THE POLITICAL PAGE

May 2009

 

Europe's Call

 

Personal Foreword

Many things have been discussed regarding the call of nations during the past few years. Is Israel the only nation with a call from God? Or do the other nations also have a calling? What do we find in the Bible regarding this question? Germany, France or Poland are not mentioned in the Bible. Is the Bible only talking about Israel? No, it also talks about other nations. Each and every nation is a creation of God loved and destined for a certain purpose.
Some other questions: Do continents or cultural environments have a call for the whole of mankind; a call which is a specific distinction between them and others? I think: yes! Compare Africa's or India's culture with Europe's culture.
If you want to consider Europe's call, it is best you compare it with other cultures because humans are always tempted to consider their own culture as being "normal" and valid for everybody. As soon as we experience ourselves in contrast to others we will suddenly recognise how special we are in our gifts and limitations.
What is Europe's specific gifting?
Or to ask from a spiritual point of view: What is the task or God's calling for our continent?
What is "Europe"?
Is this geographical gooseberry of Asia actually a "continent"? Con-Tinent (lat.) literally means that something is being kept together, something which obviously belongs together according to an immanent order. Is this order perceptible?

1. Europe - Myth or History

1.1. The Myth

According to the Greek mythology Europe is not a goddess but a young Phoenician woman, the daughter of Agenor and his wife Telephassa. This young woman once saw a beautiful bull. And this bull kidnapped her and took her back to Crete. There he stood in front of her as a beautiful young man. Minos, the King of Crete was the fruit of their relationship. Under the supervision of his father Zeus Minos developed the famous minoic law. After his death due to his tremendous righteousness he became the judge of the underworld together with his brother.

Myths are symbolic stories just as fairytales are. It seems that this mythological story is not dealing with a natural process but with a prehistoric "memory".
The name of Europe as term was used by the Greeks to describe a geographical region and "was first used for Midd-Greece and then for the regions in the North of the Mediterranean Sea between the pillars of Heracles in the West (Portugal) and the Don in the East". (RGG. vol. 2, column 734/5).

1.2. The Language

"Europe", i.e. the region North of the Mediterranean Sea from Gibraltar to the Don is clearly defined as a geographic unity. What unites the nations and races in this region? Ethnically Europe is a confusing colourful rag rug of many ethnic groups: The Greeks in the South-East, the Roman nations in the South, the Celts in France, in the centre, the North and (later) in Great Britain the Germanic nation, from Poland eastwards to the Don where the Slavic nations were and also some other small nations in between. They all belong to the same language family: the Indo-Germanic language. Until approx. 2000 B.C. all these nations lived within the European region. The first large so called "Indo-Germanic migration of nations" was initiated due to the invasion of the warring Asian nations. The Hittite moved to the South of a region which is belonging to Israel today, the Galatians moved to Asia Minor and were reached by Paul through his missionary work. The Medes and Persians moved to the region which is Ireland today and the white Indo-Germanic tribes finally reached the Indus, since this region reached from the Indus to the Germanic borders, this language family is called "Indo-Germanic". It obviously differs from the Midd-Asian languages such as Finnish or Hungarian - these are nations which immigrated - and also from the Semitic languages of the Ancient Near East or the Banut languages of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The related language becomes obvious in the description of family members like father and mother with their basic trust and the numbers from 1-10 which were important in commerce.

1. For example: Mother
Mutter (germ.), mother (engl.), mothir (Old Nordic) mater (lat. and the Roman languages), meter (Greek), mati, matere (Old Slavic), matár (Old Indian), mathir (Old Irish), motyna (Lithuanian)
2. For example: neun (9)
neon (dt),nine (engl.), ni (Danish), nio (Swedish), novem (Lat.), neuf (French.), ennea (Greek.), nende (Albanian),nava (Old Indian), inn (Armenian), nao (Breton), devini (Lettish)(d instead of n).
If we look at the language families we note that a Semitic language has different thought forms. The European languages especially Latin and Greek are strongly marked by logic. Therefore, we as Europeans always have to re-learn biblical thinking.

