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This was fun…

Dorospirit - this pretty much sums me up!

I sometimes talk about Dietrich Bonhoeffer in my services, church meetings etc. He was an inspirational person!

But then I thought sometimes it’s a bit boring to just talk about someone’s biography. So instead, I created a quiz.

These are my questions (and I had fun making up some of the answers!!):

Bonhoeffer Quiz:

  1. Bonhoeffer’s father was
    a) a Lutheran minister
    b) a butcher and an atheist
    c) a psychiatrist and a Christian
  2. Because he was too young to be ordained after he finished his studies in theology (he had 2 PhDs and was a University Lecturer before the age of 25!), Bonhoeffer spent some time studying in:
    a) the USA
    b) the UK
    c) Switzerland
  3. While he was in the States, Bonhoeffer attended and was deeply inspired by
    a) a Presbyterian Church in Texas
    b) a Methodist Church in Florida
    c) an African-American Baptist Church in Harlem
  4. Bonhoeffer was

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

From 1906 to 1945

Born on February 4, 1906, in Breslau, then part of Imperial Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer began his theological education in 1923 at the University of Tübingen. He later trained under liberal theologians Adolf von Harnack and Reinhold Seeburg.

Following what he would later call a conversion experience, Bonhoeffer intensified his focus on contemporary theological problems facing the church. With the ascendancy of the Nazi party in Germany, Bonhoeffer was among the first of the German theologians to perceive the pervasiveness and significance of the looming Nazi threat.

When the pro-Nazi German Christian party won the church elections in the summer of 1933, Bonhoeffer quickly opposed the anti-Semitism of the Nazis in an important article, “The Church and the Jewish Question.” In this piece Bonhoeffer provided a seminal overview of his perspective of the church’s relationship to the state.

His framework was based on a view of the normative worldly authorities, first articulated in his doctrine of “preservation orders” in his early academic lectures and later developed in mature form in his ethics manuscripts of the early 1940s. In these latter documents, Bonhoeffer speaks of four unique and divinely instituted mandates in the world: work (or labor), marriage (or family), government, and church.

The recognition of the legitimate but limited role of government in human affairs enabled Bonhoeffer to oppose the perversion of the state represented by the National Socialists.

 Marriage is not made by the government, but is affirmed by the government. The great spheres of work are not themselves undertaken by the government, but they are subject to its supervision within certain limits—later to be described—to governmental direction. Government should never seek to become the agent of these areas of work, for this would seriously endanger their divine mandate along with its own.

Bonhoeffer’s resistance to the Nazi regime included his support for and pastoral participation in the Confessing Church along with other prominent Protestant theologians like Karl Barth and Martin Niemöller, as well as his intricate association with the broader ecumenical movement.

For the rest of the post…

Hundreds of Christians resisted the Nazification of the Church in Germany…

“Some 807…pastors and leading laymen were arrested of the ‘Confessional Church’ were arrested in 1937, and hundreds more in the next couple of years. If the resistance of the (Martin) Niemoeller wing of the church was not completely broken, it was certainly bent. As for the majority of the Protestant pastors, they like almost everyone else in Germany, submitted in the face of Nazi terror.”  

(William L ShirerThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 1960 ed., 331).

No doubt Bonhoeffer was a great patriot and he loved his country so much that he preferred death to safety. But he was also too astute a political analyst not to see that Germany would be engulfed in the coming catastrophe. The fanatical devilish forces within National Socialism left no alternative. They were aiming at the destruction of Germany as a European and Christian country. By planned political action he hoped to avoid this tragic disaster. As he used to say: it is not only my task to look after the victims of madmen who drives a motorcar in a crowded street, but to do all in my power to stop their driving at all.

Memoir by G. Leibholz in  Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 27-28.

Ultimately, it was the allegiance which he owed to God and his master which forced upon him the terrible decision, not merely to make a stand against National Socialism (all the underground movements in the German-occupied countries did that), but also–and this in contradistinction to all the underground movements which appealed to nationalism–to work for the defeat of his own country, since only thus could Germany as a Christian and European country be saved from extinction. For this very reason, Bonhoeffer and his friends were tortured, hanged and murdered. It was Bonhoeffer and his friends who proved by their resistance unto death that even in the age of the nation-state there are loyalties which transcend those to state and nation. 

Memoir by G. Leibholz in  Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 28.

That Bonhoeffer, having entered the resistance, became one of its leading figures, is not surprising; he was capable of brilliant leadership, trust and rare courage. 

That he entered the resistance at all is most surprising! 

~ William Kuhns, In Pursuit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer222.

The life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer generate the deepest respect because in them he enacted his own Christology with extraordinary power.

~ Larry L. Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance149.

July 2019
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