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On the evening of April 5, 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was brought to the Tegel prison. As soon as he was allowed to write to his parents, he assured them that he was alright and didn’t really need anything…

However, when he wrote to his good friend Eberhard Bethge, he gave quite a different description. In December of 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote…

And finally I would begin to tell you, e.g., that, despite everything I have written it is horrible here, that the dreadful impressions often pursue me well into the night, and that I can cope with them only by reciting countless verses of hymns, and that then my awakening begins with a sigh instead of with the praise of God.

(Ferdinand SchlingensiepenDietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 323)

(Senior Military Prosecutor Manfred) Roeder was known to be both clever and brutal. There was no doubt that the other conspirators regarded Bonhoeffer as the weakest link in the chain. Only if he reacted correctly during interrogation could they construct a new centre of operations and begin their plans over again. If he failed to do so, they would all find themselves in Freisler’s People’s Court.

Would Bonhoeffer stand up to the physical pressure?

As soon as Roeder found out that he had someone before him who was hiding important knowledge while pretending to be an unsuspecting pastor, he would have the prisoner tortured. Bonhoeffer would by no means be the first of Roeder’s victims to receive such treatment.

For the next few weeks, the fate of the Resistance movement depended on Dietrich Bonhoeffer!

(Ferdinand SchlingensiepenDietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 317).

Counterfeit Bonhoeffer

by Tim Challies

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I enjoyed reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Actually, it’s one of my all-time favorite biographies; it’s readable, engaging and it deals with a fascinating part of history. But lately I’ve come across a few articles by experts in Bonhoeffer who say that it’s just plain wrong—it’s a portrayal of the man that is geared toward evangelicals and, in seeking to make the reader happy, it succumbs to all sorts of errors.

Richard Weikart of California State University says that Metaxas “serves up a Bonhoeffer suited to the evangelical taste” and notes with disbelief that in “an interview with Christianity Today Metaxas even made the astonishing statement that Bonhoeffer was as orthodox theologically as the apostle Paul.”

As orthodox as Paul? Metaxas does not seem to know that in his Christology lectures in 1933 Bonhoeffer claimed, “The biblical witness is uncertain with regard to the virgin birth.” Bonhoeffer also rejected the notion of the verbal inspiration of scripture, and in a footnote to Cost of Discipleship he warned against viewing statements about Christ’s resurrection as ontological statements (i.e., statements about something that happened in real space and time). Bonhoeffer also rejected the entire enterprise of apologetics, which he thought was misguided.

Weikart suggests that Metaxas simply got in over his head—that he did not take the time to properly understand Bonhoeffer’s theological context of German liberalism. “I trust that Metaxas is my brother in Christ, but unfortunately he simply does not have sufficient grounding in history, theology, and philosophy to properly interpret Bonhoeffer. This is not just my opinion. Victoria Barnett, the editor of the English-language edition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, wrote a scathing review of Metaxas’s biography. In her opinion, Metaxas ‘has a very shaky grasp of the political, theological, and ecumenical history of the period.’ She then calls Metaxas’s portrayal of Bonhoeffer’s theology “a terrible simplification and at times misrepresentation.”

Weikart goes on to offer a partial list of errors, saying that it “is hard to give much credence to someone writing about German history who thinks that Bonn is in Switzerland or that Hitler was democratically elected into office or that Germany was not yet a police state in August 1934.” Here is how he concludes:

Metaxas, then, has presented us with a sanitized Bonhoeffer fit for evangelical audiences. Evangelicals can continue to believe comfortingly that Bonhoeffer is one of them, and that his heroic stance against Hitler was the product of evangelical-style theology. This view is nave, but many wish it to be so. They might prefer Metaxas’s counterfeit Bonhoeffer to the real, much more complex, German theologian who continued to believe in the validity of higher biblical criticism, who praised Rudolf Bultmann when he called for demythologizing the New Testament, and who in his prison writings called for us to live “as if there were no God.” In 1944, toward the end of his life, Bonhoeffer admitted that he was a theologian who “still carries within himself the heritage of liberal theology.”

Clifford Green is another Bonhoeffer scholar, and one who has edited several volumes of Bonhoeffer’s Works. He says that Metaxas resorted to outright denial of some of the things we know to be true about Bonhoeffer and his theology and then offers this critique…

For the rest of the article…

Let us…

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).

At noon that day, 5 April (1943), at his parents’ home, Bonhoeffer tried to telephone his sister Christine, when as unfamiliar voice answered the phone, the thought flashed through his his mind: her house is being searched! Without disturbing his parents, he went next door, where his sister Ursala prepared a hearty midday meal for him.

Then he went to his study in the attic to ensure that every precaution had been taken should it be searched, and thereafter waited, with Ursala and Rudiger Schleicher as well as Eberhard Bethge, for whatever was to happen. About four o’clock in the afternoon, his father came over and said, “There are two men up in your room who would like to speak to you.”

The two, (Senior Military Prosecutor Manfred) Roeder and (Franz-Xaver) Sonderregger, had already arrested Christine von Dohnanyi, and they soon drove away with Bonhoeffer. In Munich that same day, Josef and Anni Muller were also arrested.

(Ferdinand SchlingensiepenDietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 316).

Bonhoeffer’s reply, in which he wrote “Dear Maria” instead of “Dear Miss Wedemeyer”, overflowed with joy:

…My heart is opening wide and brimming with gratitude and confusion and still can’t take it in–the “yes” that is to determine the entire future course of our lives. 

(Ferdinand SchlingensiepenDietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, 310)

The passion of Christ strengthens him to overcome the sins of others by forgiving them!

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 90)

Ideas & Trends;Undoing the Legacy of Nazi Courts

Published: February 11, 1996

IN a famous moment of frustration described in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, contending with the doubts of his fellow Galileans, declared, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.”

For centuries, those words have been used to describe the tribulations of the deserving. But rarely have they seemed so appropriate as they did last week, when a group of Lutheran church members and human rights advocates in Berlin denounced the fact that the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was condemned as a traitor by the Nazi SS court in 1945 for having helped to plot an assassination attempt against Hitler, is still legally a traitor in Germany. (Although the verdicts of Nazi people’s courts were declared void a decade ago, that declaration did not cover the SS courts.)

The revelation that Bonhoeffer is still legally a traitor struck a chord here and in Germany, because Bonhoeffer is widely considered a Christian martyr. His writings on faith and civic responsibility appeal to people across religious, national and ideological lines.

For the rest of the article…

Motivating Joy

By Tony Reinke | May 19, 2012 04:00 am

Puritan Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity:

If anything can make us rise off our bed of sloth, and serve God with all our might, it should be this, the hope of our near enjoyment of God forever.

(Design submitted by Jennifer Knight.)

May 2012


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