World War II is called “World War” because of its worldwide geographic extent and this is perhaps the least imaginative and least instructive basis to name a war. The Second World War was a teachable moment in a multitude of ways and we should draw as much of a lesson as possible from this costly and utterly tragic conflict.
This article will focus on the European theater and the ultimate German victory in that theater. The war in Europe in WW II was a war over philosophy. Many if not most wars are over philosophy when you boil it all down.
For instance, the Napoleonic wars were the effort of France to impose Enlightenment philosophy on all of Europe. In essence it was a conflict of modernism (Enlightenment) against the Christian worldview. Napoleon lost but modern philosophy went on to dominate Europe and the world.
Our own war in Iraq, that still smolders as I write this, is America’s effort to spread democracy, which is a political philosophy, across all of the Middle East in order to end terrorism. Liberal American politician Howard Dean was on a TV news show the other day saying that America should continue the war in Afghanistan in order – among other reasons – to protect Afghan women from the Taliban’s anti-feminist philosophy!
At least one pundit has called WW II a European civil war. A civil war is a war within a geographic area between two factions who each seek to rule that land. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England, made the statement early on that he was fighting to “save Christian civilization.” This gives us a clue to at least part of the Allies philosophical system. The Allies did indeed defend the remnants of Christian civilization but the Allies’ philosophical reasons for fighting were far more extensive.
I view WW II in Europe as a civil war between modernist and postmodernist philosophy. The allies fought to defend modernism against the Axis powers who sought to impose postmodernism on all of Europe. The axis powers lost the military aspect of the war but their philosophy, postmodernism, has clearly gone on to be the dominant philosophy of the entire globe.
The three major philosophical systems can be classified as the Christian, the modernist and the postmodernist. The Christian view of the source of absolute truth is that truth is given to us by God by revelation and is written in the Bible. (“Absolute truth” is defined as morals that are unchanging and apply to all people in all cultures.)
The modernist view is that absolute truth is discovered by human reason and logic without reliance on divine revelation. The postmodernist view is that absolute truth does not exist, that no real transcendant moral principle exists and that truth, if there is any, is simply made up by the will of each person, hence radical existentialism.
Modernism is rational, empirical (dependant on what the senses can perceive), logical, idealistic, optimistic, believes in the perfectibility of man and is what I call “Christian flavored.” By “Christian flavored” I mean that modernism has borrowed most of its concepts of justice and morality from Christianity.
All of the founders of modernism from Descartes to Hume were raised in Christian homes in Christian societies and were taught at an early age to think Christianly. Even the Enlightenment philosophers of eighteenth century France championed Christian concepts of egalitarianism and social justice. They were proud secularists, yet they thought in Christian categories!
Postmodernism by contrast is irrational, emotional, sophistic, barbaric, pessimistic, radically individualistic, existentialistic and is what I call “occult flavored.” Postmodernism is so scattered and atomized that most commentators define it only in terms of linguistic analysis and deconstructionism but that’s only the putrid eruption of the postmodern sore.
The founders of postmodernism, though raised in Christian homes, made a sharp disconnect from Christianity. Most notable among them was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) who’s writings contain instances of open blasphemy. I have often said that postmodernism is simply a return to the premodern and prechristian brutality of pagan Europe. The Nazis led Germany into the Teutonic barbarism of its pagan past.
The pagan roots of German nazism are abundantly clear to every scholar and commentator. The swastika is a stylized karma wheel and has been used for centuries among Hindus in India. Nazism had a clear connection to eastern paganism through Savitri Devi and others.
Savitri Devi, called Hitler’s priestess, attempted to synthesize Hinduism and nazism. She claimed that Hitler was an avatar of the Hindu god, Vishnu. The top Nazis were members of European occult societies such as the Thule Society.
Nazi racism also has occult roots. Aryanism derives from occult myths that were propagated in the late nineteenth century by the Theosophists and others. Aryanism and alleged Aryan migration stories are a factor in Hindu nationalism in India to this day.
There are many versions of these myths but the Nazis settled on one which claimed that the Aryans are racially superior and are northern European in origin. Other myths gave Aryans a far more extensive range as far as India.
There was also a very strong Darwinian connection to Nazi racism. Hitler relied heavily on Darwinian evolutionary principles in his book, Mein Kampf, in which he claimed that white, northern Europeans were more evolved than the darker races.
The Nazis rejected Christian morality and also rejected the established modernist concepts of justice. The Nazis had to settle on a new set of absolutes in order to force the tight cohesion of their society. These absolutes are what Francis Schaefer called “arbitrary absolutes.”
Arbitrary absolutes are a set of absolutes made up by the combined will of the elite. The elite of the Axis powers imposed a brutally strict set of laws upon all. The new absolutes were irrational, brutal, selfish, nationalistic, racist and appealed to the lowest gut level motives.
Postmodernism regards humans as evolved apes with no souls, no dignity and no future. Yet Friedrich Hegel, a German philosopher whom I consider one of the founders of postmodernism, regarded society as greater than the sum of its parts.
To Hegel, humans were nearly worthless yet put them together in a society and you have something of great value. It was Hegel who claimed that human government was “god upon the earth.” This deification of government eventually caused the rise of totalitarianism which was the major political innovation of the twentieth century.
The crude German nationalism and racism was crushed during the war but the foundational principles that made such brutality possible sadly have triumphed in the west. Postmodernism, even in its most blatant irrational forms such as deconstructionism, holds center stage on most university campuses.
Deconstructionism is a denial of the authority of language in which classic works of literature are deconstructed. Deconstructionism gives words such a wide semantic range that they become meaningless. A politically correct interpretation is then imposed on literature of all types.
The brutality of postmodernism marches on in the liberal abortion laws that kill millions of the unborn. Abortion and euthanasia, which cut down millions every year, is postmodern brutality. The Dutch bravely resisted the Nazi euthanasia program during the war but now embrace euthanasia with enthusiasm. So it appears that the Nazis won the war of words. The philosophical foundations of nazism live on in the supposedly liberal democracies of 21st century Europe.
The United States has the most liberal abortion laws of all the western democracies. Late term abortions are allowed into the ninth month of pregnancy. Doing a late term abortion in the ninth month would land a doctor in jail in most European countries. The US is in some ways more like the Nazis than even the semi-totalitarian Europeans. The victims have changed. Jews and Gypsies are not killed but the unborn, the handicapped and the elderly are.
What then is the cause for optimism in these bleak times? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I regard postmodernism as a kind of an end of the line, a kind of progression downward until there is nowhere else to go. Every philosophical system has been tried in one way or another. We have seen the failure of unbelief to create an ideal society. The pessimism of post WW II existentialism was justified.
The greatest social experiment of all time, communism, has failed miserably. People are unmoored. College students have long ago abandoned the starry eyed idealism of the sixties. They have no place left to go philosophically. Modern man and postmodern man have failed.
They are ripe to take a fresh look at God. They will take a look at the one Man who succeeded, the One who died on a cross and rose from the dead and conquered death. He died for our sins and therefore through Him we receive forgiveness of sins.
Do you want rational proof that Jesus is the promised Savior? Jesus came in fulfillment of over 300 Old Testament Bible prophecies including 62 major prophecies. No other figure in all of world history ever came remotely close to matching that claim!
That’s good enough evidence to persuade the most hardened modern rationalist or even the nihilistic postmodern existentialist. We can look forward to a great harvest of souls as millions of people turn to Jesus to find the ultimate answers to life’s most pressing questions!
has written many articles on Christianity, philosophy and science. He has also written books that give Bible based teaching on sanctification and that caution against the error of legalism. His books are available at his website www.gracelawandsonship.com