Chamberlain and the Church
This year marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most disastrous blunders of history. On 30 September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed an agreement with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (as well as with France and Italy) at Munich. This agreement, signed behind the back of Czechoslovakia, agreed to give Hitler that nation’s Sudetenland region, which had a high proportion of ethnic Germans. Chamberlain returned to Britain, waving the paper of the agreement to cheering crowds, and famously declaring:
‘My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.’
However, Winston Churchill, who would lead the free world to finally defeat Hitler, bitterly denounced this agreement in the house of Commons. He had previously argued over the previous decade that the free world should have stood firm against Hitler while he was still weak (cf. Jesus’ point that the threat of superior force can induce peacemaking early on, Luke 14:31–32). After the Munich agreement, Churchill correctly predicted that Chamberlain’s appeasement of a ruthless despot would have terrible consequences, and invoked some biblical imagery:
‘We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat … you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude … we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road … we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting”. And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.’
As Churchill realized, this appeasement merely emboldened Hitler, who now thought of Chamberlain as a weak old man and had nothing but utter contempt for him. Also, the agreement gave Hitler the massive Škoda Works that strengthened him immensely, and made him even harder to stop—opponents would now face waves of Czech-made tanks. And as we now know, it wasn’t too long before Hitler engulfed the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Less than a year after Munich, Hitler invaded Poland, so on 3 September 1939, Chamberlain declared that Britain was at war with Germany. Britain came very close to losing this war, which cost 60 million lives and about a trillion 1944 US dollars worldwide. In his massive six-volume work, The Second World War, Churchill relates:
‘One day President Roosevelt told me that he was asking publicly for suggestions about what the war should be called. I said at once “The Unnecessary War”. There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle. … It is my earnest hope that pondering upon the past may give guidance in days to come, enable a new generation to repair some of the errors of former years and thus govern, in accordance with the needs and glory of man, the awful unfolding scene of the future.’
What is the lesson for the Church?
As the saying goes, ‘Those who cannot learn from history are condemned to have George Santayana quoted at them.’1 But many in the Church have not learned from Munich about the folly of appeasement.
Modern theistic evolutionists and long-agers have basically appeased atheists by conceding matters of real-world history and science to them. And like Chamberlain, they fondly believe that the atheists might be won over, or at least won’t go any further. But in reality, the compromising churchians have immensely strengthened the atheists’ hands by turning such powerful armament over to them:
- While modern science owes its existence to Christianity whereas it was stillborn in other cultures,2 atheists now often use science (or rather, materialistic philosophy masquerading as science) as a powerful weapon against the church.
- The Apostle Paul states that the evidence from creation is so powerful that people are ‘without excuse’ for disbelieving in God (Romans 1:18–32). But if evolution were true, then according to the leading evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould, the living world shows no evidence for creation: ‘there’s nothing else going on out there—just organisms struggling to pass their genes on to the next generation. That’s it.’3 So if evolution were true, there is no evidence for a God from what has been made, but evidence only for ruthless struggle for existence. So why would unbelievers be ‘without excuse’ if evolution were true?
- The Apostle Peter says that ‘scoffers’ would be ‘willingly ignorant’ of the fact that the whole earth was deluged and destroyed (2 Peter 3:3–7). But if millions of years were true, then there could have been no Noachian Flood, or at least not one that left any traces (e.g. sedimentary rock layers and fossils). So how could the scoffers be held culpable for ‘deliberately ignoring’ the fact of the Flood if there were no geological evidence?
- In the early19th century, many in the church capitulated to the long-age dogma of Hutton and Lyell, ignoring the scientific problems and spiritual warnings of the Scriptural Geologists.4 And after they had accepted geological evolution, they were powerless to resist Darwin’s biological evolution.5 First, they had already jettisoned Genesis as a source of authority. Second, Darwin could link slow and gradual geological processes with slow and gradual biological processes. Third, without the history of Creation, Fall, Flood and dispersion, they had no real history at all. Darwin could easily refute the counterfeit creation ideas of the compromised church. These included God creating disease germs and carnivores as such (ignoring the Fall and Flood),6 extinctions (Flood), and creatures in their present location (ignoring the Flood and dispersion).
