Update on a Spurious Bonhoeffer Quote: Not to Speak is to Speak, Not to Act is to Act

Silence hands version
In late August, I published an examination of a popular quote commonly but incorrectly attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

The quote cannot be found in Bonhoeffer’s writings and no other primary source has been found.  The first appearance of the entire quote I can find is in a 1998 American Interfaith Institute newsletter. The newsletter reported on a museum exhibit featuring Bonhoeffer. The quote was placed on the Bonhoeffer exhibit with quotation marks as if Bonhoeffer said it but without any citation. The quote has been popularized by Eric Metaxas who still attributes the quote to Bonhoeffer even though he has refused to provide a primary source for it.

Today, I want to present a source for part of the quote which is earlier than 1998. In Robert K. Hudnut’s 1971 book, A Sensitive Man and the Christ, he makes a case that even a sensitive man must act when the need arises.

Hudnut speak act 1971
There are two aspects of this passage which may link it to the eventual misattribution to Bonhoeffer. One is Hudnut’s challenge for the church not to be silent in the face of social evils. The second is the reference to Niemoller and resistance to the Nazis. Through the frailty of memory and lack of citation, someone could have reworked this into a quote about the church not being silent and attributed it to Niemoller’s colleague, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

For “Not to act is to act” by itself, one can go back to 1945 when Francis McPeek said church inaction was a form of political action in an essay titled, “Not to Act is to Act.”

For “God will not hold us guiltless,” one can find many references to that sentence by going to Google books and entering the sentence in quotes. The links returned go back to 1681.

The Hudnut quote was pointed out to me by a Twitter user. I would like to thank him but I can’t find the tweet. If my helper is reading, please identify yourself in the comments.

UPDATE: Found! See below:

Eric Metaxas Illustrates What Evangelicals Need to Correct

As the Donald Trump saga nears the end, it will be good to reflect on what can be learned. One thing I hope for is a backlash against false or misleading information being used by evangelicals to make their political points.
Case in point:

Of course, this kind of thing has been going on for years. However, after so many people have been repeatedly misled by so called thought leaders, I hope more evangelicals wake up to the need for simple fact checking.
On this story, Michelle Goldberg contacted the source.

So I called him. Masada told me that on Nov. 11, he got a call from a man named John—he doesn’t remember the last name—who sounded “distinguished, like an attorney.” John said he represented the Clinton campaign. He asked Masada “who had put him up” to posting the video. In a menacing voice, he told Masada, “This is not good for your business.” John then asked for the email or phone numbers of the five comedians who were featured in the video. “I told him, ‘Eff you,’ and I hung up,” says Masada.

That’s it. That’s all I could find to support the story. Even if this “John” had some connection to the Clinton campaign, it doesn’t mean Mrs. Clinton put him up to it. In any case, this hearsay is not sufficient evidence to go with a news report or even an advocacy piece (as Judicial Watch did).
Metaxas should be ashamed to spread around unsubstantiated reports in this manner and then indict the media over it. We do have a free press and Michelle Goldberg did her job. Apparently, Metaxas didn’t check it out or only believes those who report what he already believes.
To be taken seriously, evangelical leaders must become more skeptical and better fact checkers.
Update: Let’s not forget that Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have a sense of humor.

Eric Metaxas Complains about Clinton Misquotes, Refuses to Correct the Quote He Misattributed to Bonhoeffer

During the debate between Clinton and Trump last night, Eric Metaxas tweeted the following:

Hillary said in passing that “America is great because America is good.” Although the quote is commonly associated with Tocqueville, it can’t be found in his works.
During the debate, Clinton did not attribute the quote to Tocqueville. However, Metaxas himself attributed that quote to Tocqueville in an advance copy of his new book If You Can Keep It. The attribution of the quote was corrected before publication.
I understand the analogy he tweeted. However, it is noteworthy that Metaxas complained about Clinton’s use of the quotation because he has his own quote snafu to resolve. Metaxas has yet to provide a source (or acknowledge the quote isn’t Bonhoeffer’s) for the following quote:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

This quote is attributed to Bonhoeffer on the back flap of Metaxas’ biography of the German pastor. He also has referred to it in his speeches and tweets as well as his book on Miracles and a study edition of the Bonhoeffer bio. However, it cannot be found in Bonhoeffer’s works. I have contacted Metaxas and publisher Thomas Nelson but have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply.
Silence hands version
There is no disgrace in getting a quote wrong. Scholars do it frequently. The mark of a scholar is to correct the record quickly. To me, this seems especially important since Metaxas has lately taken to advancing Bonhoeffer in the cause of presidential politics. Despite our differences, I urge Metaxas to do the right thing and either provide his primary source for the quote or acknowledge the quote doesn’t come from Bonhoeffer.