1.3. The History

&tabs;There are serious Christians who are very upset by the kidnapping (rape?) of the young Phoenician girl through Zeus as a first statement regarding the continent's name of "Europe". They think that this story with bad beginning would possibly be a curse for all future things in Europe and would therefore prefer to replace this name with a biblical name.
Do we really depend on myths when reflecting over Europe?
The Bible teaches us not to depend on the myths of pagans. Thus, Paul writes to Timothy his spiritual son: "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2.Tim. 4:3-4).
If I fear the myths of pagans I attach reality to them, but they are not real. They are inventions of nations, stories which may have certain insight in their symbols, but they are not real since they are bound to time. Whoever wants to be sure of his ground should turn away from timeless myths and stories which can not be dated to the real and current history and try to understand God's present work.
The central teaching of the Bible is that God has a plan for the world which he will accomplish step by step. The implementation of God's plan is carried out in "history". History is the place where God reveals himself to the world. It is not the only way but a mighty one.

This is where we need to ask the question. "Lord, how do YOU see Europe?
What is Your call for this continent?
What do we have to repent of in order to return to Your intentions for Europe?"

2. Europe and Christianity

Although Europe was and is called the "Christian Occident", it wasn't the cradle of Christian belief. Israel was the cradle because according to God's will salvation comes from the Jews. This is where the saviour of the world appeared and the place from where the message was spread: from Jerusalem via Samaria and Antioch and up to Asia Minor. And this is where an odd thing happened: In a dream a waving and shouting man was standing at night at the other side of the strait of the Dardanelles calling: "Come over and help us!" When Paul woke up he understood that God wanted him to carry the gospel to Europe.
Europe had to reach out and had to ask for help from outside. According to Acts 17:18-32 the Athenians were well-educated and proud of their education. They regarded the teaching of Christianity which was brought to them by Paul as a cultural pastime and associated the teaching with other philosophical statements. They were so immune that it could not touch their lives initially. Their intellectual tolerance was endless and in the end it allowed them to smugly mock the teaching (V.32).
The pride of the Europeans is enormous and is hindering them even today (a) to accept Jesus' direct preaching and (b) to dedicate themselves without hesitation. Their intellectual reservations, conscious criticisms and philosophical aloofness are constantly hindering their immediate experience of God.
Yet this is where God is leading us again today: to overcome our pride, to step out to the shore and shout over the sea to Africa, to Korea, to Brazil: "Come over and help us!" We need your simple faith, because all these nations don't have a stopper in the Enlightenment of their faith life.
But God has already made a step towards us: He has allowed hundreds of foreign churches to grow in our midst. They have already come over the sea. We only have to allow them to speak freely here. Not only as exotic foreigners once at the annual mission celebration but as genuine challengers towards simple and powerful faith, prayer and action.

3. Europe's Call

Thesis: It is the call of the European continent to invent, to develop and to perfect things and to export them throughout the whole world.
Explanation: There are other older and more advanced cultures than the European culture such as China, Japan, India or the Incas or the Aztecs in South America. However, none of these cultures are known for exporting their culture, knowledge, religion or philosophy consciously and systematically to other countries.
Since this is part of the European nature, they have conquered the world, they colonised and marked it. North America and Australia are only an expansion of this European cultural mentality.

