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If I understand it correctly, to be truly human (according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer), if a person is truly to be a person, then he or she understand his or her relationship to others.

We exist not for ourselves, but for the sake of others!

Lois and I have been in Colorado the past few days.   We are still here.  Today, I have access to my laptop.  Colorado is a place where it is easy to praise God for His creation!

It was easy to get near the deer!

Among the most basic of Christian concerns is the nature of humanity: what does it mean to be human? For (Dietrich) Bonhoeffer, the answer is clear…

Human beings exist only in relationship to, and responsibility for, other human beings.  This relationship comprises the social intention, or sociality, of theology (Stephen R. Haynes and Lori Brandt Hale, Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians, 79).

It is not an overstatement to say that the central idea of Bonhoeffer‘s theological work are present in or informed by his dissertation Sanctorum Communio: A Dogmatic Inquiry into the Sociology of the Church.

Completed when he was (just!) twenty-one years old, the book considered the church as a reality in which “Christ exists as community.”  As the congregation gathers and experiences together God’s grace in word, sacrament, and service, the church becomes the presence of Christ in the world (Stephen R. Haynes and Lori Brandt Hale, Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians, 78).

This is most certainly a vital message that the twenty-first century needs to hear as well!

According to Stephen R. Haynes and Lori Brandt Hale in their book, Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians, writes that there are five themes that bind Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works together…

1) Christ existing as community

2) Costly grace

3) Stellvertretung (“vicarious representative action”)

4) Ethics as formation

5) Religionless Christianity


In England Bonhoeffer sought out Gandhi sympathizers and has his fitness for life in the topics tested.  A letter of introduction from George Bell informed Gandhi that his young German  friend would be in India during early 1935 to “study community life as methods of training.”

Gandhi responded by inviting Bonhoeffer and a friend to “share my daily life…if I am out of prison.”

But Dietrich remained torn between remaining in England, returning to the university, traveling to India, and starting a Protestant monastic community.

I the end he would be drawn to the latter option under the aegis of the Confessing Church (Stephen R. Haynes and Lori Brandt Hale, Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians, 41).

One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jean Bethke Elshtain

Copyright (c) 1996 First Things 65 (August/September 1996): 27-30. The decision to attempt the assassination of Hitler, to “cut off the head of the snake,” was difficult for many of the conspirators involved in the 1945 “July 20th Plot.” But it was particularly tormenting for the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who had long felt the attraction of pacifism and who had planned a sojourn in India with Gandhi. Some of Bonhoeffer’s later readers have looked to his writings for a general rationale for opposing tyrannical power even to the point of violence. But they have been disappointed, for Bonhoeffer never penned a full- fledged justification of his determination to resist.

For the rest of the article

Shortly after arriving in London, Bonhoeffer began to seriously consider a study trip to India…

…He wrote to his grandmother (Julie Tafel Bonhoeffer) that India had “more Christianity…than the whole Reich Church,”

by which he meant that Gandhi exemplified Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount better than Western Christians.  Bonhoeffer was particularly intrigued by the possibility of applying nonviolent methods in resisting Nazi tyranny (Stephen R. Haynes and Lori Brandt Hale, Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians, 40).

When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in London (1933-1934), he encouraged his colleagues to pull away from the German Church because of its endorsement of the “Aryan paragraph.”

Yet, not everyone was in agreement with such an approach…

But Bonhoeffer’s call for separation from was regarded as an apostate church was out of step with his colleagues in Germany.  Even a close collaborator like Martin Niemoller seemed from Bonhoeffer’s vantage point overly cautious…

But Bonhoeffer perceived the situation as: “We are immediately faced with the decision: National Socialist or Christians!” (Stephen R. Haynes and Lori Brandt Hale, Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians, 37-38).

What if we were faced with a similar situation? Would we stand up for what was right in the eyes of God?

June 2010


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