The Unstoppable Word of God
In 1939, the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life was founded by pro-Nazi “theologian” Walter Grundmann. Located at the University of Jena — the institution from which Karl Marx received his doctorate — the goal of the Institute was to demonstrate that Jesus was actually an Aryan. Mary, you see, was a descendent of Assyrians and Jesus’s real father was a Roman soldier.
The Institute produced a book titled, “Germans with God: a German Catechism,” that eliminated all references to the Hebrew prophets’ foretelling of Jesus and presented His life as an effort to fight against the Jewish people in the Palestine of His day. As described by Dartmouth scholar Susannah Heschel in her book “The Aryan Jesus,” “Germans with God” “omitted traditional doctrinal positions regarding miracles, virgin birth, incarnation, resurrection, and so forth, in favor of positioning Jesus as a human being who struggled on behalf of God and died not only as a martyr, but also a ‘victor’ on the cross, despite being a victim of the Jews.” Grundmann and his pro-Nazi Lutheran colleagues even developed a new series of commandments (12 instead of 10), including one that called on Germans to “Honor your Führer and master.”
While these things are so absurd as to invite derision and so irreverent as to provoke contempt, in our own time, something very similar is happening in China. As Family Research Council’s Arielle Del Turco reported several years ago, China’s President Xi Jinping has begun “a campaign to ‘Sinicize’ religion to make it more compatible with the teachings of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).” Included in Xi’s plan is “retranslating and annotating” the Bible in an effort to “find commonalities with socialism and establish a ‘correct understanding’ of the text.” One example that has reached the West is a retranslation of the story in John 8 about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. The “Sinicized” version has Jesus identifying as a sinner and then stoning the woman Himself!
Not merely content with re-writing God’s Word, China’s communist regime is even extending its reach into churches themselves. Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) wrote last year that in Henan province, “local CCP officials forced Protestant churches to replace the Ten Commandments with Xi Jinping quotes. ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,’ became diktats like: ‘Resolutely guard against the infiltration of Western ideology.’”
In one sense, Christians can take these efforts as confirmation of the truth of Scripture: Were the written Word of God not so transformative, why bother trying to “correct” it to comport with political ideologies? In seeking to undermine it, Xi only vindicates its power.
The 66 books of the Old and New Testaments have been “breathed-out” by God through the instrumentation of human authors (II Timothy 3:16). Using the vocabularies, personal experiences, and religious heritages of their human authors, the Holy Spirit gave us a written text to inform us about the person and work of the Triune God and show us the way of eternal salvation.
For this text to be credible, the original documents had to have been free from error in all they affirmed. This is the basis for biblical authority: If the Bible is not wholly trustworthy, an “up for grabs” mentality leads us to pick and choose in it whatever we prefer. This leads, ultimately, to a complete abandonment of the Bible altogether — why follow an unreliable book?
However Beijing’s repressive government attempts to usurp the role of God, He and His Word cannot be overcome. While it is tragic and outrageous that the Chinese government feels so threatened by the good news of Jesus Christ that it desires to pervert His written self-revelation, Xi’s efforts will not succeed. Altering the text of Scripture to conform it to the evil objectives of a morally bankrupt state will be about as successful as trying to grasp sunlight. As God tells us in Isaiah 55:11, His Word “shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
After the collapse of the Hitler regime, Walter Grundmann promptly became a loyal citizen of the communist East German government. More than loyal, he became a spy for that Marxist state’s brutal intelligence service, the notorious Stasi. Except for a few historians, no one remembers Grundmann today. His efforts, and those of his pro-Nazi colleagues in the compromised theological institutions and denominations supporting them, have been trodden underfoot by the triumphal procession of Christ in history.
So will those of President Xi and his cohorts. Unless, of course, they find new life in the Jesus proclaimed in a volume whose truth both cuts and heals and which can never be stopped.
Rob Schwarzwalder, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.