Anti–Semitism, The Holocaust, And Christians’ Guilty Silence -- By: Wayne A. Detzler

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 10:1 (Spring 2012)
Article: Anti–Semitism, The Holocaust, And Christians’ Guilty Silence
Author: Wayne A. Detzler


Anti–Semitism, The Holocaust, And Christians’ Guilty Silence

Wayne A. Detzler

Spanish philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.”1 By this he emphasized the didactic role of history: we learn from our past. Unknowingly he also suggested the apologetic role of history. Since God’s hand is revealed in history, it becomes part of general revelation.

It is this aspect that drew me to the study of history more than fifty years ago. My mentor in the field was Dr. Earle E. Cairns, who for many years chaired the history department at Wheaton College (IL). He is best known for his basic text Christianity through the Centuries. During my early academic career, I had the privilege of assisting Dr. Cairns, and he infused me with a passion to study the impact of Christianity on society. Of course, this also led to the study of atheism on society.

The culmination of these five decades of study is my conclusion that the peril of ‘non–personhood’ is the inevitable result of systemic atheism. This becomes an apologetic issue because it instructs us in dealing with similar phenomena throughout history and also in our present world, even within the United States.

Avery Cardinal Dulles addresses the issue of historical apologetics in his landmark, History of Apologetics. When writing about C. S. Lewis, Dulles concludes, “Deeply rooted in the tradition of Western Europe, he [Lewis] lamented the way in which the rapidly changing technology was cutting people off from the accumulated wisdom of the past [i.e., history].” Then Dulles quotes the noted historical apologist Alan Richardson: “The events of our own contemporary history are best understood in the light of Christian faith in God’s judgment and mercy in history.”2

Throughout history various populations have been condemned by society at large to non–personhood. They have been regarded as not worthy of treatment as human beings.

For the purposes of our study, we shall focus on the Holocaust in Germanic Europe between 1939 and 1945, in which approximately six million Jews were gassed and incinerated in the furnaces of Nazi concentration camps.3 The question before us is this: how could the statistically dominant Christian churches of Germany fail to speak out against the Holocaust? How can one explain their guilty silence? At the dawn of the Nazi era in 1933, the Lutheran Bishops declared, “We German Protestant Christians accept the saving of our nat...

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