And like Hitler, why should atheists make any concessions when the enemy is displaying such craven weakness? In reality, all the concessions are on the churchian side. The atheists concede nothing of value in return. Why shouldn’t they hold out for still more appeasement, while they use the Christians’ weapons against them?
A recent example of the continued appeasement is Howard van Till of Calvin College, who argued for decades that evolution was no threat to Christianity, and his college supported him. But after retirement, he showed his true colours (which blind Freddy’s deaf guide dog could have discerned) by abandoning any pretence of believing in any supernatural God. One report says, ‘Over the next two decades, he became the heretic his critics had suspected.’7 Thus Van Till is just the latest in the long line of apostates, whose slippery slide began with appeasement on Genesis, e.g. Billy Graham’s fellow evangelist Charles Templeton (1915–2001).8
What should the Church do instead?
Those in the Church should take the lessons from Churchill, who led the free world to finally defeat Hitler. But before the war, he was in his ‘wilderness years’ precisely for warning about the dangers of Hitler. He pointed out:
‘If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.’
Similarly, far too many in the Church failed to stand firm on the direct teachings of Scripture (as opposed to models used to explain its teachings9 ). Now much of the Church needs to recover its main weapon, the ‘Sword of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 6:17). And it’s vital that those in the Church are trained to use it as well as to defend it, as the apostle Peter commands (1 Peter 3:15), and to destroy the opposing spiritual strongholds by demolishing arguments (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).10 And since much of the world’s attack is on the Bible’s history, that must be a major focus of our efforts.
Martin Luther (1483–1546), the leader of the Reformation, was clear that avoiding doctrines that are ridiculed by the world was gross dereliction of Christian duty [But see Addendum 13 November 2009. Ed.]:
‘If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.’11
Addendum 13 November 2009
The famous “battle” quote has been attributed to Luther for decades, including by Francis Schaeffer. But though Luther said many similar things, this quote did not actually come from Luther but from a 19th century novel about Luther and the Reformation. See Where the battle rages—a case of misattribution.
References and notes
- Cf. ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’—Santayana, G., The Life of Reason, Constable & Co. Ltd., London, p. 82, 1954. Return to text.
- Stark, R., For the Glory of God: How monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts and the end of slavery, Princeton University Press, 2003; see also review by Williams A., The biblical origins of science, Journal of Creation 18(2):49–52, 2004; creation.com/stark. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Darwin’s real message: have you missed it? Creation 14(4):16–19, 1992; creation.com/realmessage. Return to text.
- Mortenson, T., The Great Turning Point, based on his Ph.D. thesis at Coventry University, creation.com/turning_point; Philosophical naturalism and the age of the earth: are they related? The Master’s Seminary Journal (TMSJ) 15(1):71–92, Spring 2004, creation.com/naturalism-church. Return to text.
- See Sarfati, J., Refuting Compromise, Creation Ministries International, Australia, ch. 8, 2004. Return to text.
- See Sarfati, ref. 5, ch. 6; and Batten, D., et al., The Creation Answers Book, Creation Ministries International, Australia, ch. 6, 2007. Return to text.
- Manier, J., The New Theology, Chicago Tribune, 20 January 2008; www.chicagotribune.com/features/magazine/chi-080120evolution-story,1,1644498.story. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Death of an apostate, Creation 25(1):6, 2002; creation.com/apostate. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., ‘Hanging Loose’: What should we defend? Creation 11(2):4, 1989; creation.com/hanging_loose. Return to text.
- See Christian Apologetics Questions and Answers, creation.com/apologetics. Return to text.
- Cited in Schaeffer, F.A., The Great Evangelical Disaster, Crossway Books, Illinois, USA, pp. 50–51, 1984. Return to text.