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When most people think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, they may think of the Nazi Germany and World War II time frame.  And that is easy to do.  Those were the years that first attracted me to Bonhoeffer.  However, we all have formative years including Bonhoeffer.  The years of 1928 to 1931 greatly impacted Bonhoeffer for the future.

Barcelona, Berlin, New York: 1928-1931: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works

The period 1928 to 1931, which followed completion of his dissertation, was formative for Bonhoeffer’s personal and pastoral and theological direction. Almost all of these nine hundred pages of writings appear in English here for the first time. They document the intense four-year period that included preparation of his postdoctoral thesis; a vicarage in Barcelona; occasional lectures; his postdoctoral academic year at Union Theological Seminary; travel around the United States, Cuba, and Mexico; and his re-entry into the German academic and ecclesial scene.
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Dietrich was completely engaged in the community, becoming a member of the “German Clubs”: the German tennis and glee cubs.  His talents in music, chess, and athletics were, at the same time, beneficial

(Renate Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life, 17)

After the completion of his first dissertation, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

became a vicar to the German congregation in Barcelona for a year.  This may have presented a somewhat difficult situation for the pastor who was there, since the tranquility of the comminity was suddenly upset.

Bonhoeffer encouraged new ways of doing things and reinvogorated the old. Whenever he led the worship service or the children’s worship, the church was full.

Naturally, the country irself also fascinated the young vicar.  He visited Cordoba, Seville, Granada, and Madrid.

With the encouragement of his brother Klaus, who already knew Spain, he came to enjoy the bullfights!

(Renate Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life)

In the winter of 1927/28, Dietrich passed his first theological examination and submitted his doctoral dissertation, Sanctorum Communio, which was published in 1930 (Renate Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life, 15)

We are working our way through Renate Bethge’s book on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer–A Brief Life

Dietrich’s sister, Susanne wrote the following about her brother’s plan to celebrate the coming of spring (1927)

Dietrich proposed to celebrate the first beautiful days of spring in April with a journey through the countryside.  Through it all, we were a very happy group. We stopped wherever we pleased, and in the afternoon we planned our itinerary to the next village.   We sent two ahead to arrange accommodations–in any inn, never in youth hostels (14).


After the trip to Italy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer returned home and set to work in earnest on his studies in Berlin. Not only was he busy, however, with his tasks at the university; he also partcipated completely in what Berlin had to offer: concerts, theaters, and museums.
Besides that, he had an active life at home with many siblings and friends. They went on trips, arranged parties, and often went to dances.

His mother always had good ideas for these occassions, and even years later one heard from the participants how much they enjoyed these festivities

(Renate Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer–A Brief Life, 13)

Christian Quote of the Day

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there will be nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words … never really speaking to others.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together [1954], tr. Daniel W. Bloesch & James H. Burtness, Fortress Press, 2004, p. 98 (see the book; see also Prov. 17:27; 29:20; Tit. 1:10-11; Eph. 4:29; more at Authenticity)

St. Peters Basilica in Rome

St. Peters Basilica in Rome

It was not easy for him to leave Rome.

His journal notes…

“When I looked at St. Peter’s for the last time, there was a pain around my heart, and I quickly got on the trolleycar and left…”

(Renate Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer–A Brief Life, 12).

Today, I read Charles Colson’s BreakPoint commentary government run churches. Can it happen in the West? Well, read Colson’s comments below.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer certainly experienced the intrusion of the government in churches.

Government-Run Churches
Can It Happen Here?

June 18, 2009

In China, Christians have a choice: Join a government-approved church—which is constantly monitored by the authorities—or join an underground church.

Thank heavens things like that don’t happen in the West, you may be thinking. Think again. In Britain, the government has begun sticking its nose in church business, telling churches what to do.

According to the Daily Telegraph, starting next year, the British government is going to begin forcing churches and other religious institutions to hire open, practicing homosexuals. It will happen under the provisions of the so-called Equity Bill, which forbids discrimination against homosexuals or transsexuals.

The law would “cover almost all church employees,” according to Deputy Equities Minster Maria Eagle. “The circumstances in which religious institutions can practice anything less than full equality are few and far between,” Eagle said. Church groups, she said, “cannot claim that everything they run is outside the scope of anti-discrimination law.”

What’s next—regulating the content of sermons? I’m not kidding. According to Eagle, “Members of faith groups have a role in making the argument in their own communities for greater” acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people.

Maybe it would simplify things if the government simply wrote the sermons for the pastors.

The Equity Law could lead to some interesting situations. What happens if a church, under pressure, hires a gay youth minister—and orders him to teach kids about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior? And I can only imagine the reaction of a British mosque when the religion police orders it to hire a lesbian secretary.

Neil Addison, a Catholic barrister who is an expert on religious discrimination laws, told the Telegraph that the Equity Law “is a threat to religious liberty.” “What we are losing,” he said, “is the right for [churches] to make free choices.”

He’s right. To put it more bluntly, the government is beginning to run the churches. And if they succeed, it will be the end of religious freedom in Britain.

Legislation like the Equity Law should concern Americans. So-called “social reforms” that begin in Europe soon wash up on our own shores.

And then, what will happen to the Church? Will we put our congregations under the authority of Caesar? Or will we resist and, if need be, abandon our elegant buildings and, like our faithful brethren in China, form underground churches?

The Bible teaches that the followers of Christ will be tested. We ought to be in prayer for the church in Great Britain, asking God to guide it as the government bears down.

Second, we ought to be preparing for similar laws here. Many churches are already under great pressure by homosexual activists to violate their own teachings under the guise of “fairness”—a much abused word.

This, by the way, is not a hysterical rant. The threat is very real.

Third, we ought to remind our neighbors that the First Amendment was written not just to protect the government from churches, but more so to protect churches from the government.

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In Rome, Dietrich’s encounter with the Catholic church–which played only a minor role in Berlin at that time–was very important. In his journal he noted:

“Palm Sunday…the first day that something of the reality of Catholicism dawned on me, nothing romantic or the like, but rather that I am beginning, I believe, to understand the concept ‘church'” (Renate Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer–A Brief Life, 11).
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