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Before I begin, I need to give two disclaimers. First, I received this book free from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review. Second, this post contains affiliate links which simply means that if you make a purchase on Amazon after clicking one of the links, I will receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.
Hitler’s Cross by Erwin W. Lutzer claims to be a “chilling historical account of what happens when evil meets a silent, shrinking church, and an intriguing and convicting exposé of modern America’s own hidden crosses.”
I requested this book to review at the same time I requested Christ among other gods which is also by Erwin W. Lutzer. Despite having a negative opinion of that book, I tried reading this book with an open mind.
While this book certainly had some strong points and was an interesting topic, it was full of theological errors and poor writing.
This book certainly had some strong points. The information about Hitler’s corrupt spiritual practices was disturbing and interesting. There were some strong sections related to responding to God and recognizing Christ in others. Lutzer included some inspiring stories about Christians who lived courageously during the Holocaust. I also admitted the humility and just criticism of where Christians failed to live as Christians during this politically tumultuous time. My favorite line in the whole book was “We don’t need to live through a holocaust to be heroic. We need to be all that God wants us to be every single day.”
However, these positives were limited and overshadowed by the flaws in this book. The problems of this book include missed opportunities, one-off comments that are harmful, and bad theology. All of these were tied together with a bad writing style ranging from boring to borderline ranting (think stereotypical drunk uncle).
Some minor problems were Lutzer not completing his thoughts (at one point he only listed three points when he promised five) and having quote boxes show up several pages prior to the quote appearing in the text. A missed opportunity was expanding on Christian heroism at the time; it is very disappointing he failed to describe Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s story. I appreciate that he attempted to link it to modern times, but it felt like some points were wedged in there or just missed the mark.
Normally, I would look past single lines or short passages that are bad, but there were two instances where the content in some was so terrible, I felt it needed to be addressed. At one point, he implies suicide is courageous. The other was dismissing the suffering of homosexuals oppressed by the Nazi regime. You can acknowledge that the anti-Semitism had a wider impact without totally disregarding the mistreatment of others.
As in Christ among other gods, there were a number of theological issues. He made it seem like God caused the suffering. Though he later clarified it slightly by explaining that God allows suffering, it was not a complete correction. His ideas about salvation are also concerning. His comments about rapture and the end times could be overlooked, but his comments on Hitler’s eternal fate are inexcusable. While it is certainly possible that Hitler is in Hell, only God judges that. To say that Hitler made an “irreversible vow” to Satan and is facing eternal torment ignores the potential for repentance and God’s incomprehensible mercy.
As a Catholic reading a Protestant book, I was aware that there probably wouldn’t be much about the Catholic Church. However, Lutzer went between completely ignoring the Catholic Church’s role and presently thinly veiled attacks on strawmen representations of Catholicism. Accordingly, I am skeptical of any claims he makes about the Catholic Church. What is disappointing is he repeatedly talks about the church (which I assume he is talking about Christianity), but fails to include or intentionally isolates out Catholicism.
This is a much more minor point, but I cringed when I read “Divisions within the church are, of course, necessary and sanctioned by Scripture.” I did get a laugh when he was describing the two Protestant factions arguing which of them could trace their history back to the Reformation.
This is the first book I have reviewed that I cannot recommend. Though there were some good portions, this book is not engaging and is full of problematic contents.