Eric Metaxas Uses Odd Term – Fascistic Globalism – Twitter Howls

If it hasn’t happened already, this may be Eric Metaxas jumping the shark.

I can’t respond any better than the numerous commenters who are really taking him to task. Click the tweet and read the comments.
Before a couple of months ago, I did not follow Mr. Metaxas and so I can’t tell if this was coming or has recently shown up perhaps in relationship to Trumpism. In any case, I hope it is a curable condition.
On the term “fascistic globalism,” my impression is that it is a far right term with a less than admirable pedigree. It often is written “fascist globalism” and appears on numerous alt-right and far right websites. One has to wonder what well Metaxas is drinking from.
Here is on example of a use of “fascist globalism from the conspiratorial Centre for Globalization Research.

The NATO Treaty, therefore, is, from its inception, a Treaty against Russia. It is not really – and never was – a treaty against communism. The alliance’s ideological excuse doesn’t hold, and never was anything more than propaganda for a military alliance of America and its allies, against Russia and its allies. Consequently, the Warsaw Pact had to be created, on 14 May 1955, as an authentic defensive measure by Russia and its allies. This had really nothing to do with ideology. Ideology was and is only an excuse for war – in that case, for the Cold War. For example, a stunningly honest documentary managed to be broadcast in 1992 by the BBC, and showed that the US OSS-CIA had begun America’s war against «communism» even at the very moments while WW II was ending in 1945, by recruiting in Europe ‘former’ supporters of Hitler and Mussolini, who organized «false flag» (designed-to-be-blamed-against-the-enemy) terrorist attacks in their countries, which very successfully terrified Europeans against ‘communism’ (i.e., against Russia and its allies). As one of the testifiers in that video noted (at 6:45), «In 1945 the Second World War ended and the Third World War started».
The ‘former’ fascists took up the cause against «communism» but actually against Russia; it wasn’t democracy-versus-communism; it was fascists continuing – but now under the ‘democratic’ banner – their war against Russia. This operation was, until as late as 1990, entirely unknown to almost all democratically elected government officials. The key mastermind behind it, the brilliant double-agent Allen Dulles, managed to become officially appointed, by US President Eisenhower in 1953, to lead the CIA. Originally, that subversive-against-democracy element within the CIA had been only a minority faction. Dulles had no qualms even about infiltrating outright Nazis into his operation, and his operation gradually took over not only the US but its allies. His key point man on that anti-democracy operation was James Angleton – a rabid hater of Russians, who was as psychopathic an agent for America’s aristocracy as was Dulles himself. But the CIA was only one of the broader operation’s many tentacles, others soon were formed such as the Bilderberg group. Then, the CIA financed the start of the European Union, which was backed strongly by the Bilderbergers. This was sold as democratic globalism, but it’s actually fascist globalism, which is dictatorial in a much more intelligent way than Hitler and Mussolini had tried to impose merely by armed force. It relies much more on the force of deception – force against the mind, instead of against the body.

Are we to understand that Obama and Clinton are dictatorial in a much more intelligent way than Hitler and Mussolini?
Now think about Trump’s glowing words about Russia and his halting support for NATO and then remember that Metaxas has become quite the Trump apologist of late. It appears that Metaxas may be moving toward the conspiratorial far right in more than just his support for Trump.

Let's Say No to God Mandated Voting (UPDATED)

Eric Metaxas has run into some opposition to his efforts to make God into a vote monitor. Last Wednesday he posted an op-ed in the WSJ which brought God to his side. Then this week, he has been tweeting up a storm about it (He deleted the first one sometime early on 10/18).

Reaction hasn’t been bullish.
Today, Jonah Goldberg at NRO responded. Here’s the big finish:

And that is what I find so galling about Metaxas’ argument. I always thought that the role of conscience in Christianity is to treat it as something of great value and importance. Yes, as Catholics teach, it must be rightly formed through reason. A poorly formed conscience can lead to poor decisions. But conscience also speaks to us from a plateau above mere reason. In Metaxas’s formulation, conscience has been reduced to a kind of virtue-signaling vanity, or maybe the sin of pride. “Don’t listen to your conscience because God wants you to vote for Donald Trump” is a weird argument coming from anybody. But it is downright bizarre coming from the moral biographer of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer.

