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Good morning. If you are new to this site, I welcome you. This bonhoefferblog has a purpose: to share with my fellow pastors and preachers the impact that Dietrich Bonhoeffer can have on our preaching and our lives. The creation of this blog and the feedback I receive from those who visit it will help me in the completion of my Doctor of Ministry degree through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. My D.Min. track is called The Preacher & the Message“. It is under the leadership of Dr. Haddon Robinson (picture on the right).

I have been interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer since my days at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul, MN. I graduated in 1982 with a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies. I then graduated with a Master of Divinity from Bethel Theological Seminary in San Diego in 1985.

I have been a senior pastor in the Baptist General Conference since 1985. I have been in three churches: First Baptist Church of Dannebrog in Dannebrog, NE (1985 to end of 1993); Calvary Church of the Pacific in Aiea, HI (1994 to end of 2001) and Harvey Oaks Baptist Church in Omaha, NE (2002 to present).

I am in the process of sharing six reasons why Bonhoeffer can make a difference in twenty-first century preaching:

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer placed a high premium on the meditation of the Scriptures (posted on 02/25/08).
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer stressed the importance of Christian fellowship (posted on 03/03/08).
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer emphasized a non-compromising faith (costly grace) (posted on 03/10/08).
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood against evil in society (posted on 03/17/08)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer exemplifies serving Jesus in the severest of trials (posted on 03/24/08)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer experienced the grace of living well and dying well.

The six reasons will be shared in six stages. Each stage will expand on the above statements. In the next couple of days, I will post the sixth reason: The grace of living well and dying well.

As always, I am extremely grateful that you took the time to read one or some of my posts. Please offer any feedback. You can click the “Evaluation Form” at the top of the page or leave a comment on any post. You may also e-mail me, if your desire, at bryan@harveyoaksbaptist.org.

Thank you,

Bryan Galloway

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I have received some pretty good feedback to my previous post: “Did Dietrich Bonhoeffer Change from Pacifist to Conspirator?” Thank you for taking the time to respond. Yesterday, I read the following on the Desiring Godwebsite. John Piper offers a good perspective on Bonhoeffer’s role to overthrow Adolf Hitler…  


By John Piper March 28, 2008


The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrong to plot against Hitler’s life?

Let me begin by distinguishing private citizen activity and military activity.

The state, according to Romans 13, is given the sword to reward the good and to punish the evil. That would include, I think, punishing the evil of aggressors who attempt to destroy your land, your town, or your culture. Insofar as you’re a policeman or a soldier, it is not a sin to shoot and kill, as long as the cause of the war is just.

I know that’s a huge issue, but I think the Just War theory is an appropriate biblical reflection on which wars are warranted and which aren’t. Almost everybody agrees that in World War II it was right for the Allies to engage in violence against the aggressors, Germany and Japan.

If you’re in a war and an aggressor is destroying thousands of lives and taking lands and states that were not his by law, and militaries are mounted to resist that aggressor, probably there are going to be some ambiguous issues. For example, if you are part of the Delta Force or the Navy Seals and there are ten of you, and you are commissioned to go in and take somebody out, is that military or is it personal?

I want to be open to the fact that there may be a Christian in that band of people who does right if he is persuaded that his involvement is helping save thousands of lives.

Now Bonhoeffer was not a military actor, I suppose. I don’t know the story exactly. But he was somehow working towards this assassination plot and was discovered. So the question is, Is there enough connection between the role of a band of citizens functioning as a military here—because of the horrendous nature of the evil—that it could have been warranted?

I want to just step back and say that I’m going to be real slow to condemn Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I couldn’t see myself, at this point, in any situation that I can think of where I want to be involved in an assassination plot. That’s because of the things that are governing my life biblically, from “Thou shalt not kill,” to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” to “demonstrate the Lord’s rule in your life through all meekness and patience in taking whatever suffering comes your way.”

I’m going to just try and be real slow to condemn Bonhoeffer here. In general I would say we do better in witnessing to Christ by being willing to suffer and not kill than if we go the other route.


