• Hitler’s Christianity, by J.P. Holding: A Brief Response


    My curiosity has been piqued by a new book by infamous Christian apologist J.P. Holding, who has written an e-book titled Hitler’s Christianity (Tekton, 2013). In this e-book Holding has given himself the task of deconstructing the oft-used argument that Adolf Hitler was a Christian. In addition, he does his best to demonstrate that Hitler was not a practitioner of the occult and that he wasn’t an atheist (at least he’s honest about this point, unlike many Christians. I give him props for this).

    Unlike many of my chapter-by-chapter refutations I don’t believe it’s necessary to respond to each chapter. I think the first, eleventh, and twelfth chapters will be sufficient enough. It is in the first chapter that Holding presents his main argument that Hilter wasn’t…. well, a true Christian, and chapter eleven is his attempt to argue that there is no such thing as anti-Semitism in the New Testament. In the final chapter Holding responds to a few criticisms against his central thesis. After reading the book in its entirety I believe these three chapters lay out his main argument. The others are less important.

    Before I begin, I will say one last thing. Since this is an e-book and it has no page numbers I will refer to the “location” feature in the e-book format for this book. I will abbreviate this as: L: [location number].

    Chapter 1: Positive Christianity: Doctrines and Background

    In this first chapter Holding lays out his main argument. Holding writes,

    The fundamental core of our case is that Hitler and other Nazi leaders adhered to a cult system called “Positive Christianity.” By defining Positive Christianity as a cult, we are arguing that its beliefs lay outside the mainstream of orthodox Christianity, to the extent that it would be incorrect to define Hitler as a Christian, or to place the blame for Nazi atrocities on the Christian faith as a religion and as a philosophy. (L:134)

    In essence, Holding’s case amounts to one large fallacy: No True Scotsman. This is the attempt to “appeal to purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws of your argument.” This is a fallacious form of reasoning because “one’s belief is rendered unfalsifiable because no matter how compelling the evidence is, one simply shifts the goalposts so that it wouldn’t apply to a supposedly ‘true’ example.”

    Given this fact, Holding’s entire argument could be ignored since it is a form of fallacious reasoning to begin with. However, that wouldn’t be any fun, so I will make my case for why I believe he is wrong.

    Throughout most of the e-book Holding tries to distance Hitler’s brand of Positive Christianity as far away from what Holding calls “mainstream” Christianity as much as possible. He lays out a number of “orthodox” Christian beliefs and shows how Positive Christianity failed to adhere to these views. Therefore, according to Holding, Positive Christianity wasn’t really a form of Christianity. He writes how Positive Christianity was “a separate theological movement in and of itself, with its own set of defined beliefs, many of which bore little or no resemblance to what is taught in or by mainstream Christian churches, seminaries, and theological associations.” (L:83) He continues to say that, “Were positive Christianity to re-emerge today it would immediately […] be condemned as a pseudo-Christian cult.”

    Interesting. The next question becomes, how does Holding define the term “cult?” He says that a cult is “any religious group that is a deviation, or offshoot, from some other religious group, and which holds to a new or unusual belief or practice that either rejects, or openly contradicts, the beliefs of the parent group.” (L:133)

    Given this definition I think it is safe to say that any and all religions would fall under this category since every single religion is a branch of an earlier one. Given the work of Bart Ehrman and the vast numbers of “Christianities” that flourished within the first hundred years of Christianity, I could say the say the same thing about the so-called “orthodox” position.

    Given that Holding doesn’t view Positive Christianity as a legit from of Christianity it’s important to see how he defines “Christianity.” He defines Christianity as a religion that “would be in accord with the teachings of the historic Jesus within his first century historical context, and within the theological framework of the apostolic church.” (L:116)

    There is a large issue with this because the fact is that we do not even know what Jesus actually taught since we have no first-hand writings from him at all. [1] What we do have are a mesh of contradictory texts. In addition, even if one took the bible at face value and accepted Jesus’ teachings as authentic, figuring out what Jesus taught from the bible is hugely problematic because of the numerous contradictory texts. For example, in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus vows “to come back to exact revenge upon those that do not follow him.” [2] In Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus says, “You must not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a son’s wife against her mother-in-law; and a man will find his enemies under his own roof.“ Jesus also cannot be found to condemn the institution of slavery anywhere in the bible. Even Christians recognized this fact. One example is Thornton Stringfellow who wrote in his book, Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery,

    I affirm then, first, (and no man denies,) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command: and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction, under the gospel dispensation; and that the principle relied on for this purpose, is a fundamental principle of the Mosaic law, under which slavery was instituted by Jehovah himself […] [3]

    Given these facts, how does a Christian choose between the “meek and mild” sayings of Jesus and the dysfunctional and immoral passages?

