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THE IMPACT OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER ON TWENTY

FIRST CENTURY PREACHERS AND PREACHING

By

Bryan Eugene Galloway

submitted in partial fulfillment of the prerequisites


for the degree of Doctor of Ministry.

Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary


South Hamilton, Massachusetts

2009
THEIMPACTOFDIETRICHBONHOEFFERONTWENTYFIRST
CENTURYPREACHERSANDPREACHING

INTRODUCTION

The subject of this paper is to show the impact Dietrich Bonhoeffer can

have on twentyfirst century preachers view of the cost of discipleship and how

that view influences their preaching. Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family

writes that 1,500 pastors in America leave the ministry every week because of

burnout, conflict or moral failure.1 That statistic indicates that the call to costly

discipleshipneedstoberevisited.Bonhoefferwasamanwhounderstoodandtruly

livedacostlydiscipleship.

BonhoefferwasbornonFebruary6,1906,inBreslau,Germany.Hewasa

theologian, pastor, spiritual writer, and one of the key figures in the Protestant

churchsresistanceagainstNazism.

To many people, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a spiritual hero. Two of his most

popular works, The Cost of Discipleship (written in 1937) and Life Together

(writtenin1938)havebeenreadandcherishedbypeoplefordecades.

People are also challenged by the fact that Bonhoeffer, a Christian, was

executed by the Nazis because he was part of an unsuccessful plot to assassinate

Adolph Hitler. But people are mainly attracted to him of his emphasis on total

devotion to Jesus. For example, in his book, The Cost of Discipleship he wrote,

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.2 That familiar phrase is a

1
JamesC.Dobson,TheTitanic.TheChurch.WhatTheyHaveinCommon,Focusonthe
Family,1998, http://www2.focusonthefamily.com/docstudy/newsletters/A000000803.cfm(accessed
April5,2009).

1
reminder that being a follower of Jesus means that he demands all my heart and

soul and mind and strength. There is no room for a compromising faith which

Bonhoefferdescribedascheapgrace.3

Mythesiswill focusontheImpactthatBonhoeffercan haveonpreachers

andpreachinginthe21st century.Thatisavalidquesteventhoughtherealreadyis

awealthofpublishedinformationaboutboththemanandhisworks.Accordingto

the International Dietrich Bonhoeffer Society, there have been 18 publications

aboutBonhoeffersince1990andseventranslatedworksofBonhoeffersince1997.4

Theabundanceofresourcesindicatesnotonlyourinterestinhim,butalso

theprofoundimpactBonhoefferhasalreadyhadonthechurchandworldsincehis

execution over 60 years ago. The life and works of Bonhoeffer have influenced

both Christians and nonChristians. Countless pastors, Christian leaders and

followers of Jesus would testify that Dietrich Bonhoeffer has impacted their lives

and ministries. He already is a model for us. So is there room for another work

aboutBonhoeffer?

Ibelievethereisanimportantneedforawork thatwillspecificallyfocuson

the influencethatBonhoeffercan haveoncontemporarypreachersunderstanding

of what discipleship costs. That influence on preachers will have a subsequent

impact on the church through their preaching. There are six reasons why

Bonhoeffercanimpactpreacherstoday.

2
DietrichBonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, (NewYork:SimonandSchuster,1995),
89.
3
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, 43.
4
InternationalBonhoefferSociety,Welcome,Dbonhoeffer.org,2009
http://www.dbonhoeffer.org/node/2(accessedApril5,2009).

2
First,Bonhoefferplacedahighpremiumonthedisciplineofmeditatingon

theScriptures.HebelievedthatwhenapreacherorteachermeditatedontheWord

of God, it not only benefited the preacher but also the congregation. In Life

Togetherhewrote

Inourmeditationweponderthechosentextonthestrengthofthepromisethat
ithassomethingutterlypersonaltosaytousthisdayandforourChristianlife,
that it is not only Gods Word for the Church, but also Gods Word for us
individually. We expose ourselves to the specific word until it addresses us
personally5

Second, he stressed the importance of Christian fellowship (or life in the

BodyofJesus).ToBonhoeffer,wecannotbeafollowerofJesusunlessthere isa

devotion to one another in a fellowship of believers. A pastor is more than a

preacher.HeisalsoamemberofthelocalbodyofJesus.

Third is what he referred to as costly grace.6 Bonhoeffer wrote that the

greatestenemyofthechurchischeapgrace7 whichistheveryoppositeof costly

grace.Certainly,moderndaypreachersmustnotonlymodelanoncompromising

faith,buttheymustalsofaithfullyproclaimthatthemefromthepulpit.

Fourth is the importance of calling Gods people to stand against evil in

society. When Bonhoeffers fellow church leaders in Nazi Germany rallied to

supportHitlerandtheThirdReich,hetookastandagainstHitler.Healsoworked

to get Jews out of the country. The evils we face are certainly different, but

Bonhoeffersexamplestilllives.Aspreachers,wecansometimesshrinkawayfrom

5
DietrichBonhoeffer,LifeTogether(SanFrancisco:HarperSanFrancisco,1954), 90.
6
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship,45.
7
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, 43.

3
thehardissuesoftheday,likeabortion.Bonhoeffersexamplecanencourageusto

face these issues headon. This courage will also mean that there will be more

sermonsthatcallGodspeopletobethesaltandthelightinadarkworld.

Fifth, he exemplifies what it means to serve Jesus even in the severest of

trials.BonhoeffertookastandforJesusinasocietythatwantedtobegreatwithout

acknowledgingGod.EvenwhenhehadopportunitiestoescapeGermanyforasafer

place,Bonhoefferdecidedtoremain.

In 1939, his American friends got Bonhoeffer out of Germany, and they

urged him to stay and wait outthe war in America. But he refused. He could not

comprehend rebuilding the church in Germany after the war unless he suffered

alongwithhisbrothersandsistersinJesusduringthewar.Bonhoeffersfiretested

faithisanexampleforpreacherstoday,regardlessofthevarioustrialsweface.The

firetestedfaithofapreacherwill,nodoubt,carryoverintothepulpit.

A sixth reason why Dietrich Bonhoeffer can impact 21st century preachers

and preaching is his grace of living well and dying well. He did more than write

aboutthecostthatisinvolvedinfollowingJesus.Helivedit.Evenasheriskedhis

life opposing Nazi tyranny, he was characterized by a Christlike character. He

cared more for other people than himself. In prison, waiting for his execution, he

was calm. He knew at this point that his days were numbered. Yet, one fellow

prisonerremarkedBonhoefferwasallhumilityandsweetness.8 Anotherreported

thathiseyeswerequiteunnatural.9 Asaprisoner,Bonhoefferoftenministeredto

andencouragedthosewhoweredistraught.10

8
S.PayneBest,TheVenloIncident(London:HutchisonandCo.,LTD,1950),180.

4
On April 9, 1945, he was put to death by the S.S. Black Guard at the

Flossenburgconcentrationcamp.Theday before,he led aworshipservice for his

fellowprisoners,andaccordingtooneofficer,Bonhoeffersaidjusttherightwords

toencouragetheirhearts.Hediedthenextdaywithdignityandcalmness.Thus,to

theveryend,helivedforthegloryoftheLordJesus.

These are six of the many reasons why Dietrich Bonhoeffer can impact

preachersandpreachinginthiscentury.OnemaywonderwhetherornottheNazi

Germany contextof DietrichBonhoeffer can relatetoourown context in the 21st

century.CanBonhoefferreallymakeadifferenceinthelifeandministryofapastor

in America where there is a much safer context to proclaim the Word of God? I

believe that theses six reasons speak louder because of the historical context of

Bonhoeffer. He realized that even before Hitler took power, Germany was on her

way towards a society that would eventually focus more on man than God. A

similar principle of selfsufficiency exists today in America. A call for a costly

discipleshipisjustasimportanttodayasitwasinGermanyinthe1930s.

Bonhoeffers relevance for 21st century preachers and preaching is

strengthened, I believe, by the ability he possessed to clearly see how the church

can be weakened by compromise. The church in Germany allowed herself to be

erodedbyNationalSocialism.Asthechurchbecameweakinfaithandincharacter,

Bonhoefferwould notbe fooled.Therewas noroom forthe followersofJesusto

possessacheapgracebecauseitwasthegreatestenemyofthechurch.Thecross

ofJesusChristdemandsacostlygraceinhisfollowers.Graceiscostlybecauseit

9
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleshipwithaMemoirbyG.Leibholz,21.
10
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, 1819.

5
cost men and women their very lives. And it is grace because grace is vital for

Christsfollowerstoliveforhim.

Themessageof costlygraceistimelessandappropriateforallgenerations

whetherornotthereistyrannyinsociety.BecausethechurchinAmericaneedsto

hearthewordsofDietrichBonhoefferthisthesiswillattempttobringhiswritings

closertoheartsandmindsof21st centurypreachers.

Thiswillbeaccomplishedthroughtheexplorationofthewritings,sermons

andlifeofDietrichBonhoeffer.

6
THEOLOGICALFRAMEWORK

DietrichBonhoeffercanimpactpreachersandpreachinginthe21st century.

Bonhoeffer was both a theologian and a pastor.He was careful to make sure that

scripturewasthefoundationofallthathedidintheworld.Itwashisinsistenceon

obeyingscripturethatoften separatedhimfromhisfellowpastors.

MeditationontheWord

ToDietrichBonhoeffer,meditationonGodsWordwasabsolutelyessential

for every follower of Jesus. In his work, Meditation of Psalm 119, he wrote:

Therefore,itisneversufficientsimplytohavereadGodsWord.Itmustpenetrate

deepwithinus,dwellinus,liketheHolyofHoliesintheSanctuary,sothatwedo

notsininthought,wordordeed.11

To Bonhoeffer, scripture meditation was even more important for pastors

andpreachersbecauseifthewordofGoddidnotbecomefullinhisheartthrough

meditation and prayer, how could he expect to properly explain the word to his

congregation.Hewrote,IwilloffendagainstmycallingifIdonotseekeachday

inprayerthewordthatmyLordwantsmetosaythatday12

Meditation on the scriptures is a biblical theme based on passages such as

Joshua 1. As Joshua succeeded Moses and was about to lead Israel into the

PromisedLand,Godsaidtohim:

DonotletthisBookoftheLawdepartfromyourmouthmeditateonitday
and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then
you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be

11
DietrichBonhoeffer,MeditatingontheWord (Nashville:CowleyPublications,1986),
127128.
12
Bonhoeffer,Meditatingonthe Word, 31.

7
strong and courageous. Do not be terrified do not be discouraged, for the
LordyourGodwillbewithyouwhereveryougo (verses89).