© Desiring GodPermissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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Over the past 30 years, I have struggled with Bonhoeffer’s involvement in a resistance movement that advocated violence in the fight against evil. Yet, I as well, have been “slow” to criticize him. It is very difficult for me in twenty-first century America to condemn another Christian who lived in a place and time characterized by so much evil and darkness.

My fear is that if I was a pastor in Germany during the the 1930’s, I, like many in the church then, would have compromised my faith and preaching.

Any thoughts on this?

Bryan    

 

It is an interesting question. Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer a pacifist or a conspirator to topple Adolf Hitler? I read a blog post today that struggled with that very question.

Here is a portion of that post…  

A conversation with a friend started me thinking about Bonhoeffer’s resistance during World War II in Nazi Germany and what our North American church can learn from him as our country continues to fight in Iraq. This was his question:

Do I remember correctly: didn’t Bonhoeffer try to assassinate Hitler and almost succeed? He was executed as a martyr for this and probably other actions. Do you think it is ever justified as a Christian to take this type of action?

What a great question. I especially appreciate the appeal to biography, to the concrete life of someone we look to as a faithful follower of Christ. But in appealing to Bonhoeffer’s biography we will learn a great deal if we start ten years earlier at Finkenwalde, the illegal secret seminary of the German Confessing Church. This was the beginning of his subversive activities.

In 1935 Bonhoeffer found himself serving as the professor, president, chaplain, and business manager of Finkenwalde. At this covert seminary in present day Poland the young Bonhoeffer (not even thirty years old) sought to build a community that would sustain a faithful Christian church while the traditional German Protestant one had been seduced by Nazi nationalism. Bonhoeffer sought to create a community that would fight the power of Hitler’s violence with the power of non-violence revealed in Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer’s choice of following the non-violence of the cross can be seen in his 1937 work, The Cost of Discipleship. Notice that he believes non-violence works because Jesus, who knows the “reality and power of evil” better than anyone else, tells us that it is the way we deal with violence:

Jesus, however, tells us that it is just because we live in the world, and just because the world is evil, that the precept of non-resistance must be put into practice. Surely we do not wish to accuse Jesus of ignoring the reality and power of evil! (p.144)

The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no oppression and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match. (p.142)

For Bonhoeffer, peace is the only way a disciple of Christ can respond to violence in light of Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). Not only is it a question of obedience for Bonhoeffer, but he believes non-resistance works. Contrary to the Christian political realists at the time, Bonhoeffer indicates that the only way to conquer Hitler was through patient non-violence. The type of non-resistance that Christ demonstrated on the cross, where he absorbed all violence into his flesh, is “an opponent which is more than [evil’s] match.”

But history tells us a different story. Bonhoeffer did not persevere in his convictions. Finkenwalde failed. The Confessing Church failed. The communities that Bonhoeffer poured his life into could not endure in the way of Christ’s cross against the Nazis. The members of Finkenwalde compromised under the pressure of the draft. The Gestapo shut down the secret seminary in 1940. There was no more community to cultivate non-violence and Bonhoeffer could not stand-alone. With his Christian community destroyed, Bonhoeffer returned to the only community he had, his irreligious, pro-German, anti-Hitler family in Berlin.

Upon arriving at his parents’ house Bonhoeffer was surrounded by secret plots to seize political power from Hitler and institute a conservative government through violent means. Bonhoeffer had no faithful Christian community in which to locate himself. His geographical context was quite different. His house was the meeting place for violent political action. The desires and practices of a community, whether Finkenwalde or the Bonhoeffer residence, shape its members whether they like it or not. It was only a matter of time before Bonhoeffer submitted to the goals of his new community. He was arrested and executed as an assassin.

Click to read the rest of the post

From my understanding of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he did not abandon his views of peaceful resistance. Throughout the 1930’s and up to his point of death, he was a man of convictions.

