The German Creationist Movement
by Thomas Schirrmacher, Ph.D.
Biblical criticism founded in Germany in the early nineteenth century concentrated mainly on the five books of Moses, especially Genesis. One theory followed the other until nearly all held that these five books were merely the history of man's thoughts about God. The dialectical theology of Barth, Brunner and Bultmann originated during World War I, and while reemphasizing the role of the Bible, it still did not need any historical foundation for its theology. Books by evangelicals concentrated on the questions of whether Jesus lived and was resurrected, but gave no argument against evolution.
Higher criticism avoided any discussion of evolution. Coming from Kant and Schleiermacher, German theology did not have any interest in creation or the Creator. The creation was only an appendix to salvation and the cross, as Wilhelm Lutgert criticized in 1897.1 And the Pietists did not correct this fault. Theistic evolution was accepted even in evangelical circles.2
The German creationist movement was initiated by the British Professor Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith. Dr. Wilder-Smith came to Germany after World War II, and lectured at Marburg and other cities in circles of the German evangelical student awakening3 (which today again supports theistic evolutions4). As a chemist he had come to the conclusion that life could not originate by chance and fought against materialism and evolution theory in leaflets5 and sermons. In 1966 his first book, Origin and Destiny of Man,6 appeared, which was the first book of its kind in Germany (the publishing house later changed its position7). He also used the early books of Henry Morris. Dr. Wilder-Smith fought for years against bitter rejection and produced a flood of articles and books.8 He is still active and surely the best known "German" creationist, as he speaks fluent German and lives in Switzerland.
Although not as well publicized, early German creationism had begun with an apologetical society called "Bibelbund," founded in the last century. Year after year nearly everything published against Biblical criticism, materialism and evolution theory appeared in its journal "Bibel and Gemeinde" (Bible and Church).9 When Dr. Samuel Kulling, who wrote his dissertation on Genesis 17 refuting higher criticisms took over the presidency in 1965, he started to publish creationist articles from all over the world, especially from the United States.11 In 1966, Dr. Wilder-Smith became that journal's correspondent for the natural sciences. That same year also saw the translation of Dr. Henry Morris' Twilight of Evolution.12
The following years were marked by the translation of many smaller books from America and new books by Dr. Wilder-Smith. In the early seventies a few German scientists wrote booklets rephrasing published creationist material.13 The translation of The Genesis Flood marked a turning point, as this volume was published by the biggest evangelical publishing house, which had also taken over the production of books by Dr. Wilder-Smith.14
Although creationist thought was widely accepted in evangelical circles, the theologians refused it, and there were nearly no scientists interested. The only society bringing together believing scientists was pro-evolution, following the conservative theologian Karl Heim.15 The student movement lost interest when other problems became prominent at German universities. Only the new evangelical theological seminaries in Basel and Giessen presented a platform for further studies.16
It took until the year 1978 to change the situation.17 Dr. Wilder-Smith published the first scientific book against evolution in a secular, well known publishing housel8 with the provoking title The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution. At the end of the year Dr. Horst W. Beck became a creationist.19 Both an engineer and theologian, he was a leading figure in the already mentioned "Karl-Heim-Gesellschaft" and had previously published articles and books defending theistic evolution. Together with other members of the society, which they soon left,20 he followed the arguments of Dr. Wilhelm Ouweneel, a Dutch biologist lecturing in Germany.21 Dr. Beck soon found other scientists who had changed their view or were "hidden" creationists. Under his leadership, the first creationist society was founded ("Wort und Wissen"—Word and Knowledge). Three book series were soon published,22 an independent creationist monthly journal started ("Factum"),23 and the first German article in the Creation Research Society Quarterly was published.24
In 1979 the first creationist lectures at state universities were given and media discussion of the movement began. Contacts with the United States were begun and the first summer institutes on creationism were held. In the years that followed, some outstanding scientists found a platform at "Wort und Wissen," Professor Dr. Hermann Schneider a physician, Professor Dr. Erich Blechschmidt and Dr. Joachim Scheven, biologists, and Dr. Horst W. Beck, to name a few.
As a theologian and engineer, Dr. Beck was competent to reach other theologians, and has lectured at many evangelical theological conferences. Some theologians have changed their position, but biblical criticism is still a great problem among evangelicals today.
Dr. Beck also organized many discussion series at state universities, which received a great deal of public reaction. When the well known Professor Dr. Werner Gitt took part in one of the discussions, the reaction was even greater, as he is the director of the well known Physical-Technical-Federal-Institute "Braunschweig." The transcript was sent free (state-paid) to hundreds of scientists and was even discussed on state television.25 He also organized a seminary at the German Center for World Missions with leading creationists. Other books were soon published which started bringing a German contribution to the worldwide creationist movement.26
Problems of Creationism in Germany
As we have seen, the German creationist movement is very young. The turning points were the years 1966 and 1979, but in reality it is only five years old and is still searching its way. At present I see the following problems, which must be solved soon and may be deciding factors in the future of the movement.
- The hermeneutical problem. The German creationist movement is still lacking the support of fundamentalist theologians. Often the discussions are not a problem of science but of Biblical hermeneutics. Discussions with non-Christian scientists are often easier than with Christian scientists or theologians. Only a few fundamental churches take a stand for creationism. The few German books against higher criticism and the small number of non-critical commentaries on the Bible demonstrate lack of support from theologians.