God made it clear to Joshua that success and obedience will grow out of

meditationonGodsword.

The Hebrew word for meditate means to ponder and study.13 The

wordcanbetranslatedrecite it quietly.14 MatthewHenrywrotethatJoshuawas

grantedagreattrustbyGod.Therefore,hemustfindtimeformeditation.In

regardstous,Henrycontinued: Whatever affairsofthisworldwe havetomind,

wemustnotneglecttheonethingneedful15

Psalm 1 also makes it clear that God will bless those who consistently

meditateonhisword:

Blessedisthemanwhodoesnotwalkinthecounselofthewickedorstand
inthewayofsinnersorsitintheseatofmockers.Buthisdelightisinthe
lawoftheLord,andonhislawhemeditatesdayandnight.Heislikeatree
plantedbystreamsofwater,whichyieldsitsfruitinseasonandwhoseleaf
does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are
likechaffthatthewindblowsaway.Thereforethewickedwillnotstandin
the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord
watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will
perish.

There is a connection between scripture meditation and being blessed by

God. The Hebrew word for meditate is the same word in Joshua 1:8. God will

blessthepersonwhorecitesslowlyandstudiesandpondersthewordofGod.Tobe

blessed by God is more than being happy. Charles Spurgeon pointed outthatthe

word blessedinPsalm1:1isaveryexpressiveword:
13
JamesStrong, TheNewStrongsExhaustiveConcordanceoftheBible (Nashville:
ThomasNelsonPublishers,1984),32.
14
TheNETBible:FirstBetaEdition, s.v.meditate.(2001),434.
15
MatthewHenry,Joshua,inACommentaryontheWholeBible,(OldTappen:Fleming
H.RevellCompany),2:5.

8
The original word is pluralHence we may learn the multiplicity of the
blessingswhich shallrestuponthe manwhomGodhath justified,andthe
perfection and the greatness of the blessedness he shall enjoy. We might
readit,Oh,theblessedness!andwemayregarditasjoyfulacclamation
ofthegraciousmansfelicity.Maythelikebenedictionrestonus!16

As seen in Joshua 1, God will also bless with success and fruitfulness.

BonhoefferknewthatthepromisesofJoshua1andPsalm1weretrue.Heoffered

thefollowingreasonswhyhemeditatedonthewordofGod:

Because I am Christian. Therefore, every day in which I do not penetrate


moredeeply intotheknowledgeofGodsWordinHolyScriptureisalost
dayforme.

Because I am a preacher of the Word. I cannot expound the Scripture for


others if I do not let it speak daily to me. I will misuse the Word in my
officeaspreacherifIdonotcontinuetomeditateuponitinprayer.

BecauseIneedafirmdisciplineofprayer.

BecauseIneedhelpagainsttheungodlyhasteandunrestwhichthreatenmy
work as a pastor. Only from the peace of Gods Word can there flow the
proper,devotedserviceofeachday.17

Bonhoeffers years of scripture meditation may have benefited him in his

finalyears,monthsanddaysinprison.Evenwhenheknewhewouldbeexecuted,

he continued to be characterized by joy and peace. Bonhoeffers outlook was

witnessed by British officer Captain S. Payne Best. Best was captured by the

Gestapoin1939.TheywerefellowprisonersduringBonhoeffersfinalweeks.Best

wrote that Bonhoeffer: was all humility and sweetness he always seemed to

diffuseanatmosphereofhappiness,ofjoyintheverysmallesteventinlife,anda

16
CharlesSpurgeon,Psalm1,inTheTreasuryofDavid (GrandRapids:Zondervan
PublishingHouse,1957),1:1.
17
Bonhoeffer,MeditatingontheWord,3032.

9
deepgratitudeforthemerefactthathewasalive...Hewasoneoftheveryfewmen

IhaveevermettowhomhisGodwasrealandeverclosetohim.18

InalettertoBonhoeffersfamily,CaptainBestwrotethatBonhoefferwas

different(fromtheotherprisoners)justquitecalmandnormal,seeminglyperfectly

ateasehissoulreallyshoneinthedarkdesperationofourprison.19 Nodoubtthe

promiseofPsalm1:1was fulfilled.Bonhoeffer was blessed because be meditated

on the word of the Lord day and night and he was a tree planted by streams of

waterthatyieldedfruit(Psalm1:3).

Because 21st century preachers and pastors face many demands on their

time, it is crucial that a portion of time be set aside daily to meditate on Gods

Word.Whatwouldthis look like inthedailyscheduleofapreacher? JohnPiper

explainstheprocessofscripturemeditation:

Nowwhatdoesthismeditationinvolve?ThewordmeditationinHebrew
means basicallytospeakortomutter.Whenthis isdone inthe heart,it is
called musing or meditation. So meditating on the Word of God day and
night means to speak to yourself the Word of God day and night and to
speak to yourself about itto mull it over, to ask questions about it and
answerthemfromtheScriptureitself,toaskyourselfhowthismightapply
to you and others, and to ponder its implications for life and church and
cultureandmissions.

Onesimplewaytodothisistomemorizeaverseortwoandthensaythem
to yourself once, emphasizing the first word. Then say them to yourself
again, emphasizing the second word. Then say them a third time,
emphasizingthethirdword.Andsoon,overandoveragain,untilyouhave
meditatedonthereasonwhyeachwordisthere.Thenyoucanstartasking
relational questions. If this word is used, why is that word used? The

18
S.PayneBest,TheVenloIncident(London:HutchinsonandCo.LTD,1950),180.
19
EberhardBethge,DietrichBonhoeffer:ManofVision,ManofCourage,inDietrich
Bonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,GeffreyB.KellyandE.BurtonNelson,eds.(SanFrancisco:
HarperSanFrancisco,1995),43.

10
possibilities of musing and pondering and meditating are endless. And
alwaysweprayasweponder,askingforGodshelpandlight.20

Pipers understanding of biblical meditation is similar to Bonhoeffers

perspective.In MeditatingontheWord,hedefineditas:

In the same way that the word of a person who is dear to me follows me
throughout the day, so the Word of Scripture should resonate and work
within meceaselessly.Justas youwould notdissectandanalyzetheword
spokenby someonedeartoyou,butwouldacceptitjustas itwassaid,so
youshouldaccepttheWordofScriptureandponderitinyourheartasMary
did. That is all. That is meditationDo not ask how you should tell it to
others,butaskwhat ittells you!Thenponderthisword in heartatlength,
untilitisentirelywithinyouandhastakenpossessionofyou.21

A 21st century pastor and preacher must possess the discipline to set aside

portionsofthedaytomeditateonGodsWord.Indoingso,wearetakingthetime

to ponder the Word of God, allowing for the Holy Spirit to reveal the riches of

wisdom.22

Fellowship

DietrichBonhoefferwasconvincedthat itwas impossibletobeafollower

of Jesus Christ apart from life in the fellowship of local believers: Christianity

meanscommunitythroughJesusChristandinJesusChrist.23 Thiswasmorethan

meretheoryforBonhoefferbecausehehadtheopportunitytodevelopacommunity

ofbelieverswhilehewasthedirectorofthePreachersSeminary.

20
JohnPiper, WhenIDontDesireGod:HowtoFightforJoy (Wheaton:CrosswayBooks,
2004),125.
21
Bonhoeffer,MeditatingontheWord, 3233.
22
DouglasJ.Rumford, SoulShaping:TakingCareofYourSpiritualLife (Wheaton:
TyndaleHousePublishers,Inc.,1996),252.
23
DietrichBonhoeffer,LifeTogether(SanFrancisco:HarperSanFrancisco,1954), 21.

11
TheSeminarywaslocatedatZingsthofbytheBalticSeawhenitopenedon

April26,1935.ItrelocatedinFinkenwalde,nearStettininPomeraniaonJune24of

thesameyear.TheGestapoeventuallyclosedtheSeminaryinSeptemberof1937.

During the period of its existence, Bonhoeffer desired a genuine experiment in

communalliving.24 ItwasBonhoeffersdesirethattheexperimentintheSeminary

would provide a foundation for the German church after the war. Bonhoeffer

realized that biblical community would provide the fresh life the church would

need.

This realization led to a burning desire to put the findings of this

experiment into writing. This led to his classic book, Life Together, which was

writtenayearaftertheSeminarywasshutdown.Bonheofferwrotethebookinonly

four weeks, while he stayed in the home of his twin sister, Sabine, in Gottingen.

Thebookwasfirstpublishedin1939.

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer appealed to a variety of Biblical references

that point to the fact that community with fellow followers of Jesus is a crucial

element of Christianity. For example, chapter one begins with Psalm 133:1:

Behold,howgoodandpleasantitiswhenbrothersdwellinunity.Psalm133isa

song of ascents. That is, it spoke of pilgrims coming to Jerusalem to worship

together.

An importantcomponentwasthatpeopleofdifferentbackgroundswereto

be united in fellowship. Derek Kidner writes that all Israelites, including even

debtors, slaves and offenderswere brothers in Gods sight. The psalm is surely

24
KellyandNelson,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,27.

12
singingoflivinguptothisideal,givingdepthandrealitytotheemphasizedword,

together.25

Thepsalmistthengavetworichimagesthatillustratedtheunityofdiverse

people.Thefirstrichimageisinverse2:Itislikepreciousoilpouredonthehead,

runningdownonthebeard,runningdownonAaronsbeard,downuponthecollar

ofhisrobes.ThisisapictureofAaronbeinganointedasthehighpriestofIsrael.

The oil was precious because it was a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend

producedbyaperfumer(Exodus30:25).

According to Exodus 30:3033, this sacred oil could not be put on any

personexceptthoseconsecratedashighpriests.Onlythebestofthebestoilcould

be used to anoint the high priests of God. It was a sweet and holy and blessed

moment when they were anointed. The fragrance of the oil would be enjoyed by

thosewhowitnessedtheevent.MichaelWilcockwritesthatAaronsanointingoil

ofverse2hadapervasivefragrance.26

This sweetness is also experienced when Gods people are unified. C.H.

Spurgeoncomments:

In order that we may the better behold brotherly unity David gives us a
resemblance,sothatasinaglasswemayperceiveitsblessedness.Ithasa
sweetperfumeaboutit,comparabletothepreciousointmentwithwhichthe
firstHighPriestwasanointedathisordination.

Itisaholything,andsoagainisliketheoilofconsecrationwhichwastobe
usedonlyintheLordsservice.Whatasacredthingmustbebrotherlylove
whenitcanbelikenedtoanoilwhichmustneverbepouredonanymanbut
ontheLordshighpriestalone!