3.1. Receiving Christianity

When applied to the Christian belief this means that Europe has also taken "this thing", perfected, developed and exported it throughout the whole world in the end. This was a process which lasted almost 2000 years. This process was initiated by Paul around the year 50 and then other Christians brought the teaching to Rome and other areas and established churches. We know about soldiers in the Roman army who reached Germany.
Out of the decay of the Roman Empire which had been a political bracket around large parts of Europe from Britannia to the Danube mouth, from Portugal (Hispania) to the Germanic Limes Christianity arose and spread far across the borders of the Roman Empire within the coming centuries. Thus, Christianity became a new spiritual bracket for Europe across all political and ethnic borders. 380 A.D. Christianity became the state religion of the Empire.
The Teutons had been evangelized between 250 and 1000. The first Teutonic missionary was Bishop Wulfilas (311-282) who started systematic evangelism from Byzantium upwards the Danube among the Teutonic tribes from its Visigoths to the Bayovarians. An other great apostle was Patrick a Briton of Celtic origin who learned this belief from the Romans (?) and came to Ireland in 432 where he started an unhierarchical church around the monasteries. Around and after the year 600 wandering monks moved as missionaries to the mainland and established important monasteries such as Columban, Gallus and Emmerich for example. Even before this Chlodwig the King of Franconia was baptized and adopted the Roman belief in 498 due to this all Franconians had been evangelized simultaneously. In the 8th century the Irish monk Winfrieth evangelized the Hessians and received the Bonifatius name after his ordination when he became a Bishop in 675-754. He died as a martyr on a mission trip to Friesland. The Christianization of the Teutons was finish around the year 1000 through their conversion to the new belief.
Some centuries later also the Slaves and the Balts were evangelized. Cyril and Methodius were the apostles of the Slaves and went from Byzantium to the Moravians in 863. Cyril gave the Slaves their own scripture, the Bible and their own liturgy. Since the Roman Church was also evangelizing in the East, disputes arose in the border zone which were aggravated and culminated in the separation of the Church in the East and West in 1054. The separation of the Church is still present today. Thus Christianity wandered throughout the whole of Europe until the turn of the millennium and became a common spiritual basis for all the nations of the continent. This happened through all "humanity" with its hunger for power, intrigues and wars but also through some clear and lively "spirituality" with its powerful messengers and total commitment towards God until death. Europe turned into the "Christian Occident" established on the foundation of many apostles and prophetical characters.

3.2. Cultivating Christianity

After the turn of the millennium and after the initial phase the second spiritual phase of the penetration of the new belief was initiated and this meant the penetration of Europe, of its history and culture with all its branches and Christian thinking at the same time.
In this context we should remember the highly differentiated concepts of scholastics from Anselm of Centerbury's (†1109) up to Thomas of Aquin (†1274). We should also keep in mind the penetration of the Christian belief through the deep experiences of God in the mystics from Bernhard of Clairvaux (†1153) and Hildegard of Bingen (†1173) via master Eckhart (†1327) up to Thomas of Kempen (†1471). Both movements were supported by men and women who committed themselves to God, who preferred to live in celibacy, in poverty and obedience for Jesus' sake. These were the monks and nuns of the Middle Age, who actually supported the Christian belief spiritually.
The reverse movement penetrated everyday life; the gradual changing of their thoughts and action i.e. the shaping of the European culture happened slowly and was a long process of quarrels with the pagan pre-cultures. This process of acculturation of Christianity had mainly been the task of the Church and the priests, who taught and informed the nations.
What makes the European culture a Christian culture?

3.3. Exporting Christianity

Different from the war of conquests of the Islam in the 7th-8th century which were meant to spread Islam (jihad) the crusades of the 11th-12th century were not an undertaking for spreading Christianity. They were meant for the protection of the holy locations in the Holy Land. Also the wars of conquests of the Spanish Conquistadores in Central and South America were carried out for Gold and not for the spreading of their belief even though they had Jesuits in their entourage who tried to Christianize Indians. And even America's discovery by Christopher Columbus and of India by Vasco da Gama or the 1st circumnavigation of the globe by Magellan were for trade and mission. They were an expression of the expansive spirit of the Europeans which has to do research and was a premise for the vision of the "mission amongst pagans".
At first mission was limited to the colonies. The first person who crossed the borders of the colonies and entered into a new land was the Jesuit Fanz Xavier (†1552), who successfully established a growing Church in Japan, which was persecuted and suffocated in 1638. Other brothers followed him to China and South-Asia. With it the acculturation of the Christian belief in other cultures became a problem at a very early stage, which Curia answered with the "Congregation de Propaganda finde" in 1622.
In 1598 the Lutheran Netherland-Indish Colony Mission in Indonesia had been established. John Eliot established two mission organizations in North America for mission among Indians in 1700. In 1706 the Danish-Halle Mission send Bartholomew Ziegenbalg to India. In 1732 the Brethren assembly started mission work under Zinzendorf. The Methodists and Baptists started mission work from England at the end of the 18th century. In Germany many mission organizations had been established within a short time: the Basler mission (1815), the Berlin mission (1824), the Rhein mission (1828), the North-German, the Leipzig and Goßner mission (1836), the Hermannsburger (1849) and others. The same thing happened in other countries as well. Everybody realized their task and accepted it.
The export of the European culture to the nations of the world which happened through the conquest and colonisation of the "rest of the world" was even more sustainable then the Christian Mission. Throughout decades and centuries West-European culture and standards had been introduced into the colonies in the administration, trade and services and this happened mainly through the language which enabled the colonized nation to encounter nations from abroad. Schools were built and cares for the sick established together with hygiene instructions and improved agriculture. Nowadays the technical know-how is the no. 1 export article of the European industrial nations.