I also find Metaxas’ argument galling.
Also today at the Weekly Standard, a more subdued response was offered by Virginia Hume who imagines what God is telling Metaxas:

God would never want us to seek a third option, no matter how far-fetched. He wouldn’t suggest we wake up and turn toward a good man, who also happens to be running. Turns out God is an old-style politico. “Those independent bids never work. Gotta suck it up,” He says, maybe in a Boston or Chicago accent. The only option God sees is supporting the political equivalent of putting something in the microwave just to see what happens.

Given that it is Metaxas, I am guessing his God has some variation of a New York accent.
Some tweeters of note have also weighed in.



UPDATE: Eric Metaxas posted a clarification of his tweet concerning Evan McMullin on his Facebook page. Apparently, Metaxas responds to celebrity writers but blocks his lesser twitter followers for doing the same thing Jonah Goldberg did (see above for citation to Goldberg’s article).

The following article in @NRO by the estimable Jonah Goldberg misunderstands what I meant in my tweet — but that is more than half my fault because I can now see how the tweet might be confusing. I was making a perhaps obscure theological point having to do with the idea that fig leaves in Eden were used for a good reason, but ultimately they didn’t do the job. Not in God’s eyes. In other words, Adam and Eve knew they were naked, so they made aprons of fig leaves — but God made clear that was not sufficient. Blood needed to be shed. (Which, incidentally, prefigures Jesus’s death on the Cross.) So He supplied them with the skin of animals, innocent animals that were killed. So I OF COURSE support people following their consciences, but I’m implying — ineffectively, I realize now — that the fig leaves of voting for a third party candidate SEEM to do the job, but fail. And as in Eden, God is not fooled. But I realize this came across as though I was saying these people were TRYING to fool God. On some level Adam and Eve were, but I don’t think people voting for Evan MacMullen are, so my tweet really failed to do the job — as tweets seem rather often to fail — and I’m sorry about that. Also, using a fig leaf is a kind of fussy religious act that fails, because it implies that we can do something that we cannot. God has to do that something. And I was implying that religious people were voting for Evan MacMullin to feel good about themselves, which I do think in many cases is true. But that’s a far cry from them trying to fool God. I’m sure this has failed to explain my dumb tweet, but I thought I owed Jonah and all the others who were baffled by it some kind of explanation. My apologies for the confusion. Blesssings!

Metaxas still thinks McMullin voters are doing so to “feel good about themselves,” in other words for some kind of selfish reason. How insulting. My vote for McMullin will be cast because I think he is a good candidate and because I think we need alternatives to the two party system.
I keep trying to grasp how voting for president is in any way like Adam’s and Eve’s fig leaves. The only way I can get anywhere close is if Metaxas starts with the premise that voting for McMullin is some kind of “fussy” self-centered act which is morally inferior to his act of voting for Donald Trump. This explanation doesn’t clarify, it only confuses and offends. It makes his act righteous and mine a deficient moral act of self-deception.
Go back and try again.
UPDATE (10/18/16) – More rebuttal has come the way of Metaxas. First from David French at NRO:

When Metaxas votes for Trump, and when I write in my choice, we’ll both be voting for losing candidates. The difference is that my choice will be fit for the presidency and possess the character and temperament to lead the greatest nation in the world. His choice will not. I’ll be calling on Christians to support a candidate who possesses real integrity. He will not. He’s throwing away his vote on a corrupt, opportunistic demagogue. I am not.

And then comes Bonhoeffer scholar Charles Marsh with this catchy and provocative title: Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer Delusions.

Likening the Third Reich to a Democratic administration would not be surprising from the obstreperous right-wing crusader Ann Coulter, who appears regularly on “The Eric Metaxas Show.” But Metaxas, who purports to be a winsome, irenic apologist for the Christian faith, in the fashion of his friends Tim Keller and Os Guinness, blindsided some evangelicals in proclaiming that a Hillary Clinton victory in November portends the vanquishing of the Republic—and that taking Bonhoeffer seriously in our time means voting for Donald Trump.

You must read the rest.

Eric Metaxas, Donald Trump, and Samson

Election season just makes everybody a little silly. Like this:

Metaxas linked to an article that makes a case Trump is like Samson.

He doesn’t drink wine, he has a tendency to lie, he has a weakness for women and his hair is sort of a big deal. No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump.
I’m referring to Samson, God’s appointed judge over Israel.