This is not to say that he didn’t wrestle with what he needed to do as a Christ-follower. As time passed, he realized that pacifism could no longer get the job done. Certainly, pacifism has a time and a place. Yet, there may times when the followers of Jesus must move to other means in order to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

As early as of April of 1933, when Bonhoeffer addressed a group of pastors in Berlin, he talked of the possibility of jamming the spokes of the wheel (see the fourth reason how Dietrich Bonhoeffer can impact us). In other words, as the condition in Germany deteriorated, the response of the church, according to Bonhoeffer, had to adjust.

What are your thoughts about this?

Thank you,

Bryan 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood stood strong for Jesus in the worst of trials. His faith was much more than mere words or confessions. His dependence on the grace and strength of Jesus during Nazi imprisonment allowed him to stay focused on the prize of seeing Jesus. This truth is seen in an Anglican prayer:

“O God our Father, who art the source of strength to all thy Saints, and who didst bring thy servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer through imprisonment and death to the joys of life eternal: Grant that we, being encouraged by their examples, may hold fast the faith we profess…” (quoted in Stephen R. Haynes, The Bonhoeffer Phenomenon: Portraits of a Protestant Saint, 148). 

This week, we have seen how Bonhoeffer’s example of serving Jesus in the severest of trials can impact our lives in the twenty-first century.

I would love any feedback you may have. You may click the “Evaluation Form” at the top of the page or leave a comment to any post or you can e-mail at bryan@harveyoaksbaptist.org.

Thank you. Bryan

                            

As society in Germany deteriorated, Dietrich Bonhoeffer realized that the church, in her present form, was incapable of standing strong for Jesus. The church certainly had “religious forms”, but those forms actually “restricted” the church.[1] Bonhoeffer believed that a day would come when the church would be freed from these religious forms: “indeed, evidences are clear that Bonhoeffer welcomed the secular forces in the world, and saw in them a growing liberation from man’s enslavement to religious forms—a liberation to be fuller men in Christ.”[2] 

Near the end of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life, he was able to begin to articulate his concept that the world was in a transition to a day when the real meaning of Christianity would be finally realized:

 In one of his last letters to Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer described a book which he was preparing to write, The Essence of Christianity, on the world’s coming of age, the dissolution of religion, and the “real meaning” of the Christian faith. Obviously such a book would have been invaluable in clarifying Bonhoeffer’s thought in the critical area of “religionless Christianity” and a “non religious interpretation of biblical concepts.” Unfortunately, he was never able to finish the book.[3]   

It was unfortunate because The Essence of Christianity would have been Bonhoeffer’s “most mature important thought.”[4] On April 30, 1944, Bonhoeffer described in a letter Bethge his thoughts on “religionless Christianity.”[5] Bonhoeffer was concerned that church people in Germany were content to simply wear a thin “garment” of Christianity.[6] Yet, a day is coming when people will realize how helpless they are with such a garment:

 

What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience—and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore.

 

Even those who honestly describe themselves as “religious” do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by “religious”…How this religionless Christianity looks, what form it takes, is something that I’m thinking about a great deal…[7]

 

Kelly and Nelson offer the following definition and understanding of “religionless Christianity”:

 

(It) refers to a new “form” of Christianity in which people of a genuine Christian faith would live in a more open, constructive relationship with the world. In this process, religion itself, considered and historically conditioned, transient, dying form of Christianity, would undergo drastic changes as faith is freed from its more Westernized, self-serving constrictions and emphasis on inward piety and empty rituals.

 

…Bonhoeffer had criticized religion for its having inflicted on people a psychic posture of weakness and immature dependence and for having encouraged individualistic, self-centered attitudes toward God and others. Christians living a “nonreligious” form of Christianity, on the other hand, would draw on the example of Christ, the “man for others,” and live in a paradox of being called out of the world while belonging wholly to it.[8]

 

“Religionless Christianity” is connected with costly grace and obedience to the Jesus’ call to radically follow him. However, the church structure of Bonhoeffer’s day hindered Christians from doing so. Thus, the structure had to change:

 

From the prison letters, one can deduce that Bonhoeffer was calling for a complete restructuring of ecclesiastical offices and for a reshaping of the churches so they can become more like Christ, divested of their possessiveness and encouraged to live only to serve others.

