Bonhoeffer belonged to an epoch that was drawing to an end–for the church, for Western Christianity and its theology, for the land of his ancestors as well. He reached beyond his era towards models for the future, helping to create these new models at the cost of his own life. The son of a professor’s family that embodied the best traditions of the bourgeoisie, he made theology his life’s work. Within this vocation, he eventually achieved a very personal relationship to the church of Christ. This led him away from nationalistic tendencies and brought him into the ecumenical realm. Finally, he faced the challenges of his political era. With sacrifice for the sake of his country, a different vision of how to be a Christian in the future emerged, and Bonhoeffer was free to conceive a new theology. This sequence of events, and the inner consistency of this richly talented man’s path–his transition from theologian to Christian and, finally, to a man for his times–is precisely what is unique about Bonhoeffer’s brief life.
~ Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Revised Edition); Preface to the First English Edition (1970), xv