I don’t know who wrote this but I suppose it could be a spoof. I am pretty sure Metaxas takes this as some kind of serious commentary.

According to Scripture, the kings of ancient Babylon and Persia – Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus – believed in God. One sinned mightily on numerous occasions; the other was “appointed” by God. Both served God’s purpose of preserving His people.
Of course, as disciples of Christ, we should all be striving to appoint leaders who are morally upright and sound in spirit. Our mission in life is to bring sinners to Jesus, so it would be nice to have a righteous ruler who loudly echoed our message. But what about Samson? He turned to the Lord in the closing moments of his life, but where was his godly and spiritual example – as judge over Israel – the other years of his life?
Donald Trump is a sinner.
Donald Trump is not perfect.
Donald Trump is not a great spiritual role model.
Check, check and check. Now let’s look at his policies:

Yes, now let’s look at his policies.
He wants to open up libel laws to make it easier to sue reporters
He wants to sharply limit free trade
He wants to penalize American companies who make things overseas and sell them in the U.S.
He has advocated torture and wants to change laws to allow torture.
He wants to create a deportation force to round up 11 million people costing the economy 300 billion.
He wants to lower tax rates on the wealthy without commensurate relief to middle income earners.
And so on…

Still No Correction from Eric Metaxas or Thomas Nelson on Popular Quote Misattributed to Bonhoeffer

Yesterday, Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer biographer Eric Metaxas closed his Wall Street Journal op-ed supporting Donald Trump with this paragraph:

A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election. Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.

This paraphrase — “Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless” — of a quote Metaxas has incorrectly attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded me that Metaxas and publisher Thomas Nelson have not answered several requests going back to early August to provide a citation or correct their attribution for the quote.  The popular quote — Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act — was attributed to Bonhoeffer on the back flap of Metaxas’ biography of the German  pastor published in 2010 but cannot be found in any of Bonhoeffer’s works. Since then Metaxas has included the quote in some of his Bonhoeffer resources and attributed it to Bonhoeffer in various public appearances.

Early on in my research of this quote, I contacted Metaxas via Twitter and his website to ask for a citation. He did not respond. I also asked a couple of mutual friends to ask Metaxas about the source of the quote. There was no response given to these people. I wrote publisher Thomas Nelson three times with no response. Given ethical principles in publishing, I believed that Metaxas and Thomas Nelson would either provide a source or issue a correction. However, that has not happened.

About corrections, the Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines state:

This means the editors should
1.2. strive to meet the needs of readers and authors;
1.3. strive to constantly improve their journal;
1.4. have processes in place to assure the quality of the material they publish;
1.5. champion freedom of expression;
1.6. maintain the integrity of the academic record;
1.7. preclude business needs from compromising intellectual and ethical standards;
1.8. always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed.  (emphasis added)

I think the last three principles are relevant to this situation. Even though the quote is a good one, it can’t be found in Bonhoeffer’s works. The integrity of the academic record is involved. Even though it might be better for business if a perception of perfection is offered to the public, publishers and authors should “always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed.” Unless they can produce a citation from Bonhoeffer, a correction is needed.

So after weeks of seeking a source (others have as well) or correction, I continue to look for an ethical response from Metaxas and his publisher.

Open Forum: Eric Metaxas Sticks with Trump

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed out today, Eric Metaxas continues to confuse his audience by his support for Donald Trump.
His op-ed reminded me of this observation by Mark Noll:

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.

As a serious defense of a vote for Trump, Metaxas fails on nearly every front. He isn’t entirely factual, he inflates the flaws of Clinton and minimizes and avoids the flaws of Trump, his reasoning is flawed, and he continues to paraphrase a quote he incorrectly attributes to Bonhoeffer as his final justification.
While I don’t know all of the facts surrounding Metaxas’ claims about Clinton, I don’t think he does either. Do we know that Hillary Clinton “actively enabled sexual predation in her husband before—and while—he was president?” My impression is that there are two sides to this claim and my informal investigations into this lead me to think the situation is more complex. In any case, is Metaxas unaware that Trump has been accused of the same thing and will have to participate in a status conference hearing on the matter in December? To my knowledge, outside of the Lewinsky case, Bill Clinton has not been convicted of anything else.
My point is not to defend Clinton on her relationship with her husband or her foreign policy mistakes. I do have problems with her actions on several fronts and her extreme positions on abortion. My point is that Metaxas asserts that his accusations are true but it is not at all clear that all of them are accurate or fair. Without evidence, this is not a Christian way to argue.
(UPDATE: Metaxas appears to be following an internet meme and not the facts on the story that Hillary Clinton laughed about getting a rapist set free. The facts contradict Metaxas’ accusations.)
Metaxas then writes:

Children in the Middle East are forced to watch their fathers drowned in cages by ISIS. Kids in inner-city America are condemned to lives of poverty, hopelessness and increasing violence. Shall we sit on our hands and simply trust “the least of these” to God, as though that were our only option? Don’t we have an obligation to them?

