Doomed to Repetition – Part 3

TimeWatch Editorial
February 24, 2017

The decisions that were made by the leadership of the Adventist Church in Germany when brought under pressure by the Nazis, as troubling as they were, must be brought to light. The reason is simple. The pressures that were placed upon the church then will more than likely be repeated. Acts of the Apostles describes the stress to come in the very near future.

“All who in that evil day would fearlessly serve God according to the dictates of conscience, will need courage, firmness, and a knowledge of God and His word; for those who are true to God will be persecuted, their motives will be impugned, their best efforts misinterpreted, and their names cast out as evil. Satan will work with all his deceptive power to influence the heart and becloud the understanding, to make evil appear good, and good evil. The stronger and purer the faith of God's people, and the firmer their determination to obey Him, the more fiercely will Satan strive to stir up against them the rage of those who, while claiming to be righteous, trample upon the law of God. It will require the firmest trust, the most heroic purpose, to hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints.”  {Acts of the Apostles, page 431 paragraph 1} 

This will indeed be required. The firmest trust, the most heroic purpose, to hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints. This has always been required, regardless of the circumstances, but in Germany, as we quoted in part 2 of this subject, Mark A. Kellner says in his article entitled “Church Leaders Say “we’re Sorry,”  that “Under various racial decrees, some Adventist congregations expelled members of Jewish heritage. Kellner continues to ask how a church that considers keeping the Sabbath as one of its core beliefs could forsake Jewish Sabbath-keepers during a time of persecution.” The answer found in the article is as follows.

“Herbert Brugger, president of the Adventist Church in Austria said that concern over a Nazi closure of the main Adventist churches may have weighed on leaders in that era. "I think our leaders were afraid to lose the official recognition of our church, so therefore maybe they were not [as faithful] to our beliefs as would have been necessary." The main Seventh-day Adventist church in Germany was also briefly banned under the Nazis, notes Pöhler. A quick reversal by the regime led to relief among Adventists but also to a level of cooperation with the government that was unhealthy. "We not only kept silent, but we also published things we never should have published. We published anti-Semitic ideas that, from our perspective, weren't really needed," Pöhler said in a telephone interview. "We had to realize that one wrong statement, one wrong move by a person meant he could end up in a concentration camp," Pöhler said of that era. "[That was the] reason why we excluded and disfellowshipped Jewish-born Adventists from our midst: If a local church had not done this, [the Nazis] would have closed the church, taken the elder to prison, and it would have meant the whole church would be forbidden." Mark A. Kellner, “Church Leaders Say we’re Sorry,” Adventist News

But not all abandoned their God given responsibility. Daniel Heinz, director of church archives at the Adventist University in Friedensau, Germany, reported on this. There were those members of the Adventist Church that did what they could to protect the Jews, regardless of the danger they themselves faced.

While some European Adventists took courageous stands to protect Jews. It would be difficult enough for an individual to reach out to a Jewish person, Pöhler explained, but to risk the lives of those in a congregation was an added burden. Such caution was even reflected in the nomenclature used by German Adventists, he said. "I found some very impressive stories of Adventists who helped Jews in the Third Reich, risking their lives, and I found the opposite," Heinz said. Among other church members, one Latvian Adventist family took in a Jewish man, hid him during the war, and survived. The refugee became an Adventist believer and church pastor after the war ended. According to Machel, "Sixty years after World War II is late-but we saw it as the last chance for a declaration." Mark A. Kellner, “Church Leaders Say we’re Sorry,” Adventist News

The German Seventh Day Adventist Church certainly did not anticipate the sort of division that occurred during World War I and the aftermath regarding the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. Even though, as a church we have been thoroughly warned concerning the sudden approach of catastrophic events, too often we are unprepared for events such s this. The Germans were therefore unable to properly deal with the situation, especially when their very existence as an organization was threatened. It is also clear that they were, for the most part, cut off from the rest of the world Church. Because of this they were forced to make their own decisions as to how they would respond to the circumstances in which they found themselves. As is clear, as an organization, they made incorrect choices, s individuals, some members remained faithful.

What can we learn from this? Will we make the right choices, regardless of the threats? Or will we allow fear and intimidation to govern our decision making? Listen to what God requires of us.

God desires His people to prepare for the soon-coming crisis. Prepared or unprepared, they must all meet it; and those only who have brought their lives into conformity to the divine standard, will stand firm at that time of test and trial. When secular rulers unite with ministers of religion to dictate in matters of conscience, then it will be seen who really fear and serve God. When the darkness is deepest, the light of a godlike character will shine the brightest. When every other trust fails, then it will be seen who have an abiding trust in Jehovah. And while the enemies of truth are on every side, watching the Lord's servants for evil, God will watch over them for good. He will be to them as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.  {Acts of the Apostles, page 431 paragraph 2}

Let us trust in him.

Cameron A. Bowen

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