    He continues to discuss how Positive Christianity differs from “mainstream” Christianity. He talks about how Positive Christianity throws out all Jewish traces, including the entire Old Testament and also “disposing of the letters of Paul, who was frequently named as a Jewish ‘corrupter’ of the authentic Christian faith.” (L:217)

    As Holding acknowledges, this was done because the Nazis hated Jews and believed that true Christianity was not tainted by anything Jewish. This is also the reason Hitler attacked the Christian churches, which Holding discusses later. Hitler was not anti-Christianity in any sense. He simply was against what he viewed as the genuine form of Christianity and attacked the Christian churches because he believed they “were allies of Judaism rather than of National Socialism. They persisted, for example, in treating the Old Testament as a major source of Christian revelation, and they had rejected the cult of the ‘Aryan’ Jesus.” [4]

    Yes, removing the entire Old Testament is certainly unusual for a sect of Christianity, but its not as if there isn’t a precedent for this. Prior to the rise of Nazism there existed a form of Protestantism that was very anti-Semitic and rejected the Old Testament. [5] Even modern sects of Christianity disagree about which books are authentic, and some sects add or subtract a number of books from the bible. For example, Protestants and Catholics cannot agree on which books belong in the bible. The Protestants accept the Jewish canon, but the Catholics consider the Septuagint holy, and Roman Catholic bibles include eleven books that are not in the Hebrew or Protestant Old Testament.

    Another example Holding gives of the differences between what he calls “mainstream” Christianity and Positive Christianity is the issue of salvation. He contends that the Nazis paid too much attention to “deeds” rather than correct belief and that this parted ways with “mainstream” Christianity to a large enough degree that he would not consider it Christianity.

    Holding argues that the Nazis were not real Christians because they did not adhere to one of Jesus’ central teachings: The Sermon on the Mount. He writes: “Those who deviate from these [behavioral] guidelines are regarded as either failing to represent orthodoxy (their beliefs), or may, in some cases, be regarded as offering open evidence of not holding right beliefs at all.” (L:284) He continues to argue that, while Nazis abandoned many basic teachings of “mainstream” Christianity, they “adhered to basic precepts of Christian doctrine, most importantly the divinity of Christ as the son of God.” With a wave of a hand he dismisses this main Christian belief the Nazi’s believed in and says, “ Nevertheless, this seeming ‘saving grace’ is insufficient to detract from the lack of focus on orthodoxy in Positive Christian writings, especially given the reason for this lack of focus on doctrine.” (L:286)

    He also argues that “Positive Christianity strongly emphasized works and action.” (L:282)

    Holding is butting heads with many Christians with his interpretations of scripture here. Many Christians believe that actions are just as important as faith and these Christians (as well as the Nazis) have a lot of scriptural support on this issue. Such passages include the following (and this is only a small sample):

    James 2:26: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

    Even Jesus made reference to works, telling his disciples that faith alone is not enough:

    Matthew 25:31-46: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    A few other examples include:

    Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    2 Peter 1:5-11: For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

    Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

    There is clear scriptural support for the view that works, or deeds, are just as important as faith.

    I also find it odd that Holding claims that Nazis did not adhere to the “right belief,” because Joseph Goebbels wrote about the Sermon on the Mount and his views of it:

    I take the Bible, and all evening long I read the simplest and greatest sermon that has ever been given to mankind: The Sermon on the Mount! “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!” [6]

    The rest of the chapter delves into a little bit of historical background about the link between Positive Christianity and the Nazi party and this concludes the first chapter.

