Written by Karl Barth and the confessing church
in Nazi Germany in response to Hitler's national church. Its
central doctrines concern the sin of idolatry and the lordship
Appeal to the Evangelical Congregations and Christians in Germany
8.01 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical
Church met in Barmen, May 29-31, 1934. Here representatives from
all the German Confessional Churches met with one accord in a
confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, apostolic Church.
In fidelity to their Confession of Faith, members of Lutheran,
Reformed, and United Churches sought a common message for the
need and temptation of the Church in our day. With gratitude
to God they are convinced that they have been given a common
word to utter. It was not their intention to found a new Church
or to form a union. For nothing was farther from their minds
than the abolition of the confessional status of our Churches.
Their intention was, rather, to withstand in faith and unanimity
the destruction of the Confession of Faith, and thus of the Evangelical
Church in Germany. In opposition to attempts to establish the
unity of the German Evangelical Church by means of false doctrine,
by the use of force and insincere practices, the Confessional
Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in Germany
can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy
Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed.
8.02 Therefore the Confessional
Synod calls upon the congregations to range themselves behind
it in prayer, and steadfastly to gather around those pastors
and teachers who are loyal to the Confessions.
8.03 Be not deceived
by loose talk, as if we meant to oppose the unity of the German
nation! Do not listen to the seducers who pervert our intentions,
as if we wanted to break up the unity of the German Evangelical
Church or to forsake the Confessions of the Fathers!
8.04 Try the spirits
whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional
Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree
with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers.
If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then
do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand
upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from
treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word
of God, in order that God's people be of one mind upon earth
and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: "I
will never leave you, nor forsake you." Therefore, "Fear
not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give
you the kingdom."
Declaration Concerning the Present Situation of the German Evangelical
8.05 According to the opening words of its constitution
of July 11, 1933, the German Evangelical Church is a federation
of Confessional Churches that grew our of the Reformation and
that enjoy equal rights. The theological basis for the unification
of these Churches is laid down in Article 1 and Article 2(1)
of the constitution of the German Evangelical Church that was
recognized by the Reich Government on July 14, 1933:
- Article 1. The inviolable foundation
of the German Evangelical Church is the gospel of Jesus Christ
as it is attested for us in Holy Scripture and brought to light
again in the Confessions of the Reformation. The full powers
that the Church needs for its mission are hereby determined and
- Article 2 (1). The German Evangelical
Church is divided into member Churches Landeskirchen).
8.06 We, the representatives of Lutheran, Reformed,
and United Churches, of free synods, Church assemblies, and parish
organizations united in the Confessional Synod of the German
Evangelical Church, declare that we stand together on the ground
of the German Evangelical Church as a federation of German Confessional
Churches. We are bound together by the confession of the one
Lord of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
8.07 We publicly declare
before all evangelical Churches in Germany that what they hold
in common in this Confession is grievously imperiled, and with
it the unity of the German Evangelical Church. It is threatened
by the teaching methods and actions of the ruling Church party
of the "German Christians" and of the Church administration
carried on by them. These have become more and more apparent
during the first year of the existence of the German Evangelical
Church. This threat consists in the fact that the theological
basis, in which the German Evangelical Church is united, has
been continually and systematically thwarted and rendered ineffective
by alien principles, on the part of the leaders and spokesmen
of the "German Christians" as well as on the part of
the Church administration. When these principles are held to
be valid, then, according to all the Confessions in force among
us, the Church ceases to be the Church and th German Evangelical
Church, as a federation of Confessional Churches, becomes intrinsically
8.08 As members of Lutheran,
Reformed, and United Churches we may and must speak with one
voice in this matter today. Precisely because we want to be and
to remain faithful to our various Confessions, we may not keep
silent, since we believe that we have been given a common message
to utter in a time of common need and temptation. We commend
to God what this may mean for the intrrelations of the Confessional
8.09 In view of the errors
of the "German Christians" of the present Reich Church
government which are devastating the Church and also therefore
breaking up the unity of the German Evangelical Church, we confess
the following evangelical truths:
- 1. "I am the way, and the truth,
and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John
14.6). "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter
the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that
man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters
by me, he will be saved." (John 10:1, 9.)
8.11 Jesus Christ, as
he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God
which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in
life and in death.
8.12 We reiect the false
doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge
as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this
one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths,
as God's revelation.
- 2. "Christ Jesus, whom God has
made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption."
(1 Cor. 1:30.)
8.14 As Jesus Christ
is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in
the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God's mighty
claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance
from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service
to his creatures.
8.15 We reiect the false
doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we
would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords--areas in
which we would not need justification and sanctification through
8.16 - 3. "Rather, speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into
Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together."
8.17 The Christian Church
is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts
presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy
Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify
in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience,
with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property,
and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and
from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.
8.18 We reject the false
doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the
form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes
in prevailing ideological and political convictions.
- 4. "You know that the rulers
of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men excercise
authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever
would be great among you must be your srvant." (Matt. 20:25,26.)
8.20 The various offices
in the Church do not establish a dominion of some over the others;
on the contrary, they are for the excercise of the ministry entrusted
to and enjoined upon the whole congregation.
8.21 We reject the false
doctrine, as though the Church, apart from this ministry, could
and were permitted to give itself, or allow to be given to it,
special leaders vested with ruling powers.
- 5. "Fear God. Honor the emperor."
(1 Peter 2:17.)
Scripture tells us that, in the as yet unredeemed world in which
the Church also exists, the State has by divine appointment the
task of providing for justice and peace. [It fulfills this task]
by means of the threat and exercise of force, according to the
measure of human judgment and human ability. The Church acknowledges
the benefit of this divine appointment in gratitude and reverence
before him. It calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God's commandment
and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers
and of the ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word by
which God upholds all things.
8.23 We reject the false
doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commision,
should and could become the single and totalitarian order of
human life, thus fulfilling the Church's vocation as well.
8.24 We reject the false
doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission,
should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks,
and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of
8.25 - 6. "Lo, I am with you always, to the close
of the age." (Matt. 28:20.) "The word of God is not
fettered." (2 Tim. 2:9.)
8.26 The Church's commission,
upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the
message of th free grace of God to all people in Christ's stead,
and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through
sermon and sacrament.
8.27 We reject the false
doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place
the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily
chosen desires, purposes, and plans.
8.28 The Confessional
Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees
in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of
these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German
Evangelical Church as a federation of Confessional Churches.
It invites all who are able to accept its declaration to be mindful
of these theological principles in their decisions in Church
politics. It entreats all whom it concerns to return to the unity
of faith, love, and hope.
Church's Confession Under Hitler by Arthur C. Cochrane.
Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962, pp. 237-242.