25
DerekKidner,Psalm133inPsalms73150, vol.14bof TyndaleOldTestament
Commentaries,ed.D.J.Wiseman(DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1975),452.
26
MichaelWilcock,Psalm133inTheMessageofPsalms73150, vol.14bof TheBible
SpeaksToday,ed.J.A.Motyer(DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,2001),244.

13
Itisadiffusivething:beingpouredonhisheadthefragrantoilfloweddown
upon Aarons head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost
hem was anointed therewith and even so doth brotherly love extend its
benign power and bless all who are beneath its influence. Hearty concord
brings a benediction upon all concerned its goodness and pleasure are
shared in by the lowliest members of the household even the servants are
thebetterandthehappierbecauseofthelovelyunityamongthemembersof
thefamily.

IthasaspecialuseaboutitforasbytheanointingoilAaronwassetapart
forthespecialserviceofJehovah,evensothosewhodwellinlovearethe
betterfittedtoglorifyGodinhischurch.TheLordisnotlikelytouseforhis
glorythosewhoaredevoidoflovetheylacktheanointingneededtomake
thempriestsuntotheLord.27

The second rich image is in verse 3: It is as if the dew of Hermon were

falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life

forevermore.MountHermonisthehighestmountaininIsrael28 andisknownfor

the fact that heavy dew descends to the lower parts of the mountain during the

summer when the snow condenses to vapor.29 This moisture benefited the plant

life.30 The city of Jerusalem, also known as Mount Zion, was a recipient because

theJordanRiverwassuppliedwithwaterfromthesnowofMountHermon.31

InthesamewaythattheelevationsbelowMountHermanwereblessedwith

wetness, Gods people will be blessed when they live in harmony. Wilcock

summarizes the application of these two rich images: For brothers, that is, the

27
C.H.Spurgeon,Psalm133,in TheTreasuryofDavid,(GrandRapids:Zondervan
PublishingHouse,1957),6:168.
28
Kidner, 453.
29
RonaldF.Youngblood,ed. NelsonsNewIllustratedBible Dictionary (Nashville:
ThomasNelsonPublishers,1995),559.
30
Wilcock,244.
31
JohnMacArthur,ed., TheMacArthurStudyBible (Nashville:WordPublishing,1997),
862.

14
people of God, thus to live together in unity is good (like the dew) and pleasant

(liketheoil)32 A.F.Kirkpatrickaddsthatfromsuchdwellingtogetherindividuals

draw fresh energy the life of the community, social and religious, is revived and

quickened.33 Spurgeon wrote that Christian unity opens the window to Gods

anointingonafellowship:Nevershallweknowthefullpoweroftheanointingtill

weareofoneheartandonespiritneverwillthesacreddewofthespiritdescendin

allitsfullnesstillweareperfectlyjoinedtogetherinthesamemind.34

Unity was a key to how Bonhoeffer understoodthe Church because Jesus

died on the cross to secure such fellowship. The whole purpose of redemption in

Jesus Christ was to save the enemies of God throughout the world, and in

anticipation of eternal life, believers are privileged to live in visible fellowship

withotherChristians.35

It is a privilege because the physical presence of other Christians is a

source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.36 The early Christians

understoodthistruth.EvenbeforetheHolySpiritwaspouredoutonthefollowers

ofJesusonthedayofPentecostinthecityofJerusalemtherewascommunityfor

theyalljoinedtogetherconstantlyinprayer(Acts1:14).Thisgroupincludedthe

eleven disciples (verse 13) along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus

32
Wilcock,244.
33
A.F.Kirkpatrick,ed.Psalm133in TheBookofPsalms(Cambridge:Cambridge
UniversityPressWarehouse,1906),771.
34
Spurgeon, TheTreasuryofDavid,6:169.
35
Bonhoeffer,LifeTogether, 18.
36
Bonhoeffer,LifeTogether,19.

15
and with his brothers. It is significant that both genders were represented here

becausetheculturalbarrierbetweenmaleandfemalewasabolishedthroughmutual

participation in the church.37 Verse 15 indicates thatthe total number of disciples

was around one hundred and twenty. Thus, within weeks of the resurrection of

Jesus,hispeople,madeupofvariedbackgrounds,gatheredwaitingforthepowerof

theHolySpirit.

ThenonthedayofPentecost,thebrothersandsisterswerealltogetherin

one place (Acts 2:1). The Holy Spirit came upon them with power. Peter,

empoweredwiththeHolySpirit,stoodbeforethousandsandproclaimedtheGood

NewsaboutJesus.TheresultwasthataboutthreethousandpeopleturnedtoJesus

forsalvation(Acts2:41).

Among the foundational disciplines of the early church was a devotion to

the fellowship (Acts 2:42). The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. It

means fellowship, communion, participation, sharing in and close

relationship.38 This communion is possible only because believers are united

throughtheirsalvationinJesus.

Bonhoeffer wrote: without Christ we would not know other Christians

aroundusnorcouldweapproachthem.ThewaytothemisblockedbyourownI.

ChristopenedupthewaytoGodandtooneanother.NowChristianscanlivewith

eachotherinpeacetheycanloveandserveoneanothertheycanbecomeone.39

37
WilliamJ.LarkinJr., Acts, vol.4ofthe IVPNewTestamentCommentarySeries,ed.
GrantR.Osborne (DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1995),44.
38
WalterBauer, AGreekEnglishLexiconoftheNewTestamentandOtherEarlyChristian
Literature (Chicago:TheUniversityofChicagoPress,1979),438439.

16
Thus,fellowshipismuchmorethansimplybeingtogether.SinceChristians

arejoinedtogetherinJesus,theyaredevotedtoloveandserveoneanother.

TheologianMillardJ.Ericksonwrites:Thebodyistobecharacterizedby

genuine fellowship. This does not mean merely a social interrelatedness, but an

intimatefeelingforandunderstandingofoneanother.Thereistobeempathyand

encouragement (edification). What is experienced by one is to be experienced by

all.40

Theearlybelieversmodeledthiskindoffellowship.Acts2:4447givesusa

beautifulpictureoftheirfellowship:

Allthebelieversweretogetherandhadeverythingincommon.Sellingtheir
possessionsandgoods,theygavetoanyoneashehadneed.Everydaythey
continued to meet together in the temple courts.They broke bread in their
homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and
enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number
dailythosewhowerebeingsaved.

Lukebelievedthatthispictureoftheearlychurchwassoimportantthathe

gaveasimilardescription in Acts4wheretheunityandcareoftheChristians for

oneanotherisstressedonceagain: Allthebelieverswereone in heartand mind.

No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared

everything.

This devotion to one another in the early church in Jerusalem is what the

apostlePauladvocatedinEphesians4:13:AsaprisonerfortheLord,then,Iurge

you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble

39
Bonhoeffer,LifeTogether, 2324.
40
MillardJ.Erickson,ChristianTheology,(GrandRapids:BakerBookHouse,1985),
3:1038.

17
andgentlebepatient,bearingwithoneanotherinlove.Makeeveryefforttokeep

theunityoftheSpiritthroughthebondofpeace.

Verse3isthepunchlineinthisstatement.Paulequatedwalkingworthyof

thecallingwehavereceivedwithmakingeveryefforttokeep theunityoftheSpirit

through the bond of peace. John R.W. Stott writes that Gods work in history

leading up to the cross of Jesus Christ lays the foundation for the unity in the

church:

For three chapters Paul has been unfolding for his readers the eternal
purposeofGodbeingworkedoutinhistory.ThroughJesusChrist,whodied
for sinners and was raised from death, God is creating something entirely
new, not just a new life for individuals for a new society. Paul sees an
alienated humanity being reconciled, a fractured humanity being united,
evenanewhumanitybeingcreated.Itisamagnificentvision.41

As an apostle, under house arrest, Paul begged his readers to fulfill this

vision and live a life worthy of their calling in Jesus. Such lives were required

becauseoftheirhighdestiny.42 Paulhadinmindanewhumanitycomposedof

bothJewsandGentiles.InJesus,theywouldformthesinglefamilyofGod43 that

reflectedthecharacterofhimwhocalled it intobeingandthepurposeforwhich

hesocalledit.44

One way to live a life worthy of the Lord is to show humility and

gentleness in their dealings one with another, along with patience and mutual

41
JohnR.W.Stott,Ephesians,in TheMessageofEphesians, vol.9of TheBibleSpeaks
Today,ed.JohnR.W.Stott (DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1986),146.
42
F.F.Bruce,Ephesians,in TheNewInternationalCommentaryontheNewTestament,
vol.9ofthe EpistlestoColossians,Philemon,Ephesians (GrandRapids:WilliamB.Eerdmans
PublishingCompany,1984),333.
43
Stott, TheBibleSpeaksToday:The MessageofEphesians, 147.
44
Bruce, TheNewInternationalCommentaryontheNewTestament:Epistlesto
Colossians,Philemon,Ephesians, 334.

18
forbearanceandtolerance.Theyareurged,inshort,toletthefruitoftheSpiritbe

seen in their lives.45 Concerning verse 2, Stott writes that humility, gentleness,

patience, forbearance and love are five foundation stones of Christian unity.

Where these are absent no external structure of unity can stand. But when this

strong base has been laid, then there is good hope that a visible unity can be

built.46

Again,verse3isthepunchlineofPaulsstatement.Unityinthechurchis

tobefoughtfor:MakeeveryefforttokeeptheunityoftheSpiritthroughthebond

ofpeace.PauldescribesthechurchsunityastheunityoftheSpirit(meaninga

unitywhichtheHolySpiritcreates).47 Stottwritesthatthis:

Unity is as indestructible as God himself. Yet in the same context (Paul)


also tells us that we have to maintain it! What can he mean? What is the
senseofurgingthe maintenanceof something indestructible andurgingus
to maintain it, when it is a unity of the Spirit, which he created and is
thereforepresumablyresponsibleforpreserving?

Thereseemstobebutonepossibleanswertothesequestions,namelythatto
maintain the churchs unity must mean to maintain it visibly. Here is an
apostolic exhortation to us to preserve in actual concrete relationships of
love(inthebondofpeace,thatis,bythepeacewhichbindsustogether)that
unitywhichGodhascreatedandwhichneithermannordemoncandestroy.
We are to demonstrate to the world that the unity we say exists
indestructibly is not the rather sick joke it sounds but a true a glorious
reality.48

The apostle John took it a step further: fellowship with other followers is

linkedtoourrelationshipwithGodand hisSonJesus: Weproclaimtoyouwhat

45
Bruce, TheNewInternationalCommentaryontheNewTestament:Epistlesto
Colossians,Philemon,Ephesians 334.
46
Stott, TheBibleSpeaksToday:TheMessageofEphesians, 149150.
47
Stott, TheBibleSpeaksToday:TheMessageof Ephesians, 152.
48
Stott, TheBibleSpeaksToday:TheMessageof Ephesians, 152.

