Erwin W. Lutzer. Hitler’s Cross: How the Cross Was Used to Promote the Nazi Agenda. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012.
I would like to thank Moody Publishers for my review copy of this book. See here for Moody’s page about it.
Lutzer makes a variety of points in this book. He goes into the many people and beliefs that he believes influenced either Adolf Hitler or the German people who accepted Hitler, including (but not limited to) occultism, paganism, theological liberalism, Hinduism, and anti-Judaism within Christianity. He profiles Christians who resisted Hitler, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church, as well as Germans who helped Jews, in a time when many Germans (even Christians) were idolizing Hitler as the savior of their nation, one who had restored Germany’s pride while improving its economic condition. While Lutzer maintains that Hitler was demonically-influenced, faults the church for not doing enough to stand against Hitler, and argues against the anti-Jewish idea that the Jews should be blamed for Christ’s crucifixion (Lutzer states that all of humanity is to blame), he still believes that Hitler played some role in God’s plan, as he notes the many times that Hitler dodged literal and figurative bullets as examples of possible divine providence. Lutzer also holds that there are lessons for today in the historical events that he discusses. In many cases, these “lessons” reflect a Christian conservative political agenda: Christianity in public school, being against judicial activism, and a pro-life stance on abortion. But there are times when Lutzer deviates from the priorities of a Christian conservative agenda, as when he mentions compassion for the poor and the need to stand against racism, criticizes the marriage between Christianity and nationalism, and affirms that politics alone is not sufficient to help America.
Not everyone will agree with all of Lutzer’s theological, historical, and political arguments. I did not, but I still found the book to be worth reading. Most importantly, the book challenged me spiritually. Many Germans took the easier, softer way when it came to their response to Hitler, in that they went with the flow or supported Hitler out of their pride as Germans or their desire to preserve their economic security. As Lutzer argues, such a stance contradicts the cross of Christ, which promotes humility and love rather than pride and hate. This book can influence us to ask: Are there areas in which we compromise principles in pursuit of an easier, softer, more secure way?
I also appreciated Lutzer’s references to discussions that he has had with people, especially Jews. That added an element of humanity and thoughtfulness to this book.
In terms of criticisms that I have, I think that Lutzer should have documented more of his claims, and that, in more endnotes, he should have cited not only the secondary source, but also the primary source that the secondary source was quoting. Still, Lutzer referred to books and authors that one can read if one wants to know more.