    Before moving on to the eleventh chapter I’d like to address one quick argument in the interlude prior to chapter four. Holding argues that “spiritual conditions were in such crisis that it is in open to question just how much authentic Christian faith existed among its people. There were certainly enough serious aberrations that even someone who accepted all the fundamentals of Christian belief […] would be in possession of a faith that was marred and corrupted by [the Nazi’s false Christian teachings.] (L:1276)

    Holding is resorting to the same fallacy as in the first chapter. He also resorts to yet another fallacy here: the ad hoc justification that not all German Christians were likely “true” Christians because they might have had their theological views “corrupted” by the Nazi’s version of Christianity. And exactly how does Holding know this? He doesn’t, therefore, this assertion can be safely dismissed.

    In this first chapter (as well as the interlude) we’ve seen how Holding resorts to logical fallacies in his attempt to make his case. With this fact, it would be easy to simply dismiss Holding’s arguments. However, his case is made even worse when he tries to define the words Christianity and cult by their standard definitions. These definitions do not even begin to describe the things in question. Christianity is often defined as a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, however, as I noted, how does one derive these teachings, since they are varied and contradictory? The term cult is also defined accurately, however, even this definition could describe every sect of Christianity, including the so-called “orthodox” position. Even modern Christians disagree about many of the basic teachings of Christianity, such as whether or not faith or works, or both, are required for salvation.

    Attempting to pin down an accurate accounting of Jesus’ teachings is impossible since we do not know what Jesus taught and the bible is fragmentary and contradictory on this point. Similarly, trying to account for an accurate definition of Christianity is problematic because there is no agreement about the very thing (Jesus’ teachings) the definition is based upon.

    Chapter 11: Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic?

    In this chapter Holding first attempts to distance and separate the religiously-inspired anti-Semitism from the “racial variation of anti-Semitism,” arguing that “the racial variation was a much later development.” Holding is clearly implying that Hitler’s anti-Semitic views couldn’t have come from the bible since the bible doesn’t contain the “racial” version of anti-Semitism.

    There are two problems here. The “racial version” of anti-Semitism is not a “later development.” The concept of race is one that not new. In fact, the concept of race can be found in the bible. The Nazi ideologue Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels wrote an entire book using the bible to justify his racism. It was titled Theozoology, and it argued that “intercourse between the first humans and animals were responsible for the Fall.” Lanz “noted that people who were hated by the Hebrews were described in animalistic terms in the Bible. For example, Esau is described as being hairy in Genesis 27:11, and God himself says that he hates Esau.” [7]

    Second, the idea of race for Hitler had to do mainly with the blood and there are clear biblical parallels to this view:

    One of the clearest definitions may be the following [from Hitler]: “Race, however does not lie in the language but exclusively in the blood, which no one knows better than the Jew, who attached very little importance to the preservation of his language, but all importance to keeping his blood pure.” As we have noted, for Hitler, “[b]lood sin and desecration of the race are the original sin in this world and the end of a humanity which surrenders to it.” Expressing a belief reminiscent of one found in Leviticus 17:11-14 [8], Hitler exclaims that, “in the blood alone resides the strength as we as the weakness of man.” [9]

    Other Nazis also saw this “racial separateness” as not only completely compatible with Christianity, but “derived from it.” [emphasis mine] For example, Hans Schemm wrote:

    When one puts steel into fire, the steel will glow and shine in its own distinctive way… When I put the German Volk into the fire of Christianity, the German Volk will react in its racially distinctive way. It will build German cathedrals and create a German hymn… We want to preserve, not subvert, what God has created, just as the oak tree and the fir tree retain their difference in a forest… We are accused of wanting to deify the idea of race. But since race is willed by God, we want nothing else but to keep the race pure, in order to fulfill God’s law. [10]

    The rest of the chapter has Holding addressing various biblical passages that are commonly said to be anti-Semitic and he tries to demonstrate that these passages are often misconstrued.

