva vox evangelii? Do we bypass 
God's visitation in our own inexcusable hardness of 
heart? Do we look back like Lot's wife did for her 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 119 

burning house, only to become a pillar of salt? Is it 
too little that Christ uses us in order to call the sin- 
ners to him? Are we perhaps grumbling when the last 
will be first and the first last? Are we not content 
with God's grace, which is sufficient for life, but be- 
siege him with a catalogue of desired bonuses which 
he does not want to give us at this moment? Do we 
shun suffering, demanding that God's ways should be 
less rough, if we are to tread them with joy? Are we 
angry that the godless are so godless, the indifferent 
so indifferent, the pious so passive? Do we stumble 
over the human weakness of the pastors, the consis- 
tories, or the bishops and make an issue out of noth- 
ing, while tearing down real greatness? Are we like 
Israel on its way through the desert, which constantly 
despaired and grumbled and thus forfeited the prom- 
ised land? Does fear of men prevent our ears from 
hearing and our mouth from proclaiming? Do we 
pass the time of our inner and innermost life in de- 
vising mischief, and thus bypass the chief gift, God's 
grace, and end up in damnation? Do we preach salva- 
tion from all sins, from death and the power of the 
devil, because we ourselves need this proclamation 
for our salvation from the coming wrath? Are our 
minds captured by possible oncoming catastrophes to 
such a degree that we no longer look for the coming 
Lord who will make a new heaven and a new earth? 
We must let these questions stand as they are. The 
answers to them will determine whether the Marxist 
world will become the good soil on which the Word 



1 20 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

bears fruit a hundredfold. They will determine the 
nature of our mission which lies at our footstep. The 
Christian churches in North Africa and the Middle 
East failed at this point long before the rise of Islam. 
This is, therefore, the real reason for their doom, 
rather than the impressive power of Allah, his 
prophet, and his followers! 

Lastly, if we submit ourselves to the proclamation 
of the gospel, we shall be entitled, through God's 
grace, to accept the Marxist rulers of the state as 
God's servants and agents, and to acknowledge their 
functions. Through them God brings about a certain 
measure of peace, justice, freedom, and humanity 
without which human life would become physically 
impossible. We may count on this fact, recognize it, 
and be grateful for it. The gospel puts things in their 
place, it gives us sound eyes gratefully to see justice, 
freedom, humanity, peace, and order as God's good 
gifts, provided in the Marxist realm. We must point 
out these positive things because we are assured by 
God's promise that he will not desert his creation, 
that he will not cause another flood to come. On this 
basis, we can take our place in the Marxist world, 
work for good wherever it has to be done, and avoid 
evil. Because of the gospel, this world provides room 
for life and is not hell. Even the Marxists are enforc- 
ing divine justice, either in accordance with or in 
conflict with their theoretical knowledge, because 
God's justice never surrenders to Marxist ideology. 
We are never beyond the reach of our creator and 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 121 

preserver, not even under the Marxists. They, too, 
are under his ordinance to reward the good and pun- 
ish the bad. The Lord himself has set about to resist 
chaos, in spite of our constant attempts to foster it. 

It is a fundamental truth, although it is a miracle, 
that we can do good in spite of being evil. If the 
Marxist think that they can eliminate God, or what 
they conceive God to be, they must be told that "he 
who sits in heaven laughs; the Lord has them in de- 
rision," for the Gentiles conspire and the peoples plot 
in vain. Christians belie their unbelief when they 
maintain that the degree of law and order existing in 
the Marxist realm is not law and order at all, because 
it is dominated by a materialistic world-view and mo- 
tivated by historical materialism. Admittedly, Augus- 
tine said that the virtues of the Gentiles were merely 
glorified vices, but he denied his faith in this case. 
Faith discovers with amazement that even the ideo- 
logical fanatic is firmly and inescapably in the grip 
of the heavenly Father who allows us to execute the 
plans of our evil hearts only in exceptional cases. 
Christians must stick to this truth even under very 
un-Christian authorities and systems. They must be 
free to expect good and not evil from these authori- 
ties, and to respect and help them in this high office. 

Two further clarifications are necessary in order to 
avoid misunderstanding. It is obvious that the Marx- 
ist state departs in many important aspects from the 
type of government which was developed during the 
last centuries in Central and Western Europe as well 



122 How to Serve God in a Ma xist Land 

as in North America, and which today provides the 
norm for recognizing a state as law-abiding. Even in 
these territories there has ahvays been the painful dif- 
ference between ideal and reality. The concept of lib- 
eral democracy must be carefully distinguished from 
its embodiment in a particular government. Never- 
theless, it is an undeniable fact that there is a more 
or less open field for Christians and Christian 
churches in the political life of those countries, for 
basing their lives on God's command and for making 
known their views in public. 

