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Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 — April 9, 1945) was a German religious leader and participant in the resistance movement against Nazism. Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian, took part in the plots being planned by members of the Abwehr (Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Hitler. He was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually hanged following the failure of the July 20, 1944, assassination attempt.

Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) into a middle to upper class professional family. His father was a psychiatrist in Berlin; his mother homeschooled the children. At a very young age, he decided to become a minister. His parents supported his decision and when he was old enough he attended college in Tübingen, received his doctorate in theology from the University of Berlin, and was ordained. He then spent a post-graduate year abroad studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

He returned to Germany in 1931, where he lectured on theology in Berlin and wrote several books. A strong opponent of Nazism, he was involved, together with Martin Niemöller, Karl Barth and others, in setting up the Confessing Church. Between late 1933 and 1935 he served as pastor of two German-speaking protestant churches in London. He returned to Germany to head an illegal seminary for Confessing Church pastors, which was closed down in 1937. The Gestapo also banned him from preaching, teaching, and finally speaking at all in public. During this time, Bonhoeffer worked closely with numerous opponents of Hitler.

During World War II, Bonhoeffer played a key leadership role in the Confessing Church, which opposed the anti-semitic policies of Adolf Hitler. He was among those who called for wider church resistance to Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. While the Confessing Church was not large, it represented a major focus of Christian opposition to the Nazi government in Germany.

In 1939 Bonhoeffer joined a hidden group of high-ranking military officers based in the Abwehr, or Military Intelligence Office, who wanted to overthrow the National Socialist regime by killing Hitler. He was arrested in April 1943 after money that was used to help Jews escape to Switzerland was traced to him, and he was charged with conspiracy. He was imprisoned in Berlin for a year and a half. After the unsuccessful July 20 Plot in 1944, connections of Bonhoeffer to the conspirators were discovered, he was moved to a series of prisons and concentration camps ending at Flossenbürg, where he was executed by hanging just three weeks before the liberation of the city. Also executed for their parts in the conspiracy were his brother Klaus and his brothers-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi and Rudiger Schleicher.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is considered a martyr for his faith; he was absolved of any crimes by the German government in the mid-1990s. An oft-quoted line from one of his more widely read books, The Cost of Discipleship (1937), foreshadowed his death. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” His books Ethics (1949) and Letters and Papers from Prison (1953) were published posthumously.

The theological and political reasons behind his shift from Christian pacifism, which he espoused in the mid-1930s, to participation in planning the assassination of Hitler are much debated.

Bonhoeffer’s nephew by his sister is the conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi, son of Hans von Dohnanyi.

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David P. Gushee

For the Entire Article

Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

Delivered during a panel discussion entitled “‘Costly Discipleship and Contemporary Culture: Bonhoeffer as a Model for Religious Activism” during the conference Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times: Jewish and Christian Perspectives, cosponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew College, and Andover-Newton Theological School, September 18, 2006.

RESISTANCE: PAYING THE PRICE TO SAY NO TO EVIL

It is certainly clear from The Cost of Discipleship that Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood that following Jesus will be costly. Jesus taught a particular way of life that stands in opposition to the practices of most worldly powers. To say yes to Jesus is to say no to these powers. Such resistance will be costly. It can involve the ultimate cost of laying down one’s life.

And of course the enduring power of Bonhoeffer’s example is that on this score his life reflected his teachings. From the very first time their lives intersected, he resisted Hitler and the pernicious influence of Nazism. He resisted in small ways at small cost and then in larger ways at larger costs and finally in a conspiracy that cost him his life.

The proper pattern is thus established: we follow Jesus, come what may. Having already renounced the ultimacy of any loyalty other than loyalty to Jesus, we are prepared to pursue the path of discipleship (“following after”) where it leads. We do not seek confrontation with the powers, or suffering; we love life, and we are not looking for martyrdom. But having resolved our loyalty issue, and knowing what we know about Christ and about this sinful world, we are ready for whatever may come.

It is partly my loyalty to Bonhoeffer’s model that has inspired me as an evangelical to take what I would call small steps of resistance in our own context. I am deeply grateful to have been able to find a community of fellow evangelicals who share this common vision. Sometimes the practices and policies that we resist, such as mass divorce despite its negative effects on children, the routine resort to abortion, or the endless manipulation of human embryos and genes, earn us scorn from the cultural left.

Other times, such as our refusal to affirm US militarism and especially the justice of the war in Iraq; our protesting of US torture of detainees; our working for just policies for the poor and the racially marginalized; and our pressure for protection of God’s creation, we have garnered the angry attacks of powers on the American right.

But we interpret the discomfort that flows from our efforts to resist what we know to be wrong as part of the cost of discipleship. This too we have learned from Bonhoeffer, and from his Lord and ours, Jesus Christ.

David P. Gushee

For the Entire Article

Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

Delivered during a panel discussion entitled “‘Costly Discipleship and Contemporary Culture: Bonhoeffer as a Model for Religious Activism” during the conference Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times: Jewish and Christian Perspectives, cosponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew College, and Andover-Newton Theological School, September 18, 2006.

WITNESS: LIVING FOR CHRIST IN THE CULTURE

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was committed to Christian moral witness in contemporary culture. While refusing to identify Christian morality with any particular social or political program, he did seek to bring the teachings of Christ, indeed, the moral tradition of the church as a whole, to bear on a wide range of issues emergent in his day and time. Like most scholars who identify as Christian ethicists or public theologians, he sought to make a difference in his culture through faithful Christian witness. And his focus was not on a public witness that might protect the social privileges of the church, but instead on its solidarity with those in need.

The rise and appeal of the German Christian Movement is impossible to understand apart from the intense desire of at least some German Christians to regain greater influence on their own culture. Part of the appeal of the supposedly pro-Christian Nazis (in their early days) was that they promised to support “positive Christianity.” They would bring back “traditional” (= Christian) values. They would reverse secularism and cultural confusion by restoring a manly Christianity to the center of German culture. Thus the SA brownshirts marched into the swastika-draped churches for their weddings and ritualizing occasions. Worried Christian traditionalists could think, with relief, “Good, at least the young people are back in church again, communism has been defeated, and the secularists are on the run.”

Another way to say it is that Germany’s Christian people were anxious to exercise influence in the culture and avoid social marginalization, and the sign of their renewed influence would be a re-establishment of their historic power and cultural privileges. They were thus susceptible to the false promises of the Nazis that Christianity would again receive such privileges, and were deceived by the appearance of influence in the form of young men wearing brownshirts occupying their pews. I believe it is apparent that conservative evangelical Christians in the US are also anxious to exercise influence in the culture and also concerned to avoid social marginalization over against secularism and other alternative ideologies. Thus they are also susceptible to false promises of political leaders who speak their language and throw symbolic crumbs in their direction, promising the political and legal privileging of Christian values if not Christian faith itself. The desire to make a difference in the culture is then exploited by those who mainly want our votes in order to make a difference in their election campaigns. The cynicism of politicians both then and now is really quite obvious.

It is partly my loyalty to Bonhoeffer’s model (and awareness of the history of the German church in that era) that leaves me strongly resistant to this model of Christian influence on culture and strongly offended by the manipulation of religious language and symbols for political purposes. Instead, I seek to bear witness to Christian moral convictions while remaining fiercely independent of partisan loyalties and political manipulation.

David P. Gushee

For the entire article…

Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

Delivered during a panel discussion entitled “‘Costly Discipleship and Contemporary Culture: Bonhoeffer as a Model for Religious Activism” during the conference Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times: Jewish and Christian Perspectives, cosponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew College, and Andover-Newton Theological School, September 18, 2006.

DESPAIR: RESPONDING TO CULTURAL DECLINE

Like all Germans, and many all around the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was deeply troubled by World War I and the cultural and political crisis that afflicted his nation after the war. And yet he never demonstrated any susceptibility to what Fritz Stern called “the politics of cultural despair.” I think it was because he believed in the interpretation of history offered by biblical revelation, which though realistic about human nature and history is never a counsel of despair.

It was this cultural despair—a toxic brew of reaction against secularism, anger related to the loss of World War I, distress over cultural disorientation and confusion, fears about the future of Germany, hatred of the victorious powers and of those who supposedly stabbed Germany in the back, and of course the search for scapegoats (mainly the Jews)—that motivated many Germans to adopt a reactionary, authoritarian, and nationalistic ethic that fueled their support for Hitler’s rise to power. A broadly appealing narrative of national decline (or conspiratorial betrayal) was met by Hitler’s narrative of national revenge leading to utopian unity in the Fuhrer-State.

Conservative American evangelicals in recent decades have been deeply attracted to a parallel narrative of cultural despair. Normally the story begins with the rise of secularism in the 1960s, the abandonment of prayer in schools, and the Roe decision, all leading to an apocalyptic decline of American culture that must be arrested soon, before it is too late and “God withdraws his blessing” from America. While very few conservative evangelicals come into the vicinity of Hitler in hatefulness, elements similar to that kind of conservative-reactionary-nationalist narrative can be found in some Christian right-rhetoric: anger at those who are causing American moral decline, fear about the future, hatred of the “secularists” now preeminent in American life, and the search for scapegoats. The solution on offer—a return to a strong Christian America through determined political action–also has its parallels with the era under consideration.

It is in part my own loyalty to Bonhoeffer’s example that has led me to a rejection of the toxic politics of cultural despair and commitment to a hopeful vision of Christian cultural engagement in light of the sure advance of God’s kingdom.

David P. Gushee

For the Full Article

Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

Delivered during a panel discussion entitled “‘Costly Discipleship and Contemporary Culture: Bonhoeffer as a Model for Religious Activism” during the conference Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times: Jewish and Christian Perspectives, cosponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew College, and Andover-Newton Theological School, September 18, 2006.

COMMUNITY: THE CENTRALITY OF THE CHURCH

From his earliest academic work Bonhoeffer exhibited great interest in the church. If Christ is the “center,” as he said, Christ takes form in the church, the community of saints. Bonhoeffer’s robust ecclesiology was unusual in his day. The marriage of Church and State in Europe had weakened and corrupted both. It had certainly co-opted the church to the interests of the state, which became painfully obvious during the Nazi years as the church’s integrity was compromised by its loyalty to a radicalized State. Bonhoeffer’s writings about the church ultimately amounted to an ecclesiological revolution. He lifted up the centrality of the church as the primary community/polity for Christian people, practiced and taught renewed ancient Christian practices of study, worship, and fellowship (thus linking the church to its historic heritage), and reminded the church of its allegiance to Christ alone. In the end, he supported the abandonment by the church of its cultural privileges and thus had moved towards at least the germinal stage of a post-Christendom ecclesiology.

Such a robust ecclesiology left Bonhoeffer far better prepared than most of his peers to resist the extremely corrupt form of Christendom that was represented by Reichsbischof Ludwig Müller and the German Christian Movement. Like others in the Confessing Church, he strongly rejected any tampering by the State with the internal life of the Christian churches. He sought to disentangle and clarify the identities marked “German” and “Christian” at a time when they were being purposefully entangled by Nazi leaders and their allies in the church. One way he did so was by pioneering a new model of seminary training in his work with the underground Confessing Church seminary at Finkenwalde.

I believe that even though evangelicals have created vast numbers of churches, some of them massive cathedrals of our own age, filled to the brim with people, we have not been particularly strong in our theology of the church. On the one hand, our pietistic individualism creates a “Jesus and me” ethos that often weakens any loyalty to the community of faith or any willingness to submit to a disciplined covenantal vision. Like Christians in Bonhoeffer’s time, we retreat into a happy privatized faith. On the other hand, the moral mediocrity of this kind of church leaves us hopeless about the church as the center of God’s redemptive enterprise in the world. And so we turn inward or heavenward in despair, or we turn to the state to enforce the values we can’t seem to advance in our own churches. I believe that the weaker our ecclesiology, the stronger our tendency to confuse the identities “American” and “Christian” and to offer excessive loyalties to worldly powers.

Part of my own loyalty to Bonhoeffer is a strong emphasis on, and involvement in, a robust church, beginning with the local church. I have sought to be clear that the primary audience for Christian ethical reflection is the church, and the primary task of such reflection is to strengthen our faithful obedience to the concrete teachings and witness of Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Evangelical Moment in American Public Life

David P. Gushee

Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

LOYALTY: CHRIST ABOVE ALL

Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught and modeled unrelenting loyalty to Jesus Christ. Like it or not, his was a Christ-centered theology and ethic. This theme works its way through his writings and his life.