    Holding first argues that the passages in the book of John that often refer to Jews in a poor light are not referring to their religion, but “rivalry of geography.” (L:2879)

    He offers no evidence of this. However, all sources show a disdain for Jews precisely because of their religion and culture. There is no evidence that the place of origin of the Jews caused them to be despised. In fact, many Romans and Greeks had been born in Judaea and it did not cause any issues. Josephus was from Judaea and was a Jew but he was not persecuted and “the Roman authorities took him into their own.” [11]

    In a footnote he claims that Josephus also uses the term Jew in a “descriptive way” by citing Of the War, Book 2, Chapter 3: “Letters also were brought out of Syria from Varus, about a revolt of the Jews.” (L:2964) I’m hard pressed to see how this is a “descriptive” term. He is referring to “the Jews” as a group of people, just as it often does in the bible (eg. Acts 13:50: “But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” (NIV)). [12]

    The first biblical passage he cites is 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. Here, he does not try to deny Paul’s clear anti-semitic language, but tries to distance him from them. He argues that “Paul had reason to be angry at the Jewish establishment,” and his statements were made in exasperation due to a hectic situation. (L:2836)

    The second passage is Revelation 3:9. As with the last passage examined, Holding does not try to distance this passage from the fact that the passage refers to Jews, who attend the “synagogue of Satan.” Holding counters that “there is nothing to suggest that John had anything in mind larger than a local group.” (L:2865) This is highly specious. There isn’t anything that signifies that this passage is only referring to a local group either.

    The passage reads: “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars–I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” Clearly, when taken in context, it appears that the author is referring to Jews as a whole, since it was believed that their synagogue was blasphemous. What? Did he only intend for the local synagogue to be the work of the devil? That’s like arguing that only the local Mormon church’s teachings are in error and the other churches’ teachings located elsewhere are correct. This argument makes no sense. The passage is clearly referring to Jews as a whole.

    Next comes Acts 2:36. He argues that this isn’t a sign of guilt because the passage is “by no means indications of direct responsibility, but rather of agency.” (L:2899) He continues and says that “responsibility lies only with the members of a group alive at the time of the incident. The extension of blame into eternal generations of Jews simply is not warranted.” (L:2921) I am stunned by this because the central doctrine of Christianity is that Adam’s sin lives on through generation after generation, and this is why Jesus’ sacrifice was needed to “save” humanity. Now, all of a sudden, this biblical principle doesn’t apply. Boy, that’s convenient!

    The final verse addressed is Matthew 27:25. Holding claims that this passage has been “manipulated by anti-Semites to indicate that the Jewish people as a whole accepted blood-guilt for the execution of Jesus” even though they knew they were innocent. He cites a section of the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 37a, and argues that Jews were simply providing “proof of” their “innocence” because “[i]f [they] are lying [they] are willing to have the blood of the accused fall on [them] and [their] offspring until the end of the world.” (L:2930)

    After reading the cited passage in the Talmud, it and Matthew do not depict the same situation. The text in Matthew 27:23 depicts the Jews as saying, “Crucify him!” when Pilate asks them what he is to do. When taken in context this interpretation does not stand up. The biblical text could not be more clear since the Jews ordered Pilate to crucify Jesus. It is absurd for Holding to argue that they were actually proclaiming their innocence.

    In my examination of this chapter I’ve demonstrated how the bible does in fact contain anti-Semitic statements and that the bible does contain racially-motivated hatred for other groups, and that these views are similar to Hitler’s. Finally, I’ve shown how the biblical passages addressed by Holding are anti-Semitic, despite some odd counter-arguments, and that Jews are clearly implicated in putting Jesus to death in the bible.

    Chapter 12: Is Hitler Still a Christian?

    In this chapter Holding responds to a variety of criticisms against his arguments. His first argument is against the very reasonable argument that “Hitler was a Christian, because he said he was one.” He responds by arguing that this “sets a rather low bar of evidence for how one may be defined as a Christian. If simple self-profession and self-conception is all that is required to define one’s personal identity, without any reference to objective criteria, then there is little to stop even a hardened atheist from referring to themselves as a Christian.” (L:3000)

    As I’ve demonstrated, Holding’s appeal to some “objective” criteria is hugely flawed. He has failed to show how his version of Christianity is any more “Christian” than that of the Nazis or any other Christian sect in historical or modern times. The Nazis accepted Jesus, they followed several teachings in the bible, and said they thought of themselves as Christians. Yes, Holding objects to this final criteria, but due to the fact that there is no “objective” criteria to begin with, we must look at all the facts, including ones own statements and actions, to determine what someone believed. And all evidence points to Hitler being a Christian.