I have no idea what this has to do with his case. He seems to assume that helping children in the Middle East and inner city will be accomplished by a vote for Trump. I think a pretty good case can be made that Clinton is also opposed to drowning fathers and inner city poverty, hopelessness and violence.
Metaxas infuriatingly brings up Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer as if invoking them somehow strengthens his case. He seems oblivious to the fact that both men could be invoked to oppose his position. Furthermore, he seems to assume Christians opposed to Trump take their position because they are concerned with their own moral purity. Although his 2005 tape has deepened the divisions among Christians, for me, Trump’s personal morality is just one problem.
Metaxas closes with this mind bending paragraph:

A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election. Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.

I can’t get my head around this. A vote for Trump isn’t a vote for Trump but not to vote is to vote. And if I don’t vote for Trump then God will hold me accountable? Maybe if I don’t vote for Hillary, it will be like a vote for Trump but not really since I can vote for Trump without voting for him. Somehow I think in Metaxas’ world, I am still going to get zapped from above.
Faced with unacceptable options, not voting is a reasonable choice. Voting third party is a serious option. No evangelical Trump supporter has yet to produce a biblical mandate that I must vote for one of the two representatives in a two party system. Voting is a precious right in this republic but there is no religious mandate to vote for an unacceptable candidate.
Metaxas pretends to have omniscience to know that a vote for Trump will benefit all the right people. This is presumptuous and insults the intelligence of those who have analyzed Trump’s positions and statements and legitimately fear that his character and policies will negatively affect the greater good. Instead of actually making a case that Trump is better, he simply name drops historical heroes. Metaxas hints that he knows what Bonhoeffer would do. Since Hillary is evil incarnate, Bonhoeffer, as in like manner as he planned to kill Hitler, would vote against Hillary and for Trump. Want to be like Wilberforce and his opposition to slavery? Vote Trump!
Social media reactions to Metaxas’ op-ed:

Some Evangelicals Turn Away from Trump, Some Remain, Some Haven't Spoken

The fall out continues from the audio of Donald Trump claiming to use his celebrity status to assault women. While some evangelical Trump supporters have remained on the Trump train, at least two prominent ones have jumped off. At least one prominent Trump supporting evangelical has stayed quiet.
UPDATE: Christianity Today’s Andy Crouch produced a hammer after the video scandal and didn’t spare his evangelical brothers and sisters who are enabling Trump. Must. Read.
The Leavers
Wayne Grudem and Hugh Hewitt have taken back their support. Hewitt thinks Trump should turn over the candidacy to Mike Pence while Grudem took back his support and called for Trump to withdraw.
Hewitt also thinks more tapes and awkward material is to come. Grudem still doesn’t know who he is going to vote for if Trump stays in.
UPDATE: Christianity Today has a nice write up of former Trump advisory board member James McDonald’s efforts to get Trump to take advice from the advisory board.
WaPo also has the report of McDonald’s strong denunciation of Trump’s comments on the video.
On the Trump Train
Supporters Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and Gary Bauer, are sticking with him. Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. tweeted his Trump pride after last night’s debate. Michele Bachmann is still on the team.
Silence in the Face of Vulgar Video is Still Silence
Eric Metaxas hasn’t tweeted anything since October 7 when he first acknowledged the video. In his tweets, he took a negative view of Trump’s behavior and said he was going off Twitter for awhile.
Trump advisory board member and president of the American Association of Christian Counselors Tim Clinton has not responded to two requests for his position on Trump’s candidacy in light of the video.  I expected the owner of the largest association of Christian counselor might have something to say about it.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike Fuoco quoted me in this article on evangelical support for Trump.
Eric Metaxas will keep us waiting until Wednesday but will block out unpleasantness until then. Sigh.

A New Argument for the Existence of God!

Christian apologetics – 2016

Atheists trembled until Tebow went hitless in his next 5 at-bats. Another promising argument spoiled by the rest of the story.