However, the task of Christians to recognize and 
accept political responsibility in accordance with 
their faith and their ethics is commensurate to the 
opportunities which are actually open to them in any 
given situation. From what we have said, it follows 
that all Christians are under the obligation to pre- 
serve and to strengthen the basis for justice and hu- 
manity, for freedom and peaceful coexistence, and to 
keep them from being transformed into arbitrari- 
ness, barbarism, slavery, and the battle of all against 
all, i.e., the tyranny of one group over all others. This 
fundamental obligation is common to all Christians 
regardless of the form of government and of the par- 
ticular situation in which they find themselves. It in- 
cludes the emperor who confesses Christ as well as 
the prisoner who calls on the Lord. But the measure 
and the means of fulfilling this obligation changes 
from one situation to the other, from generation to 
generation, from state to state. Under no circum- 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 123 

stances can the church consider herself as being re- 
leased from her political responsibility. Nor must she 
ever be content with the status quo. God sees to it 
that we can never sit back with folded hands regard- 
less of how Christian a state may call itself or how 
many privileges it may grant to the church. On the 
contrary, she will be especially suspicious in such a 
moment of any attempt to cover up basic human mal- 
ice in the name of Jesus Christ. History provides nu- 
merous illustrations of this danger. 

If the church trusts in the gracious promise of Ro- 
mans 13, she will set out to work courageously and 
confidently, knowing that she is the co-worker of him 
whose ordinance is effective and will remain so until 
the end of time. She will not overestimate the impor- 
tance of differences between forms of government. She 
will not develop some sort of political metaphysics by 
absolutizing those forms which approximate most 
closely her faith and God's command. This is particu- 
larly important in those countries where the govern- 
ment is identified with a non-Christian religion, e.g., 
in Egypt and Persia, or with a papist ideology, e.g., in 
Spain and Colombia, as well as in the Marxist world. 
In all these places she will participate in the political 
life for the common good and according to the meas- 
ure of possibilities open to her. She will act in the 
assurance that the God who uses his servants in these 
countries is the Father of Jesus Christ and calls them 
to obedience in public life. This assurance does by no 
means eliminate the differences between forms of 



124 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

governments, and most certainly not between good 
and evil. It would be an obdurate church which 
could be deat toward the cries of the "strangers, 
widows, and orphans." She is under obligation to care 
for them and to seek justice in their behalf, even if it 
meant the risk of possessions, profession, career, free- 
dom, or, in extreme cases, life itself. An obedient 
church will at all times be found on the side of those 
who suffer injustice and are shortchanged. It cannot 
be denied that the history of all churches is rich with 
examples of negligence and guilt in this respect. The 
church in the Marxist world would, however, heap 
guilt upon guilt by resigning at this point on the 
basis that everything was lost in her situation. Such 
an attitude springs from faith in a liberal ideal. But 
faith in Jesus Christ opens possibilities everywhere 
for responsible action. 

Finally, it is conceivable that times and situations 
will arise in the Marxist world when there will be no 
room for Christians to participate even in the most 
general way in the political life according to their in- 
sights. In fact, the church has passed through times 
when the mere confession of Jesus Christ entailed 
condemnation. In Colombia and Indonesia people 
are dying today for the sake of Christ's name! The 
fear is justified that some day a similar situation 
could develop in the Marxist world. But even in 
these boundary situations the church owes the gospel 
of salvation to her fellow men and her rulers, and 



Proclamation of Gospel in Marxist World 125 

this obligation has absolute priority over any other 
possible or demanded course of action. 

The church was founded on the witness of Jesus 
Christ, and she lives by this witness. If all the other 
possibilities are closed to her, the witness remains 
and, especially at that moment, it is under the prom- 
ise of the Spirit who will lay words into the mouths 
of the witnesses. Even suffering will not shut her 
mouth: the praise of God takes priority over every- 
thing. The strongest objection against any kind of re- 
volt in such moments strikes at the very heart of the 
gospel: How could the church make people believe 
in the good news of the justification of the godless 
while she fights them with arms? When Peter did it 
in Gethsemane in an exemplary fashion, he merely 
succeeded in cutting off Malchus' ear, which should 
have heard the message of the crucified. How many 
times did the church make the hearing impossible 
for her adversaries and lose herself the ability to hear 
the crucified, when she offered this type of resistance, 
sometimes with very obvious and stringent reasons! 
In the farewell letters to his wife before his execution 
in 1944, Count Moltke of Kreisau affirms once more 
that he was opposed to the conspiracy of the 20th of 
July until he was arrested, months before the attempt 
on Hitler's life (only thereafter the Kreisau circle de- 
cided to participate in the elimination of Hitler). 
These letters are a clearer and more unequivocal proc- 
lamation of the crucified than word and deed of the 
conspirators. The church, whether under Marxism or 



126 How to Serve God in a Marxist Land 

not, owes to it the gospel, even if every other action 
would thereby become impossible. But if the church 
outside the Marxist world does not recognize that the 
Marxists are first and last those to whom the gospel 
must be addressed, the witness of the church inside 
the Marxist world loses its credibility, and becomes 
rightly suspect, a mere tactics. The realization of this 
fact by the church outside would result in a change 
of her speaking about and against Marxism and of 
her actions in political affairs. 



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