    This argument really gets Holding nowhere because Christians for centuries have been arguing that other Christians were not true Christians, even though they accepted Jesus and followed many of his teachings. This argument rings just as hollow in the case of Positive Christianity as it has for all other versions of Christianity throughout history. Which leads me to Holding’s next argument….

    His next argument his against the “variety of Christianity argument.” He once again resorts to his “objective criteria” counter-argument, which has been refuted, since there is no such thing. I will finish with this:

    I agree that there must be some definition that is used to define who we are and what we believe. Obviously I would not qualify as a “Christian,” since I neither believe in god, believe in Jesus, or even go to church (By the way, I agree with his gripe about “Christian atheists.” I think it’s just as ridiculous as he does). However, his “objective criteria” are so narrow that even modern day Christians disagree with several of his beliefs (such as the role of belief vs. works). If you define something narrowly enough almost nothing would qualify, which is a very disingenuous way of raising the bar so much that nothing except your own personal views are seen as legit. Of course, this is a logical fallacy and as such, it is a fallacious form of argumentation and this is precisely the reason why.

    His next argument in this section has to do with the “accuracy” of how they “follow the Bible.” Once again, the bible has been reinterpreted so many times throughout history that there is no “objective criteria” for the bible either. Love, hate, genocide, compassion, murder, rape, and in-group morality, etc. can all be found in the bible. The bible certainly does not offer any “objective criteria” for interpreting it. Some might argue that Jesus is the lens through which we view the bible, but in that case, and as I noted above, Jesus’ contradictory statements surely cannot be viewed as “objective.”

    His next target is what he refers to as the “flattened criteria argument.” Holding writes,

    Once a critic is compelled to consider objective criteria as a way to define who is a Christian, an attempt may be made to flatten the criteria by classifying Hitler’s Positive Christianity variation as somehow comparable to the mainstream. In this regard, the critical issue is whether the key variations of Positive Christianity – a bowdlerized canon, a dejudaized Jesus, and a hypertrophied orthopraxy – are sufficient to divorce it from mainstream, orthodox Christianity. (L:3121)

    I don’t think anyone could argue that Positive Christianity wasn’t somewhat unique, but again, there is no “objective criteria” to consider (other than a belief in Jesus, the bible, and trying to apply it in daily life, god, and church-going, which the vast majority of Nazis did) that would determine whether one were a Christian or not.

    He cites historian Richard Steigmann-Gall, author of the book The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, who argues in his book that the Nazis held Christian beliefs that were very similar to the Protestant version of Christianity and Holding argues that Steigmann-Gall fails to “explain” what versions of Protestant Christianity he was referring to as “bona fide” Christianity. (L:3131) On the contrary he does. In numerous places throughout his book he explains how Nazis accepted the Protestant branch of Christianity because it fit so well with their own views, and this form of “liberal Protestantism” is what the Nazis believed was closer to the “true” version of Christianity. This is why they attacked Catholic churches, as I noted earlier, because they did not accept many of the beliefs of the Protestant and Positive Christianities. Richard Steigmann-Gall writes,

    [T]he Nazi attraction to Protestantism was […] often predicated on the same things that Protestants themselves heavily emphasized. This is seem not only in the reaction of Protestants of the day, the most enthusiastic of whom were a theologically liberal bent; it was also visible in the Nazi conception of the nonconfessional school, a means to bridging Germany’s confessional divide that had first been devised by Kulturprotestanten for remarkably similar reasons. This affinity for Protestantism was also evident in the anticlerical attacks made during this time, expressed both publicly and privately. Catholic Nazis in particular articulated a negative attitude toward their own church, whereas Protestants, such as [Nazis] [Walter] Bush, [Wilhelm] Kube, and [Hans] Schemm, displayed little if any enmity towards theirs. In the majority of cases, “confessionalism” meant Catholic confessionalism, “the church” meant the Catholic Church – even when the precepts of positive Christianity stipulated that Catholics too had a place in the “Peoples’ Community.” [13]