 

Such a Christianity, with its church, Sacrament, and sermon still needed the “discipline of the secret,” in order for Christians to be completely engaged in a more “silent” life of prayer and dedication to social justice. In this way Bonhoeffer hoped that a new form of Christian church would come into being.[9]

 

It is in this framework of “religionless Christianity” that helps us to understand how Bonhoeffer was able to stand fast during severe trials. Even though the time was harsh and dangerous, Bonhoeffer saw this as an opportunity for the church to be revised and repaired.[10] Even from his days as the director of the Finkenwalde Seminary, he looked forward to the revitalization of the church.[11] Bonhoeffer longed for the day to come when the church would no longer be self-serving and cowardly. 

 


[1] Kuhns, In Pursuit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 196

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Ibid., 194.

 

[4] Ibid.

 

[5] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 282.

 

[6] Ibid., 280.

 

[7] Ibid., 279, 282.

 

[8] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 547-548.

 

[9] Ibid.

 

[10] Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance, 45.

[11] Kelly and Nelson: The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 158.

Introduction:

  

The fifth reason Dietrich Bonhoeffer can impact twenty-first century preaching and preachers is that he exemplified serving Jesus in the severest of trials. While Bonhoeffer often agonized over the role the church should play as Adolf Hitler’s polices were enacted, he continued to focus his energy on pleasing his Lord and obeying the Word of God. From the moment Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, Bonhoeffer suffered setbacks and opposition for his commitment to Jesus and for his stance that the church should be a voice for the innocent in society.

 

For example, just two days after Hitler rose to power, Bonhoeffer delivered a message on the radio warning the nation that Hitler may be a “misleader”[1] who will eventually mock God. Bonhoeffer never finished this address because he was cut off the air. This may have been the first action by the new government against free speech.[2] Of course, Bonhoeffer was now in a sense a “marked man” because of his views. 

 

Bonhoeffer worked hard to provide the church with a backbone, even though setbacks plagued him until his death. For example on August 5, 1936, he was no longer allowed to teach at Berlin University.[3]In September of 1937, the Seminary at Finkenwalde was closed by the Gestapo.[4] On January 11, 1938, Bonhoeffer was informed that he could no longer work in Berlin.[5] On September 9, 1940, he was prohibited to speak publicly and was ordered to regularly check in with the police.[6] On April 5, 1943 he was arrested and imprisoned.[7] In July of that year, Bonhoeffer went through intense interrogation.[8]On February 2, 1945, he was sentenced to death and on April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenberg.[9]

 

Bonhoeffer also faced opposition from fellow Christians who opted for a safer route. Bonhoeffer was among the first to recognize the anti-Semitism within the government. So he urged his fellow pastors to stand up and protect the Jewish people. As stated above, Bonhoeffer reasoned from scripture that Christ-followers are obligated to intervene for the helpless in society.

 

But this intervention was not to just protest Nazi polices; nor was it just to provide safe passage of Jews out of Germany. Again, Bonhoeffer suggested that the spokes of the Nazi wheel are to be broken by those who profess Jesus Christ.    Bonhoeffer’s viewpoint was seen as too extreme by many of his peers. He “became an enigma to many of his colleagues in the church who were attempting by political quietism, indifference, and religious compromise to survive a difficult situation.” [10]

 

Yet, this passivity and inaction of the church would allow for the “the insidious Nazi takeover of the churches.”[11] In 1933, Bonhoeffer pleaded with the church to remain true to biblical values. Nevertheless, in July of the same year, the Evangelical Church in Germany (composed of Lutheran and Reformed churches) elected as Reich bishop, Ludwig Muller. He was a sympathizer of Nazi polices and an “ecclesiastical counterpart to the political leadership of Adolf Hitler.”[12] Thus, within the church, Hitler had an ally who would endorse his racial policies.

