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Eberhard Bethge writes in his book, Costly Grace: An Illustrated Introduction to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that in the final weeks of World War II, Adolf Hitler went through a rampage of executing those involved in the conspiracy to overthrow him. However, certain prisoners like Dietrich Bonhoeffer were kept alive so that…

…the true extent of their conspiracy… could be discovered.

…At any rate Bonhoeffer was now counted important enough to be relocated to the group saved from execution for further interrogation. He was therefore given a place in a special convoy taking prominent prisoners to the concentration camp at Buchenwaid on 7 February 1945, after several daytime air raids had caused severe damage in Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse (130-131).

…to everyone who prayed for me during my D.Min. defense this past Saturday at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  I am grateful for you.


This morning (Saturday) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, I sat down with Dr. Haddon Robinson and Dr. Sid Buzzell to defend my thesis on the impact of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on twenty-first century preaching and preachers.

I am thankful to the Lord to pass it.

I am also thankful to everyone who offered feedback of some kind to the bonhoefferblog. Your contribution helped me to complete my thesis.

I plan to continue to add posts to this blog. It has become part of my life and routine.


I am on D.Min. display table at Gordon-Conwell!

I am on D.Min. display table at Gordon-Conwell!

I just finished re-reading my Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) Thesis about the impact of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on twenty-first century preaching and preachers. It me took a few hours to do. It was fun to remind myself why I picked such a topic. Bonhoeffer has much to say to us preachers. I was especially moved on his commitment to Jesus and his love for people in the worst of times.

He lived well and he died well because of the grace of God in his life. That grace was available because Bonhoeffer stayed close to Jesus through prayer, worship and scripture meditation.

Thank you to everyone who responded through feedback of some kind.

This blog site is part my thesis. My D.Min. is through Gordon-Conwell Thelogical Seminary in South Hamilton, MA.

As 1945 progressed, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was in a sense kept alive because the authorities knew that he was involved somehow in the conpiracy against Hitler, but they just didn’t know the extent. Thus, his life was extended as the interrogations continue

Would the church in Germany during the reign of Hitler be different if more pastors and Christians acted more like Dietrich Bonhoeffer? We can only speculate, but consider the post below…

The Nazis allowed Bonhoeffer to live for a full twelve years. He faced death by hanging only after it was ascertained that he had been involved in the assassination attempt on Hitler’s life. As a well known Christian teacher and clergyman, Bonhoeffer spoke and wrote in opposition to Nazism without serious punishment; he was allowed to have the privilege of foreign travel, and was even caught facilitating the escape of Jews to Switzerland. Yes, for helping Jews he was indeed imprisoned — but not executed.

Could the Christian Cross have proven to be  more powerful than the Sword of the State?  If all of the German denominations of the Christian Church with their national as well as international power and influence, had followed Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s example, what would have been the result? What if all of the world’s Christian churches had united in such opposition?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an example for us in both in life and death. His legacy is based on more than just his works. Bonhoeffer lived for the glory of Jesus even as he risked his life opposing Nazi oppression. The source of strength for him to live well, and eventually die well, was the grace of God. His good friend, Eberhard Bethge delivered a lecture entitled “The Living God Revealed in this Church” in Coventry Cathedral on October 30, 1967 (1)

In that lecture, he expressed his concern that Bonheoffer’s legacy was marred by misunderstanding the source of power that sustained Bonhoeffer’s life. For example:

The isolated use and handing down of the famous term “religionless Christianity” has made Bonhoeffer the champion of an undialectical shallow modernism which obscures all that he wanted to tell us about the living God (2).

That source of power was actually God’s grace that Bonhoeffer relied upon during the times he stood alone for the cause of Jesus; and during the times he displayed the image of Jesus through his words and action. Bethge summed it up with the phrase: “secret discipline.”(3) To Bonhoeffer:

Secret discipline meant…all that power to deepen and sustain Christian life: prayer, meditation, common worship, the sacraments, and experiments in life such as Finkenwalde had been, all in fact that helped to fit the Christian for a life of love lived with God and for his fellow men.(4)

Most modern readers of Bonhoeffer who are enthralled by his writings can completely miss why he lived and wrote the way he did:

The Letters and Papers from Prison, which are the most widely read and quoted of all Bonhoeffer’s works, explore extensively the problems of identification which face the Christian in the present century, while saying little about that secret discipline by which his identity as a Christian is maintained. But what the writer did not say he was living daily and hourly, and the eloquence of his life counterbalances the reticence of the letters.

His life had in fact represented a continuous effort to hold the two in balance, an attempt complicated by powerful inwards and outward pressures, so that at certain stages the scale tipped more heavily to the one side and certain stages to the other (5)

While Bethge believed that many readers may miss the reason why Bonhoeffer lived that way, Kelly and Burton believe many are actually attracted to Bonhoeffer because of his intense relationship with Jesus. They write that genuine community was a key component to Bonheoffer’s spirituality:

One of the main reasons why readers find Bonhoeffer’s writings so compelling lies in the inner strength and intensity of his relationship with Jesus Christ developed in the practical everyday life of a Christian community. When he wrote his account of his community-sustained spiritual life in the Finkenwalde seminary, he was not reminiscing about an agreeable, idyllic experience of a like-minded group of dedicated seminarians.