    In the end Holding quotes Steigmann-Gall and responds to him:

    Steigmann-Gall writes, “By detaching Christianity from the crimes of its adherents, we create a Christianity above history, a Christianity whose teachings need not ultimately be investigated. See in this light, those who have committed such acts must have misunderstood Christianity, or worse yet, purposefully misused it for their own ends. ‘Real Christians’ do not commit such crimes.” But this is not a matter of detaching Christianity from the crimes of its adherents. It is a matter of whether, indeed, the alleged adherents have, in fact, misunderstood, distorted, or misrepresented Christianity, according to a set of objective criteria, and not their crimes. In the final analysis, the critics simply do not do enough analysis to answer this question. (L:3150)

    Holding, in contrast, does not do nearly enough to respond to such critics. I also find it odd why Holding would deny his motivations for writing this book. In his introduction he laid out his reasons in the first chapter clearly: “By defining Positive Christianity as a cult, we are arguing that its beliefs lay outside the mainstream of orthodox Christianity, to the extent that it would be incorrect to define Hitler as a Christian, or to place the blame for Nazi atrocities on the Christian faith as a religion and as a philosophy.”

    With all of his talk of “objective criteria” he has failed to provide any criteria demonstrating that this “objective criteria” is objective! I think Holding ought to heed Steigmann-Gall’s final sentence of the book: “The discovery that so many Nazis considered themselves or their movement to be Christian makes us similarly uncomfortable. But the very unpleasantness of this fact makes it all the most important to look it squarely in the face.” [14]

    What ”Objective” Criteria?

    Before I end this piece I’d like to take a closer look at Holding’s claims to “objective” criteria. Throughout this piece I’ve demonstrated how there are many contradictory teachings in the bible, from the moral teachings of Jesus to the very concept of how one gains salvation. These are two very important elements in Christianity and the bible can’t even get that right, and Christians continually bicker about these and other passages. What’s so “objective” about this? It is the complete opposite! Throughout the centuries Christians have held wildly differing views about Jesus and other matters, many that are just as odd as the Nazi’s Positive Christianity. Bart Ehrman writes about early Christian beliefs about god,

    In the second and third centuries there were, of course, Christians who believed that there was only one God, the Creator of all there is. Other people who called themselves Christian, however, insisted that there were two different gods – one of the Old Testament (a God of wrath) and one from the New Testament (a God of love and mercy). There were not simply two different facets of the same God: they were actually two different gods. Strikingly, the groups that made these claims […] insisted that their views were the true teachings of Jesus and his apostles. Other groups, for example, of Gnostic Christians, insisted that there were not just two gods, but twelve. Others said thirty. Others still said 365. All these groups claimed to be Christian, insisting that their views were true and had been taught by Jesus and his followers. [15]

    Even beliefs about Jesus varied greatly. Ehrman says,

    Some of these groups insisted that Jesus Christ was the one Son of God who was both completely human and completely divine; other groups insisted that Christ was completely human and not at all divine; others maintained that he was completely divine and not at all human; and yet, others asserted that Jesus Christ was two things – a divine being (Christ) and a human being (Jesus). Some of these groups believed that Christ’s death brought about the salvation of the world; others maintained that Christ’s death had nothing to do with the salvation of this world; yet other groups insisted that Christ had never actually died. [16]

    The bible was written over the span of many decades and by many hands, many of whom vehemently disagreed with one another as the above quotes clearly show. Once again, what’s so objective about this? During all of these theological and doctrinal disputes religious leaders finally decided to come together to determine which texts were the true teachings of Christianity. After long discussions, they finally decided upon which texts Christians were going to accept as “orthodox” Christianity for centuries to come. By what criteria did they decide on which texts were going to be canonical? Christian apologist Josh McDowell discusses this process and he lays out the criteria as follows,

    We don’t know exactly what criteria the early church used to choose the canonical books. There were possible five guiding principles used to determine whether or not a New Testament book is canonical or Scripture. Geisler and Nix record these five principles:

    1. Is it authoritative – did it come from the hand of GOD? (Does this book come with a divine “thus saith the LORD?)

    2. Is it prophetic – was it written by a man of GOD?

    3. Is it authentic (The fathers had the policy of “if in doubt, throw it out.” This enhanced the “validity of their discernment of canonical books.”)