 

The fact that Muller was elected by church delegates indicated Hitler had already cast his spell. The door was now open for national policies to become church polices. For example, the “Law for the Reconstruction of the Professional Civil Service” was passed by the German Reichstag on April 7, 1933. It contained the Aryan Clause[13] which banned Jews from serving in the government. On September 4, 1933, the Evangelical Church adopted the Aryan Clause. From that point on, pastors of Jewish descent were denied rights as ordained ministers.[14]

 

From Bonhoeffer’s point of view, the church had fallen into heresy. The call of Jesus for radical discipleship had been replaced by racial purity. The church had opted for “cheap grace” by skirting her responsibility to stand up for the oppressed in society. 

 

          Bonhoeffer could not sit back and watch the church transform into Hitler’s puppet. There had to be action. Bonhoeffer and others formed a “resistance” movement within the church to not only oppose the pro-Nazi policies within the church; but also to show unity with their Jewish colleagues within the church. This resistance was known as the Pastors’ Emergency League.”[15] This organization would eventually form the Confessing Church of Germany.” [16] 

 

The Confessing Church then commissioned Bonhoeffer and Hermann Sasse to formulate a confession of faith that would serve as a counter to the Nazi’s invasion into the German National Church. Bonhoeffer and Sasse would draft this confession at a retreat center called Bethel. Thus, the confession was known as the Bethel Confession”.[17] This document, in its original form was perhaps the most devastating condemnation of the Nazi point of view. Yet, the Bethel Confession went through several revisions to make it less offensive. Bonhoeffer was so disappointed in the final watered-down version that he refused to sign it.[18] 

 

In May of 1934, the Confessing Church adopted the Barmen Declaration”.[19] The primary author of this document was theologian Karl Barth. The delegates from nineteen provincial churches voted unanimously to oppose the intrusion of Nazi values into the German church. The Barmen Declaration included the following statement:

 

We repudiate the false teaching that there are areas of our life in which we belong not to Jesus Christ but to other lords, areas in which we do not need justification and sanctification through him.[20]

 

It was a strong and clear call to allow the church to truly be the church and to be completely devoted to Jesus. Bonhoeffer was a strong advocate of the Barmen Declaration:

 

Bonhoeffer himself, though not present at Barmen, would look back on that moment as an affirmation that church order was bound solely to Jesus Christ. This affirmation, for him, was a clear rejection of the heresy that a church could be allowed to suit its convictions to the dictates of politics or public opinion. The church was, to put it simply, the Body of Christ.[21]

 

 

         Bonhoeffer also pushed that the Confessing Church be recognized as the only true representative of the Evangelical Church of Germany. Unfortunately, this never became a reality because even within the Confessing Church, pastors began to waver in their original commitment to God’s word. The Barmen Confession eventually became “blunted by compromise and the seductive siren of patriotism.”[22]  

 

By 1936, compromise had slipped into the Confessing Church. On January 10, 1936, Bonhoeffer addressed a group of clergy at Stettin-Bredow and declared that the “church had, in short, become susceptible to skilled subversion by state propaganda. In standing still, he said, they ‘destroy the church.’ He urged them to move forward.”[23]  Over the course of time, as more pastors were imprisoned, the voice of the Confessing Church lost its boldness.   

 

This path of neutrality baffled Bonhoeffer because in life, either a person followed Jesus Christ or did not. This loyalty to Jesus was tested on April 20, 1938 when all the pastors in Germany were ordered to take the oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler in honor of his fiftieth birthday.[24] The Confessing Church refused to take an official stance against this oath to Hitler, but simply left the matter up to individual pastors. Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to Berlin Council of Brethren and voiced his bitter disappointment that pastors caved in to political pressures rather than obey the demands of Jesus.

