Contra Mundum Essay Collection: Thomas Schirrmacher

Education in Germany

by Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher

Symbiotica 1992

More than half of the German evangelicals belong to the liberal protestant state churches, which are so liberal that even American liberals are sometimes shocked! Because of the state collecting the money for the church - not to mention the state financing the theological education as part of the state universities - those churches are one of the richest churches in the world and spend most of the money given by evangelicals for evil purposes. The mass of the evangelicals therefore cannot work through their churches, but only through what is called "parallel structures" in Germany, being parachurch organisations, in which either Evangelicals from the state churches or Evangelicals from state and free churches work together. The so called free churches are "free" from the state, but not "free" from higher criticism, especially because they get a lot of their leading theologians from the state universities.

This is no wonder, as private universities virtually do not exist in the German speaking world. There is one evangelical theological seminary in Basel, Switzerland, founded 1970, and one in Giessen, Germany, founded in 1974. Both believe in biblical inerrancy, but do not have any special confession. Beside this we have something like two private universities run by the anthroposophs and perhaps one or two run by industry in Germany. Until 1974 we also did not have any Evangelical private schools in Germany. Then a movement started and we have about 20 Evangelical private schools now. They are not too well accepted, especially not by the free churches, and still do not have a real alternative catalogue of what should be taught, as the overall programme and the examinations come from the state, which also pays for the schools after they have run some years on gifts, as fees are only allowed up to a low level. Home schooling strictly is forbidden in Germany, but this is no problem for anybody yet, because I only know of one case of someone who wanted to teach his children at home and at least tried to do so. (The situation is a little better in Switzerland.)

Germany, especially Prussia, was the country from where the idea of total school and university education by the state spread into all the world. It will be the most resistant country to be won for the belief of Christian Reconstruction that education is the responsibility of the parents and that Christian parents never can hand over the education of their children to the enemies of God.

The Situation in Germany

There are virtually no Reformed, Calvinistic, Puritan or like books in print. With the exception of one expensive edition of the Institutes there are no texts of Calvin in German available. The reason for this is that the Reformed state churches long ago turned liberal, but none of the free churches has a Calvinistic background. When the Lutheran and Reformed churches got more or less united in the last century, Lutheran free churches were founded, but no Reformed ones. (Those Lutheran free churches who reject higher criticism till today, all were to be found in the former GDR and 'returned' to Germany now.)

In Germany the terms and messages of Arminianism and Calvinism are only known to - mostly liberal - church historians, but not to evangelicals as such. I never read a recent German book or article on it. Even some of the titles of the Banner of Truth Trust and other Reformed publishers, which were translated from German works of the 18th and 19th century are unknown in Germany itself. I own a lot of older theological German works, like the commentary on the Heidelberg catechism by Z. Ursinus, in English, because it is hard to get the old German versions even in libraries. The only exceptions are the sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, but the publishers ignore his Reformed position

Of course we know that we need a (non-liberal) Reformed, Presbyterian church in Germany, because you cannot live Reformed faith without a local church. This will not be possible without the help of Reformed churches in other countries which are still holding the Reformed confession in high esteem. In the moment there are three places where a small group of people would be interested in a Reformed pastor and a new congregation. But decisions like this need to be evaluated carefully. So we ask all Reformed people worldwide to pray for us in all diligence.

Reformed Christians who believe the Bible to be infallible are not worth counting. I probably have nearly all of them in my address list! The 'confession movement' - named after the confessing church in the Third Reich - which is fighting atheism within the state church is mainly made up by Lutherans. But how do other groups in Germany relate to those few Reformed people?

Dispensationalists, mainly in Brethren churches or within the protestant state churches, are often close friends with the Reformed, because they are the strongest force of people fighting higher criticism on every level or arguing for creationism. As editor of the magazine Bibel und Gemeinde, the only evangelical theological journal in Germany - there is another one in Switzerland (Fundamentum ) - that sticks to biblical inerrancy, I know that for most of our members, being a Dispensationalist and being faithful to the Bible just means the same thing, as being Reformed and Lutheran means to them to be a Higher Critic. No wonder that most Reformed Christians come from a strong dispensational background.

Lutherans on the one side are a great help to us, because they at least believe that the Ten Commandments are still in force. If people in our society still have any idea what the Ten Commandments are, it is because of the Ten Commandments in the Lutheran catechisms. But most of those Lutherans fight for their confessions, but not for the infallibility of the Bible, which they have given up. Although I was never a member of the state church, I belong to the federal council of this confession movement. Again and again I discuss with Lutherans, who want their church to go back to Luther, but think, denying every good result of higher criticism would be too radical or not helpful. I remember a discussion, when a Reformed pastor of the state church tried to convince a Lutheran pastor, why he should not baptise children of communists or homosexuals. (He himself refuses it only from time to time, because the church law court action against him take too much time ...). Although both want to change the state church and are willing to take unfamiliar steps, they both denied the necessity to ask what the Bible would expect every pastor to do, no matter in which situation he lives. For both of them my position of an infallible Bible does not help in the problem ...

Copyright © 1992 by Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher

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