This small hard-covered book has been on my shelf for years – but recently I noticed it and decided to read it. Entitled “Fading Light: The tragedy of spiritual decline in Germany”, it is written by a former Principal of Moore College and a well-known Irish Protestant, and sometimes controversialist, T. C. Hammond. While it is undated, Warren Nelson’s biography of him cites the date as 1943, during World War II.I have a personal interest in him as I own his personal signed copy of the new edition of The Protestant Dictionary published by The Harrison Trust in 1933, for which he was one of the contributors. It was passed on to me by dear Monica Farrell whom T. C. invited to come out from Ireland in 1937. She established The Light and Truth Gospel Crusade in Sydney – similar to the Irish Church Missions where she had been active as a converted Roman Catholic in Ireland. My personal memories of dear Monica are precious – and I have some of her personal papers including her own record of all the meetings she conducted, and my inherited publishing business, Protestant Publications, had published her numerous booklets and tracts some of which are still available.
It was sobering to read Fading Light as Hammond traced the spiritual contributing factors in Germany which led to its embracing Nazism and Adolph Hitler, and ultimately to both another World War and the Holocaust. It was a sobering read, because as I read the book, I couldn’t help but think that so many of the factors which led to this horror are evident in our churches and society in general today, reminding us of the old dictum, “History teaches us that History teaches us nothing!” What then were these factors as seen by our writer?
Firstly, there was the rise of the power and influence of the State in peoples’ lives.
In Germany, the State exercised control over every area of life including education, particularly in the universities. Karl Barth (for whom I hold no brief, being force-fed Barthian dialectic for three years in the middle ‘60’s in Theological College) was exiled for refusing to commence his lectures with ‘Heil Hitler!’. We are seeing a similar phenomenon in practise with multitudinous regulations for every area of life, with constant messages regarding how we are to behave, what we are to accept, and what we must do. Radical gender ideology is but a prominent example of this, with programs being designed and taught in schools, lobbying occurring for laws to be changed regarding gender, and so forth.
Following this closely, sadly, is a compromise in the churches. This also happened with German liberalism which looked down somewhat patronisingly on the old ways and encouraged an all-embracing compromise in church practice. Churches became places which blended both the Bible and Nazism, and those few who were outspoken about the Nazi regime and its outrages were marginalised or worse. So too, today, churches who refuse to go with the direction being pushed are slammed if they do not embrace diversity, both theologically and societally. Alongside this was the rise of the intolerant calling for tolerance. Hammond wrote, “People talk about the intolerance of fundamentalism, but intolerance refuses to attach itself to any party. It is rampant among those who are parading their liberalism.” Likewise, there are many today calling for acceptance and tolerance, but take care if you have a different opinion or conviction!
Another contributing factor was what Hammond described as Material Monism which, for Germany, he traces back to Haeckel. It can be illustrated by a simple quotation from his book: “There is a popular idea abroad that there are two classes of people in the world; scientists who are in some mysterious way pure searchers after the truth; and other people like clergymen who are special pleaders, and have their minds closed to all kinds of truth.” Such a thing continues to this day, where ‘science’ rules over debates, and religion is seen as antithetical to knowledge. No matter how ridiculous and outlandish the assertion, one can silence debate today by the magic words, “studies have shown”. Regardless of the fact there is a crisis where the conclusion of many studies are unable to be reproduced!
Following on from this was his chapter entitled ‘Evolution – true or false?’ Darwinism, as with our own world today dominated thinking, specifically in German theology via such figures as Julius Wellhausen. As a result there is nothing really special about the human species for it is just a product from pre-existent species over millions of years and genetic accidents contrary to the laws of genetics where information somehow is accidentally added to DNA producing the existing myriad of variations in life both animate and inanimate. Life is just a cosmic accident – so human life is not intrinsically valuable or special. We now react with horror at clubbing a baby seal to death in a cull while calmly tolerating the dismembering an infant in the womb and selling its body parts via Planned Parenthood as in the USA. Life was cheap in Nazi Germany – and the same mentality fuelled by Darwinian thinking prevails in many areas today leading to such ‘progress’ as, for example, euthanasia which is to be brought before the Victorian parliament this year.
Then there is a chapter entitled ‘New Light or Darkness’. Modern scepticism attempts always to parade itself as new, knowing the current fascination with the latest and greatest whether in thought, technology or the movie screen. So it was also seen in Hammond’s analysis of new thought in his day. We can identify with his description of this oft-repeated historical phenomenon and what lies behind it: “The amazing thing to me is that people tell me they have got new ideas about the Bible… and I find that these modern new light people are just dressing up the old fancies. Instead of the crinoline we have the short skirt, but it is the same old lady. Don’t run away with the idea that this is all new light, it is not. It is the old evil heart of unbelief departing from the living God.”
As far as the study of the Scriptures especially in Theological College, he stated categorically, “The German people began years ago by deprecating the Old Testament, For many years there has been a strain of anti-Semitism both in France and in Germany.” Through this, they divided the Bible – as Hammond. put it: “It became easy with that stupid anti-Semitic spirit to lead the people of Germany to believe that there was a big difference between the Old and the News Testaments.” Sadly, in many respects such a paradigm of separating the Bible, in a way akin to German higher criticism, is still given inordinate attention in many Seminaries and Theological Colleges around the world.