 

           Later that year, on November 9, the church’s loyalty to Jesus was tested again when Nazi storm troopers “mobilized hordes of willing citizens to terrorize the Jewish population, breaking the windows of houses and stores and burning the synagogues.”[25] This became known as Krisallnacht (Crystal Night)[26] because broken glass littered the streets in the towns and cities “after that night of devastation and terror.”[27]  

          Bonhoeffer was stunned and angry that “only a few pastors spoke out against this latest violence against the Jews and their places of worship.”[28] The other church leaders withdrew “into a pious silence.”[29] He was also angry because it was “reprehensible” for Christians “to make the connection, as many did, between the destruction of Jewish property and the so-called curse on Jews because of their alleged participation in the death of Christ.”[30] Kelly and Nelson write that “scarcely any pastors or church leaders spoke out against these acts of blatant anti-Semitism. Bonhoeffer himself was outraged.”[31]   

Biblical Foundation: 

         Bonhoeffer simply saw his position as a matter of obedience to the Word of God. And he was aware that trials are part of the Christian life. Jesus even promised it in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble.” F.F. Bruce writes: “That those who are in Christ inevitably suffer tribulation in the world is the consistent witness of the NT writers.”[32]  

 

For example, the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:29: “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” One of the many privileges that believers receive from God is to suffer for Jesus. Gerald F. Hawthorne writes:

 

A Christian who is willing to stand up together with other Christians for the faith of the gospel can expect to suffer. It has always been so. Redemptive history teaches that those who believe the Word of God, who uncompromisingly speak this Word and unyieldingly live in accordance with it often pay for their courage and resolution with their lives—from the ancient prophets to Jesus.[33]

 

That is why the apostles saw it as an honor to be flogged by the Sanhedrin in Acts 5: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (vs. 41). And even though they were ordered by the Sanhedrin not to speak in the name of Jesus, this did not deter them: “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (vs. 42). Commenting on Acts chapter five, William J. Larkin writes:

 

In no masochistic fashion, but with spiritual eyes to see what suffering for the name of Jesus signifies about their eternal salvation, the apostles live out the dynamic of Jesus beatitude (Luke 6:22-23) and respond to their physical suffering with joy.

 

As far as Luke is concerned, two things bring Christians joy: contemplating salvation and the honor of being dishonored for Jesus’ sake (Luke 10:20; Acts 8:39; 11:23; 13:48). Whether in singing hymns over the crackle of flames at stakes in centuries past or praising God while cleaning Chinese prison-camp cesspools in our own day, the hallmark of the Christian has been, and must continue to be, joy in suffering persecution (1 Peter 1:6; 4:13).[34] 

In the face of persecution, the early Christians continued to joyfully press on in the mission to spread the good news about Jesus. In Nazi Germany, this meant standing up for the cause of Jesus and crying out against the injustices in society. This also meant suffering and even dying for Jesus. To Bonhoeffer, the church in Germany had a window of opportunity to face persecution like the first century believers. Instead she withdrew when the pressure to compromise mounted against her.

 

Concerning this fact, Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson wrote,

 

Bonhoeffer was all too well aware of the cowardly retreat of the churches in the face of swift Nazi sanctions for acts of defiance to its policies. The Hitler government had inoculated itself against opposition through Gestapo terror and cruel reprisals. For Bonhoeffer, the fear of repression served no excuse for the church’s widespread failure to act; the silence and inaction of the churches made them accomplices in the crimes of the government…It was right action for the church publicly to oppose the Nazi government as it did through the Barmen declaration of faith; it was wrong to have kept silent during genocidal persecution of the Jews.[35]

 

Application: 

 

It is true that twenty-first century preachers in America do not contend with a Hitler-like leader. Nor do they live with the daily possibility that they could be arrested or even executed for following Jesus. That day may come, but in the meantime, the followers of Jesus must “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11-12).

