Between the Swastika and the Sickle

I have to admit: I’d never heard the name Ernst Lohmeyer before I reviewed James Edwards’ new biography of that German theologian and biblical scholar for the current issue of Christianity Today. But the more I read Between the Swastika and the Sickle (Eerdmans, $30.00 in hardcover), the more I could see how Lohmeyer could be a supporting character in most of the courses I teach:

Edwards, Between the Swastika and the Sickle• As a pastor-turned-soldier struggling to continue his education and writing in the midst of World War I;

• As a rising scholar who tried to remain truthful and faithful in the midst of Nazi rule, and then as a Wehrmacht officer forced to fight an unholy war in Poland and the Soviet Union;

• And finally as an embattled university president who died early in the Cold War at the hands of eastern Germany’s Soviet occupiers.

For the most part, Edwards makes Lohmeyer’s work accessible even to non-theologians like myself. As I note in the CT review, Edwards clearly intends for “his own style to echo Lohmeyer’s, whose scholarly writing was ‘characterized by . . . directness, precision, and descriptiveness, with not infrequent flares of imaginative and lyrical style.'” Edwards’ occasional attempts at metaphor and simile tend to feel less lyrical than labored, but careful structure and direct, precise description prevail.

I was ready to conclude that the chief lesson of Between the Swastika and the Sickle was the imperative for Christians not to accommodate their convictions to the claims of any government or ideology. But Edwards actually closes with a moving letter from an imprisoned Lohmeyer to his wife, Melie. As I read him confess that his commitment to scholarship had pushed his love of God and family to the side, I felt deeply convicted about my own priorities.

The full review is behind the CT paywall, but you can read it as a guest by clicking this link.