Along with these views of the Scriptures, came the denigration of creeds and doctrinal confessions of faith. As Hammond states: “Religion does not consist in dogma…. We are told we must believe this and than and the other thing, and we are bound by the dead hands of creeds and formularies made up by people who have long ago crumbled into dust. We wish their creeds had died with them, Religion is not a matter of dogma, but of life.” The outcome of this then was a questioning even of the relevance of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hammond summarised this German attitude by many in these words: “Jesus Christ is of the past, and Adolf Hitler is a person of the present. Let us discard the past and seize the benefit of the present.”
And so today, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ is regularly either misinterpreted according to one’s present preferences or passed by as irrelevant and simply an historic figure who may have said some good things but whose relevance in this modern age is questionable. The question, What think ye of Christ? is still vitally relevant in view of the many counterfeit constructs that abound.
Then there was the race issue – while the issue of the purity of a Nordic people over against the Jews prevailed then, the real result was division on the issue of race, and this was used, as Hammond wrote, “to divide and conquer”. Today the issue of race has become tremendously divisive and this divisiveness has been exploited. For some, the only sin that remains is ‘racism’ and so blinded are they that anyone who says a word against Islam, for example, is labelled a ‘racist’ (and Muslims gladly go along with this). They haven’t realised yet that Islam is a religion not a race!
The second last chapter in Fading Light is entitled ‘Heathen Hopes’. Tellingly, Hammond wrote: “Men have been estranged from the old truths of the Gospel, and have been led to follow will-o’-the-wisps, and as a consequence of that the moral resistance to the spread of evil teaching has been very considerable weakened. Further on he wrote, But underlying … is the idea that we are all right. All we want is a little bit of instruction, a little more careful management of our affairs, a little more redirection of our hopes and ambitions, and we will come out on top. And that is the heathen hope. It was present to the minds of the old Greeks. It was present to the minds of the old Romans. It is present to the minds of the new Germans, and the results are by no means satisfactory. We are at present wondering whether the very civilization that has been so laboriously built up over the centuries will not only be threatened, but will finally be destroyed.”
That issue now plagues us today with a vengeance – as Hammond remarks, “we are a sorry lot of mortals to put our trust in”. But that is precisely what possesses our social engineers, educators, legislators, psychologists and sadly, even some supposed evangelicals today in their respective spheres of operations. Haven’t we all noticed? Whenever there is a breakout of evil – whether terrorism, alcoholic excess, road rage, domestic abuse, violence or even sport scandals – what is the universal answer to the inevitable question to what can be done about it? “Education”. Not punishment, not accepting personal responsibility (it’s always someone else’s fault!), not shame and rebuke or discipline but – Education”. And so our schools are being transformed into facilities promoting gender equality, self-awareness and self-esteem instead of literacy, numeracy and acquiring information from history and the world around us for life. Nobody now ever fails an exam – everyone gets a prize.
And so the anarchy and violence in the home and on the streets increase as do the horrors stemming from drugs, alcohol and the gross violence emanating from the silver screen and television, not to mention the ubiquitous internet where evil is instantly accessible at the click of a mouse. And the courts are increasingly impotent. The old dictum Justice delayed is justice denied is all but forgotten when a case comes before the judiciary initially which results in an interminable process often spanning years aided and abetted by lawyers in their self-serving club ensuring this prolonged process . If the offender is found guilty, then lawyers institute innumerable appeals or if to be sentenced, the judge needs a couple of months to decide the penalty! Of course, we are now so humane that we have disposed of the death penalty, so jails are full to overflowing – and criminals often offend again (despite ‘education’ in prison) either while on bail or parole with impunity.
Hammond referred to John Bunyan’s lesser known work, The Holy War: The Siege and Capture of Mansoul which he believed aptly described what had gone on in Germany and in Sydney during his time – and, we believe today for these are days also of Fading Light and realistically the future is not bright but dark. Yet Hammond rightly hearkened back to the great Evangelical revival in England which delivered it from convulsions similar to the French revolution. This we should remember! The Lord Jesus Christ is still the Light of the World and His arm is not shortened that it cannot save. But only when Peter saw that he was sinking beneath the waves did he cry, “Lord, save me!” – only then did the Lord stretch out his hand and delivered him from drowning. The old Gospel that a person is sinful and cannot save him or her self and needs a Saviour who loved His own and laid down His life on the cross of Calvary to pay for sin – that Gospel is the Power of God unto salvation for repentant sinners and through their changed lives transform families and societies – only that light will dispel the menacing shadows with which we are surrounded. With men it is impossible but with God all things are possible.
Fading light brings darkness – only Christ brings transforming light for time and eternity.
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|1.||↑||I have a personal interest in him as I own his personal signed copy of the new edition of The Protestant Dictionary published by The Harrison Trust in 1933, for which he was one of the contributors. It was passed on to me by dear Monica Farrell whom T. C. invited to come out from Ireland in 1937. She established The Light and Truth Gospel Crusade in Sydney – similar to the Irish Church Missions where she had been active as a converted Roman Catholic in Ireland. My personal memories of dear Monica are precious – and I have some of her personal papers including her own record of all the meetings she conducted, and my inherited publishing business, Protestant Publications, had published her numerous booklets and tracts some of which are still available.|