Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Paul Misner

Second Advisor

Kenneth Hagen

Third Advisor

William J. Kelly

Fourth Advisor

Michael Phayer

Fifth Advisor

Oliver K. Olson


This dissertation is offered as a contribution to the historical theology of the German church struggle under Hitler. It attempts a reconstruction of the history of the formulation and revision of the Bethel Confession. An historical overview of the situation confronting the German Protestant churches in 1933 is provided and the flood of confessional literature down to the formulation of the Bethel Confession is surveyed. It attempts to piece together the events and correspondence which led to the Bethel confessional project in August of 1933. The Bethel Confession attempted to restate the classical loci of Reformation theology in a way relevant to the contemporary problem of the influence of Nazi ideology in the territorial Protestant churches of Germany which were uniting to form a single national Protestant church, the German Evangelical Church. A specific focus of the Bethel Confession was racism as a contradiction of Biblical faith. In its original form, that of August 1933, the Bethel Confession was the first full theological confession of the church struggle drawn up by those opposed to the "German-Christian" movement to coordinate Christian faith and life with Nazi ideology. Biographical and theological background on the authors of the Bethel Confession and for those who involved themselves in the process of critique and revision is presented. A complicated revision process resulted in the adulteration of the first form of the Bethel Confession. The most radical changes were introduced in the material dealing with Nazi racism. Archival sources of the Bethel Confession, including the two of the four drafts, correspondence and the written critiques were misplaced until their recent relocation, collation and transcription at the Bethel Institutions. An exposition of the four drafts is offered based on both the archival sources and on specialized studies of the Nazi-based "German-Christian" movement. It is the thesis of this study that the Bethel Confession deserves close theological attention as a theologically full witness of the church under persecution and that the document deserves historical attention because of the issues it addressed and the reaction it provoked. A concluding epilog ponders some of the enduring historiographic and theological implications of the Bethel Confession.



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