Barmen Declaration

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German stamp: 50 years of the "Barmen Declaration"

The Barmen Declaration or The Theological Declaration of Barmen 1934 (Die Barmer Theologische Erklärung) is a statement of the Confessing Church opposing the Nazi-supported "German Christians" movement known for its antisemitism and extreme nationalism. More specifically, The Barmen Declaration rejects (i.) the subordination of the Church to the state (8.22–3) and (ii.) the subordination of the Word and Spirit to the Church. "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." On the contrary, The Declaration proclaims that the Church "is solely Christ's property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance." (8.17) Rejecting domestication of the Word in the Church, The Declaration points to the inalienable lordship of Jesus Christ by the Spirit and to the external character of church unity which "can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed" (8.01): it submits itself explicitly and radically to Holy Scripture as God's gracious Word.

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.

The Declaration was mostly written by Reformed theologian Karl Barth as well as in part by other Confessing Church leaders. Its ecumenical nature can be seen by its inclusion in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [1] and the Book of Order of the world wide Moravian Unity, the Unitas Fratrum. Its name comes from its adoption by church representatives who had met in 1934 in the German town of Barmen.

One of the main purposes of the Declaration was to establish a three-church confessional consensus opposing pro-nazi "German Christianity". These three churches were Lutheran, Reformed, and United.

After 1945, the threat of pro-nazi "German Christianity" abated, providing several conservative Lutheran theologians a fresh new era in which to speak out against Barmen for having challenged four tenets of traditional Lutheranism: their Orders of creation, natural revelation, the doctrine of the two kingdoms, and the relationship between Law and Gospel.[1]



  • Douglas, J. D. (1988). Wright, David D.; Ferguson, Sinclair B., ed. New Dictionary of Theology. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press. p. 76. ISBN 0-85110-636-6. 

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