This relentless commitment to Jesus Christ meant that all other loyalties were clearly distinguished from Christ, and relativized in relation to Christ. No human being, no nation, no ideology, no “race,” no cause of any sort must be confused in any way with the person or mission of Jesus Christ. Nor can the cause of Jesus Christ be subsumed under some other, totalitarian scheme for organizing society. Note the paradox that this rigorous Christ-centeredness actually left him more concerned, not less, with the plight of his non-Christian fellow countrymen, especially the persecuted Jewish community, than most of his fellow church leaders. This shows us that it is not enough to be Christ-centered, which is a familiar enough slogan in the Christian community—it matters quite a bit what kind of Christ one is centering upon.

This clarity about his loyalties left Bonhoeffer far better prepared to resist the siren song of loyalty to race, Volk, nation, Party, State, and Führer than were most German Christians. Moreover, the more that leaders either of the Church or the State attempted to blur or blend or equate these loyalties, the more Bonhoeffer resisted. He was equipped with a theological alarm system, one might say, that alerted him to such dangerous syncretism and idolatry and kept him entirely clear of it. Karl Barth had the same alarm system, rooted in a similar Christocentrism. It was this spirit that animated the Barmen Declaration.

Today, for a variety of reasons, conservative American evangelicals regularly exhibit confusion about their loyalties. They (we—my people—though, again, I speak as a “connected critic” here) often conflate loyalty to Jesus Christ with loyalty to the United States of America. They weave together loyalty to Jesus Christ with loyalty to the president, the party, the troops, the flag, or the nation. They create labels, such as “traditional values” or “conservative values,” or “family values” or “our Judeo-Christian heritage” that are themselves symbolic of a confusion, even syncretism, of identities and loyalties.

It is in part my own loyalty to Bonhoeffer’s witness that drives me toward strong resistance to such confusion of loyalties.

David P. Gushee

Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

Delivered during a panel discussion entitled “‘Costly Discipleship and Contemporary Culture: Bonhoeffer as a Model for Religious Activism” during the conference Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times: Jewish and Christian Perspectives, cosponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew College, and Andover-Newton Theological School, September 18, 2006.

I write not just as a religious scholar/activist, not just as a Christian scholar/activist, not just as a Protestant Christian scholar/activist, but as an American evangelical Baptist Protestant Christian scholar/activist.

While it is good to be clear about one’s identity and context, I cannot speak for all who share that context. But I can reflect on what the witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer means to me in these times. I can try to articulate the ways in which what I am trying to teach, write, and do these days reflects my longstanding effort to remain faithful to Bonhoeffer’s demanding example—even as I am aware of the inherent danger of attempting to draw inspiration from Bonhoeffer for any context outside his own.

This leads to one especially important disclaimer: inevitably any effort to read Bonhoeffer for his contemporary significance involves making comparisons between interwar and wartime Germany on the one hand, and one’s own context, on the other. If one sees similarities, parallels, and possible analogies, it is easy to be misread as equating, say, the United States with Nazi Germany, or US Christians with the Deutsche Christen. I am not attempting to offer such an equation. But I am attempting to think about the significance of Bonhoeffer (a man attempting to be faithful to his Christian calling in his own context) for my own efforts to be faithful to my Christian calling in my context.

The personal context that is most important for me to identify in this essay is my location as an American evangelical scholar-activist. I write in a time when it seems that all eyes are turned to evangelicals, who represent a massive slice of the American religious landscape, who have discovered and exercised their political power in quite visible ways in recent years, and in so doing have terrified many who do not share their/our convictions. This is the “evangelical moment” in American public life. I write during that moment and from within that community, simultaneously as an evangelical loyalist and as an internal critic. My exposition of key themes in Bonhoeffer’s life and work must be understood within this context.

I graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry Degree on May 9, 2009. Praise the Lord. I love the fact that GCTS is in the Bosotn area. The next day, Lois and I went to a Boston Red Sox game. I have been a Red Sox fan since the late 1960’s. The Red Sox won that game 4-3 against Tampa Bay.DSCN1314DSCN1344

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  1. To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ

CHAPTER THREE

LITERATURE REVIEW

The popularity of Dietrich Bonhoeffer has steadily increased over the past 60 years. Stephen R. Haynes writes in The Bonhoeffer Phenomenon: Portraits of a Protestant Saint that Bonhoeffer was relatively obscure during the years of the Third Reich.”[1] Since his death Bonhoeffer has become a “celebrity.”[2] Haynes continues:

Despite being incomplete, occasional, and fragments, Bonhoeffer’s writings continue to invite serious engagement by theologians, philosophers, psychologists, and political scientists.

In an ever-increasing series of articles, monographs, and dissertations, Bonhoeffer is compared with thinkers as diverse as Martin Luther, Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, Ludwig Feuerbach, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Carl Jung, Adolf von Harnack, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr, Wilhelm Dilthey, Harry Stack Sullivan, Werner Elert, Friedrich Gogarten, Albert Camus, John Dewey, Jean-Paul Sartre, Yves Congar, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carl Rogers, Francis Fukuyama, Richard Rorty, Theodor Adorno, and Emmanuel Levinas.[3]

At the same time, works about and references to Bonhoeffer can found in non-scholarly works:

Today references to Bonhoeffer’s life and thought are just as likely to be found in popular magazines and church bulletins as in scholarly journals. Laypersons read his books, participate in e-mail discussion groups, and join societies devoted to extending Bonhoeffer’s influence. Pastors of all theological persuasions refer to him in their sermons. And for those in search of inspiration for Christian living, Bonhoeffer’s words are readily available for devotional use.

Indeed, the German theologian seems to offer something for everyone with an interest in religion or spirituality, regardless of age, even among members of the presumably antitheological “Generation X.”[4]

Mark Devine wrote that “Bonhoeffer has much to say to Bible-believing Christians in the twenty-first century.”[5] Bonhoeffer also speaks to those who stand in pulpits Sunday after Sunday and proclaim the word of God. As stated in chapter one, there has been a wealth of published material concerning his life, theology and impact. This chapter will review literature related to the six areas in which Dietrich Bonhoeffer can impact preachers in the twenty-first century.

Meditation on the Word

David Mcl. Gracie wrote in the Introduction of Bonhoeffer’s book, Meditating on the Word that scripture meditation was not only a regular practice for Bonhoeffer, but also instrumental in his conversion to Christ:

Regular, meditative reading in the Bible was practiced by Bonhoeffer from the time when, as a young theologian, he became a Christian. “Becoming a Christian” seems, in fact, to have been the result of his discovering the Bible as a personal message of God’s love for us…He received with meekness the implanted Word, which was able to save his soul.

This reception of the Word was a daily, indeed, almost a constant affair—since texts and single words of Scripture were kept and pondered in his heart…It was also a means of determining God’s will for his life…[6]

To Bonhoeffer, meditation on God’s Word was also a central component of the development of a pastor: “We want in any case to rise up from our meditation in a different state from when we sat down. We want to meet Christ in his Word.”[7] The Preacher’s Seminary at Finkenwalde was his “experiment in community” where Christian fellowship could be experienced.[8] Mary Bosanquet described the daily routine that Bonhoeffer established for the students:

First of all a rule was established. The day began with half an hour of common prayer: antiphonal repetition of the psalms, lessons from the Old and New Testaments, two chorals, one Gregorian chant and finally extempore prayer. Breakfast followed, and after breakfast, most alarming surprise of all, the students found that they were to meditate for half an hour in silence upon a passage of scripture, which was set for the whole week.

Then followed a morning of study; homiletics, exegesis and the groundwork of dogmatics, then lunch, recreation, further study and after supper an evening of relaxation, music, reading aloud or games. The day ended with a further half-hour of common prayer, after which complete silence was required until breakfast time, the next morning.[9]

At Finkenwalde, Bonhoeffer was able to put into place an environment where consistent scripture meditation could occur. Bonhoeffer believed that it is within the context of Christian community where the practice of meditation is best expressed.

His book Life Together was a description of this experiment in community. When the Gestapo closed the seminary in September of 1937[10], Bonhoeffer, with a sense of urgency, composed Life Together, in a four week span.[11] Up to this point, Bonhoeffer was “reluctant” to write anything about Christian community.[12] However, with the seminary closed, he “saw the need to record for posterity not only the daily regimen (of the seminary) and rationale, but also to voice his conviction that the church needs to promote a sense of community like this if it is to have new life breathed into it.”[13]

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer not only urged his readers to incorporate scripture meditation into their spiritual formation, but to set aside a period of time to just meditate:

There are three purposes for which the Christian needs a definite time when he can be alone during the day: Scripture meditation, prayer and intercession. All three should have their place in the daily period of meditation. The word “meditation” should not frighten us. It is an ancient concept of the Church and of the Reformation that we are beginning to rediscover.[14]

It might be asked, why is a special time needed for this, since we mediate already during common devotions? This is the answer. The period of personal meditation is to be devoted to the Scriptures, private prayer, and intercession, and it has no other purpose.[15]

The half hour of daily meditation was a difficult task for the seminarians. Bosanquet writes that:

The loudest outcry was against the period for meditation. What, the young men asked, were they to do with this silent half-hour? Might they smoke? Might they get on with their reading? Might they clean their shoes? No, Bonhoeffer replied, they were to meditate, and then he did his best to explain to them how the heart and mind may learn to listen. They remained for some time skeptical, but the example of their director’s stillness and concentration, and the evident and intense reality of this silent prayer as he knew it, began to have its effect.[16]

According to Eberhard Bethge, whenever Bonhoeffer was away from the seminary, the students would avoid the period of meditation. Then, “upon his return, the seminarians would apologize, but admit that they did not know what to mediate about. Bonhoeffer would say, ‘Chase after your thoughts, get them together, concentrate.’”[17]

Kelly and Nelson write that Bonhoeffer insisted his students spent time in daily silence so they could listen prayerfully to the Word of God and to the words of those who share life in community.”[18] Periods of silence were necessary components of the day:

This is the silence needed to let God have the first word in the early morning hour and the last word as one ends the day in sleep. It helps the members of the community to avoid idle chatter and misuse of speech that can wound the most vulnerable members of the community; it helps people to manage their speech during their daily conversations. There is power, Bonhoeffer says, in this kind of silence, “the power of clarification, purification, and focus on what is essential” that contributes “to proper speaking of God’s word at the right time.”[19]

One of the benefits of “this attentive listening to God’s Word” was a more “effective prayer life” because the Word of God speaks to one’s personal situation, tasks, decisions, sins and temptations.[20]

There were also critics of Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on meditation outside the seminary. Karl Barth was one. He could not accept the benefit of “edifying contemplation.”[21] Plus, he was “disturbed by an indefinable odour of the eros and pathos of the cloister.”[22] Nevertheless, Barth “found some difficulty…in defining his criticism”[23]: “In fact what Barth suspected, in company with many others in the Confessing Church, was that Bonhoeffer was open to Catholic influence to an extent which seemed to him dangerous. The extent to which he was in fact so influenced, and the manner of it, is not easily defined.”[24]

The truth was that Bonhoeffer was influenced by the Catholic tradition of monastic life in his early formative years. He was not ashamed to admit that there were “catholic insights in the sense that they belonged to the treasury of the Christian tradition, and they proved their value through some fifteen hundred years of religious history…he made use of them without prejudice and built them into his own conception of the possibilities of the Christian life…”[25]

Later Bonhoeffer “begun to make his own theological explorations…within the Calvinist-Lutheran framework”[26] and in doing so Barth and he were eventually reconciled in this area. By the time Finkenwalde opened, Bonhoeffer was confident and ready to experiment with the insights he developed.

Wolf-Dieter Zimmermann was Bonhoeffer’s teaching assistant at the University of Berlin.[27] Later, Zimmermann was one of students at the seminary in Finkenwalde.[28] Luther Seminary student, Kyle Kenneth Schiefelbein, interviewed Zimmermann in 2003 for his undergraduate thesis. The interview was published in the Winter 2006 issue of Word & World.[29]

Zimmermann vividly remembers the Finkenwalde schedule. Silence structured the day: Dietrich instituted silence in the morning between waking up and breakfast and between dinner and bedtime; a half hour of meditation breakfast. The seminarians concentrated on one passage of Scripture per week. Bonhoeffer gave them twelve verses of German biblical texts, and they were to concentrate on these verses, without commentaries, for six days.

On Saturday, the students and Dietrich would come together and discuss what came to them from these verses. Zimmerman recalls the excitement among the seminarians as each one found something different in the texts. After the students had discussed their insights, Dietrich would then analyze these verses in ways that the students had not even considered and would sometimes offer the same texts for another week to see if any new meanings would come to them.[30]

Bonhoeffer wrote in Spiritual Care that since pastors provide spiritual comfort and care to others, scripture meditation must be a necessary element of their daily routine:

Exercises for the one who gives spiritual care are made concrete in such things as Bible reading, meditation, prayer, abstinence, silence, and humble service to the neighbor. In the background stands the old dogmatic relationship between contrition of the heart, confession with the lips, and satisfaction by words. We must regain the New Testament and evangelical sense of this threesome. We should not try to bypass the necessity of such exercises.[31]

David Mcl. Gracie writes that Bonhoeffer’s example should serve as motivation for us to meditate on God’s word:

The great point, after all, is not to take up Bonhoeffer and read him for his own sake, but to “take up and read” God’s Word in our day as he did in his. The command spoken once to St. Augustine, “tolle et lege,” is a command to each generation of Christians. Observing how Dietrich Bonhoeffer obeyed it on a day-today basis, during his lifetime and in his work as a pastor, teacher, and political activist, can motivate us, I believe, to do so where we are.[32]

Jim Wallis points out that scripture meditation is part of the entire package that attracts 21st century Christians to Bonhoeffer:

Bonhoeffer will appeal today to those who are hungry for spirituality. But his was not the soft new-age variety that has mostly to do with inner feelings and personal enlightenment. Rather, it was Bonhoeffer’s spirituality that made him so politically subversive. His commitment to daily prayer and meditation is what sustained him and provided the courage for his political resistance. But his was never a private spirituality. Bonhoeffer offers us spirituality for public engagement, in a time that cries out for both.[33]

Fellowship

To Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christian fellowship with one another was essential to be truly a Christian: “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to another only through and in Jesus Christ.”[34]

Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on Christian fellowship began after he spent three months in Rome in 1924. Bosanquet writes that during this period Bonhoeffer realized that Lutherans had “abandoned” the richness of fellowship:

Here, for the first time, he saw the Church as the true super-national nation of God’s people, “Christ existing as community”. The tremendous impact of this experience seems to have touched some deep spring in his intuitive faculty, so that he began from this time on to feel about in the dark for some of the Christian insights which Lutheranism had abandoned, and was able to make quick response when he found them.[35]

The emphasis on fellowship continued when he was student at Berlin University from 1924 to 1927. On December 27, 1927, at the age of 21, he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, entitled The Communion of Saints, or Sanctorum Communio.[36] While the young Bonhoeffer wrote it to impress a small group of University professors[37], yet:

It is of seminal importance in the growth of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thought. No other work concentrates so intensely upon the nature of the church…And apart from “Life Together”, in no other work does Bonhoeffer better explain the structure of the Church as community, an integral concept in all his thinking on the Church.[38]

Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson explore the development of Bonhoeffer’s picture of Christian community in their book, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “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.”[39]

Bonhoeffer’s interest in this relationship between the presence of Jesus and Christian community began during those years he was a student at Berlin University:

…Bonhoeffer harbored a desire to live in and help shape a Christian community from his first days as a student at Berlin University. He was intrigued then, as he was in the years that ensued, by the mystery of how God in Jesus Christ becomes present in and among those who gather to profess their faith together and celebrate through Word and sacrament their oneness in the Lord.[40]

After he was appointed a lecturer in theology at Berlin University in 1929 and 1931[41], he was afforded the opportunities to put into practice his views on fellowship:

His earliest attempts to put into practice his idea, on Christian community, however began in the circle of his admiring students…his seminars, evening discussions, and country excursions brought him into closer contact with likeminded students, some of whom later became his colleagues in the church struggle. Several would enter the seminary to study under him. Together with these students of theology he organized frequent weekend trips to a rented cottage in the hilly countryside well beyond the outskirts of Berlin, where they could discuss theology (and) work into their day some spiritual exercises.

…Though these beginnings in community life were informal and spontaneous, they provided some of the sparks for the creation of the kind of community life that Bonhoeffer presented in Life Together with a view to reanimate the Christian churches in Germany and withstand the lure of Nazism.[42]

This “casual experience of community” would not become permanent because the rise of Adolf Hitler into power in 1933 would begin the church struggle in Germany.[43] Nevertheless, Bonhoeffer would continue to develop his view on Christian fellowship “through lectures on the nature of the church”[44] and through conferences where he was able to explain the necessity of belonging to a “genuine Christian community.”[45] Such a community could be a safeguard in a turbulent German society:

Bonhoeffer was interested not in merely theologizing about church, but in being part of a church community committed to God’s Word in service of others, particularly society’s unfortunates, and willing to make sacrifices embodied in truthfully following Jesus Christ, even though it might lead to the cross.

He left no doubt about his desire to enter into a community life that, with the courage of Jesus Christ and in obedience to Jesus’ teachings, could live out the gospel more intensely and thus cope more courageously with the crises then overwhelming the German people and their churches. In hindsight, one wonders whether the slaughter that took place in the war and the death camps could have been avoided had the Christians of Germany professed their faith in truly Christian communities like that directed by Bonhoeffer.[46]

Could genuine communities of faith have made a difference in Nazi Germany? Bonhoeffer believed they would:

One’s faith in Jesus Christ expressed through the bonding of Christians with each other was more than an abstract, rationalized theory to Bonhoeffer the young student, and later to Bonhoeffer the mature theologian drawn into a bitter struggle over whether the churches in Germany were truly representing Jesus Christ in the Hitler era. Hitler’s popularity with the masses generated a dilemma for the churches.

Afraid to contradict what the people so enthusiastically applauded, in spite of their own misgivings, most of the churches went along with the popular mood. Bonhoeffer was convinced that the failure of the churches to become prophetic communities contributed to the perverse attractiveness of National Socialism. He criticized the churches for being turned in on themselves, lost in a kind of sanctimonious narcissism.[47]

At the end of 1934[48], Bonhoeffer visited various monasteries and seminaries of other denominations to “to examine their ‘monastic training’ programs and their different modes of community life.”[49] In March of 1935, while in England, he visited the Anglican Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield. Bonhoeffer “had long been aware of the need for the church to be a living community of persons rather than a conglomerate of ‘justified individuals’. The experience at Mirfield strengthened this conviction.”[50]

Bonhoeffer’s conviction led him to accept the invitation to become the director of the Preacher’s Seminary at Finkenwalde in 1935.[51] Bonhoeffer now had the “unique opportunity to put his thoughts into practice”:[52]

Under Bonhoeffer’s leadership, Finkenwalde thus became an experiment in Christian community. This was something unprecedented in the German Evangelical Church with its historic wariness of anything that looked like a Catholic Monastery. But Bonhoeffer was convinced that the church and its pastors could not minister in the world, especially in a world in crisis, unless the ‘body of Christ’ became a reality.

…Life at Finkenwalde was not a way of escape from the political and church struggles, but a way of engagement. Finkenwalde was not simply a community of preparation for ministry, but one already engaged in serving others.[53]

Bonhoeffer also realized that the German church was in great need of a place where future leaders could be trained:

Bonhoeffer became even more convinced to establish the kind of training center for these future moral leaders where everyone would be fully committed to incorporating Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount into their daily life. This commitment would in turn be sustained by community structures based on the gospel, structures that emphasized their togetherness as well as their need for prayerful time alone in order to foster the mutual support they needed and their service of one another as a prelude for serving the wider church community.[54]

These “future” leaders of the church were familiar with suffering even before their time at Finkenwalde. Bosanquet writes:

These young men all knew what it was to suffer—frustration, repression, enmity, even personal danger. Four had been turned out of a theological college in Wittenberg because of their refusal to compromise with the official line. All were ready to sacrifice themselves in order to guard the purity of the faith; at the same time they were young, healthy and boisterous.[55]

By the order of the Gestapo, the seminary was closed down in September of 1937.[56] Yet, during the short period the seminary was open, a picture of Christian fellowship was established:

The students of Finkenwalde past and present were welded into a community of Christian brothers who found in their unity a source of strength and a shared treasury of spiritual riches. It was an experience which to this day shows its profound effect on those who survive, and what Finkenwalde might have meant for the Christian life of Germany if it could have continued into the present may still be conjectured.

Its achievement in the less than three years of its existence was prodigious, and its influence was extended not only through the young pastors who went out from it, but also by means of those missions in surrounding parishes…[57]

Devine writes that Bonhoeffer sought to establish a genuine fellowship that would bring blessing both in this life and in the life to come:

Freedom to worship and serve our Lord in the visible church with our brothers and sisters is a great blessing, a special mercy. It constitutes a concrete anticipation of and dress rehearsal for the true and permanent fellowship of the saints in the next world…We were made for one another, and our relationship with Christ includes our divinely created and sustained connection to one another.[58]

One year after the seminary closed, in the home of his twin sister Sabine, Bonhoeffer would write Life Together.[59] Kelly and Nelson point out that this work of Bonhoeffer was quickly accepted by readers:

The book was published in 1939 as Volume 61 in a series of theological monographs Theologische Existenz Heute (Theological Existence Today). Within one year it had been through a fourth printing. Kaiser Verlag published the fifth edition after World War II, in 1949. Its twenty-first printing in 1986 is a strong testimony to the enduring quality of what has become a genuine classic in contemporary literature.[60]

Devine points out that Bonhoeffer’s message of fellowship is needed more than ever in the 21st century evangelical, consumer-driven church:

…evangelicals, at the beginning of the twenty-first century are experiencing a renewed interest, if not in the doctrine of the church as such, certainly in the quest for community. With the waning, if not the collapse of denominational loyalty in America, the mobility of evangelicals between congregations has never been greater. Local churches minister in a highly competitive, Christian-consumer, winner take-all environment. Perhaps as never before, joining a church may do little to satisfy the current self-conscious search for community.[61]

Costly Grace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s most famous work is The Cost of Discipleship, published first in 1937.[62] Todd Kappelman writes that “This book is a rigorous exposition and interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, and Matthew 9:35-10:42.”[63] Eberhard Bethge points out that: “Many of the great men of the Protestant tradition, like Luther and Barth, have made their reputation with a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans; Bonhoeffer made himself to a wider circle with an exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount.”[64]

John de Gruchy, in Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ, writes that Bonhoeffer first began to explore Christ’s radical call to follow him while he was an “unpaid lecturer” at the University of Berlin[65]:

During his two years (1931-33) at the university he became a ‘minor sensation’, attracting a significant number of students to his lively seminars. Many of the insights which later found expression in The Cost of Discipleship were first explored in the informal discussions which Bonhoeffer had with the circle of students who gathered around him.[66]

It was also through his formal lectures at the university where Bonhoeffer could develop the connection between theology and reality in the world:

Bonhoeffer’s formal lectures began with a course on “The History of Systematic Theology in the 20th Century”. Then followed the series on the essence of the church, Christian ethics, “Creation and Sin” (published later as Creation and Fall), and finally, Christology. Also of note is his seminar on Hegel in the Summer of 1933.

These lectures provide the bridge between his early theology and that which follows in the church struggle and in prison. They demonstrate Bonhoeffer’s new commitment to doing theology from the perspective of committed discipleship to Jesus Christ as Lord of the world.[67]

Bonhoeffer’s chief concern in the The Cost of Discipleship is that “grace…has become so watered down that it no longer resembles the grace of the New Testament, the costly grace of the Gospels.”[68] Bonhoeffer called this a “cheap grace”[69] and it had “been the ruin of more Christians than any other commandment of works.”[70] Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” as: “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”[71]

“Costly grace”, on the other hand, is:

…is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.[72]

Of all the works of Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship is certainly his “angriest book—possibly his one ‘angry’ book…none of Bonhoeffer’s early works reveal him inflamed and vehement, as this book does. The tone throughout the book is entirely serious, rarely speculative, often rhetorically powerful—but always angry.”[73]

There is an idea of Bonhoeffer’s anger in the first chapter of the book:

We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcase of cheap grace, and there we have a drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ…To be “Lutheran” must mean that we leave the following of Christ to legalists. Calvinists and enthusiasts—and all this for the sake of grace.

We justified the world, and condemned as heretics those who tried to follow Christ. The result was that a nation became Christian and Lutheran, but at the cost of true discipleship. The price it was called to pay was all too cheap. Cheap grace had won the day.[74]

There was urgency for Bonhoeffer to complete the book because he believed that true discipleship was the only hope for Germany:

The conditions Bonhoeffer faced are simple reason enough why. He wrote the book between 1935 and 1937, while directing the seminary at Finkenwalde. Hitler by now had roused the German people to a nationalistic furor and an utter blindness to social responsibility. The imprisonment and terrorization of Jews raged through the large cities. Any outspoken criticisms of the Nazi regime, including those from the Confessing Church, were quickly squelched.

Germany had been, not too long ago, a “Christian” nation; now men and women continued to attend church services, but the real spirit of Christianity had dimmed to a darkness. At this time Bonhoeffer wrote his strongest book, a challenge to Christian discipleship, because he believed that only a real return to the Christian faith could save Germany.[75]

This challenge of Bonhoeffer has been heard and accepted outside of Protestant circles. The Catholic Hermes Donald Kreilkamp wrote that:

The message of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is not an easy message, even for believers. But it was Bonhoeffer’s response to the Jesus who said, “If anyone wishes to be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Christ meant this more literally than most of us imagine; that certainly was Bonhoeffer’s conviction.[76]

The Cost of Discipleship is not without its critics who see “The Cost of Discipleship” as “an unfortunate detour in the direction of Bonhoeffer’s theological development.”[77] Kuhns summarizes the criticism:

Its seeming emphasis on personal sanctification, the Christians’ aloofness from the world, and a “religious sense” verging on piety have, they say, distorted the real Bonhoeffer, the champion of “religionless Christianity.” They are fond of quoting his letter from Tegel prison of July 21, 1944: “I once thought I could acquire faith by trying to live a holy life, or something like it. It was in that phase that I wrote The Cost of Discipleship. Today I can see the dangers of the book, though I am prepared to stand by what I wrote.”[78]

According to Kuhns, “by quoting Bonhoeffer, such critics provide their own rebuttals. ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ was written during a distinct place of Bonhoeffer’s life.”[79] Kuhns continues:

In 1936 Bonhoeffer was highly conscious of the Confessing Church’s precarious situation, the need for deep spiritual motivation among the ministers he was training, and, not least of all, his own state of personal danger. Such conditions hardly discourage one from living a holy life in the sight of God, and hoping in that.

It is perfectly understandable that The Cost of Discipleship would reflect this urgency for a holy, personal life. The book, however, reflects more; it is a sign of Bonhoeffer’s faith in the world—even at this time—that nothing in The Cost of Discipleship really contradicts the central passage written later in the July 21 letter: “It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe.” The book might emphasize heavily to Christian’s separation from the world—but never to the point of any lack of responsibility to it.[80]

For Bonhoeffer, if a follower of Jesus was responsible in the world, it meant obedience to Jesus. He wrote that there are formidable “forces” and obstacles which try “to interpose themselves between the word Jesus and the response of obedience…But the call of Jesus made short work of all these barriers, and created obedience. That call was the Word of God himself, and all that it required was single-minded obedience.”[81]

Many have written about Bonhoeffer’s understanding of Christ’s radical call to follow him. Kelly and Nelson write that The Cost of Discipleship has become a “genuine classic in Christian spirituality.”[82] They write that the book is the solution to Bonhoeffer’s “problem” of slipping into a “‘soft’ Christianity…within a comfortable church ministry.”[83]

Kelly and Nelson continue: “The question was a troubling intruder into his budding success story: What was he as a Christian to do about the “impossible demands of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount? His answer…became a call to a simple, unflinching obedience.”[84]

Bonhoeffer was able to “give more concrete shape to the hold that the Sermon on the Mount had exerted in his own life”[85] while he was director at the Finkenwalde seminary:

For the young seminarians, the thoughts Bonhoeffer shared with them on this theme led to that exhilarating experience of being drawn into a revolutionary movement. At stake were Christianity in Germany and, indeed, Christian faith itself. The German title of this work (Nachfolge) states in one word not only what Bonhoeffer perceived to be the vocation of a Christian minister but also what happened to him at a crucial turning point in his spiritual life. Following Christ! [86]

A key principle for Bonhoeffer in the book was obedience to Jesus: “the book puts forth what Bonhoeffer himself had come to hear in the Sermon on the Mount: Christ’s Word, commanding obedience.”[87] To Bonhoeffer, this obedience to Christ “meant abandoning his own careerism and embracing dedicated servanthood—even to the point of becoming a prophetic critic of his church.”[88]

From Bonhoeffer’s perspective, the church in Germany was self-serving, had accommodated herself to evil and, “often, an open endorsement of Hitler’s plans for nationalistic expression.”[89] Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship to confront the unfaithfulness of the church:

In the context of such church infidelity, Bonhoeffer’s book confronts individual Christian and Christian community alike with the crisis point of their faith: they are called to the same obedience that Christ’s first followers heard. This is the “costly grace” of discipleship…The situation in Germany under the spell of Nazism, Bonhoeffer claims, is identical to that faced by the first disciples asked to choose whether or not to follow Christ.[90]

Kelly and Nelson point out that Bonhoeffer somewhat wrestles with the tension between fully representing the presence of Jesus in Nazi Germany and yet opposing the undermining of the church’s authority by Hitler:

The thorniest aspect of this choice, which is only partially resolved in the book, is how to be fully decisive in one’s opposition to the Nazi inculturation of church and society and how, at the same time, to affirm a church presence in and Christ’s lordship over the world.

The Christian is one who has promised to follow Christ even should this mean an inglorious martyrdom for refusing to worship the god national socialism…For Bonhoeffer, the call (to follow Jesus) was clear: self-sacrificing faith and wholehearted solidarity with one’s neighbor, particularly those of one’s community and those cast out by a heartless society.[91]

Concerning The Cost of Discipleship Karl Barth wrote in 1955 that Bonhoeffer not only wrote the definitive work on the subject of discipleship, but he also lived it out:

The matter (of Christian discipleship) is handled with such depth and precision that I am almost tempted simply to reproduce them…in an extended quotation. For I cannot hope to say anything better on the subject than what is said here by a man who, having written on discipleship, was ready to achieve it in his own life, and did in his own way achieve it even to the point of death.[92]

G. K. A. Bell, wrote in the “Forward” in The Cost of Discipleship that “‘When Christ calls a man,’ says Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘he bids him come and die.’ There are different kinds of dying, it is true; but the essence of discipleship is contained in those words…Dietrich himself was a martyr many times over before he died.”[93]

G. Leibholz explained the “Memoir” section of The Cost of Discipleship that Bonhoeffer never was content to simply “follow” Jesus through mere words:

It was his brotherly love of his fellow-men which also caused Bonhoeffer to believe that it was not enough to follow Christ by preaching, teaching and writing. No, he was in deadly earnest when he called for Christian action and self-sacrifice. This explains why Bonhoeffer always acted spontaneously, “in hiding,” far from publicity, and why he considered self-righteousness and complacency great sins against the Holy Spirit and regarded ambition and vanity as the start to hell.[94]

G. Leibholz also writes that Bonhoeffer’s example provides hope for the church in the future:

We have not found Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s grave, but the memory of his life will safely be guarded, not only in the hearts of those who are indissolubly united with him, but also in the heart of the Church who draws her life-blood again and again from those who “follow him.”

…Bonhoeffer’s life and death have given us great hope for the future. He has set a model for a new type of true leadership inspired by the gospel, daily ready for martyrdom and death and imbued by a new spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civil duty. The victory which he has won was a victory for us all, a conquest never to be undone, of love, light and liberty.[95]

Standing Against Evil in Society

Much has been written on Bonhoeffer, who on the one hand was a pacifist, and on the other hand, was involved in the resistance that actively sought to remove Adolf Hitler from power. This is an intriguing area of his life because there seems to be a contradiction between Bonhoeffer before he joined Abwehr in 1939 and Bonhoeffer after he joined Abwehr.

Abwehr was the “counterintelligence agency of the armed forces in Nazi Germany.”[96] Many members of Abwehr were part of the German resistance movement that provided “cover-ups for the resistance activities.”[97] Abwehr also actively plotted for the assassination of Adolf Hitler.[98] Bonhoeffer was a civilian member of Abwehr from 1939 until his arrest in 1943.[99]

What were the circumstances that led Bonhoeffer to join Abwehr? Is it even possible to arrive at a logical conclusion? Larry Rasmussen, in Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance writes:

How is it that this man, neither born nor educated for conspiracy, nevertheless moved through many forms and stages of passive and active resistance, including conspiracy, until he was hanged for his participation in the plot to end the reign of Adolf Hitler? How is it that he, so self-consciously an admirer of Martin Luther, departed from almost all his Lutheran colleagues in sounding pacifist themes and carrying out conspiratorial deeds?[100]

For some, there are not always clear answers to those questions. At times, his writings and life are hard to understand. Peter Vorkink II said:

Interpretations of the life and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer are like the answers elicited by a Rorschach test—no two commentators see the same things…What Bonhoeffer really meant and what he would have said had he lived has become a wide-open pastime, little previous experience required.[101]

Despite the difficulty in always understanding Bonhoeffer, his perseverance and example during a dark period of the twenty-first century continues to inspire people across the spectrum. Martin E. Marty observes: “Between East and West, Protestant and Catholic, Liberal and Conservative, clergyman and layman, theologian and activist, Calvinist and Lutheran, across the ecumenical spectrum (Bonhoeffer) has stood as a symbol.”[102]

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was made chancellor of Germany[103] ushering in a period of “twelve years that shook the earth.”[104] From the onset of Hitler’s control, Bonhoeffer was actively promoting the cause of Jesus though Germany was rapidly falling under the dark cloud of Nazism:

By midsummer of 1933, Hitler was master of Germany. The Lutheran Church fell quickly under his spell. The socialist party within the church, soon known as the German Christians, won elections in July, and nominated Ludwig Muller, handpicked by Hitler, Reich Bishop. Bonhoeffer made his way to Gestapo headquarters for the first time, already questioning the compatibility of loyalty to Jesus Christ and membership in a church that, in his mind, had lapsed into heresy.[105]

Renate Wind described the weeks and months that followed Hitler’s rise to power as a mass exodus from responsibility into a cult of the Fuhrer…not only a large part of the nation but almost all the Protestant church was prostrate before the Fuhrer.”[106]

One pastor from the Rhineland named Paul Humburg took the tune of a well-known Nazi hymn, the Horst Wessel, and composed the following verse that appealed to the church of Germany:

All hands to work, young Germany risks anew,

Germany, the battle cry in need and death,

The Fuhrer calls, we gladly rejoice.

The day before us, and our strength is God.[107]

One of the Fuhrer’s first tasks was to purge Germany of people with Jewish ancestry. On April 1, 1933, there was a national one-day boycott of Jewish owned businesses in Germany.[108] Six days later, the Aryan Civil Service banned all people of Jewish ancestry from employment in civil service, including jobs with the state and church.[109] This became known as the “Aryan Clause”.[110]

Later that month, Bonhoeffer addressed a group of Berlin pastors who met monthly to discuss theological matters.[111] His address, which later published as “The Church and the Jewish Question”,[112] was the first public response to the church’s responsibility to the Jews in society.[113]

In that address, Bonhoeffer referred to the Nazi government as the “wheel”.[114] And the church can respond to the “wheel” in three ways. First, “it can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as state, i.e., it can throw the state back on its responsibilities.”[115]

Second, if the “wheel” runs over and hurts people in society, then the church has the responsibility to “bandage the victims.”[116] Third, the church even had the responsibility to “put a spoke in the wheel itself.”[117] That statement caused many of Bonhoeffer’s fellow pastors to leave the room: “Dietrich gave the rest of his lecture to an almost empty room.

His demand that the church must be prepared for political resistance had flabbergasted most of his audience. With this attitude, Dietrich remained alone in his church.”[118]

Despite the lack of support from his brethren in the church, Bonhoeffer pressed forward to formalize a proper, Biblical doctrine that defined the relationship between the church and the world. William Kuhns writes that this pursuit would consume Bonhoeffer during the middle years of 1930’s:

The question became urgent during the Nazi regime: how should the church respond to the Jewish persecution, the nation’s preparation for an aggressive war, the intoxication of the people with a dangerous leader? Bonhoeffer realized that a major reason for the failure of the Confessing Church in Germany was a lack of theological doctrine of Church and world.