 

        The followers of Jesus are in a daily battle with Satan and his demons. These forces of evil were defeated through the cross and resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but “they are not yet harmless.”[36] John R.W. Stott writes that “our struggle is not with human beings but with cosmic intelligences; our enemies are not human but demonic.”[37]  

 

F.F. Bruce writes about the spiritual forces of evil which opposes Jesus and the church:

 

“The god of this age” who “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4), has a host of allies, principalities and powers, here described as “the world-rulers of this dark domain” (lit., “this darkness”) and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.”[38]

 

The forces of darkness may be manifested in a Hitler or through the daily pressures we face to compromise our love and commitment to Jesus. Regardless, we are to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). All the “resources the Christian soldier needs are drawn from Christ and ‘his mighty power.”[39] The very “same power that raised Jesus from the dead (1:20) and brought (the Ephesians) to life when they were dead in trespasses and sins (2:1)” is the power described in verse 10.[40] Concerning this exhortation, Bruce wrote that the believers in Ephesus were:

 

told one way in which this power can be effective in their lives—in enabling them to resist those forces in the world that are hostile to their well-being and opposed to the gospel[41]

 

Thus, preachers today are to spend significant time in prayer seeking the strength of the Lord.    

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Thank you for taking the time to read about how Dietrich Bonhoeffer can make an impact on us who preach the Word of God in the twenty-first century. I would appreciate any feedback. Please click the “Evaluation Form” at the top of the page; or leave a comment to this post; or e-mail me at bryan@harveyoaksbaptist.org.

The feedback is crucial for the completion of my Doctor of Ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Once again, thank you.

Bryan


 

[1] Kelly and Nelson, A Testament to Freedom¸14.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Ibid., 533.

 

[4] Ibid.

 

[5] Ibid.

 

[6] Ibid., 534.

 

[7] Ibid., 535.

 

[8] Ibid.

 

[9] Ibid.

 

[10] Ibid. 127.

 

[11] Ibid.

 

[12] Ibid.

 

[13] Ibid., 543.

        
            [14] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 17.
 

[15] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 17.

 

[16] Ibid.

 

[17] Ibid., 15-17.

 

[18] Ibid., 17.

 

[19] Ibid., 20.

 

[20] Ibid., 20.

 

 

[21] Ibid.

 

 

[22] Ibid., 28.

 

 

[23] Ibid. 29

 

[24] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 26.

 

[25] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 32.

 

[26] Ibid.

 

 

[27] Ibid., 545.

 

[28] Ibid., 32.

 

[29] Ibid.

 

[30] Ibid.

 

 

[31] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 26.

 

[32] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983), 326.

 

 

 

[33] Hawthorne, Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians, 60

 

 

[34]Larkin, The NIV New Testament Commentary Series: Acts, 97.

 

[35] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership, 46.

 

 

[36] Richard L. Pratt Jr., General Editor, The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 1913.

 

 

[37]Stott: The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Ephesians, 263.

 

 

[38] Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Epistles to Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, 404.

 

          [39]Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; 1,2 Thessalonians,1, 2; Titus; Philemon (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 85.  

 

[40] Ibid.

 

 

[41] Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Epistles to Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians 403.

Happy Easter! 

I am going to use this post to bring us up to speed about this bonhoefferblog. If you are new to this site, I welcome you. This bonhoefferblog has a purpose: to share with my fellow pastors and preachers the impact that Dietrich Bonhoeffer can have on our preaching and our lives.

I have been a fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer since my days at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul, MN. I graduated in 1982 with a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies. I then graduated with a Master of Divinity from Bethel Theological Seminary in San Diego in 1985.

I have been a senior pastor in the Baptist General Conference since 1985. I have been in three churches: First Baptist Church of Dannebrog in Dannebrog, NE (1985 to end of 1993); Calvary Church of the Pacific in Aiea, HI (1994 to end of 2001) and Harvey Oaks Baptist Church in Omaha, NE (2002 to present).

This blog and the feedback I receive from you will help me in the completion of my Doctor of Ministry degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. I am in the process of sharing six reasons why Bonhoeffer can make a difference in twenty-first century preaching:

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer placed a high premium on the meditation of the Scriptures (posted on 02/25/08).
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer stressed the importance of Christian fellowship (posted on 03/03/08).
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer emphasized a non-compromising faith (costly grace) (posted on 03/10/08).
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood against evil in society (posted on 03/17/08)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer exemplifies serving Jesus in the severest of trials.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer experienced the grace of living well and dying well.