19
we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our

fellowshipiswiththeFatherandwithhisSon,JesusChrist(1John1:3).Johnand

the other apostles proclaimed to the readers of 1 John what they saw and heard

whentheywerewiththeLordJesus.Theacceptanceofthatproclamationnotonly

broughtthemintofellowshipwithJohnandtherestofthechurch,butalsowiththe

FatherandwithhisSon,JesusChrist.

To Bonhoeffer, fellowship with our brothers and sisters within the church

was a way for Jesus to minister to his people. Fellowship with Gods people

providesopportunitiestoblessandserveandloveothers.Thepastorandpreacher

in the 21st century must notonly preach on the necessity of Christian fellowship,

buthealsomustbepersonallydevotedtothefellowshipthroughouttheweek.

A preacher who avoids people or is superficial in his relationships with

church members will most likely earn the reputation of one does not really care

about his people. This can eventually have an adverse affect on his preaching

becausethepeopleinthepewsmayreadintoeachmessagealackofgenuineness.

Bonhoeffer is an example for pastors because he was devotedtoother Christians.

While the students at the Preachers Seminary were not always thrilled about

Bonhoeffers insistence that they spend time daily in scripture meditation, it was

indisputablethathegenuinelylovedandcaredforthem.

As the preacher builds loving relationships with people in the church, his

weekly proclamationofthewordwill beeagerlyreceived becausethe man inthe

pulpitisseenasGodsspokespersonforthem.Jesusmadeitclearthathisfollowers

weretobecharacterizedbytheirloveforoneanother.InJohn13:3435,hesaid,a

20
newcommandmentIgiveyou:Loveoneanother.AsIhavelovedyou,soyoumust

love another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love

another. Jesus reiterated that command in John 15:12My command is this:

Love each other as I have loved you. Francis A. Schaeffer describes this

characteristicoflovingoneanotherasthemarkofChristiansatall timesandall

placesuntilJesusreturns.49 Thepastorandpreachermustsettheexampleforthe

churchtofollow.

CostlyGrace

Bonhoeffer spoke against the cheap grace within the church. His classic

statement is found inthe CostofDiscipleship: WhenChristcallsa man, he bids

himcomeanddie.50 ToBonhoeffer,thiswasbasicChristianity.Itwasimpossible

to be a follower of Jesus and not live a selfsacrificing life out of obedience and

lovetohim.JesussaidinLuke9:2325:Ifanyonewouldcomeafterme,hemust

deny himselfandtakeuphiscrossand follow me.Forwhoeverwantstosavehis

lifewillloseit,butwhoeverloseshislifeformewillsaveit.Whatgoodisitfora

mantogainthewholeworld,andyetloseorforfeithisveryself?

RobertH.SteincommentsthatthreeconditionsforfollowingJesusarelaid

outinthispassage:

The first involves a need to deny oneself. This is much more radical than
simply adenialofcertainthings.This mandatesarejectionof a life based
onselfinterestandselffulfillment.Insteadadiscipleistobeonewhoseeks
tofulfillthewillandtheteachingsofChrist.

49
FrancisA.Schaeffer, TheMarkoftheChristian(DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,
1976),8.
50
DietrichBonhoeffer, TheCostof Discipleship(NewYork:SimonandSchuster,1995),
89.

21
ThesecondconditioninvolvestheneedtotakeuponescrossJesusown
crucifixion reveals more fully to Lukes readers that this call is a
commitment unto death. There needs to be a willingness to suffer
martyrdomifneedbe.

ThefinalconditionistheneedtofollowJesus.Incontrasttotheothertwo
conditions,indicatingthatfollowingJesusmustbecontinual51

JesusmadeitclearlaterinLukechapter9thatfollowinghimcouldactually

meansacrificetothepointofhomelessness.Inverse57,amancametoJesusand

boldly declared: I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus replied: Foxes have

holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his

head.Mostpeoplehaveahometogoto,butJesusmadeitclearthatsomeofhis

followerswillbekickedoutoftheirhomesbecauseoftheircommitmenttohim.

ItwasthiscommitmentthatBonhoefferwroteabout.Hewrotethatcheap

grace is the deadly enemy of the church.52 To Bonhoeffer, grace should be

costly because it cost Jesus Christ his very life. Grace is also costly because it

costs people their very lives if they follow Jesus. Yet cheap grace had reduced

discipleship to mere doctrine. Following Jesus has been cheapened by

deemphasizingrepentance,baptism,churchdisciplineandtheLordsSupper.

It is grace without biblical discipleship, that is, without the renouncing of

personalambition inordertofollowandobey Jesus.Thewayofthecross means

thatwegiveupeverythingtobeaChristfollower(Luke14:2535).

51
RobertH.Stein,LukeinLuke,vol.24of TheNewAmericanCommentary (Nashville:
BroadmanPress,1992),279.
52
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship,43.

22
TheApostlePauldescribeditthisway:ButwhateverwastomyprofitI

nowconsiderlossforthesakeofChrist.Whatismore,Iconsidereverythingaloss

comparedtothesurpassinggreatnessofknowingChristJesusmyLord,forwhose

sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that, I may gain Christ

(Philippians 3:78). It was Pauls desire to discard everything that was once

importantandmeaningfulsohecouldbeabetterfollowerofJesus.

GeraldF.HawthorneinterpretsPaulswords:

were Paul to place the whole world with its wealth and power and
advantages, its prestige and accolades and rewards in one scalepan of the
balance and Christ in the other, Christ alone would overwhelmingly
outweigheverythingelseintermsofrealworth.Hence,fromthestandpoint
ofsimplelogicPaulcannotaffordtogainthewholeworldifitmeanslosing
Jesus.53

Bonhoeffer saw discipleship much like the Apostle Paul did. His own

commitment to Jesus was tested in 1939, when professors Reinhold Niebuhr and

PaulLehmannasked BonhoeffertocometoNewYorkCitytoassumeateaching

positionatUnionSeminaryandthus,escapetheperiloussituationinGermany.This

would certainly keep Bonhoeffer out of harms way. With great hesitation,

Bonhoefferacceptedtheposition.So in Juneof 1939,Bonhoefferand his brother

KarlFriedrichmadethevoyagetotheUnitedStates.

However,hequicklyrealizedthatitwasamistake.HistimeinAmericawas

shortlived.HeexplainedhisdecisiontoreturntoNiebuhr:

It was a mistake for me to come to AmericaI will have no right to


participate inthereconstructionofGermanyafterthewarifIdonotshare
the tribulation of this time with my peopleChristians in Germany are
faced with the alternatives either of willing their countrys defeat so that
Christian civilization may survive, or of willing its victory and destroying

53
GeraldH.Hawthorne,ed.RalphP.MartininPhilippiansofthe WordBiblical
Commentary,eds.DavidA.Hubbard,GlennW.Barker(Waco:WordBooks,1983),43:139.

23
ourcivilization.IknowwhichofthealternativesIhavechosenbutIcannot
makethechoicefromapositionofsafety54

To Bonhoeffer, true and biblical discipleship had to be costly and self

sacrificing.TherereallywasnootherwaytofollowJesus.HereturnedtoGermany

because he was a German and a Christian.55 As a Christian, he had to follow

Jesusregardlessofthecosttohisownsafetyandposition.Ifhehadtosuffer,then

sobeitinordertofollowJesus.

InTheCostofDiscipleship,hewrote:Suffering,then,isthebadgeoftrue

discipleship.ThediscipleisnotabovehisMasterIfwerefusetotakeupourcross

andsubmittosufferingandrejectionatthehandsofmen,weforfeitourfellowship

withChristandhaveceasedtofollowhim.56

While 21st century followers of Jesus are not threatened by Hitler and

Nazism, they do face the possible threats of materialism, pride and cheap grace.

Thus,preachersmustmakedoublysurethattheirowncommitmenttoJesusisnon

compromising and that their preaching and teaching does not sidestep the costly

demandsofJesus.

Further, the New Testament is clear that suffering will be experienced by

thefollowersofJesus.James1:24assumesthatChristianswillsuffer:Considerit

purejoy,mybrothers,wheneveryoufacetrialsofmanykinds,becauseyouknow

that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its

54
DietrichBonhoeffer,quotedinMarkDevine, BonhoefferSpeaksToday (Nashville:
BroadmanandHolman,2005)1920.
55
Devine,BonhoefferSpeaksToday,20.
56
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, 91.

24
worksothatyoumaybematureandcomplete,notlackinganything.J.A.Motyer

writes that trials of many kinds is a true picture of life!57 Trials often bring

distress and discouragement. Yet, according to James, since they are interwoven

into the very fabric of our lives, they should be seen as a reality of life. Motyer

continues:(James)appeals,therefore,notfortheadoptionofasuperficialgaietyin

thefaceoflifesadversities,butforacandidawarenessoftruthalreadyknown.58

Lifes adversitieswillresult inthedevelopmentofaperseverancethatcan

leadtomatureChristiancharacter.Thatis,thefaithoftheChristianwillberefined

throughtheslowandpainfulprocessoftesting.Thisrefiningthroughtestingwill

lead to a new facet of the believers character that could not exist without

testing.59

Suffering, to James, can result in true joywhen trials are seen as essential

tests for our faith. Joy can be experienced even at the onset of various trials

because they can lead to positive results. The trials will vary from believer to

believer depending on ones circumstances. Yet, there will always be a cost in

followingJesus.

StandingAgainstEvilinSociety

Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933. Bonhoeffer

was among the first to realize that Hitlers reign may mean persecution and even

deathtoChristians: We should notbesurprised ifthetimecomes forourchurch

57
J.A.Motyer, TheMessageofJames,vol.15of TheBibleSpeaksToday,ed.JohnR.W.
Stott (DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1985),30.
58
Motyer, TheMessageofJames,30.
59
PeterDavids, James,vol.10ofthe NewInternationalGreekTestamentCommentary,
eds.I.HowardMarshallandW.WardGasque(GrandRapids,1982),68,69.

25
too,whenthebloodofmartyrswillbecalledfor.60 InthemindofBonhoeffer,if

thechurchactivelyopposedthepoliciesofHitler,thenGodspeoplecouldexpect

to be persecuted. Of course, persecution would never come if the German

ChristianspassivelyallowedHitlertoseehisvisionforGermanyfulfilled.

Bonhoeffer actively opposed Hitlers plan to eventually rid society of the

Jewish people. On April 7, 1933, antiSemitism officially became German

governmentpolicywhenJewswerebannedfromcivilservice.Thiswasknownas

the Aryan Clause.61 Six days before that, there was a boycott of Jewish

merchants. The Aryan Clause directly affected the German church because non

Aryanswerenotonlybaptizedmembersofthechurch,butsomealsoheldofficesin

the church. NonAryans were all Jews. Thus, the door was wide open for

discriminationandrejectionevenbyfellowChristians.