    4. Is it dynamic – did it come with the life-transforming power of GOD?

    5. Was it received, collected, read and used – was it accepted by the people of GOD? [17]

    Each of these categories are entirely arbitrary. To quote Gary Lenaire,

    There are problems with every one of the listed criteria. The first four categories are subjective judgments. We can’t know if a book is authoritative if we don’t know who the author is! We know the books are not prophetic because none of the alleged prophesies have been verified or proven to come true – absolutely none. We don’t know if a book is authentic because the manuscripts were written many years after the events were said to have occurred. How can we know if a book is dynamic? Dynamic is just another way of saying “lively” [and is a pointless criterion for determining truth]. […] The fifth criteria can be approached somewhat historically. There at [sic] least two problems in applying this to one’s faith, however. If you study how religious groups use a book, you are studying the conclusions reached by humans. The books they chose reflect their own religious views; this is another form of circular thinking. Naturally, they chose books that agreed with their particular religious group. We cannot know the perfect word of God by studying fallible humans, even if those humans are Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, or the Pope. [18]

    After taking a much closer look at early Christian beliefs and how early followers of Jesus finally decided upon an accepted canon, is any of it even remotely the least bit “objective?” Not one bit. Therefore, Holding’s appeals to objectivity falls completely flat on its face. Not even J.P. Holding explains this criteria or why his criteria is objective and that alone ought to raise some serious red flags for anyone reading this book.


    In the previous chapters I’ve demonstrated how J.P. Holding has ignored many relevant facts and has appealed to a Christian orthodoxy, resting upon some undefined “objective criteria” that simply does not exist. Even if it did, he seems to have missed the entire purpose of Positive Christianity. It was not a religion, per se, it was “primarily a social and political worldview,” based upon many Christian principles (particularly Protestantism), with the goal of uniting Germans under one religion and ending sectarianism. [19] For this reason, Nazis did not focus on Jesus’ resurrection or on doctrine, and anyone who argues that they weren’t “real” Christians misses the entire point of Positive Christianity. They were real Christians. They believed in Jesus, believed in God, went to church, they were inspired by the bible, and they attempted to put many Christian principles into practice. It may not be considered “Christianity” by many, but then, most “other” forms of Christianity are not accepted by other Christians either, and vice versa, so this argument gets Holding nowhere.

    There are many things in Christan history that I’m sure many Christians are ashamed of and wish to forget, just as there are in just about every religion and social movement. This, however, does not justify the distorting of history because some people are uncomfortable with the facts. If anything, humanity should never forget the past, because as has been proven over and over again throughout history, “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and I hope that all of humanity can come together and try to ensure that horrible atrocities like the Holocaust never happen again – to anyone.


    1. There Was No Jesus, There Is No God, by Raphael Lataster, CreateSpace, 2013; 39-40

    2. Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005; 78

    3. Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery, by Thornton Stringfellow, J.W. Randolph, 1856; 37

    4. ‭‬Hitler and the Holocaust,by ‬Robert S.‭ ‬Wistrich, Modern Library, 2003; 135

    5. The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, by Richard Steigmann-Gall, Cambridge University Press, 2005; 37-41

    6. Ibid.; 21

    7. Fighting Words; 309

    8. Leviticus 17:11-14: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

    “‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.” (NIV)

    9. Fighting Words; 314

    10. The Holy Reich; 35

    11. Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn’t Need a Miracle to Succeed, by Richard Carrier, Ph.D., Lulu, 2009; 158

    12. The End of Biblical Studies, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2007; 56-57

    13. The Holy Reich; 85

    14. Ibid.; 267

    15. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart D. Ehrman, HarperSanFrancisco, 2005; 152

    16. Ibid.; 153

    17. Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith, Vol. 1, by Josh McDowell, Here’s Life Publishers, Inc., 1979; 29

    18. An Infidel Manifesto: Why Sincere Believers Lose Faith, by Gary Lenaire, Publish America, 2006; 90

    19. The Holy Reich; 84

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist