Is Eric Metaxas’s Letter to the American Church 86 Years Too Late?

May 2, 2024 by David Fowler

Is Eric Metaxas’s Letter to the American Church 86 Years Too Late?
Many politically conservative Christians are applauding Eric Metaxas’s Letter to the American Church for telling it like it is and telling Christians, ministers in particular, to wake up and get involved politically lest our nation descend into the kind of “Hell” Europe was “plunged into” by the non-resistance of the German Church of the 1930s to Hitler (quoted words are from Metaxas’s recent remarks in Murfreesboro). Metaxas is a scholar, so I do not take lightly my supplementing his analogy, but there is an overlooked parallel to the historical rise of that Hell that the American Church passed 86 years ago, the same as the German Church of 1930 did 86 years previously.

Metaxas wrote the following in the Introduction to his book:
I am convinced the American Church is at an impossibly—and almost unbearably—important inflection point. The parallels to where the German Church was in the 1930’s are unavoidable and grim. So the only question . . . is whether we might understand those parallels, and thereby avoid the fatal mistakes the German Church made during that time, and their superlatively catastrophic results. (emphasis supplied)
I could not agree more. Then he continues: “The German Church of the 1930’s was silent in the face of evil; but can there be any question whether the American Church of our own time is guilty of the same silence.”

Again, I agree one hundred percent. The next sentence, though, is one I think needs supplementing:
Because of this, I am compelled to speak out, and to say what—only by God’s grace—I might say to make plain where we find ourselves at this moment, at our own unavoidably crucial crossroads in history.

The addition I will try to make and to prove is that what led to the silent church in Germany in the 1930s was an “inflection point” about 86 years earlier that went unchallenged by the German Church. I will show that same inflection point was passed by in silence 86 years ago by the American Church of 2024.

I believe this inflection point is the one that should inform the kind of silence the American Church must break, one that, to my knowledge, the German Church has yet to break.

The “Inflection Year” for the German Church of the 1930

In offering the following, I appreciate that Biblical theology teaches Christians that evaluating the fabric of history at any point apart from its very beginning is to tear it, and, consequently, to risk a proper evaluation of the torn piece we hold in our hands.

For example, we could begin the history of the more modern, post-Reformation German Church of 1930 with the philosophical thoughts of Germany’s Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason in 1791 and follow it through to thoughts of Germany’s Frederick Hegel in his Elements of the Philosophy of Right in 1821. But allow me to pick up that thread in 1844 with the publication of Karl Marx’s Introduction to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

I submit that 1844 was the point at which a “Letter to the German Church” should have been written to prophetically declare what it would become in 86 years (1930) if it did not resist what was then happening.

What Was the German Inflection Point of 1844?

Prior to 1844, Hegel had proposed a pantheistic cosmology using Christian words devoid of their historic meaning. In doing so, he loosed the first tie to the fundamental doctrine in Christianity that makes sense of Christianity, creation out of nothing by God’s fiat.

But in 1844, Marx, in his Introduction and with a nod to Hegel, wrote, “For Germany, the criticism of religion has been essentially completed.” As Miracle Max said of the Wesley in The Princess Bride, religion in Germany was only “mostly dead.”

Hegel had pulled God down to earth, abolishing any true transcendence that draws a distinction between Creator and creation. Now Marx set out to bury God.

That, he said, would require “a dissolution of the hereto existing world order.” In other words, the Middle Age’s “God cosmology” in which Jesus was the defining figure for understanding and organizing the world order needed to be dissolved in people’s minds.

As a substitute, Marx said Germany needed a theory “which declares man to be the supreme being for man,” and his reconstructed history grounded in dialectical materialism provided it.

But here is the key Marxian point: “The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest essence for man.” Remember this sentence for the “American Inflection Point” below.

The Predicted End of Christianity in the German Church

Using Biblical language, Marx had said, “When all the inner conditions are met, the day of the German resurrection will be heralded by the crowing of the cock of Gaul.” (emphasis in the original). It would be the end of cosmological Christ and, therefore, the aforesaid “end” of the Christian religion.

Thirty-six years later, in 1882, the new “cock of Gaul” crowed in the person of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who announced the “death of God.” 

The Inflection Year for the American Church of 2024

Eighty-six years ago in the America, in 1938, in a case known as Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, the United States Supreme Court repudiated “the assumption that there is ‘a transcendental body of law outside of any particular State but obligatory within it unless and until changed by statute.’” (emphasis added). This transcendental body of law existing independent from any particular ruling by a judge, but upon which the judge would justify his ruling, was called common law.

Don’t miss the point here. To deny the existence of a transcendent body of law (which common law represented) is effectively to deny the God of the Bible who is transcendent. Might as well have said, “God is dead” when it comes to law in America.

What Happened When SCOTUS Declared God Dead 86 Years Ago?

Even an atheistic Court knows there must be some overarching (transcendent) authority or there no longer is any authority upon which any law could declare for everyone a difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and what promotes human flourishing and what kills it.

The Court even said, “law in the sense in which courts speak of it today does not exist without some definite authority behind it.” (emphasis supplied)

But that begs the question, “What or who is the ‘definite authority’?” And what was meant by the way we “speak of [law] today?”

The Court’s answer acknowledges that everything has changed: “The common law so far as it is enforced in a State, . . . exist[s] by the authority of that State . . . .”

The damnable conclusion? “[T]he authority and only authority is the State.” God is totally irrelevant, and there is no law outside of ourselves. Common law, as it had always been understood, died along with God.
Sounds like the same “inflection point” Karl Marx was looking for 86 years prior to the German Church of 1930.

How Did the American Church Respond to Its Inflection Point?

In sum, it didn’t and still hasn’t.  

Since June 2015, when the United States Supreme Court declared in the context of the marital relationship that “liberty” is the right of each person “to define and express their identity” (Obergefell v. Hodges), the American Church, and the legal and policy advocates who want to lead it, have done nothing.

I’ll be as frank as Metaxas but without naming names. Not one denomination or denominational leader, not one leader of an influential legal or policy organization, and not one high profile American pastor has, to my knowledge, said publicly, let alone with any gusto, “Surely this decision is not just the culmination of the ‘death of God’ in our culture as declared in 1938, but the abolition of the image of God in man and woman. We make our identity now. We should not be silent.” God has been de facto banished from our law and culture for a long time. Most of the talk then and now has been about us—protecting our religious liberty.

The Historical Supplement I would Add to Metaxas’ Letter

The unchallenged break in German culture with God’s transcendence and the doctrine of creation seems to have meant little to nothing so long as the huddled few were “saved” and might escape hell. But this break is what led to German officers at Nuremburg justifying their actions because they were obeying the German laws and to a nation despising an entire ethnic group made in the image of God.

That, to me, would have justified the Angel of the Laodicean Church saying to the German Church of 1930, “you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:17). Consequently, their nation reaped the whirlwind.

Applying the German Historical Supplement to the American Church of 2024

Because too few of America’s church leaders knew anything about our nation’s legal history and what was going on in law, it appears that most of them were silent regarding the same inflection point the German Church faced in 1844. Not unlike the German Church, in the American Church, objective theology with subjective application gave way over the last 100 years to a mere subjective theology focused on getting people “saved” so they could escape Hell or better cope with their temporal frustrations.

That trend continues today, and, therefore, I believe the ongoing silence of the American Church, along with the accommodation of its leadership to the banishment of God in law and the redefinition of humanity in 2015, not just marriage, would justify the Laodicean Angel saying “you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”

What this Means for American Christians

This banishment of God from the jurisprudence around which our lives and society are ordered means that our nation’s situation cannot be fixed by the exercise power in relation to the enactment of laws, because God is the missing predicate in our law.

Our law problem today is a result of a greater problem, namely, the American Church’s non-resistance to the death of God in our law 86 years ago and into the present.

If leaders of the American Church (and its legal and policy adjuncts) keep thinking about law and approaching law in the way they have since 1938, like atheistic legal positivists, it may be evidence that the Church here has already become like the German Church in 1930.

Metaxas is correct that the Church’s silence needs to be broken, but it must first be broken by cries of repentance toward God by its leaders for having accommodated themselves, and His people, to His banishment from our law. The German Church of 1930 didn’t do that, and it doesn’t look like the American Church is ready to make that a priority either.

If you would like a copy of remarks I recently gave about the church’s silence regarding the death of God and the image of God in Obergefell v. Hodges, request it by email to

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