Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Transcript Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church
November 4, 2012
Academic training
Time in Barcelona, New York
Confessing Church
Time in London
Finkenwalde Seminary
Return to U.S.
Agent of Abwehr
Arrest, imprisonment, execution
Father, Karl – professor of
neurology and psychiatry,
University of Berlin; director
of psychiatric clinic, Charite
Mother, Paula von Hase –
daughter of Clare von Hase,
pupil of Liszt; granddaughter of Karl von Hase,
distinguished church
historian, preacher to Kaiser
Wilhelm II
Paula home-schooled each
child until age 6 or 7
A family saying: Germans had their
backs broken twice in the course of
their lives: first at school, then
during military service
Eight Bonhoeffer children
◦ Karl Friedrich (1899-1957),
chemist, worked with
Einstein and Max Planck on
splitting the atom
◦ Walter (1899-1918), killed
in action, WWI
◦ Klaus (1901-45), lawyer,
general counsel for
Lufthansa; hospital orderly,
WWI; executed 4/23/45
◦ Ursula (1902-83), married
lawyer Rüdiger Schleicher,
who was executed 4/23/45
Eight Bonhoeffer children
◦ Christel (1903-65), married to
Hans von Dohnanyi, who was
executed 4/9/45 (?)
◦ Dietrich (1906-45), executed
4/9/45 – 23 days before
German surrender
◦ Sabine (1906-99), Dietrich’s
twin, married to Jewish
lawyer/professor Gerhard
◦ Susanne (1909-91), married
to theologian Walter Dress
Announcement at 14:
Want to be theologian
Family thought he
would follow in
father’s footsteps
Brother Klaus: Church
is “poor, feeble,
boring, petty,
Dietrich:“In that case, I
shall have to reform it”
First year at Tübingen
University, took trip to
1924, enters University
of Berlin
◦ Center of liberal theology
– Schleiermacher, Adolf
von Harnack
◦ Bonhoeffer more aligned
with Karl Barth, neoorthodox Swiss
Harnack: “Unscientific” to speculate on who
God is; just study texts and their history
Barth: The God on the other side of the fence
revealed himself through the texts; the only
reason for the texts was to know him
◦ The ONLY way to know anything about God was to
rely on revelation FROM God
Completed doctorate
at age 21
Sanctorum Communio:
A Dogmatic Inquiry
into the Sociology of
the Church
Question that occupied
Bonhoeffer his whole
life: What is the
◦ His answer: It is Christ,
existing as churchcommunity
Too young to be a pastor;
vicarage in Barcelona, 1928
Post-graduate study at Union,
Studied under Reinhold
Critical of theological
liberalism at Union; found real
preaching and faith in Harlem;
Adam Clayton Powell Sr.
“Man’s capacity for justice
makes democracy possible;
man’s capacity for injustice
makes democracy necessary”
Friends with a
student from France,
Jean Lasserre
Saw All Quiet on the
Western Front
Lasserre said the
Sermon on the Mount
had influenced his
Back in Berlin, writing
Act and Being, a
continuation of his
Completing it would
make him eligible to
be a university lecturer
Submitted, accepted in
1931 after he returned
from America
Bonhoeffer opposed Nazism from the start –
Radio address two days later warning against the
idea of Der Führer
4/33 – Told his fellow churchmen that the church
must resist Hitler, speak up for Jews, who have
no voice
7/33 – Hitler imposes new church elections;
rigged, and most positions went to Nazi
◦ Lutheran churches of Bavaria, Hanover, Württemberg
remain “intact,” not corrupted
8/33 – Opposition church leaders ask Bonhoeffer
to write Bethel Confession; after revisions, he
refuses to sign – too watered down
9/33 – Bonhoeffer helps organize the
Pfarrernotbund, forerunner to Confessing Church
9/33 – National church accepts the Aryan
Paragraph – prohibits non-Aryans from parish
9/33 – Bonhoeffer refuses parish post in Berlin in
5/34 – Confessing Church founded at Barmen
in opposition to Nazi Party; Karl Barth writes
the Barmen Declaration
◦ Christ, not Hitler, is the head of the church
Not a large movement, but a substantial
source of opposition to Nazis
Disheartened, Bonhoeffer takes a two-year
appointment in London in autumn 1933
Becomes pastor to two German-speaking
Barth accused Bonhoeffer of running away
Bonhoeffer used time to generate contacts,
support in the ecumenical movement; very
important for later activities
Bonhoeffer starts underground
seminary in 1935
Seminarians led communal life
Had to meditate on Scripture
each day – and sing!
Nazis closed in September
1937; arrested 27 pastors and
students by November
“Seminary on the run” taking
place as he traveled from
village to village
Cost of Discipleship published
in 1937
2/38 – Bonhoeffer makes initial contact with
German Resistance; introduced by Dohnanyi
Learned that war was imminent; could not swear
an oath to Hitler, was concerned about being
Went to the U.S. in 6/39; friends arranged to help
protect him
Returned quickly to Germany; felt called by God
to be with his people
Back in Germany, harassed by Nazis
Joined the Abwehr, a branch of military intelligence
AND a center of resistance
Dohnanyi brought him in; claimed Bonhoeffer’s wide
ecumenical contacts would be good for Germany
Gave him cover to travel, seek support from other
nations for the German resistance
Bonhoeffer knew he was supporting and engaging in
a movement to assassinate Hitler
◦ Had to report regularly to police
◦ Forbidden to publish in 1941
Arrested April 6, 1943
He, Dohnanyi helped 14 Jews (Abwehr agents)
get to Switzerland; sent large sums of money
to them; were charged with corruption
Subverting Nazi policy toward Jews
Evading military call-up
Using Abwehr to circumvent ban on public speaking
Using Abwehr to further Confessing Church
In a military prison at Tegel for a year and a half
July 20, 1944 – one of several plots to kill Hitler
◦ Supportive of fellow inmates
◦ Respected by guards; one offered to help him escape
◦ 9/44 – Abwehr documents found, tie Bonhoeffer to
assassination plot
◦ Transferred to Reich security prison, then Buchenwald in
2/45, then Flossenbürg
◦ Diary of Abwehr head found 4/4/45; Hitler goes into
◦ Bonhoeffer hangs on 4/9/45, two weeks before
Flossenbürg is liberated
Christocentric approach appeals to conservative,
confession-minded Protestants
Social justice, “religionless Christianity” appeal to
liberal Protestants
The Incarnation – combining body and spirit,
affirming flesh – makes it unacceptable to speak of
God and the world in terms of two spheres
Christians should not retreat from the world but act
within it
Christians must be a voice for those who can’t speak
for themselves
What is truth?
◦ God’s standard is more than merely not lying
◦ To be true to God meant having a relationship with him, not living
legalistically by rules and principles
Be willing to act in response to God
◦ He felt moved beyond the easy legalism of truth-telling
◦ Believed that responsible includes readiness to accept both guilt and
◦ To live in fear of incurring guilt is itself sinful
◦ God wants us to operate out of freedom and joy to do what is right and
good, not out of fear of making a mistake
◦ Impossible to avoid incurring guilt, but if you wish to live responsibly and
fully, you will be willing to do so
Read through page 56 – foreword, memoir,
introduction, first chapter
Bring your favorite Psalm!