3.4. Result:

4. Europe's Sin (in catchwords)

The sin of Europe consists in per-version, re-versal of the highest gift from God which is: thinking, mind and reason. This ability justifies Europe's call: to invent, perfect and to export.
The rejection of God perverted the thinking into a weapon against God.
This happened during the 18th century through the so-called Enlightenment. They excluded faith in God but wanted to keep love for one's neighbour.
The balanced, mature and "classical" human being became the measure for right behaviour.
Europe's development is like a tree which was cut from its root and its source of power: the leaves dry out and no fruit is to be expected i.e. the Christian values can not exist without the Christian belief.
This is were other religions, ideologies, so-called "-isms", i.e. one aspect of live is being emphasized and idolized: Idealism, humanism, communism, nationalism, Darwinism, materialism.
God has given them away into an unlimited feasibility mania:

5. God's Mercy (in catchwords)

Even though we and our fathers didn't deserve it God has always been merciful with our continent.
Over the centuries he has always granted spiritual awakenings and revivals through which the gospel broke through again and enabled a real belief in Jesus. Very often Christians have been called heretics, they were persecuted and killed. But still the fire of God broke out again.

5.1. The Spiritual Awakenings

The movement of the reformation monasteries from Cluny and Gorze in the 10th-11th century; Bernard of Clairvaux (†1153) and the Cistercians; Frank of Assisi (†1226) and the Franciscans with their ideal of poverty. Then the forerunners of the reformation such as John Wicliffe (1328-1384) and John Huss (1369-1415, who was burned). In 1176 in Lyon Petrus Waldus started a new spirituality based on the Bible which had been spread through Central Europe in the Valdesian movement despite heavy persecution; then Luther's reformation in 1517 which lead back to Paul. This reformation changed Europe's Churches and politics up to the after-effects of the Thirty Years War. It was followed by various awakenings of the Pietism and the movement of Lord Zinzendorf (the Moravians) at the beginning of the 18th century. Spiritual awakening happened here and there in several parts of Europe: the Huguenots in France, the brethren movement in Bohemia, John and Charles Wesley in England, and a revival in Wales and Norway at the end of the 19th century. The Charismatic movement has been a new, special and very effective awakening to the power of the Holy Spirit across all denominations throughout Europe. This movement brought new life into old Churches and new assemblies arose beside them. The II Council of the Vatican convened by Pope John the XXIII on 11th October 1962 also had a certain importance for the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the official Church was not impressed by these awakenings and even worse it fought against them in several cases. Despite resistance many of these awakenings were still relevant for their countries and some parts of Europe.