Later that month, Bonhoeffer addressed a group of pastors with an essay

entitled:TheChurchandtheJewishQuestion. Inthisessay,Bonhoefferargued

thatthe church had the right to question and rebuke the state. Further,the church

must stand up for the rights of victims of injustice regardless of their religious

background. Even further, Bonhoeffer advocated the possibility of jamming the

spokesofthewheelofthestate.62 Inotherwords,thechurchinGermanymustbe

opentothepossibilityoftakingactiononbehalfoftheJewishpeople.Atthispoint,

Bonhoeffer seemed to be alone in his criticism against the state. For some of

60
Devine, 13.
61
KellyandNelson,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,543.
62
KellyandNelson,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,130.

26
Bonhoeffers colleagues, his suggestion to jam the spokes of the German

government was simply too much because it pointed towards revolution and

sedition63

FortwentyfirstcenturyChristians incomfortableNorthAmerica,we may

cringe at the idea of revolting against the government. Of course, we can hardly

imaginelivinginaculturecontrolledbyanadministrationliketheNazis.Wereally

cannotunderstandfullywhatBonhoefferandhisfellowChristiansfaced.

Bonhoeffersoppositioneventuallywouldleadhimtotaketheradicalaction

to stop Hitlers design for world conquest.64 What was Dietrich Bonhoeffers

biblicaljustificationforhisoppositiontoHitlerspoliciesandeventuallytobepart

of a plot totake Hitlers life? Certainly, there is a theological mandate to protect

and rescue the innocent in society. Proverbs 24:11 helps in this regard: Rescue

thosebeingledawaytodeathholdbackthosestaggeringtowardslaughter.

Does this proverb provide sufficient evidence that God holds his people

responsibletorescuethosewhoareindangerofdeath?Proverbsareusuallyseenas

generalguidelinesonhowtofearGodindaytodaylife.Whatdoesthisverseteach

us? On January 15, 1989, Pastor John Piper preached on this verse at Bethlehem

Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. Here is his understanding of the Proverb

24:11:

Thedutyofverse11couldbestatedlikethis:Ifagroupofhumansisbeing
takenawaytodeathwhooughtnotbetakenawaytodeath,thepeoplewho
fear God oughttotry to rescue them. Or, to use the words of the second

63
KellyandNelson,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,130.
64
GeffreyB.KellyandF.BurtonNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpirituality
ofDietrichBonhoeffer(GrandRapids:WilliamB.EerdmansPublishingCompany,2003),28.

27
halfoftheverse,Ifthereisagroupofhumanswhoarestumbling(literally:
slipping)totheslaughterwhooughtnottobeslippingtotheslaughter,the
people who fear God ought to try to hold them back from the slaughter.
Whatisbeingcommandhereissomekindofinterventionfromuswhenwe
becomeawareofhumansbeingkilledwhooughtnottobekilled65

Piper applied this proverb to the rescuing of the unborn. The unborn are

considered a group of humans being led off to slaughter. According to Proverbs

24:11,Godspeoplemusttrytorescuethem.CertainlytheJewsinGermanyduring

thereignofHitlerweresuchagroupwhoneededtoberescuedbyGodspeople.

Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount that his followers were not to sit

back and watch the events in society unfold. Rather, they are to permeate and

influenceit.InMatthew5:1316,Jesussaid:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it
madesaltyagain?Itisnolongergoodforanything,excepttobethrownout
andtrampledbymen.Youarethelightoftheworld.Acityonahillcannot
be hidden.Neitherdopeople lighta lampandputitunderabowl.Instead
they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the
sameway,letyourlightshinebeforemen,sothattheymayseeyourgood
deedsandpraiseyourFatherinheaven.

John R.W. Stott remarks that these words of Jesus point to the essential

difference66 betweenChristiansandnonChristians.Stottcontinues

The Sermon is built on the assumption that Christians are different, and it
issuesacalltoustobedifferent.Probablythegreatesttragedyofthechurch
throughoutitslongandchequeredhistoryhasbeenitsconstanttendencyto
conformtotheprevailingcultureofdevelopingaChristiancounterculture.

65
Desiring God, Resource Library: Rescuing Unborn Children: Required and Right,
1989,
http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1989/663_Rescuing_Unborn_Childr
en_Required_and_Right/(accessedApril5,2009).
66
JohnR.W.Stott,MatthewinTheMessageoftheSermonontheMount,vol.1of The
BibleSpeaksToday,ed.JohnR.W.Stott (DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1985),63.

28
Yousimplymustnotfailtheworldyouwerecalledtoserve.Youmustbe
whatyouare.Youaresalt,andsoyoumustretainyoursaltnessandnotlose
and not lose your Christian tang. You are light, and so you must let your
lightshineandnotconcealitinanyway,whetherbysinorbycompromise,
bylazinessorbyfear.67

Jesus calls his disciples to exert a double influence on the secular


community, a negative influence by arresting its decay and a positive
influence by bringing light intoitsdarkness.Forit isonethingtostopthe
spread of evil it is another to promote the spread of truth, beauty and
goodness.68

The metaphors of salt and light teach that the church has a great

responsibility in the world: the function of salt is largely negative: it prevents

decay. The function of light is positive: it illumines the darkness.69 Eberhard

Arnolddescribesthemetaphorsfurther:

Ourmissiononbehalfofthekingdomistobethesaltoftheearth:tostem
its injustice,prevent itsdecay,and hinder itsdeath.Theworld mustperish
in order to be born again. But as long as salt remains salt, it restrains the
fulfillmentofevilintheworldandactsasthepowerthatwillonedayrenew
theearth.Ifthechurchwerenolongertoactassalt,itwouldnolongerbe
thechurchitwouldsuccumbtodeathandhavetobestampedout.

Saltcanhavepoweronlyaslongitisdifferentfromthesurroundingmass
anddoesnotfallintodecayitself.Ifitbecomestasteless,itmustbespatout.
The salt of the earth is where God is, where the justice of the future
kingdom is livedoutandthepowersofthecomingorderpromoteorganic
lifeandgrowth.

Inotherwords,saltispresentwherethevictoriousenergyofGodsloveis
atwork.Godhimself isthecreative spiritwhowakensthedead.He isthe
God of miracles who can bring forth new birth out of corruption and
degeneration,replacingnauseaanddisgustwithjoyandwellbeing.70

67
Stott, TheMessageoftheSermonontheMount, 63.
68
Stott, TheMessageoftheSermonontheMount, 6465.
69
Stott, TheMessageoftheSermonontheMount,64.
70
EberhardArnold, SaltandLight:LivingtheSermonontheMount (Farmington:The
PloughPublishingHouse,1998)911.

29
A lightonacandlestickconsumes itselftogive lighttoall inthe house.It
serves the intimate unity of the household because its light consists in
dyingLight is characteristic of the people of Jesus in its total brightness
and warmth. The old life, consumed, turns into lifegiving strength.
Shameful things can only live in the dark. Brightness leads to clarity and
frankness, simplicity and purity, genuineness and truth. Where Jesus
influencemakespeoplereal,theirlifebecomesgenuineandpure.Itshines
intothedarknessoftheworldaround,unmaskingeverythingthatisspurious
anduntrue,everythingthattriestohide.71

ToBonhoeffer,therewasonlyonewaytoapproachtheSermontheMount:

Ithadtobelivedout.Inalettertohisbrother,KarlFriedrich,hewrotethathehad

beguntotakeseriouslytheSermonontheMountTherearethingsforwhichan

uncompromising stand is worthwhile. And it seems to me that peace and social

justice,orChristhimself,aresuchthings.72

The Biblical mandate for the people of God to take a stand against social

injusticesisalsofoundinthewordsoftheOldTestamentprophetAmos.Amos,a

layman,wascalledbyGodtoprophesytotheNorthernKingdomofIsrael.InAmos

5:117,theprophet lamentedoverthe factIsrael has been judged for idolatryand

social injustices. In verses 4 to 7, Amos encouraged the nation to repent of the

wrongstheyhavecommittedtowardsothers:

ThisiswhattheLordsaystothehouseofIsrael:Seekmeandlivedonot
gotoBethel,donotgotoGilgal,donot journeytoBeersheba.ForGilgal
will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing. Seek the
LordandliveorhewillsweepthroughthehouseofJosephlikeafireitwill
devour,andBethelwillhavenoonetoquenchit.Youwhoturnjusticeinto
bitternessandcastrighteousnesstotheground.

71
Arnold,1213.
72
KellyandNelson,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,305

30
Bethel,GilgalandBeershebaweretraditionallyplacesofworshipwherethe

blessings, power and promises of God were experienced.73 The Israelites have

become comfortable going to these sites to seek help from the Lord in time of

trouble.Yet,Amosstartled74 hisaudiencebytellingthemtonotseekBethelbutto

seekouttheLordinstead.Theworshipatthesesitesbecamesyncretisticandwere

notinlinewithwhattheLordrequired.75Yet,theproblemwasdeeperthanthat.

Thomas J.Finley asked: Can itreally betheLordwho issoughtatBethel ifthe

peopledonotpracticethedemandsHehasmadeonthemforjusticeandmercy?76

Even though the Israelites traveled to Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba, they

essentiallykeptGodoutofthepicturebecausetheycontinuedtoallowinjusticesin

thesocietytopersist.Theywouldjourneytotheplacesofworshipandsingsongs

ofpraiseandtheycomeaway,andnothing,simplynothinghaschanged.Justiceis

stillturnedsourandrighteousnessisstilloverthrown.77

According to Amos, God was ready to judge the people and completely

destroytheplacesofworshipiftheydidnotrepentoftheirhypocrisyandestablish

righteousnessandjusticeinsociety.

Godwill judgeall false formsofworship his furywillcome like firethat


consumes everything in its path. It will come against all those who have
pretended to seek after the Lord through religious actions but who show

73
J.A.Motyer, TheMessageofAmos,vol.24of TheBibleSpeaksToday,ed.J.A.Motyer
(DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1986)105108.
74
ThomasJ.Finley,Joel,Amos,Obadiahofthe TheWycliffeExegeticalCommentary,ed.
KennethBarker (Chicago:MoodyPress,1990).227.
75
Finley,228.
76
Finley,228.
77
Motyer, TheBibleSpeaksToday:TheMessageofAmos,112.

