Was the Third Reich destroyed by God?
|January 7, 2011||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
Was the Third Reich destroyed by God? Atheists, agnostics, philosophical theists, and even many Christians as well, will consider this to be a superfluous, if not a ridiculous question. Hitler overreached himself, he tried to take on the three greatest world powers at the same time, he made many errors of strategy and tactics – no further explanation is necessary. Why bring God into it?
It is safe to say that not one single history of the Third Reich has suggested that Hitler met his final end because God decreed it; that God arranged the circumstances of his fall, and set the limits which Hitler was not permitted to go beyond. Secular wisdom has no need of such a hypothesis, and many people who believe in God see no need for it either. Even Christians who profess belief in the bible see no need for theological explanations of what is so transparently evident. What, though, does the bible teach?
First, we read in the book of Hebrews that Jesus Christ upholds all things by the word of his power. He does not uphold them blindly, without knowing or seeing. We Christians do not have the false god of Deism who started everything and then left it to go on its own momentum. Our God, if we really do believe in God, is active in the world – not only in bible times, but also today.
Secondly, we read in the Psalms that God sends the clouds and the rain, and makes the grass to grow. He provides food for the beasts and the birds, and sends snow, and fire, and hail. He is intimately involved with the creation which he not merely created, but also sustains moment by moment. This is confirmed by Christ, when he teaches that not even a bird falls to the ground without God’s knowledge. He is not remote, uncaring, absent, or ineffectual.
Moreover, Paul teaches in Acts that God determines the boundaries of the nations of men (17:26). Was that just true for bible times? Do people who make this argument even believe in God at all? Paul goes yet further in a well known passage in Romans, stating that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” Daniel also states that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”
What if behind all of the human comings and goings which the historians complacently consider to the final reality, there is yet another reality, an invisible reality that is no less real for all of the common inability to see it? Does not Paul teach about “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” about “spiritual wickedness in high places”? Do his words have any application to the world at large, or are they only applicable to our personal struggles?
There are three problems, however, with asserting that God is involved with these things. First, it is a challenge to the complacency of many Christians for whom God is a comfortably limited abstraction, custom-fit to their private expectations, rather than the God of the Old and New Testaments.
Secondly, this strikes a blow at human free will. We are not the masters of our fates, there are larger forces of good and evil at work far above us, forces which can only be seen with the eye of faith, but remain real whether we accept them or not. But, human free will is not what life is all about, as if there were certain aspects of life, and the most important ones at that, beyond which God is not allowed to trespass.
Thirdly, there is of course the problem of evil. Job twice states that evil and destructive acts, done by Satan and his human instruments, were from God – and these statements are approved in scripture as being right (1:21-22 and 2:10). This is comprehensible when we consider that, if God has the power to prevent evil, and does not, then it is permitted by him and, in some way, even if indirectly, from him.
Thus, God could have easily caused Hitler to die in World War I, or caused him to drop dead of natural causes at any time afterward. Since God did not decide to do this; and since he allowed Hitler to flourish; and since we as Christians do not want to say that God was a) ignorant or absent; b) impotent; or c) indifferent – then we can say that Satan and evil men were responsible for the horrors of World War II, yet God allowed them to act for a time, as he allows evil to be at work in the world at large, for a time.
Paul suggests (presenting it not dogmatically but as a question), that God endures “with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” so that in the end, when he finally shows his wrath upon them, and when he also shows “the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy,” he will be magnified and glorified. As to those who object to this arrangement, “O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” God is God, and our proper response to all of his doings, is faith, love, obedience, and worship, even if we do not understand his larger and hidden purposes.
God did not will that we should stroll into heaven on a carpet of roses. He has placed us in a world in which evil is a reality, so that we might come to God out of our sins, and so that we might have the honor and the privilege of representing him, and suffering for him, in a world that truly is place of great beauty, but also of great wickedness.
In the meantime, while we wait for our final deliverance, we can have the confidence of biblical faith that God sets limits that evil cannot pass. Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, Darwin, Freud, contemporary radical atheists, and all of the many other vain opponents of God were not and will not be allowed to prevail in the end (though they are given their temporary triumphs). And, in our personal lives, God will allow nothing to come against us greater than what he has enabled us to endure.