Worse: the absence of such a doctrine forced upon the Church an unreal notion of itself which was, as Bonhoeffer later suggested in his prison letters, essentially self-destructive…his writings of the period between 1932 and 1936 show a recurring questioning of the relationship, and a circling effort to define the problem.[119]

During these years, Bonhoeffer was also able to lay the groundwork for his work, Ethics which he began in 1940.[120] Bonhoeffer considered this his main work in his life: “I sometimes feel as if my life were more or less over, and as if all I had to do were to finish my ‘Ethics’”.[121] One will not find a systematic doctrine of the relationship between the church and state in Ethics:

According to Bonhoeffer, the movement from life in the Christian community to service of one’s neighbor is the only one true movement toward God that God’s gift of faith makes possible. He argues, moreover, that the demand for spontaneity in one’s response to people in need makes it impossible to produce a systematic ethic. Every changing situation of need can become the specific locus of God’s command.[122]

This “demand for spontaneity” explains why it seemed that Bonhoeffer went from a pacifist to an active role in the assassination of Adolf Hitler. When he wrote The Cost of Discipleship in 1937,[123] Bonhoeffer “offered a compelling argument on behalf of pacifism as blessed in Jesus’ beatitudes…”[124] However, when he wrote Ethics:

…his thoughts…became conditioned by the reality of an entrenched, seemingly insurmountable evil that no ordinary means, least of all that of pacifism, appeared capable of nullifying. The times called for another approach, one inspirited by his practical sense of responsibility for the victims of Nazism and his trust in the incarnate presence and forgiving power of Jesus Christ.[125]

Larry Rasmussen offers legitimate questions about this possible shifting of Bonhoeffer’s position:

But what about that most intriguing journey of all, from a committed Christian pacifism to Christian participation in tyrannicide and coup d’etat? What explains Bonhoeffer’s twisting path of resistance in the Church Struggle and in the military-political conspiracy? Does this journey, varied in form and perhaps contradictory and ethically problematic, also belong and hold together?[126]

To Bonhoeffer, however, there was no contradiction because he would maintain that his devotion to the example of Jesus allowed times for pacifism and also times for a more active role in representing Christ in the world:

Although the peacemaking dimensions of Bonhoeffer’s Christian spirituality seemed muted by his arguments in Ethics in favor of tyrannicide and violent interventions to the end of the war, in truth Bonhoeffer’s reliance on Jesus Christ’s example and mandates of responsibility never ceased to be his primary motivating force…To act on behalf of the victims of the widespread suffering inflicted by Nazism militaristic bloodletting meant that law-abiding citizens had to break the laws and plan the violent death of a dictator.[127]

Rasmussen also argues that there was no inconsistency in Bonhoeffer, and that the seemingly different approaches to Nazism are simply the unfolding of his Christology:

…Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s resistance activity was his Christology enacted with utter seriousness. Bonhoeffer’s resistance was the existential playing out of christological themes. Changes and shifts in his Christology were at the same time changes and shifts in the character of his resistance. In the other direction, changes in his resistance activity had an impact on his Christology.[128]

Bonhoeffer’s varied responses corresponded to the three possible responses of the church he outlined in his address, “The Church and the Jewish Question” in April of 1933.[129] In the early years, Bonhoeffer’s response resembled “something of a ‘pacifist.’” [130] But as the historical conditions changed, Bonhoeffer reacted accordingly.

For example, Bonhoeffer eventually was involved in smuggling Jews out of Germany. He was a civilian member of Abwehr[131] from 1938 until his arrest in 1943.[132] This was the German Intelligence Service. Bonhoeffer’s brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, a staff member of Abwehr, recruited him as a front for exemption from being drafted into the military.[133] This gave Bonhoeffer an appearance of loyalty to the Nazis.

Bonhoeffer’s involvement with a movement to smuggle Jews out of Germany again corresponded with his essay, “The Church and the Jewish Question”. In it, Bonhoeffer appealed to itHitlHGalatians 6:10 as support to bandage the wounds of the Jewish people: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” He argued that “the church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.”[134]

There was a biblical mandate for Bonhoeffer to risk his own life to save others. This risk became more apparent as conditions worsened in Germany. Kuhns writes that the “need was sharper, more urgent.”[135]

A demonic government was dragging the German people into destruction and ripping open Europe at the same time. What the world needed most now was not peace, not a quieting of the havoc, nor even primarily an effort to rescue the victims of the havoc. “The third possibility,” Dietrich had written in 1932, “is not just to bandage victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself.”

The historical moment made that third alternative for Bonhoeffer an imperative…In terms of the historical moment, then, Bonhoeffer’s transition to conspiracy against the government is not a total reorientation…What Bonhoeffer did when he became involved in the Abwehr circle makes sense in terms of what he always believed and hoped in. For he believed more deeply in relating to the present, in identifying the concrete needs of the moment, than in simple pacifism.[136]

Kuhns also argues that there were other motivations for Bonhoeffer’s “new form of action…One motivation may well have been a disillusionment with pacifism.”[137]

Bonhoeffer embraced pacifism largely because it held a tactical advantage: it answered a need. But the coming of the War made pacifism an individual (and highly risky) decision, and by obliterating the very peace which Bonhoeffer had struggled for, made his style of pacifism somewhat obsolete. And obsolescence was something which Bonhoeffer instinctively abhorred.

Another motivation may figure in, Bonhoeffer’s growing disappointment with the Confessing Church. In the late 1930’s an effort had been made by Reich Church and Confessing Church leaders to consolidate the two churches. Bonhoeffer had violently opposed the effort. And though it failed, the attempt seriously weakened the Confessing Church—to the point at which its leaders were far more worried about its stability than the salvation of the people it was intended to serve.

Had the Confessing Church actually done what Bonhoeffer hoped it would do—sharpen consciences, stimulate critical thought about German life under the regime, identify the imperatives of discipleship to Christ in the present—then very possibly Bonhoeffer never would have had to enter the resistance.

A third reason for entering resistance was certainly Bonhoeffer’s profound love for Germany and the German people. In his 1939 letter to inform Niebuhr that he was suddenly leaving America, Bonhoeffer wrote: “I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of the Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”

A final and related reason for Bonhoeffer’s entry into the resistance would be the very terms in which he conceived resistance action. “Our action,” he told Bishop Bell in their meeting in Stockholm in 1942, “must be such that the world will understand it as an act of repentance.”

In his meeting with W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft in 1941, he described resistance as a salvaging action, and an act of repentance: salvaging, in that out of the war would be plucked the foundation of a new international order of justice; repentance, meaning in his own words that “only in defeat can we atone for the terrible crimes we have committed against Europe and the world.”

Out of this context, out of these motivations, Bonhoeffer took part in a conspiracy to end the Third Reich. A man who loved his country and could not bear to see it drag Europe into another holocaust; a man whose disappointment with earlier causes made him realize that the times called for action of heroic and desperate proportions; a man whose commitment to pacifism followed from a deeper commitment, which led him in time to resistance: this was Bonhoeffer.[138]

Bonhoeffer’s involvement with Abwehr was a means for him to put a “spoke” in the wheel of Nazism in order to jam it. Bonhoeffer explained his reasoning in joining the resistance to his sister-in-law Emmi Bonhoeffer. He told her: “If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”[139]

Mark Devine explained Bonhoeffer’s motive to wrestle the steering wheel out of the madman’s hands:

Without taking a dogmatic position, perhaps we can say that Bonhoeffer fairly consistently maintained a strong Christian aversion to the use of violence, accepting its inevitability only as a last resort. This leaves aside the question of the criteria by which believers recognize whether last resort conditions are met.

What we can say with real confidence is that Bonhoeffer found retreat from the concrete problems on humankind on supposed Christian or theological grounds intolerable. Better to sin boldly and let grace abound (Luther) than to welcome and enjoy the benefits of Hitler’s assassination by others while smugly adoring and displaying one’s own ostensibly clean hands!

Bonhoeffer’s pacifism accepted agonizing participation in violence, asking for forgiveness all along the way but refusing to stand by and let nonbelievers do the dirty work.[140]

Kelly and Nelson write that the changing circumstances forced Bonhoeffer to abandon the more peaceful forms of resistance: “But by, 1938, given the mood for compromise, the drive for civil legitimation, and the rise of a national patriotism, then eroding Confessing Church resistance, Bonhoeffer had been edged past mere church agitation toward the more murkier actions demanded by a political-military conspiracy.”[141]

Among the “murkier actions” was Bonhoeffer’s silence in ecclesiastical circles. The reason was that his involvement with Abwehr allowed him to be aware of “damning information from the conspirators.”[142] The sharing of this information would certainly put his peers in danger.

Bonhoeffer’s involvement with Abwehr eventually led to his arrest on April 5, 1943.[143] Abwehr was responsible for “Operation 7”[144], a plan to transport a small group of Jews out of Germany. Abwehr provided passports and papers to Jews allowing them to pose as Abwehr agents. Bonhoeffer was heavily involved in “Operation 7”:

Bonhoeffer was also instrumental in the implementation of a top-secret plan to assist the smuggling of Jews out of Germany, referred to as “Operation 7.” Three times he crossed the border himself to Switzerland, connecting with key ecumenical figures such as Karl Barth, W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft, and others. He was able to make several important contacts for the resistance. Together with Helmut Count von Moltke, he also traveled to Norway under the auspices of the Abwehr.[145]

Bonhoeffer’s most dangerous journey came in the spring of 1942, when he met with his ecumenical friend, Bishop George Bell of England, in Sigtuna, Sweden: “The crucial importance of this mission can scarcely be exaggerated”[146]:

In this secret rendezvous, Bonhoeffer relayed to the bishop precise information, including names of key resisters in the German underground. The hope was that Bell would transmit this important message to the British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, thence to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and further to Franklin Roosevelt.

It was hoped that the Allies would initiate a contract with the resistance, negotiating a compromise peace after Hitler had been overthrown in a coup. There was no return message by Allied leaders. The “unconditional surrender” policy of the Allied leaders seemed set in stone, much to the consternation of the resistance movement and also at great cost of life during the final two years of the war.[147]

However, the Gestapo learned that Abwehr was using Jews as military agents.[148] This led to an investigation into “Operation 7”. In October of 1942, Abwehr agent, Consul Wilhelm Schmidhuber was arrested. He was one of Bonhoeffer’s superiors. During interrogation, “Bonhoeffer’s name had surfaced.”[149] This eventually led to the arrest of Bonhoeffer in April of 1943. He was thirty-seven years old at the time.[150]

A few months prior to his arrest, Bonhoeffer wrote the essay, “After Ten Years.” It was a Christmas gift to his closest fellow resisters “when the race between arrest and success was close. This was also a time when Bonhoeffer knew that the Reich Security Head Office was gathering evidence against him.”[151] “After Ten Years” was Bonhoeffer’s attempt to “give some account of what we have experienced and learnt in common during these years.”[152]

Todd Kappelman writes that in this essay, “Bonhoeffer identifies with the evil of the times, and especially the war. He speaks of the unreasonable situations which reasonable people must face.”[153] One lesson that Bonhoeffer learned ten years after Hitler took power was the need for civil courage among citizens when evil prevailed:

What lies behind the complaint about the dearth of civil courage? In recent years we have seen a great deal of bravery and self-sacrifice, but civil courage hardly anywhere, even among ourselves. To attribute this simply to personal cowardice would be too facile a psychology; its background is quite different.

In a long history, we Germans have had to learn the need for and the strength of obedience. In the subordination of all personal wishes and ideas to the tasks to which we have been called, we have seen the meaning and the greatness of our lives. We have looked upwards, not in servile fear, but in free trust, seeing in our tasks a call, and in our call a vocation.[154]

Bonhoeffer continued by reminding his fellow conspirators that Germany has a proud history of having the freedom to follow a “command” outside of self in order to serve “the community.”[155] Yet, this same freedom to obey and follow can be “exploited for evil ends.”[156] And it was at this point when courage failed the German people:

When that happened, the exercise of the calling itself became questionable, and all the moral principles of the German were bound to totter. The fact could not be escaped that the German still lacked something fundamental: he could not see the need for free and responsible action, even in opposition to his task and his calling; in its place there appeared on the one hand an irresponsible lack of scruple, and on the other a self-tormenting punctiliousness that never led to action.[157]

Rasmussen points out that even though Bonhoeffer advocated the freedom to act against oppression, he stops short of making such freedom normative:

Bonhoeffer immediately counters an ethic in which unbound freedom is normative. Certainly the man of unbound freedom knows the necessary deed and practice the art of compromise as well. He might also be clearly cognizant that compromise may prove the wrong tack and that a fruitful radicalism may be the demand of the hour instead.

He is free to move in any and all of these directions…Bonhoeffer falls short here of his standing criticism of an ethic that makes free responsibility normative, i.e., an ethic that ignores law as a generally binding boundary…he concludes that the exceptional act must never be made the normative one, that necessity must not become a principle.[158]

Nevertheless, there will be times when citizens must be “exceptionalin their actions. This leads to another lesson in the essay. The Church also has the responsibility to take an active role against tyranny. Bonhoeffer wrote:

We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not from fear, but from liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer.

Mere waiting and looking is not Christian behavior. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered.[159]

While the essay is “an account of the resistance experience and not an essay in Christology or theological ethics…Bonhoeffer does not omit deep-running themes of his christological ethic.”[160] It was the sufferings of others that call Christians into action. Kelly and Nelson write:

The essay is a reminder of the ideals for which they were joined in the struggle. They could derive satisfaction only from the example of Christ in his willingness to suffer for others and in that remarkable solidarity with the oppressed that had continued to animate their decisions to deliver their nation from Nazism.[161]

There certainly was a progression in Bonhoeffer’s actions from 1933 to 1943. This progression was, again based on the three responses he outlined in the 1933 essay, “The Church and the Jewish Question.” The conditions in Germany and Europe eventually reached the point where it was necessary to jam the wheel.

Bonhoeffer knew that murder was morally wrong. Yet, Hitler was guilty of horrifying massacres of countless Jews and others. When Bonheoffer realized the gravity of terror inside the walls of the Nazi death camps, he concluded that he could no longer passively sit and watch millions of innocent people die because of the evil of Hitler.

In 1939 when the Confessing Church in Germany lost her backbone to stand up to Hitler, Bonhoeffer joined the resistance. His activities within the Abwehr progressed to the point of committing treason.

By 1940, Bonhoeffer believed that his involvement in the conspiracy to remove Hitler from power was the only path that “made any sense.”[162] Yet, Bonhoeffer was always careful to make sure that his devotion to Christ was the overriding reason to take such a path. In the same way that Jesus suffered and died for the oppressed, they sacrificed their lives for the sake of the oppressed. Bonhoeffer, thus, identified with Jesus through his own suffering and eventual execution.

Serving Jesus in Severe Trials

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.[163] 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.”[164]

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 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.[165]

It was unfortunate because “The Essence of Christianity” would have been Bonhoeffer’s “most mature important thought.”[166] On April 30, 1944, Bonhoeffer described in a letter Eberhard Bethge his thoughts on “religionless Christianity.”[167] Bonhoeffer was concerned that church people in Germany were content to simply wear a thin “garment” of Christianity.[168] 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…[169]

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.[170]

“Religionless Christianity” is connected with costly grace and obedience to 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.[171]

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.[172] Even from his days as the director of the Finkenwalde Seminary, he looked forward to the revitalization of the church.[173] Bonhoeffer longed for the day to come when the church would no longer be self-serving and cowardly.

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.[174] In September of 1937, the Seminary at Finkenwalde was closed by the Gestapo.[175] On January 11, 1938, Bonhoeffer was informed that he could no longer work in Berlin.[176] On September 9, 1940, he was prohibited to speak publicly and was ordered to regularly check in with the police.[177] On April 5, 1943 he was arrested and imprisoned.[178] In July of that year, Bonhoeffer went through intense interrogation.[179] On February 2, 1945, he was sentenced to death and on April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenberg.[180]

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.” [181]

Yet, this passivity and inaction of the church would allow for the “the insidious Nazi takeover of the churches.”[182] 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 was an “ecclesiastical counterpart to the political leadership of Adolf Hitler.”[183] 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”[184] 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.[185]

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.”[186] This organization would eventually form the “Confessing Church of Germany.” [187]

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”.[188] 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.[189]

In May of 1934, the Confessing Church adopted the “Barmen Declaration”.[190] 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.”[191]

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.[192]

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.”[193]

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.”[194] Over the course of time, as more pastors were imprisoned, the voice of the Confessing Church lost her 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.[195] 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.”[196] This became known as “Krisallnacht(Crystal Night)[197] because broken glass littered the streets in the towns and cities “after that night of devastation and terror.”[198]

Bonhoeffer was stunned and angry that “only a few pastors spoke out against this latest violence against the Jews and their places of worship.”[199] The other church leaders withdrew “into a pious silence.”[200] 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.”[201] Kelly and Nelson write that “scarcely any pastors or church leaders spoke out against these acts of blatant anti-Semitism. Bonhoeffer himself was outraged.”[202]

All the personal setbacks and disappointments with the church emphasized the need to Bonhoeffer for the church to become “religionless.” Bonhoeffer came to realize “that religion, however helpful in previous ages, was now an obstacle to genuine faith in Jesus Christ.”[203] Bonhoeffer was not seeking to propose “an apologetic for Christianity, nor a dilution of the Christian message.”[204]

Bonhoeffer’s concern was that the church’s “openness to the world would…lead to a loss of Christian identity and substance, and ‘righteous action’ alone could not sustained for long.”[205] A “religionless Christianity” would restore the courage and substance to the church because believers would be strengthened through genuine community and the spiritual disciplines.

David H. Jensen writes that even though Bonhoeffer’s “religionless Christianity” was not fully developed and often misunderstood, it is nevertheless christocentric:

In a letter to Eberhard Bethge dated April 30, 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrestles with the idea of a “religionless Christianity.” Although Bonhoeffer approaches this idea more in form of questions and less as an explicit theological topic, this has not deterred legions of interpreters from seizing his catch phrase for a bewildering array of theological projects.

From “Death of God” theologians to post-modernists, “religionless Christianity” has served as a rallying cry for a new way of Christian thinking (and acting) in the world. Though the details of Bonhoeffer’s proposal of “religionless Christianity” are sketchy at best, the questions that he asks become especially relevant as Christianity approaches its twenty-first century and confronts issues of religious pluralism more openly.

For Bonhoeffer, “religionless Christianity” is as steadfastly christocentric as it is a model of face-to-face encounter and solidarity with others in a world of difference. In an age that should herald the death of Christian triumphalism, Bonhoeffer’s alternative posture may allow Christians to hold fast to their core confessions about Jesus Christ without obscuring the claim and wisdom of religious others.[206]

Bonhoeffer, according to Jensen, was convinced that most “God-talk” was either “strange or irrelevant to modern ears.”[207] Another dangerous tendency was that religion had become “autonomous” and inward, and thus, had “run its course with even more disastrous consequences. A preoccupation with personal (and national) salvation had so turned the Christian eye away from others that the church now manifested itself in a monstrously distorted cult of uniformity.”[208]

Thus, the church was rendered “both irrelevant in the face of crisis and incapable of openness to vulnerable others beyond its walls…For Bonhoeffer, this focus on religion resulted in an impotent church, incapable of sustaining the new life it had been entrusted to proclaim.”[209]

A “religionless Christianity” is a sharp “contrast to a religion that would insulate Christians within the irrelevant confines of their Sunday sanctuaries” and it will return the church to Christ, “the person of difference—and a return to a world in its turmoil and struggle.”[210] This return to Jesus within a “religionless Christianity” would free Christians from the previous insulation of the church:

Bonhoeffer can thus say that Christ takes hold of Christians at the center of their lives, while at the same time recognizing that it is also Christ who launches Christians into a world of suffering and difference. Hurled into the midst of this world, Christians are not to assume a sense of privilege, but to relinquish privilege for the sake of others.

Bonhoeffer’s steadfast christocentrism thus results in a model of discipleship that is thoroughly eccentric. If we follow its contours, a “religionless Christianity” might otherwise be expressed as “being-for-others-in-Christ”—a commitment that involves the entire human life. Because the demand of this stance is great, the cost is likewise substantial: a “sharing” in the suffering of God in Christ.[211]

Bonhoeffer was aware of the risks of whole-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ when he first challenged the policies of Hitler back in 1933. Even though Bonhoeffer’s model of “religious Christianity” was not fully developed when he was executed, it was very possible that his own practice of it sustained him during the years after 1933 and it helped prepare him for his impending death.

The Grace of Living and Dying Well

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s legacy is based on more than just his works. As seen above, 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.[212] 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.”[213]

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.”[214]

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.”[215]

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 inward and outward pressures, so that at certain stages the scale tipped more heavily to the one side and certain stages to the other.[216]

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.[217]

“Moral leaders” will be the fruit of the “new forms of church community.” Bonhoeffer shared his “experience” at Finkenwalde in the pages of “Life Together.” If this “new and different” way “to be the church” became a reality, then vibrant followers of Jesus would be produced:

In depicting that community in Life Together, Bonhoeffer also acknowledged the urgent need for the church to discover new and different ways to be the church. He thus emphasized the courageous following of Jesus Christ within a genuine community formed along the lines of the gospel, not the typical kind of church gatherings where strangers met and remained strangers, and whose dull blandness offered little resistance to the political ideology that had gained the allegiance of most churchgoers.

In Bonhoeffer’s spirituality, effective moral leadership and one’s personality strengths are supported in and through the sharing of convictions that takes place in genuine Christian communities where the teachings of Jesus Christ, not political ideology, should inspire believers.[218]

In such communities, the followers of Jesus should be inspired to “live out the gospel more intensely and thus cope more courageously with the crisis then overwhelming the German people and churches.”[219] Kelly and Nelson speculate that the German landscape would have been transformed and the atrocities committed during the war could have been avoided if genuine Christian communities were formed within the churches: “In hindsight, one wonders whether the slaughter that took place in the war and in the death camps could have been avoided had the Christians of Germany professed their faith in truly Christian communities like that directed by Bonhoeffer.”[220]

Though history turned out differently, Bonhoeffer himself served as a prototype in both his life and his death. An early example of this was that he displayed intensity during theological debates with his students at Finkenwalde, and yet he deeply cared for each of them. His assistant, Wilhelm Rott wrote that Bonhoeffer “always had time for the brethren.”[221] His compassion for his fellow believers grew out of his own passionate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.[222]

Bonhoeffer was known to be a “man of action.”[223] But his writings reveal that he was also “a man of deep, personal prayer.”[224] It was his fervent spirituality that sustained him and motivated him to stand for the truth of the Word of God:

His practice of quiet meditation on the Word of God helped him to become a unique advocate for truth and freedom as his own country was being overwhelmed with mendacious distortions of the truth by the Nazi government. The truth, as Bonhoeffer saw it, was that Jesus Christ was being crucified anew in the persecution of the Jews and dissidents and later in those murdered in the death camps and on the battlefields of World War II.[225]

Bonhoeffer’s resolve to spend time in prayer and scripture meditation strengthened him to stand up against the Nazi government:

His determination to resist Nazism was reinforced by his daily meditations on the biblical texts. It was in fact his dedication to prayer, as Bethge has observed, that kept Bonhoeffer’s conspiratorial actions from degenerating into self-righteousness, that buoyed his spirits with unflinching perseverance, that kept his pursuit of justice in line with the gospel. No prayer seemed complete for him unless it was linked to prophetic action for justice.[226]

Bonhoeffer’s final published book was a “lengthy commentary on the Psalms.”[227] It earned him a monetary fine from “Reich Board for the Regulation of Literature.” After Bonhoeffer appealed the fine, the Board threw at him a “strengthened prohibition against any further publishing venture on his part because of the ‘dangerous dogmatic and spiritual connections’ that conflicted with the prevailing Nazi ideology.”[228] It was Bonhoeffer’s longing in the commentary to “retrieve the Psalms as the prayer book of Jesus Christ himself”[229]:

Against the quasi-apocalyptic background of a Europe at war, a church divided, and a nation engaged in a malignant policy of genocide, Bonhoeffer’s study of the Psalms takes on a new life…The Psalms are God’s mode of enabling the followers of God’s son Jesus to speak to and with Jesus.

God hears those in the language of Jesus who, as God’s Word, allows his followers to enter into his own prayer and thus to find their way with Jesus back to God. Bonhoeffer argued that this prayer is God’s gift to the followers of Jesus because it focuses them not on themselves but on Jesus, the biblical center, who leads them to pray as God wants.[230]

Bonhoeffer wanted to put into the hearts of German Christians a practical way of enriching their prayer lives. For him, “the Psalms enabled him to cope with his own shifting moods amid all the vicissitudes of his ministry, including his imprisonment. The Psalms taught him that God was near in all the sorrows and joys, successes, and disappointments that had marked his own days.”[231] At the Finkenwalde seminary, Bonhoeffer often incorporated the Psalms into the “regular community prayer services.”[232]

This practice also encouraged and strengthened him even “during the most dismal days in Tegel prison.”[233]

The Psalms were for him the prayer of Jesus Christ, who, as Bonhoeffer claimed, perhaps paraphrasing Augustine’s “Dues intimior intimo meo” (God is more intimate to me than I am to myself), “knows us better than we know ourselves.”

It was predictable, therefore, that the prayers Bonhoeffer composed for his fellow prisoners were filled with the spirit of the Psalms. Their constant theme was to trust in God’s love and acceptance of whatever God has permitted in their regard.[234]

Bonhoeffer entered the Tegel Prison in Berlin on April 5, 1943.[235] There he ended each day in prison with praise[236] to God and prayer for his family and the people around him: “He commended into God’s hands at close of day his loved ones and his fellow prisoners, and even their wardens, as well as his own person. He asked for strength to bear what God might send and the courage to overcome their fears”[237] His devotion to Christ exceeded his own prison cell:

In the all-pervasive distress of prison life, he would say to God, “I trust in your grace and commit my life wholly into your hands. Do with me according to your will and as it is best for me. Whether I live or die, I am with you, and you, my God are with me.”