31
their true heart condition by perverting justice and that which is right.
JusticeandrighteousnessweretheonlyingredientsinIsraelthatcouldhave
quenched the burning heat of Gods wrath, but instead the Israelites
convertedthemintoevil.78

Inverses11and12,Amosfurtherhighlightedtheinjustices:

You trample the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though
you havebuiltstone mansions, youwill notlive inthemthough youhave
plantedlushvineyards,youwillnotdrinktheirwine.ForIknowhowmany
are your offences and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and
takebribesandyoudeprivethepoorofjusticeinthecourt(5:1112).

Thepoorwerethosewithoutresource,andtherefore,withoutredress.79

The rich took advantage of them. For example, they were able to build their

extravaganthomesbyoppressingthepoor.Thestonemansionswerequitecostly,

asignofthegreatwealthaccumulatedthroughunjustgainTheLordmustjudge

thewealthywhohaveacquiredsuchfinehousesbyoppression,andHewilldothis

bytakingthehousesfromthem.80

The rights of the poor were also violated within the court system. These

were considered great sins. Finley writes that: The parallel structure in v. 12:

transgressions // sins many // numerous reinforces the thought that the

transgressionsaretoonumerouseventobecounted.TheLordhasnotreactedtoa

few isolated instances. All Samaria and the whole country is filled with

misdeeds.81

78
Finley,229.
79
Motyer, TheBibleSpeaksToday:TheMessageofAmos,113.
80
Finley,238.
81
Finley,239.

32
Because of these violations, Amos exhorted his audience to change their

waysandbegintoobeyGodinverses14to15:Seekgood,notevil,thatyoumay

live.ThentheLordGodAlmightywillbewithyou,justasyousayheis.Hateevil,

lovegoodmaintainjusticeinthecourts.PerhapstheLordGodAlmightywillhave

mercyontheremnantofJoseph.

This is a call to repent and to receive grace from the Lord.82 Amoss

audience claimed that God was with them because of the Lords covenant with

them at Beersheba.83 But the promise is voided as long as evil prevails over

good.84 Yet, there is hope because once again, the Lord could be Israel as her

God85 ifthepeopleturnbacktotheLord.

ThereferencetoJosephinverse15isanofferofhopeinacoupleofways.

First, it offers hope because a remnant will remain even though the nation is

decimated. Perhaps Amos referred to the northern Kingdom as descendants of

Joseph because herealizedthatthepatriarchstoodunderthe blessingoftheLord

and preserved alive a remnant of Israel during a crucial threat to their existence

(Genesis45:7).86

82
Finley,241.
83
Motyer, TheBibleSpeaksToday:TheMessageofAmos,122.
84
Finley,242.
85
Finley,242.
86
Finley,242.

33
Secondly,IsraelisofferedhopebecauseinthesamewaytheLordwaswith

Joseph(Genesis39:2,21,2341:38),GodwillbewiththeremnantofJosephafter

thenationisdestroyed.87

Eventhoughdestructioniscertain,Amos,inverse24,callsforthepeopleto

seek justice in society: But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a

neverendingstream. Finleywrites:

JusticeinthecontextofAmosencompassesreparationforthedefrauded,
fairness for the less fortunate, and dignity and compassion for the needy.
Righteousness indicates the conditions that make justice possible:
attitudes of mercy and generosity, and honest dealings that imitate the
characterofGodasherevealedHimselfinthelawofMoses.Hereiswhatit
meanstoseekYahwehandtoseekgoodandhateevil.88

Does the call to justice by the prophet Amos apply to us in 21st century

America? Thechurchtodayshould beearnest inhercall for justice in bothword

andaction.Dr.MartinLutherKing,Jr.wrote:

Thechurchmustberemindedthatitisnotthemasterortheservantofthe
state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the
critic of the state, never its tool. If the church does not recapture its
prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or
spiritualauthority.89

Aspastorsandpreachers,wecanlearnfromBonhoefferthatalloflifeisto
be lived as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1). Like
Bonhoeffer,wecanidentifywithJesusbysacrificingtime,resourcesandpossibly
ourverylivesforthesakeofothers.Thisisatruthtobetaughtthroughpreaching
andteachinganditisarealitytobelivedout.

87
Motyer, TheBibleSpeaksToday:TheMessageofAmos,127.
88
Finley,251.
89
DirectActionandResearchTrainingCenter,ThePropheticCalltoDoJustice,
http://www.thedartcenter.org/justice.html#prophetic_call (accessedApril7,2009).

34
ServingJesusinSevereTrials

While Dietrich Bonhoeffer often agonized over the role the church should

playasHitlerspoliceswereenacted,hecontinuedtofocushisenergyonpleasing

hisLordandobeyingtheWordofGod.FromthemomentHitlerbecamechancellor

ofGermanyonJanuary30,1933,Bonhoeffersufferedsetbacksandoppositionfor

hiscommitmenttoJesusandforhisstancethatthechurchshouldbeavoiceforthe

innocentinsociety.

Forexample,justtwodaysafterHitlerrosetopower,Bonhoefferdelivered

amessageontheradiowarningthenationthatHitlermaybeamisleader90 who

willeventually mockGod.Bonhoeffernever finishedthisaddress because hewas

cutofftheair.Thismayhavebeenthefirstactionbythenewgovernmentagainst

freespeech.91 Ofcourse,Bonhoefferwasnowinasenseamarkedmanbecause

ofhisviews.

BonhoeffersimplysawhispositionasamatterofobediencetotheWordof

God.AndhewasawarethattrialsarepartoftheChristianlife.Jesusevenpromised

it in John 16:33: In this world you will have trouble. F.F. Bruce writes: That

those who are in Christ inevitably suffer tribulation in the world is the consistent

witnessoftheNTwriters.92

For example, the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:29: It has been

grantedtoyouonbehalfofChristnotonlytobelieveonhim,butalsotosufferfor

90
KellyandNelson,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom14.
91
KellyandNelson,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,14.
92
F.F.Bruce,John inTheGospelofJohn(GrandRapids:WilliamB.Eerdmans
PublishingCompany,1983),326.

35
him. One of the many privileges that believers receive from God is to suffer for

Jesus.Hawthornewrites:

AChristianwhoiswillingtostanduptogetherwithotherChristiansforthe
faithofthegospelcanexpecttosuffer.Ithasalwaysbeenso.Redemptive
history teaches that those who believe the Word of God, who
uncompromisingly speak this Word and unyieldingly live in accordance
withitoftenpayfortheircourageandresolutionwiththeirlivesfromthe
ancientprophetstoJesus.93

ThatiswhytheapostlessawitasanhonortobefloggedbytheSanhedrinin

Acts5: Theapostles lefttheSanhedrin,rejoicingbecausethey had beencounted

worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (vs. 41). And even though they were

orderedbytheSanhedrinnottospeakinthenameofJesus,thisdidnotdeterthem:

Day afterday, inthetemplecourtsand from housetohouse,they never stopped

teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ (vs. 42).

CommentingonActschapterfive,Larkinwrites:

In no masochistic fashion,butwith spiritualeyestoseewhatsuffering for


thenameofJesussignifiesabouttheireternalsalvation,theapostlesliveout
the dynamic of Jesus beatitude (Luke 6:2223) and respond to their
physicalsufferingwithjoy.

AsfarasLukeisconcerned,twothingsbringChristiansjoy:contemplating
salvation and the honor of being dishonored for Jesus sake (Luke 10:20
Acts 8:39 11:23 13:48). Whether in singing hymns over the crackle of
flames at stakes in centuries past or praising God while cleaning Chinese
prisoncamp cesspools in our own day, the hallmark of the Christian has
been, and must continue to be, joy in suffering persecution (1 Peter 1:6
4:13).94

Inthefaceofpersecution,theearlyChristianscontinuedtojoyfullypresson

inthe missiontospreadthegoodnewsaboutJesus.InNaziGermany,this meant

standingup forthecauseofJesusandcryingoutagainstthe injustices in society.

93
Hawthorne, 43:60
94
Larkin,97.

36
Thisalso meantsuffering andevendying forJesus.ToBonhoeffer,thechurch in

Germany had a window of opportunity to face persecution like the first century

believers.Insteadshewithdrewwhenthepressuretocompromisemountedagainst

her.

Concerningthisfact,GeffreyB.KellyandF.BurtonNelsonwrote,

Bonhoefferwasalltoowellawareofthecowardlyretreatofthechurchesin
the face of swift Nazi sanctions for acts of defiance to its policies. The
HitlergovernmenthadinoculateditselfagainstoppositionthroughGestapo
terror and cruel reprisals. For Bonhoeffer, the fearof repression served no
excuseforthechurchswidespreadfailuretoactthesilenceandinactionof
the churches made them accomplices in the crimes of the governmentIt
wasrightactionforthechurchpubliclytoopposetheNazigovernmentasit
didthroughtheBarmendeclarationoffaithitwaswrongtohavekeptsilent
duringgenocidalpersecutionoftheJews.95

Itistruethat21st centurypreachersinAmericadonotcontendwithaHitler

likeleader.Nordotheylivewiththedailypossibilitythattheycouldbearrestedor

even executed for following Jesus. That day may come, but in the meantime, the

followers of Jesus must Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your

stand againstthe devils schemes. Forour struggle is not against flesh and blood,

butagainsttherulers,againsttheauthorities,powersofthisdarkworldandagainst

thespiritualforcesofevilintheheavenlyrealms(Ephesians6:1112).

The followers of Jesus are in a daily battle with Satan and his demons.

TheseforcesofevilweredefeatedthroughthecrossandresurrectionofJesusfrom

the dead, but they are not yet harmless.96 John R.W. Stott writes that our

95
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoral Leadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 46.
96
RichardL.PrattJr.,ed., TheSpiritoftheReformationStudyBible (GrandRapids:
Zondervan,2003),1913.

37
struggle is not with human beings but with cosmic intelligences our enemies are

nothumanbutdemonic.97

F.F.BrucewritesaboutthespiritualforcesofevilwhichopposesJesusand

thechurch:

The godof this age who has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep
themfromseeingthelightofthegospelofthegloryofChrist(2Cor.4:4),
hasahostofallies,principalitiesandpowers,heredescribedastheworld
rulersofthisdarkdomain(lit.,thisdarkness)andthespiritualforcesof
evilintheheavenlyrealm.98

The forces of darkness may be manifested in a Hitler orthrough the daily

pressures we face to compromise our love and commitment to Jesus. Regardless,

wearetobestrongintheLordandinhismightypower(Ephesians6:10).Allthe

resources the Christian soldier needs are drawn from Christ and his mighty

power.99 TheverysamepowerthatraisedJesusfromthedead(1:20)andbrought

(the Ephesians) to life when they were dead in trespasses and sins (2:1) is the

power described in verse 10.100 Concerning this exhortation, Bruce wrotethatthe

believers inEphesus were: toldoneway inwhichthispowercan be effective in

their livesin enablingthemtoresistthose forces intheworldthatare hostileto

theirwellbeingandopposedtothegospel.101

97
Stott, TheBibleSpeaksToday:TheMessageofEphesians, 263.
98
Bruce, TheNewInternationalCommentaryontheNewTestament:Epistlesto
Colossians,Philemon,Ephesians, 404.
99
FrankE.Gaebelein,ed.,Ephesians,inEphesiansPhilippiansColossians1,2
Thessalonians,1,2TitusPhilemonof TheExpositorsBibleCommentary:(GrandRapids:
Zondervan),11:85.
100
Gaebelein,11:85.
101
Bruce, TheNewInternationalCommentaryontheNewTestament:Epistlesto
Colossians,Philemon,Ephesians 403.

38
Thus, preachers today are to spend significant time in prayer seeking the

strengthoftheLord.

TheGraceofLivingWellandDyingWell

During the Apostle Pauls final days before his execution, he penned a

secondlettertohisdearfriend,Timothy.Paulknewthatdeathwasjustaroundthe

corner.Onreflectingonthis,hewrote:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has
come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the
race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of
righteousness,whichtheLord,therighteousnessJudge,willawardtomeon
that dayand not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his
appearing(2Timothy4:68).

Paul referred to his life as a drink offering. This was a metaphor to

describe his death. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the priest would pour

wine in the sanctuary as an offering of gratitude to God. Paul saw his imminent

death as an offering to Jesus and approached his final departure as a sacrifice of

thankfulness.Inverseseven,Paulusedthreeothermetaphorstopointoutthateven

inhisfinaldaysoflifehewasfaithfultotheLord:Ihavefoughtthegoodfight,I

havefinishedtherace,Ihavekeptthefaith.

John R. W. Stott comments: So the work of the apostle, and to a lesser

extentofeverygospelpreacherandteacher,ispicturedasfightingafight,runninga

race, guarding a treasure. Each involves labour, sacrifice and even danger. In all

threePaulhadbeenfaithfultotheend.102

102
JohnR.W.Stott, TheMessageof2Timothy,vol.14of TheBibleSpeaksToday,ed.
JohnR.W.Stott (DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1973),114.

39
Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer faithful in life and in death? In his short life, he

achievedthereputationofradiatingtheloveandjoyofJesustothepeoplearound

him.Forexample,in1931,hetaughtconfirmationclassestofiftyteenagersatZion

Church in North Berlin. Bonhoeffer made a point to spend time beyond the

classroomwithhisstudentsandwiththeirparents.HisgoalwastobuildChristian

communityamongthem.Heevenlivedintheneighborhoodofthechurchfortwo

monthssothathecouldhaveeasieraccesstothefamilies103

When Bonhoefferwas inprison fortwoyears,herealizedthathewas just

likethe imprisoned ApostlePaulwhowasphysicallyseparated fromthe believers

inthechurchofColosse,yetwaspresentwiththeminspirit(Colossians2:5).This

connectionwithotherfollowersofJesusenabledBonhoeffertopresson.

BonhoeffersapproachtodeathwassimilartotheoutlookthattheApostle

Paul possessed when he wrote his letter to the Philippians. Under house

confinementinthecityofRome,anduncertainofhisfuture,hewrote:

Ieagerly expectand hopethatIwill in noway beashamed, butwill have


sufficientcouragesothatnowasalwaysChristwillbeexaltedinmybody,
whetherbylifeorbydeath.Fortome,toliveisChristandtodieisgain.IfI
amtogoonlivinginthebody,thiswillmeanfruitfullaborforme.Yetwhat
shallIchoose?Idonotknow!Iamtornbetweenthetwo:Idesiretodepart
and bewithChrist,which is betterby far butit is morenecessary for you
thatIremaininthebody.Convincedofthis,IknowthatIwillremain,andI
willcontinuewithallofyouforyourjoyandprogressinthefaith (1:2025).

ToPaul,hiswholelifecouldbesummedupinoneword:Christ.Hawthorne

comments:

To say living in Christ is to say for him life means Christ. Life is
summed up in Christ. Life is filled up with, occupied with Christ, in the

103
KellyandBurton, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 1516.

40
sense that everything Paul doestrusts, loves, hopes, obeys, preaches,
follows,andsoonisinspiredbyChrist,andisdoneforChrist.Christand
Christalonegivesinspiration,direction,meaningandpurposetoexistence.
Paulviewshislifeintimeastotallydeterminedandcontrolledhisownlove
for and commitment to Christ. Overpowered by Christ on the Damascus
Road and overwhelmed by his majesty and love and goodness and
forgiveness,PaulcanseenoreasonforbeingexcepttobeforChrist.104

Life,forPaul,wasChristanddeathwasseenasgain:

Since for Paul living is Christ, meaning that life for Paul had no
significancewhatsoeverwithoutChrist,itfollowsthatheneverwouldhave
renounced Christ to save himself from those things that wearied him and
hurt him and made life a burden for him. Therefore, for him to goon and
say that dying is gain required a firm belief on his part that death,
although it had the power to free him from lingering out his days in
misery,couldnotinanywayseparatehimfromChrist.Hewascertainthat
evenindeaththeChristianwasstillinvitalrelationwithChrist.105

Paul was torn between living and dying. In life, he could continue to

ministertohisfellowbelieversandseetheKingdomofGodadvance.Ifhewasput

todeath,hewouldexperiencethejoyofbeingwithChristyetPaulwasconvinced

thatinlifetherewasstillfruitfullaborforhim.JamesMontgomeryBoicewrites

thatdeathfortheChristianisneverpicturedintheBibleasagainovertheworst

inthislife.Itisportrayedasanimprovementonthebest.Certainlyitisinthissense

thatPaulintendshiswordstothePhilippians.106

Paul concluded that it was more necessary to keep living so that he could

continuetoministertotheChristiansinPhilippi(verses2425).Motyercomments:

Asfaraspersonalenrichmentwasconcerned,deathwouldwinhandsdown.
ButthereisalsothePhilippianchurchandalltheotherswhofilltheloving
imagination of Paul. What of them? They still need (as he sees it) his
104
Hawthorne,43:45.
105
Hawthorne,46
106
JamesMontgomeryBoice,EphesiansinAnExpositionalCommentary:Philippians,
(GrandRapids:ZondervanPublishingHouse,1971),94.

41
apostolicministry.PaulbelievesittobethewilloftheLordthatthisshould
beconsideredparamount.

Furthermore,suchishisloveforhisfellowbelieversandhisdesirefortheir
spiritualadvantagethathe isready for ittobeso.Whata mantheapostle
was!Thefruitfulnessofremaininginthislifecouldswayhimasagainstthe
joyoflivingwithChristtheneedsofthechurchweremetbyalovewhich,
forthepresent,waswillingtopostponeheavenlyglories.107

TheApostlePaulsministryalsoprovedthatsufferingforJesusisamarkof

atrueminister.In1Corinthians11,Paulestablishedthathisministrywasauthentic

becauseofthesufferinghehadenduredforthesakeofJesus.Thiswasincontrast

tothe superapostles (2 Corinthians 11:5 12:11) who were undermining Pauls

ministry.In11:2333,hewrote:

Are they servants of Christ? (I am outof my mind totalk like this.) I am


more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been
flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five
timesIreceivedfromtheJewsthefortylashesminusone.ThreetimesIwas
beatenwithrods,onceIwasstoned,threetimesIwasshipwrecked,Ispent
anightandadayintheopensea,Ihavebeenconstantlyonthemove.

I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from
my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles in danger in the city, in
dangerinthecountry,indangeratseaandindangerfromfalsebrothers.I
have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep I have known
hunger and thirst and have often gone without food I have been cold and
naked.Besideseverythingelse,Ifacedailythepressureofmyconcernfor
allthechurches.Whoisweak,andIdonotfeelweak?

Whoisledintosin,andIdonotinwardlyburn?IfImustboast,Iwillboast
ofthethingsthatshowmyweakness.TheGodandFatheroftheLordJesus,
who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the
governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in
ordertoarrestme.ButIwasloweredinabasketfromawindowinthewall
andslippedthroughhishands.

107
J.A.Motyer, TheMessageofPhilippians,vol.12of TheBibleSpeaksToday,ed.John
R.W.Stott(DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1991),91.

42
What was the purpose of Pauls boasting?R. V. G. Tasker points outthat

Paulcounterattackedhisopponentsqualificationsandachievements108 through

listinghisownsufferingsandweaknesses:

PaulclaimssuperiorityoverhisopponentsasaministerofChristonfour
points: (1) He has undertaken more numerous and arduous evangelistic
campaigns than they (2) He has been the victim, as they have not, of
excessivecorporalpunishment(3)Hehadbeenmorefrequentlyinprisons
thanthey(4)Soconstantlyisheinimmediatedangerofdeaththathecan
sayIdiedaily(1Corinthians15:31).Hewouldappeartohavebeenface
tofacewithdeathrecentlyatEphesus(see2Corinthians1:9).109

PaulBarnettalsowrites:

Whatmannerofboastingisthis?Inwhatmusthavebeenadaringexercise
inantiquity,Paultakestheliteraryconventionofboastingandinvertsit.His
boast is in folly, weakness, disappointment and defeat. One of the Roman
soldiers most glorious achievements in battle, the corona muralis, was
awardedforbeingthefirstoverthewallofthecityundersiege.AsChrists
fool,Paulboastsofbeinglowereddown awallasafugitive(verses3233).

Pauls opponents boast of superiority (11:5 12:110, of being super


apostles.Yettheeffectoftheirministryistoenslaveandmanipulatethose
whosuccumbtothem(verse20).Paul,however,istheservantofChristin
his ministry to the churches. As opposed to the triumphalism of these
newcomers,theessentialcharacterofChrististhemeeknessandgentleness
ofacrucifiedslave.Christsgloryishisdivinelyhumbleserviceofothers.
ThisisthemessageofthecrosswhichPaulseekstoembodyandexpressin
hisministryofevangelism.110

Pauls boasting continued into chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians where he

described how he was caught up to the third heaven (verse 2). To keep Paul

humble,Godgavehimapainfulthorninhisflesh:Tokeepmefrombecoming

conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given to me a

108
R.V.G.Tasker,ed., 2Corinthians, vol.8ofthe TyndaleNewTestament
Commentaries,(GrandRapids:Wm.B.EerdmansPublishingCompany,1983),156.
109
Tasker,161.
110
PaulBarnett, TheMessageof2Corinthians, vol.9of TheBibleSpeaksToday,ed.John
R.W.Stott(DownersGrove:InterVarsityPress,1988),173.