5.2. The Political Coalescence

The end of the 2nd World War in 1945 was also a change for Europe. Nations became aware that the conflicts of the largest national states of the past always lead to new wars. Therefore, it was an epochal turning point when the French Foreign Secretary Robert Schuman suggested cooperation between European countries especially between France and Germany on 9th May 1950. On 18th April 1951, almost a year later, the European Community (EC) was established with France, Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries. They submitted their coal and steel production to a common administration.
Due to the success of this cooperation the six countries decided on an expansion toward other economic sectors. On 25th March 1957 with the Treaty of Rome they signed the enlargement of the EC to an EEC (European Economic Community). The cooperation is growing on this basis. New political areas had been included and new states had been admitted. Today there are 27 countries. The awareness is growing more and more that it isn't simply a help for better economic relations but that the community of the European states has a value in itself; that it is an European Union (EU) as it never was before which guarantees peace and prosperity for everybody. Gradually they became aware that Europe had its own core values which made it different from the other cultural environments - a community of shared values.
We should mention more things about further steps of the EU such as the customs union, the monetary union, the increasing meaning of the parliament etc. But in our context it is important to see that God had mercy again over this continent after the satanic destruction of Europe during the 2nd World War by using three Christians of Catholic belief in political positions to establish a new Europe on a new basis: it was the French Foreign Secretary Robert Schuman, the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the Italian PM Giuseppe de Gasperi. On the outside they created an economic union but it also has a vision explained by Robert Schuhman in 1958 as follows: " We are called to become aware of our Christian foundation in Europe, when we get ready to establish a democratic legitimate governance which is developing into a "community of nations" in freedom, equality, solidarity and peace through reconciliation which is deeply rooted on the basic values of Christianity.
Whatever the EU has developed into these were the roots it grew from. Schuman's vision in his spirit was a Europe which wants to live re-establish its Christian roots because it had already experienced the worst of itself the abyss of evil. It is a kind of repentance on political level.
Where there is reconciliation, there is trust; where there is trust, there is fellowship and out of this comes the common trade.
Let us pray that the EU comes back to its God given Christian foundation again.

Summary
Although geographically Europe is only a gooseberry, God has seen the territory of "Europe" as an unity for centuries by giving its citizens among all other languages of the world one single certain language character.
Although it was a "late bloomer" among the advanced civilisations, Europe has gained a world wide meaning like no other continent before.
Europe's importance for the world is its high thinking capacity. This causes innovation and development: Theology, philosophy, arts, science and technology. The results are being passed on to the world in various ways and this causes the imprinting of the nations through the European culture.
Europe, its history and culture are not thinkable without Christianity. In this respect Europe has directly passed on the message of Jesus Christ through mission and indirectly through its culture.
It seems that the criticism of the Enlightenment of the 18th century had sustainably marked Europe. It takes up the scepticism of the Greek classic of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. But all criticism is a secondary effect compared to the criticized object. In this respect Europe's imprinting through the Christian belief is clearly primarily compared to the Enlightenment.
Although the Greek classic is older in Europe then Christianity from the historical point of view and marked the Christian thinking throughout the first centuries after Christ, it clearly drew back for many centuries when Christianity moved to Middle, North and East Europe. Insofar the influence of Antiquity before the 15th century had only been felt indirectly as "influence" on Christianity but not as an own faith stream. Although the antique classic and its conception of man expressed through humanism after the Enlightenment until the 1st World War had become a substitute for God for many in the European construction for approx.150 years.

PRAYER

Confession
I believe in God's love for Europe and its willingness to guide us and let us grow into our calling for the good of the nations.
I believe in an indispensable role for Europe in its diversity and intellectual distinction in a changing, multilateral world of the 21st century.
I pray for the turning of Europe towards the living God. This happens when we humble ourselves before our "coloured" brethren and sisters and ask them: "Come over and help us!"
God bless Europe!

Ortwin Schweitzer

Sources:
The Religion in History and in the Presence (RGG) 2nd volume column 734, 3. Edition 1958. Siegfried Fritsch, Fairytales and Legends. Attempt of an interpretation One Way Publishing House, Wuppertal 1992. Karls Heussi, Compendium of Church History, J. C. B. Mohr and Siebeck, Tübingen, 11th edition 1956. Hermann Jens, Mythological Lexicon, Goldmann Publishing House, Munich 1958. Friedrich Kluge, Etymological Dictionary of the German Language, Berlin, 18th edition. 1960. Karl Leonhardt, History Layout, vol. 1, Ernst Klett Publishing House, Stuttgart 1952. Kurt Dietrich Schmidt, Charts of Church History, Vandenhoek and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1959