These prayers, which were circulated illegally among the cells, manifest many of the insights that helped guide Bonhoeffer’s own actions on behalf of peace and freedom and exude his concern for Christian community even in prison.[238]

Fellow prisoner and conspirator, Fabian von Schlabrendorff wrote that Bonhoeffer was concerned for the spiritual and emotional well-being of his fellow prisoners: “To the very end, Bonhoeffer took advantage of (their) condition by arranging prayer services, consoling those who had lost all hope, and giving them fresh courage. A towering rock of faith, he became a shining example to his fellow prisoners.”[239]

One student of Bonhoeffer’s spirituality, F. Burton Nelson realized “with a new appreciation the source of Bonhoeffer’s spiritual stamina and vitality—his constant, daily, childlike relationship to God.”[240]

Bonhoeffer’s fervent relationship with Jesus would also maintain him during his two years of imprisonment. This can be seen in a letter from prison to Eberhard Bethge on August 21, 1944:

It is certain that we may always live close to God and in the light of God’s presence, and that such living is an entirely new life for us; that nothing is then impossible for us, because all things are possible with God; that no earthly power can touch us without God’s will, and that danger and distress can only drive us closer to God.[241]

In the lonely darkness of a Nazi prison cell, Bonhoeffer’s spirit was not only strengthened and encouraged through the presence of Jesus, but ironically by the “community”[242] of Christ’s body. Not even the barb-wired fences and guarded cells could separate Bonhoeffer from the experience of fellowship with his brothers and sisters in Jesus:

But whether they were physically present or close to him in prayers and meditative reflections, Bonhoeffer experienced intense comfort from the thought that they were all “in a community that sustains (them).” He specified that such community in Jesus Christ was the “firm ground” on which he had taken his stand…Separated from his family and friends and denied the physical support of the Confessing Church while in prison, Bonhoeffer was strengthened by the thought of his being remembered in the prayers offered on his behalf.[243]

It was Bonhoeffer’s friendship with Eberhard Bethge that gave him the most joy and comfort. In his last letter to Bethge, dated August 23, 1944, he opened with: “Dear Eberhard, It’s always an almost indescribable joy to get letters from you. The peace and quiet in which your last letter was written was especially splendid.”[244] Later in the letter, Bonhoeffer writes:

Please don’t ever get anxious or worried about me, but don’t forget to pray for me—I’m sure you don’t! I am so sure of God’s guiding hand that I hope I shall always be kept in that certainty. You must never doubt that I’m travelling with gratitude and cheerfulness along the road where I’m being led. My past life is brim-full of God’s goodness, and my sins are covered by the forgiving love of Christ crucified.

I’m most thankful for the people I have met, and I only hope that they never have to grieve about me, but that they, too, will always be certain of, and thankful for, God’s mercy and forgiveness. Forgive my writing this, but let it make you happy. But I did not want to say it for once, and I couldn’t think of anyone else who I could be sure would take it aright.[245]

Kelly and Nelson write Bonhoeffer’s close relationship with Bethge was a key ingredient to Bonhoeffer’s strong faith:

In the intensity of such a friendship and mutual prayer, Bonhoeffer’s concern for personal survival and the safety of his loved ones yielded to the quiet confidence in God’s protection that made his eventual death an act of faith and resignation to what he perceived as his destiny under God’s salvific will.[246]

One other component found in Bonhoeffer’s life in prison was his poetry. From 1928 to 1943, there is not a single poem in his writings.[247] But then in June of 1944, he wrote the first of ten poems. It was entitled, “The Past” and it was “significant for the way it depicts Bonhoeffer’s sense of loss at having to be separated from his loved ones.[248] In the remaining months of 1944, Bonhoeffer composed the other nine poems[249]:

The tenth and final poem, “By the Powers for Good,” was written in the Gestapo cellars of Prinz Albrecht Strasse in Berlin, where prisoner Bonhoeffer had been transferred from Tegel Prison a few weeks earlier. This poem is widely known in the Christian world because of its having been adapted into a hymn and translated into a variety of languages. It included in church hymnals throughout the world.[250]

Bonhoeffer’s final poem, “By the Powers for Good” was dated December 19, 1944.[251] It was composed “…in the more severe surroundings of the Gestapo prison, where he was subjected to more intense interrogations…”[252] Bonhoeffer had been moved from the Tegel Prison to the Gestapo Prison at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse in Berlin on October 8, 1944.[253]

In this final poem, Bonhoeffer expressed his trust in the sovereign God who gives strength and endurance and hope in a dark world. There were “powers for good” that surrounded Bonhoeffer “even during the dire days of imprisonment”[254]. These “powers” were a source of comfort for Bonhoeffer:

With every power for good to stay and guide me,

Comforted and inspired beyond all fear,

I’ll live these days with you in thought beside me,

And pass, with you, into the coming year

The old year still torments our hearts, unhastening;

The long days of sorrow still endure;

Father, grant to the souls thou hast been chastening

That thou hast promised, the healing and the cure.

Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving

Even to the dregs of pain, at thy command,

We will not falter, thankfully receiving

All that is given by thy loving hand.

But should it be thy will once more to release us

To life’s enjoyment and its good sunshine,

That which we’ve learned from sorrow shall increase us,

And all our life be dedicate to thine.

Today, let candles shed their radiant greetings;

Lo, on our darkness are they not thy light

Leading us, haply, to our longed-for meeting?

Thou canst illumine even our darkest night.

When now the silence deepens for our hearkening,

Grant we may hear thy children’s voices raise

From all the unseen world around us darkening

Their universal paean, in thy praise.

While all the powers of good aid and attend us,

Boldly, we’ll face the future, come what may.

At even and at morn God will befriend us,

And oh, most surely on each newborn day![255]

There is a “paradoxical peace”[256] in the poem. Bonhoeffer experienced that peace of God in a harsh environment. Kelly and Nelson also point out that Bonhoeffer’s faith in cruel times can serve as an example for “moral”[257] leaders faced with opposition. It also follows the example of Jesus:

This poem offers unique insights into what can support Christian moral leaders, faced as they may be with frustration, opposition, rejection of their vision, and the shattering of their hopes. The sustaining forces for good are the same for Bonhoeffer as they can be for the Christian moral leader: faith in God’s promised grace, solace from the risen Lord ever present in life’s sorrows, and the breaking into each day of the divine love that overcomes hatred and the divine life that over comes death itself.[258]

Bonhoeffer’s poems “probably cannot be classified among the unforgettable, enduring gems of world literature, though they belong to an important epoch of Christian history.”[259] Even Bonhoeffer “exhibited no illusions about their literary excellence.”[260] Nevertheless, Bethge saw value in Bonhoeffer’s poetry:

Despite this disclaimer, Bonhoeffer’s biographer (Bethge) saw their value as poetry because of the special circumstances in which they were composed and because the poetry was shared in such a personal way with him. In the extreme conditions of imprisonment and Gestapo interrogations, Bonhoeffer had bared his soul as never before…They are efforts to overcome his isolation.[261]

Kelly and Nelson write that the poems of Bonhoeffer are important because “they serve as keys to interpret the moods and profound thoughts harbored by Bonhoeffer during the months of his forced confinement.”[262] His poems were an outlet for Bonhoeffer in his final months of life:

Bonhoeffer’s poems represent a way of expressing his profound feelings, his faith, his love for his friends, his struggle for freedom, and the depths of his prison and life experiences. The poems serve veritably as windows into his own soul, carrying the freight of his loneliness, his anxiety, his longings, his faith, and his spirituality. Not only are they in large measure links to his autobiography; they also reflect his personal assessment of the cost of his moral leadership in the midst of the Nazi nightmare.[263]

Edwin T. Robertson concludes that “the importance of the poems he wrote lies in the fact that they were the ultimate attempt to express his deepest feelings about himself, his friends, his church, the future of Germany, and his future.”[264] The future for Bonhoeffer was execution.

He knew that his death was nearing when he wrote the poem, “The Death of Moses” in September of 1944. This poem seems “to be an effort by Bonhoeffer in the more strained circumstances of the Gestapo’s tightening grip on the conspirators, to peer into the future and to see some meaning amidst the bleakness.”[265]

Bonhoeffer compared himself to Moses in that both of them were only given a glimpse of the future for their people. Death would hinder both of them from sharing in that future. The last lines were:

Hold me Fast!—for fallen is my stave,

O faithful God, make ready now my grave.[266]

Like Moses, who never entered into the Promised Land, Bonhoeffer would not be alive to see a new Germany after the war:

Bonhoeffer…saw himself as a Moses on the threshold of the Promised Land. He harbored hope in the midst of the massive destruction and ruin all about him, hope that out of the ashes and shattered lives a new Germany, a new Europe, and a new world might eventually arise.

His death he now understood and accepted for the sake of his people. He would not live to see their liberation but was content to know he had done all he could to share in the sufferings of Christ at the hands of the godless world of Nazism.[267]

Nevertheless, it was enough for Bonhoeffer to at least “see his people marching free.”[268] Bonhoeffer’s freedom would not come. By early 1945, “interrogations were taking a much more serious turn. Communication could no longer be maintained between those who had privy to conspiracy…Bonhoeffer…and others were being examined under torture, all were on trial for their lives.”[269]

Yet, there were glimmers of hope because there were curious elements in the interrogations…Their captors were plainly ill at ease. They could not remain unaware of the crumbling fortunes of the Nazi party…the British and Americans from the West and the Russians from the East were converging on Berlin.”[270]

At the same time, Hitler gave the orders that the trials of the conspirators “be prolonged in order that they might be forced to reveal as much as possible about the nationwide network of whose existence he was now convinced.”[271]

The uncertainty of the future “had not dimmed Bonhoeffer’s radiance or disturbed his peace.”[272] Fellow prisoner Fabian von Schlabrendorff would later write about Bonhoeffer:

He was always good tempered, always of the same kindliness and politeness towards everybody, so that to my surprise, within a short time, he won over his warders, who were not always kindly disposed. It was significant for our relationship that he was rather the hopeful one, while I now and then suffered from depressions. He always cheered me up and comforted me; he never tired of repeating that the only fight which we lose is that which we give up.[273]

On February 7, 1945, Bonhoeffer was moved to Buchenwald concentration camp.[274] There were twelve cells in the camp. Bonhoeffer was in cell number one. The author of The Venlo Incident, British Captain S. Payne Best was in cell number eleven. Captain Best verifies that even in Bonhoeffer’s final weeks, days and hours, he lived for the glory of Jesus. Bonhoeffer was deeply grateful for the fact that he was alive.[275]

In a letter, dated March 2, 1951, to Bonhoeffer’s sister, Sabine Leibholz, Best wrote that “Bonhoeffer was different; just calm and normal, seemingly perfectly at his ease…his soul really shone in the dark desperation of our prison.”[276] Bosanquet explains that Bonhoeffer “was passing the last landmarks in his spiritual journey”[277]:

The struggles of the Tegel days had ended in victory, and he seems to have attained that peace which is the gift of God and not as the world giveth. The struggle to abandon to God his rich and treasured past, the struggle with the last vestiges of his pride, the struggle to suffer, in full measure and yet in gratitude, his human longings and to remain open to others in the midst of his own pain; all this had led him to the experience of the Cross, in which at least, through a grasp of reality so intense that it fused all the elements of his being into a single shining whole, he learnt what life can be when “we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but the sufferings of God in the world.”

Out of this death to the last vestiges of self Bonhoeffer seems to have been raised up quietly, unspectacularly into the last stage of his life, in which he was made whole, made single, finally integrated in Christ. In a way more complete than any that had gone before, the Christian had become “the man for others, the disciple “as his Lord.” As we look back, struggling with such help as we have to pierce the obscurity that surrounds him in these last months, this seems to be the truth.[278]

As a man for others, Bonhoeffer’s generosity to his fellow prisoners became a constant theme. This was seen on April 3, when the prisoners were informed that they were being transferred to another facility. Sixteen prisoners and their luggage all tightly crammed into an eight passenger van.[279] The van was powered by a wood generator that filled the van with fumes. The van would often break down, so the prisoners just sat until the van could move.

