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(Father) Karl Bonhoeffer was not often in the forefront of his children’s lives. His study and consulting room were out of bounds to them. Despite the many demands on him as a university teacher and consulting physician, however, he never missed the family meals. These were rather ceremonial occasions. The children’s table manners were strictly supervised, and they were expected to speak only when asked about the events of the day. It was generally their mother who decided which situations in their lives should be brought to their father’s notice. 

Eberhard BethgeDietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Revised Edition); Chapter 1: Childhood and Youth: 1906-1923, 15.

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Haddon Robinson

I hadn’t planned to post today.

I received word today that Haddon Robinson passed away this morning. Haddon served as the the Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He wrote Biblical Preaching, a classic textbook on preaching. He’s taught thousands of preachers in his tenures at Dallas Theological Seminary, Denver Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell.

I had the privilege of taking my Doctor of Ministry under Haddon from 2004-2007. I learned much from Haddon as a preacher, but I learned even more from Haddon as a man. Haddon exuded integrity and humility. He’s one of the best men I’ve ever known.

I was more than a little nervous when it came time to defend my thesis before Haddon. My advisor was positive, but I knew his opinion would not stand before Haddon’s. Haddon asked some pointed questions and raised a few good points, but somehow forgot to tell me at the end if I’d passed. It turns out that I had.

Every year a group of D.Min. Graduates gathered to study a book of the Bible with Haddon and a commentator. We continued to learn from Haddon even after our formal studies concluded. You could tell when Haddon was speaking: every time Haddon rose to speak, the room was filled with the sound of typists trying to keep up with Haddon’s thoughts. I’m grateful now that we were able to capture many of his unscripted comments.

It’s tempting to write a hagiography when it comes to someone like Haddon. He wasn’t perfect, and he was the first to admit it. That, in part, is what drew us to him. It’s clear that Haddon walked closely with God, and as such he wasn’t overly impressed with himself. “There are no great preachers,” he said, “only a great Christ.”

I last saw Haddon in December of last year. He wasn’t doing well, but he continued to live as a man who loved God and loved his family. He was also loved by so many of us who had the privilege of knowing him.

For the rest of the post…

by Stanley Hauerwas

Bonhoeffer For Us?

“Yet one may wonder how Bonhoeffer should be read by those in the ministry in our time. The challenges he faced are so different from the everyday tasks incumbent on those in the ministry in our day. Bonhoeffer confronted the Nazis and Hitler – it is hard to imagine a more dramatic conflict. Dangerous though it may have been, those confronted by the Nazi’s knew what sides they needed to be on. We seldom enjoy such clarity. The result is often a stark divide between activities associated with pastoral care and the social witness of the church.

Those in the ministry today must negotiate a very different world than the world Bonhoeffer encountered. We are unsure who our enemy is, or even if we have an enemy. We lack the clarity Bonhoeffer enjoyed – which, of course, is not a bad thing. But it leaves us confused about how to discern in the world in which we live what the primary challenge facing the church may be. Bonhoeffer saw quite early who the enemy was, though he was surrounded by many who did not see what he saw in the Nazis. Indeed, one of the interesting questions for Bonhoeffer’s relevance for pastors in our time is what enabled him to see the threat Hitler represented.”

For the entire article…

The Bonhoeffer children grew up in a spacious house next to the newly built Breslau mental hospital in Scheitnigir Park. The garden was big enough for them to dig caves and set up tents. Next to it was a tennis court where their father played in summer and taught them skating in winter. The house was big enough for a schoolroom with desk, a hobbies room, and another in which–to the servants’ alarm–all sorts of pets were kept, such as lizards, snakes, squirrels, and pigeons, as well as collections of beetles and butterflies. Opposite the house was a Catholic cemetery, and from the window the children could watch the funeral corteges with black-draped horses drawing the hearses.   

Eberhard BethgeDietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Revised Edition); Chapter 1: Childhood and Youth: 1906-1923, 14.

“Sin demands to have a man by himself. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Julie Tafel (Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Grandmother)…had inherited the alert critical sensibilities of  her ancestors. She actively participated in discussions on women’s issues and devoted herself to practical and organizational matters, like establishing a home for older women or vocational centers for girls.   

~ Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Revised Edition); Chapter 1: Childhood and Youth: 1906-1923, 12.

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Bonhoeffers had immigrated from Holland (van den Boenhoff from Nimwegen) in 1513 and settled as goldsmiths in Schwäbisch Hall. After the seventeenth century they became pastors, doctors, city council members and mayors. 

~ Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Revised Edition); Chapter 1: Childhood and Youth: 1906-1923, 9.

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.”

“I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”

August 2017
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