- The educational problem. The German high school system is almost totally state owned. Alternatives are allowed, but there are only four evangelical private schools. Free private high schools are necessary to offer an alternative; otherwise the movement will stay in the church.
- The international problem. Most Germans are not acquainted with international evangelical literature. The contacts with creationists in other countries started in 1979-1980 and must be continued.27 The first European Creationist Congress in Belgium in 1984, was a good step. We must see that the German movement is too small to be independent. Resources from the Institute for Creation Research, for example, are necessary.
- The academic problem. I believe in Germany evolutionary thinking has infiltrated all of science more than any other country. The small creationist movement is still concentrating on the natural sciences, but history, sociology, education, ethnology, etc., are full of anti-Biblical thinking. German creationists are needed to present their views in these and other areas. Otherwise, there will still be the division of life into the Biblical area and the academic areas.28
1. Wilhelm Lutgert (1897), Gutersloh Mohn (Brunnen, Giessen, repr. 1984), p. 1, pp. 3 et seq.
2. E.g. a book of radio lectures given by 13 professors: J. Schlemmer, ed, Schopfungsglaube und Evolutionstheorie, 1955, Kroner Th 23o, Stuttgart.
3. The "Studentenmission in Deutschland" founded in Marburg belonging to ISCF.
4. Edith Gutsche, ed., Zur Diskussion um Schopfung und Evolution, Porta Studie 6, Marburg, 1984. See also, Dr. Schirrmacher's refutation coming in Factum.
5. Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith, Die Problematik der Deszendenzlehre, Wuppertal, 1949.
6. Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith, Herkunft und Zukunft des Menschen, Brunnen, Giessen, 1966 (translated into English in 1968).
7. Later the book was taken over from Brunnen Verlag to Hanssier Verlag, which is the leading creationist publishing house in Germany.
8. See Ref. 4, pp. 505-506.
9. The quarterly journal started in 1899 and is published at "Bibelbund, Wiensenstr. 27, D-7517 Waidbronn 2, W. Germany."
10. Samuel Kuibng, Zur Datierung der Genesis, 1964, P-Stucke, Kok, Kampen.
11. One of the first was by a biology professor from Budapest: F. Kiss, 1965, Krieslauf gegen Entwicklungstheorie, Bibel und Gemeinde, Stutensee, 65. Jhrg., Heft 3, S. 242-243.
12. Henry Morris, Evolution im Zwieticht, 1966, Veriag Lebendiges Wort, Augsburg.
13. Eg., Alexander Seibel, 1974, Relatitatstheorie und Bibel, Schwengeler Verlag, Heerburg; Christoph Bluth, 1972, DerUrsprung des Menschen, Verlag Lebendiges Wort, Augsburg.
14. Hanssier Veriag, see Ref. 22.
16. The Free Theological Academies in Germany are very young: Basel, 1970; and Giessen, 1972, but have a growing impact.
17. Of course, this only corresponds to the public situation. It is impossible to know who changed his view privately.
18. A.E. Wilder-Smith, Die Naturwissenschaften kennen keine Evolution, 1978, Schwabe Verlag, Basel.
19. Horst Beck and Thomas Schirrmacher, Die Naturwissenschaften kennen tatsachlich keine Evolution, Interview vom 14.12.1978. See also, the first creationist book of Dr. Beck, Biologie und Weltanschauung, 1979, Wort und Wissen 1, Hanssler Verlag, Neuhausen.
20. After writing several creationist articles in their information leaflet, the creationists left the society in peace. Later the society published sharp attacks on the creationists.
21. Eg., Wilhelm J. Ouweneel, Gedanken zum Schopfungsbericht, 1975, Paulus, Neustadt.
22. See Ref. 19. The society is: "Studiengemeinschaft Wort und Wissen," Zum Berger see 91, D-5820 Gevelsberg, W. Germany. See the scientific series "Wort und Wissesn," the public series "Wissen und Leben" and the monograph series "Fachberichte Wort und Wissen" (see Ref. 26).
23. Factum. "Schwengeler Verlag, Postfach 263, CH-9435 Heerbrugg." It also publishes articles relating to other scientific problems and together with "Bibel und Gemeinde" is the best evangelical journal to be found in the German language.
24. By Joachim Scheven and Thomas Schirrmacher.
25. Werner Gitt, ed., 1982, als Manuskript gedruckt, Braunschweig und Resch Verlag Munchen.
26. E.g., Siegfried Scherer, 1983, Wort und Wissen, Fachberichte 1, Hanssler Verlag, Neuhausen.
27. See Horst Beck, ed., 1980, Die Debatte um Bibel und Wissenschaft in Amerika, Wort und Wissen Band 8, Hanssier Verlag, Neuhausen.
28. Eq., CRSQ Vol. 16:1, author's article on "Music-Evolution or Creation," was revised and started a series in Factum to stimulate this area of research.
*Dr. Schirrmacher is Director of the German Center for World in Erftstadt, West Germany.
Cite this article: Thomas Schirrmacher, Ph.D. 1985. The German Creationist Movement. Acts & Facts. 14 (7).