Captain Best describes one of the stops: “There was no light, we had nothing to eat or drink nor, but for the generosity of Bonhoeffer, who, although a smoker, had saved up his scantly ration of tobacco and now insisted in contributing it to the common good, anything to smoke. He was a good and saintly man.”[280]

Captain Best also noted that while everyone, including Bonhoeffer, alternated between “hopes and fears”, Bonhoeffer did reach the stage of knowing that he could face any trial without fear: “He had always been afraid, that he would not be strong enough to stand such a test, but now he knew that there was nothing in life of which one need ever be afraid.”[281]

The prisoners finally made it to Schonberg on April 6. On April 8, a Sunday, Bonhoeffer led a small worship service for the prisoners: “He gave an exposition of the Scriptures for the day: ‘Through his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5) and ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3).”[282] Captain Best writes that Bonhoeffer

…spoke to us in a manner which reached the hearts of all, finding just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment and the thoughts and resolutions which it had brought. He had hardly finished his last prayer when the door opened and two evil-looking men in civilian clothes came in and said: ‘Prisoner Bonhoeffer. Get ready to come with us.’ Those words ‘Come with us’—for all prisoners had come to mean one thing only—the scaffold.[283]

Bonhoeffer then “gathered his few belongings. In a copy of Plutarch that he had received for his birthday he wrote his name in large letters and left it on the table.”[284] As the other prisoners said their good-byes to Bonhoeffer, he talked to Captain Best privately and gave him a message to pass on to his “English friend Bishop Bell”[285]:

Tell him that for me this is the end, but also the beginning. With him I believe in the principle of our universal brotherhood which rises above all national interests, and that our victory is certain—Tell him too that I have never forgotten his words at our last meeting.[286]

There was a “trial” that lasted through the night: “the prisoners were interrogated once more and confronted with one another. All were condemned.”[287] Early in the morning on April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging. Bosanquet writes:

So the morning came. Now the prisoners were ordered to strip. They were led down to a little flight of steps under the trees to the secluded place of execution. There was a pause. For the men about to die, time hung a moment suspended. Naked under the scaffold in the sweet spring of woods, Bonhoeffer knelt for the last time to pray. Five minutes later, his life was ended.[288]

The camp doctor was an eye-witness of Bonhoeffer’s final minutes:

Through the half-door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.[289]

Summary

Dietrich Bonhoeffer will continue to influence the followers of Jesus well into the 21st Century. In an article that appeared in The Christian Century on April 2, 1997, De Gruchy wrote:

The relevance of Bonhoeffer’s theology is unlikely to diminish. Even if some of his comments now strike us as problematic and often embarrassingly patriarchal, he continues to have an uncanny way of relating to “the Other,” often surprising us with new insights. Many Christians find Bonhoeffer’s witness helpful in their own struggles against racism and poverty, or in efforts to engage in Jewish-Christian dialogue, especially about the Holocaust. The surprising, often risky elements of both action and thought in a life profoundly marked by consistency of faith and hope keep interest in Bonhoeffer alive.

Of course, much of contemporary and contextual concern lies beyond the parameters of Bonhoeffer’s legacy. Those who turn to Bonhoeffer for all the answers will be disappointed. But time and again his approach to doing theology suggests the way forward. Those who explore his writings will usually find some clue which provides a way of grappling with the issues. In this sense, it is fortunate that Bonhoeffer never completed his theological work in any systematic way. It remains open-ended, thereby inviting us to participate in an ongoing task of action and reflection.[290]

The legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer will grow as the amount of literature about his life and words continues to be produced. Larry L. Rasmussen makes this clear:

April 9, 2005, marked the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for his attempted overthrow of the Nazi regime. February 4, 2006, marks the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth in Breslau, Germany. Few pastors and theologians of such youth have captured the interest and attention of the church worldwide as he.

This twentieth-century Christian leans into the twenty-first century because he is both rooted and postmodern, both grounded and capable of living with fragments, both theologically traditional and theologically innovative, both church-centered and worldly, both sensuously bound to earth and deeply pious. The variety of Bonhoeffer’s keen sensibilities, and how they belong and hold together, intrigues us.[291]


[1] Stephen R. Haynes, The Bonhoeffer Phenomenon: Portraits of a Protestant Saint, (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2004), 2.

[2] Haynes, 2.

[3] Haynes, 2.

[4] Haynes, 2.

[5] Mark Devine, Bonhoeffer Speaks Today: Following Jesus at All Costs (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2005), 17.

[6] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word (Nashville: The Upper Room, 1986), 10-11.

[7] Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word, 32.

[8] Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 322.

[9] Mary Bosanquet, The Life and Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York and Evanston: Harper and Row Publishers, 1968), 152.

[10] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[11] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[12] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[13] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[14] Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 81

[15] Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 81.

[16] Bosanquet, 152.

[17] William Kuhns, In Pursuit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Dayton: Pflaum Press, 1967), 94-95.

[18] Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson, eds., The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 166.

[19] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 166.

[20] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 166.

[21] Bosanquet, 159.

[22] Bosanquet, 159.

[23] Bosanquet, 159.

[24] Bosanquet, 159.

[25] Bosanquet, 160

[26] Bosanquet, 159.

[27] Kyle Kenneth Schiefelbein, “In the Voices of Those Who Knew Him: An Introduction to Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” ATLASerials, 2008, http://search.atlaonline.com/pls/eli/eli_bg.superframe?PID=n0275-5270_026_01_0077&artid=ATLA0001490852 (accessed April 5, 2009).

[28] Schiefelbein.

[29] Schiefelbein.

[30] Schiefelbein.

[31] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Spiritual Care (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985), 64-65.

[32] Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word, 12.

[33] Jim Wallis, “Hearts & Minds: When I First Met Bonhoeffer,” Sojourners, 2005, http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0512&article=051251 (accessed April 5, 2009).

[34] Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 21.

[35] Bosanquet, 160.

[36] Kuhns, 16.

[37] Kuhns, 16.

[38] Kuhns, 17.

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

[40] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 146.

[41] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 531.

[42] Kelly and Burton, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 146.

[43]Kelly and Burton, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 147.

[44] Kelly and Burton, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 147.

[45] Kelly and Burton, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 147.

[46] Kelly and Burton, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 147.

[47] Kelly and Burton, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 149.

[48] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A  Testament to Freedom, 532.

[49] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 154.

[50] John de Gruchy, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ, (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1991), 26.

[51] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 532.

[52] De Gruchy, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ, 26.

[53] De Gruchy, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ, 26-27.

[54] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 154.

[55] Bosanquet, 151.

[56] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament of Freedom, 533.

[57] Bosanquet, 183.

[58] Devine, 82.

[59] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[60] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 322.

[61] Devine, 99.

[62] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[63] Todd Kappelman. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Probe Ministries, 1999, http://www.probe.org/history/history/dietrich-bonhoeffer.html#text2 (accessed April 2, 2009).

[64] Eberhard Bethge, Costly Grace: An Illustrated Introduction to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1979), 153.

[65] De Gruchy, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ, 13.

[66] De Gruchy, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ, 13-14.

[67] De Gruchy, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ, 14.

[68] Kappelman.

[69] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 43.

[70] Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 55.

[71] Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 44-45.

[72] Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 45.

[73] Kuhns, 81.

[74] Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 53.

[75] Kuhns, 81-82.

[76] Hermes Donald Kreilkamp, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Prophet of Human Society, 2000,

http://www.spiritualitytoday.org/spir2day/843625kreilkamp.html (accessed April 2, 2009).

[77] Kuhns, 82.

[78] Kuhns, 82.

[79] Kuhns, 82.

[80] Kuhns, 82-83.

[81] Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 79.

[82] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 304.

[83] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 304.

[84] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 304.

[85] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 304.

[86] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 304-305.

[87] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 305.

[88] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 305.

[89] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 305.

[90] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 305.

[91] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 305-306.

[92] Kuhns, 81.

[93] Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 11.

[94] Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 23-24.

[95] Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 33.

[96] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament of Freedom, 543.

[97] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament of Freedom, 543.

[98] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament of Freedom, 543.

[99] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament of Freedom, 543.

[100] Larry L. Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 11.

[101] Haynes, xvi.

[102] Haynes, xvi.

[103] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 532.

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

[105] Devine, 14.

[106] Rene Wind, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 66.

[107] Wind, 66-67.

[108] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 532

.

[109] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 532.

[110] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 543.

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

[112] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 532.

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

[114] Wind, 69.

[115] Wind, 69.

[116] Wind, 69.

[117] Wind, 69.

[118] Wind, 69.

[119] Kuhns, 60.

[120] Kuhns, 285.

[121] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 343.

[122] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 343.

[123] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[124] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 112.

[125] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 112.

[126] Rasmussen, 8.

[127] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 113.

[128] Rasmussen, 15.

[129] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 532.

[130] Kuhns, 228.

[131] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 28.

[132] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 543.

[133] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 28.

[134] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 132.

[135] Kuhns, 229.

[136] Kuhns, 229.

[137] Kuhns, 229.

[138] Kuhns, 229-232.

[139] Glimpses of Christian History, “Glimpses #63: Theologian Bonhoeffer Executed on Order from Hitler,” Christianity Today International, 2007, http://www.christianhistorytimeline.com/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps063.shtml (accessed April 2, 2009

[140] Devine, 137-138.

[141] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament of Freedom, 482.

[142] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament of Freedom, 482.

[143] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 28

[144] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 29.

[145] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 29.

[146] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 29.

[147] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 29.

[148] Wind, 152.

[149] Devine, 30.

[150] Kuhns, 114.

[151] Rasmussen, 63.

[152] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1972), 3

[153] Todd Kappelman, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Man and His Mission,” Probe Ministries, 1999, http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/bonhoeffer.html (accessed April 2, 2009).

[154] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, 5-6.

[155] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, 5-6.

[156] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, 5-6.

[157] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, 5-6.

[158] Rasmussen, 65.

[159] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, 14.

[160] Rasmussen, 66.

[161] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 483.

[162] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 483.

[163] Kuhns, 196

[164] Kuhns, 196.

[165] Kuhns, 194.

[166] Kuhns, 194.

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

[168] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison , 280.

[169] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 279, 282.

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

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

[172] Rasmussen, 45.

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

[174] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[175] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[176] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 533.

[177] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 534.

[178] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 535.

[179] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 535.

[180] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 535.

[181] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 127.

[182] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 127.

[183] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 127

[184] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 543.

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

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

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

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

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

[190] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 20.

[191] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 20.

[192] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 20.

[193] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 28.

[194] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom,29.

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

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

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

[198] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 545.

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

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

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

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

[203] De Gruchy, 39.

[204] De Gruchy, 39.

[205] De Gruchy, 40.

[206] David H. Jensen, “Religionless Christianity and the Religious Other: Bonhoeffer’s Invitation to Interreligious Encounter,” ATLASerials, 2002, http://search.atlaonline.com/pls/eli/eli_bg.superframe?PID=n00069663_047_0304_0113&artid=ATLA0001378716 (accessed on April 2, 2009).

[207] Jensen.

[208] Jensen.

[209] Jensen.

[210] Jensen.

[211] Jensen

[212] Bosanquet, 279.

[213] Bosanquet, 279.

[214] Bosanquet, 279.

[215] Bosanquet, 279.

[216] Bosanquet, 279-280.

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

[218] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 146.

[219] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 147.

[220] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 147.

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

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

[223] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 227

[224] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 227.

[225] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 227.

[226] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 227.

[227] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 231.

[228] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 231.

[229] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 231.

[230] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 232.

[231] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 232.

[232]  Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 232.

[233] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 232.

[234] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 233.

[235] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 535.

[236] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 233.

[237] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 233.

[238] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 233.

[239] Fabian von Schlabrendorff, The Secret War Against Hitler (London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1966). 324.

[240] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 233-234

[241] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Testament to Freedom, 512-513.

[242] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 234.

[243] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 234.

[244] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 392.

[245] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 393.

[246] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 235.

[247] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 236.

[248] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 236.

[249] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 237.

[250] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 237.

[251] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 246.

[252] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 247.

[253] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 535.

[254] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 248.

[255] Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 400-401.

[256] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 248.

[257] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 248.

[258] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 248.

[259] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 237.

[260] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 237.

[261] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 237.

[262] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 238.

[263]Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 238.

[264] Edwin T. Robertson, The Prison Poems of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A New Translation with Commentary (Surrey: Inter-Publishing Service, 1998).

[265] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 494.

[266] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Moral Leadership, 245.

[267] Kelly and Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 246.

[268] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 494.

[269] Bosanquet, 267.

[270] Bosanquet, 267, 268.

[271] Bosanquet, 267.

[272] Bosanquet, 267-268.

[273] Bosanquet, 268.

[274] Kelly and Nelson, eds., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom, 535.

[275] S. Payne Best, The Venlo Incident (London: Huthchson and Co., LTD, 1950), 180.

[276] Bosanquet, 271.

[277] Bosanquet, 271.

[278] Bosanquet, 271.

[279] Best, 190.

[280] Best, 191.

[281] Bosanquet, 272.

[282] Bosanquet., 277.

[283] Best, 200.

[284] Bosanquet, 277.

[285] Bosanquet, 277.

[286] Bosanquet, 277.

[287] Bosanquet, 277.

[288] Bosanquet, 15.

[289] Devine, 36-37.

[290] John W. DeGrunchy, “Bonhoeffer’s Legacy: A New Generation,” Religion-Online, 1997, http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=72 (accessed April 2, 2009).

[291] Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance, 7.

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