He intended to share with others this experience, with its joys and trials, its mutual support and enduring friendships, that it might serve as a model; for forming moral leaders and for the creation of new forms of church community throughout Germany (6).

How can we draw closer to our Lord so that his grace will sustain us in life and in death?

[1] Bosanquet, The Life and Death of Bonhoeffer, 279.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 279-280

[6] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 145.

I grabbed this from Darryl Dash’s blog.  I did think of the way Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived his life. Every moment was for God’s glory.

Give It Your Heart out of Gratitude

Posted: 18 Mar 2009 07:27 PM PDT


Jack Miller to a young missionary couple:

Think much of the Savior’s suffering for you on that dreadful cross, think much of your sin that provoked such suffering, and then enter by faith into the love that took away your sin and guilt, and then give your work your best. Give it your heart out of gratitude for a tender, seeking, and patient Savior. Make every common task shine with the radiance of Christ. Then every event becomes a shiny glory moment to be cherished – whether you drink tea or try to get the verb forms of the new language. (p.22)

Be Strong and Courageous

By Chuck Colson

The Imitation of Christ

In the second century A.D. the Christian martyr Polycarp stood before the Roman Proconsul. Recant Christ, the Proconsul demanded—or face death by fire. Polycarp’s response: “What are you waiting for? Bring on what you will.”

Polycarp demonstrated that nothing, not even his own life, meant more to him than his steadfast devotion to Christ. His death was a heroic one; by standing firm in his faith, he demonstrated that the perfect expression of heroism is a courageous imitation of Christ. This is a lesson we need to relearn because these days, strength of conviction alone is often confused with heroism.

Thus, even outlandish figures like Dennis Rodman are praised for their courage, even begrudgingly, by those who don’t like them. Why? Because they insist on being true to themselves. Well, that kind of personal courage may be laudable, I suppose, but is it heroic? No way!

Consider the man who prefers to die rather than give up his pocket money to a thief. He surrenders something that is truly precious for something ultimately insignificant. The soldier who fights for an unjust cause may have heroic-like convictions, but they are given in the service of what is ignoble, even wicked. That’s courage, not heroism.


The steadfast courage of the great saints of the Church gives us wonderful examples of what Dick Keyes identifies as genuine heroism. In his book True Heroism, Dick Keyes writes that, while courage is not itself heroism, it’s an indispensable ingredient of heroism.

This becomes especially clear when we consider Jesus Himself as a heroic example. Jesus resisted the temptation to go His own way. He persevered in His ministry knowing it would ultimately lead to a painful and humiliating death. He courageously bore the scorn and threats of His opponents. He endured a rigged trial and made no attempt to escape His fate.

As Jesus demonstrated, the true hero not only demonstrates courageous devotion, but also demonstrates devotion to what is true and praiseworthy.

As Christians, our faith may call us to be heroic in the truest sense. So we need to provide our kids with examples of people who exhibit true heroism. We need to tell them about people like the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred by Hitler. When the war broke out, Bonhoeffer was safe in the U.S., but he chose to return to Germany to be with his people. He stood against a German Church that was appeasing the Nazis and he defied Hitler. In the end, Bonhoeffer’s heroism cost him his life.

In America it’s unlikely we’ll be numbered among the thousands of Christians worldwide who are losing their lives for their faith, even today. But even here, the Christian life is not without cost, and we, too, must be courageous. Persecution and suffering are not to be sought after, but, when they come, they provide us with an opportunity to experience God’s grace in even greater fullness.

We need to recall for our neighbors the great examples from our own church history of men and women living truly courageous lives in noble pursuits. In an age like ours when there are few heroes, why not read to your family about those Christian saints—ancient and modern—who teach us what true heroism really is.

Below is a good read from the Deafening Silence blog about how Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not a character in the recent movie, Valkyrie…

Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The new film Valkyrie claims to tell the story of the ‘July 20’ plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  Prior to its release I spent some time watching trailers for the film on YouTube.  Among the promotional clips was a featurette describing the conspirators in the plot.

One name was missing: Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

This piece aims to tell his role in the Valkyrie story.

Dietrich Bohhoeffer was born into an intellectual, aristocratic German family in 1906.  His father was a noted professor of neurology and psychiatry; his mother also held a college degree.  Never especially devout, the Bonhoeffer family was shocked when Dietrich decided to study theology.  He enrolled in Tubingen University and soon proved to be a prodigy, earning his doctorate at the age of 21.

Too young to be ordained,in 1930  Bonhoeffer was awarded a teaching fellowship at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  During his stay, an African American classmate, Frank Fisher, introduced him to the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  Bonhoeffer began attending services and teaching Sunday school there, drawn to the fervent Evangelical preaching:

“…here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God…the black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision.”

That passion and vision influenced Bonhoeffer’s own writing and preaching.  Phrases coined by Adam Clayton Powell, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, can be found in his work.  Bonhoeffer also collected recordings of Black Gospel music, which would remain a lifelong inspiration for him.

Perhaps most important, he witnessed the brutality of American segregation and racism.

Bonhoeffer set sail for Germany in 1931, armed with youth and faith and an array of new ideas.

Hitler’s rise to power had just begun.

For the rest of the post…Click

March 2009


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