The six reasons will be shared in six stages. Each stage will expand on the above statements. Tomorrow or Tuesday, I will post the fifth reason: Serving Jesus in the severest of trials.

As always, I am extremely grateful that you took the time to read one or some of my posts. Please offer any feedback. You can click the “Evaluation Form” at the top of the page. You may e-mail me, if your desire, at bryan@harveyoaksbaptist.org.

Thank you,

Bryan Galloway

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus! This weeken we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Therefore, I want to share with you a sermon preached by David Kilgour on April 4, 2001 at the First Baptist Church located at Elgin at Laurier in Ottawa. This sermon for Lent and Easter ties in the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Next week (April 9th) will be the 56th anniversary of the execution of the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, aged 39, in Flossenburg, Germany.  It strikes me that Bonhoeffer’s life and faith have something very important to say today about both Lent and Easter. Permit me therefore to draw heavily on a book of Bonhoeffer’s writings selected by Robert Coles in the Modern Spiritual Masters Series. First, a little history about what much of the Christian world considers to be one of the 20th century’s best-known and most universally-admired martyrs.  Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 to a respected German family.  He completed his work for a doctoral degree in theology and in 1931 became a lecturer in religion at Berlin University and was also ordained as a Lutheran minister. In 1933, only two days after Hitler was made chancellor, Bonhoeffer, then only 27, broadcast on radio a warning about totalitarianism, but was cut off the air as he spoke.  Later the same year, in company with Pastor Martin Niemoller, he warned Germany’s church ministers about the dangers of Nazi rule.  A year later, he helped to organize the Confessing Church, which was a critical response to Hitler that called on Germans to stand first with Christ.

By 1936, he was no longer permitted to teach at Berlin University and a year later his Confessing Church seminary was closed by the Gestapo.  He published his Cost of Discipleship the same year and was soon in contact with political opponents of the regime.”

To read the rest of this sermon…

Dictionary.com defines tyrannicideas the “act of killing a tyrant.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor, was involved in a plot to kill a tyrant, namely Adolf Hitler

No doubt, Bonhoeffer struggled greatly over his role in this conspiracy to topple Nazism. While this is true, there is not much literature to verify his struggle. But Larry L Rasmussen makes a good point in Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance

“Documentary evidence is rather sparse, however. The entire written account is even sparser than the limited commentary on pacifism. The testimony of a close friend involved in much the same way in the same conspiracy, such as Bethge, is thus all the more indispensable. Yet even then the whole remains an unfinished mosaic. Perhaps this is in the nature of any abortive conspiracy whenever the survivors are few.

The lack of Bonhoeffer’s lack of extended commentary is also obvious to anyone who understands the dangers of the written word to an underground movement in a totalitarian state. Despite the fragmentary witness, however, a study of Bonhoeffer’s resistance cannot bypass this active approval of tyrannicide” (131).

On the one hand, we really do not have any idea how Bonhoeffer wrestled over his involvement to remove Hitler. We have not faced anything like he did. Yet, on the other hand, as Christ-followers, we just may have a little glimpse in how he struggled. If our hearts are led by God’s Holy Spirit to protect and even rescue those being led away to death (Proverbs 24:11), then does that mean stopping a Hitler-like tyrant?

What are your thoughts on this? I would love your feedback.

Bryan

bryan@harveyoaksbaptist.org

 

This week, we have focused how Dietrich Bonhoeffer took a stand against evil. Larry L. Rasmussen writes in Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance that “there is no question that Bonhoeffer approved of the assassination of Hitler and even volunteered for the task. A troublesome decision for any morally sensitive German, it is all the more intriguing in light of Bonhoeffer’s earlier self-designation as a ‘Christian pacifist.’ For one as basically nonviolent and reflective as he, there could only have been extensive wrestling with the issues of tyrannicide” (131).

In the next couple of days, we will look more into Bonhoeffer’s “wrestling” with these issues. In the meantime, please take a look at Steve Argo’s article: “Bonhoeffer’s Message: No Compromise With Evil.”  

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