43
thornin my flesh.A messengerofSatantotorment me(verse7).Whatwasthis

thorn?Itisimpossibletodetermine:Scholarshavemademanysuggestionsabout

thenatureofPaulsthorn.Wasitpersecution,sensualtemptation,aspeechdefect,

anophthalmicdisorder,epilepsy,oroneofthemanyfurtherpossibilities?111

PhilipE.HugheswritesthatitisnotimportanttoknowexactlywhatPauls

thorn in the flesh was because the spiritual purpose of it was the most significant

reasonforit,andifthatwastrueforPaul,thenitalsoholdstrueforthefollowersof

Jesussincethen:

Is there a single servant of Christ who cannot point to some thorn in the
flesh, visibleorprivateorpsychological, from which he hasprayedtobe
released, but which has been given him by God to keep him humble, and
therefore,fruitfulinHisservice?Andisnotthisthecasetoaspecialdegree
with those who have been called to be ministers of the gospel? Every
believermustlearnthathumanweaknessanddivinegracegohandinhand
together.HencePaulsthorninthefleshis,byitsverylackofdefinition,
atypeofeveryChristiansthornintheflesh,notwithregardtoexternals,
butbyitsspiritualsignificance.112

Regardless of our circumstances in the 21st century, we are to live for the

gloryoftheLordJesus:Sowhateveryoueatordrinkorwhateveryoudo,doitall

for the glory of God. Gordon Fee points out that Ones whole life must be to

Gods gloryCertainly Paul intends that this rule dictatethe appropriateness of

111
Barnett,177.
112
PhilipE.Hughes,2CorinthiansinTheSecondEpistletotheCorinthians, vol.8of
TheNewInternationalCommentaryontheNewTestament, ed.F.F.Bruce (GrandRapids:Wm.B.
EerdmansPublishingCompany,1982),442443.

44
behavior as well. What is not, or cannot be, for Gods glory probably should be

excludedfromwhateveryoudo.113

Our lives on earth are just a mist that appears for a little while and then

vanishes(James4:14).Taskerwrites:Theonlycertainfactorabouthumanlifeis

that it will end sooner or later in death and the refusal to face up to the

inevitableness of death, or the failure to remember that it may come at a time

unexpectedandinamannerunforeseen,isasignofhumanarrogance.114

WedonotknowwhenourtimeinthelifewillendandtheLordwillsayto

us: Time to come home. Yet, in the meantime, we make it our goal to please

him,whetherweareathomeinthebodyorawayfromit(2Corinthians5:9).

113
GordonD.Fee,1Corinthiansin TheFirstEpistletotheCorinthians, vol.6of The
NewInternationalCommentaryontheNewTestament, ed.F.F.Bruce (GrandRapids:Wm.B.
EerdmansPublishingCompany,1987),488.
114
R.V.GTasker,ed.,JamesinJames,vol.16ofthe TyndaleNewTestament
Commentaries(GrandRapids:Wm.B.EerdmansPublishingCompany,1983),102103.

45
LITERATUREREVIEW

The popularity of Dietrich Bonhoeffer has steadily increased over the past

60years.StephenR.HayneswritesinTheBonhoefferPhenomenon:Portraitsofa

Protestant Saint that Bonhoeffer was relatively obscure during the years of the

Third Reich.115 Since his death Bonhoeffer has become a celebrity.116 Haynes

continues:

Despitebeingincomplete,occasional,andfragments,Bonhoefferswritings
continue to invite serious engagement by theologians, philosophers,
psychologists,andpoliticalscientists.

In an everincreasing series of articles, monographs, and dissertations,


Bonhoeffer is compared with thinkers as diverse as Martin Luther, Karl
Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, Ludwig Feuerbach, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin
Heidegger,CarlJung,AdolfvonHarnack,PierreTeilharddeChardin,Karl
Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr, Wilhelm
Dilthey, Harry Stack Sullivan, Werner Elert, Friedrich Gogarten, Albert
Camus, John Dewey, JeanPaul Sartre, Yves Congar, Lawrence Kohlberg,
Carl Rogers, Francis Fukuyama, Richard Rorty, Theodor Adorno, and
EmmanuelLevinas.117

At the same time, works about and references to Bonhoeffer can found in

nonscholarlyworks:

Today references to Bonhoeffers life and thought are just as likely to be


found in popular magazines and church bulletins as in scholarly journals.
Laypersonsreadhisbooks,participateinemaildiscussiongroups,andjoin
societies devoted to extending Bonhoeffers influence. Pastors of all
theological persuasions refer to him in their sermons. And for those in
search of inspiration for Christian living, Bonhoeffers words are readily
availablefordevotionaluse.

115
StephenR.Haynes,TheBonhoefferPhenomenon:PortraitsofaProtestantSaint,
(Minneapolis:Augsburg,2004), 2.
116
Haynes,2.
117
Haynes,2.

46
Indeed,theGermantheologianseemstooffersomethingforeveryonewith
an interest in religion or spirituality, regardless of age, even among
membersofthepresumablyantitheologicalGenerationX.118

Mark Devine wrote that Bonhoeffer has much to say to Biblebelieving

Christiansinthetwentyfirstcentury.119 Bonhoefferalsospeakstothosewhostand

inpulpitsSundayafterSundayandproclaimthewordofGod.Asstatedinchapter

one,therehasbeenawealthofpublishedmaterialconcerninghislife,theologyand

impact.ThischapterwillreviewliteraturerelatedtothesixareasinwhichDietrich

Bonhoeffercanimpactpreachersin thetwentyfirstcentury.

MeditationontheWord

David Mcl. Gracie wrote in the Introduction of Bonhoeffers book,

MeditatingontheWordthatscripturemeditationwasnotonlyaregularpracticefor

Bonhoeffer,butalsoinstrumentalinhisconversiontoChrist:

Regular,meditativereadingintheBiblewaspracticedbyBonhoefferfrom
thetimewhen,asayoungtheologian,hebecameaChristian.Becominga
Christianseems,infact,tohavebeentheresultofhisdiscoveringtheBible
asapersonalmessageofGodsloveforusHereceivedwithmeeknessthe
implantedWord,whichwasabletosavehissoul.

Thisreceptionofthe Wordwasadaily, indeed, almostaconstantaffair


since texts and single words of Scripture were kept and pondered in his
heartItwasalsoameansofdeterminingGodswillforhislife120

ToBonhoeffer,meditationonGodsWordwasalsoacentralcomponentof

thedevelopmentofapastor:Wewantinanycasetoriseupfromourmeditationin

118
Haynes,2.
119
MarkDevine, BonhoefferSpeaksToday:FollowingJesusatAllCosts(Nashville:
BroadmanandHolmanPublishers,2005),17.
120
DietrichBonhoeffer,MeditatingontheWord (Nashville:TheUpperRoom,1986),10
11.

47
adifferentstatefromwhenwesatdown.WewanttomeetChristinhisWord.121

The Preachers Seminary at Finkenwalde was his experiment in community

whereChristianfellowshipcouldbeexperienced.122 MaryBosanquetdescribedthe

dailyroutinethatBonhoefferestablishedforthestudents:

First of all a rule was established. The day began with half an hour of
common prayer: antiphonal repetition of the psalms, lessons from the Old
and New Testaments, two chorals, one Gregorian chant and finally
extempore prayer. Breakfast followed, and after breakfast, most alarming
surpriseofall,thestudentsfoundthattheyweretomeditateforhalfanhour
insilenceuponapassageofscripture,whichwassetforthewholeweek.

Thenfollowedamorningofstudyhomiletics,exegesisandthegroundwork
of dogmatics, then lunch, recreation, further study and after supper an
eveningofrelaxation,music,readingaloudorgames.Thedayendedwitha
further halfhour of common prayer, after which complete silence was
requireduntilbreakfasttime,thenextmorning.123

At Finkenwalde, Bonhoeffer was able to put into place an environment

where consistent scripture meditation could occur. Bonhoeffer believed that it is

withinthecontextofChristiancommunitywherethepracticeofmeditationisbest

expressed.

HisbookLifeTogetherwasadescriptionofthisexperimentincommunity.

WhentheGestapoclosedtheseminaryinSeptemberof1937124,Bonhoeffer,witha

senseofurgency,composedLifeTogether,inafourweekspan.125 Uptothispoint,

121
Bonhoeffer,MeditatingontheWord,32.
122
GeffreyB.KellyandF.BurtonNelson,eds., DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentto
Freedom(SanFrancisco:HarperSanFrancisco,1995),322.
123
MaryBosanquet, TheLifeandDeathofDietrichBonhoeffer(NewYorkandEvanston:
HarperandRowPublishers,1968),152.
124
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
125
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.

48
Bonhoeffer was reluctant to write anything about Christian community.126

However, with the seminary closed, he saw the need to record for posterity not

only the daily regimen (of the seminary) and rationale, but also to voice his

convictionthatthechurchneedstopromoteasenseofcommunitylikethisifitisto

havenewlifebreathedintoit.127

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer not only urged his readers to incorporate

scripturemeditationintotheirspiritualformation,buttosetasideaperiodoftime

tojustmeditate:

TherearethreepurposesforwhichtheChristianneedsadefinitetimewhen
he can be alone during the day: Scripture meditation, prayer and
intercession. All three should have their place in the daily period of
meditation. The word meditation should not frighten us. It is an ancient
concept of the Church and of the Reformation that we are beginning to
rediscover.128

Itmightbeasked,why isa specialtime needed forthis,sincewe mediate


already during common devotions? This is the answer. The period of
personal meditation is to be devoted to the Scriptures, private prayer, and
intercession,andithasnootherpurpose.129

The half hour of daily meditation was a difficult task for the seminarians.

Bosanquetwritesthat:

The loudest outcry was against the period for meditation. What, the young
men asked, were they to do with this silent halfhour? Might they smoke?
Might they get on with their reading? Might they clean their shoes? No,
Bonhoefferreplied,theyweretomeditate,andthenhedidhisbesttoexplain
tothemhowtheheartandmindmaylearntolisten.Theyremainedforsome
timeskeptical,buttheexampleoftheirdirectorsstillnessandconcentration,

126
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
127
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
128
Bonhoeffer,LifeTogether,81
129
Bonhoeffer,LifeTogether, 81.

49
andtheevidentandintenserealityofthissilentprayerasheknewit,beganto
haveitseffect.130

According to Eberhard Bethge, whenever Bonhoeffer was away from the

seminary, the students would avoid the period of meditation. Then, upon his

return,theseminarianswouldapologize,butadmitthattheydidnotknowwhatto

mediate about. Bonhoeffer would say, Chase after your thoughts, get them

together,concentrate.131

Kelly and Nelson write that Bonhoeffer insisted his students spenttime in

dailysilencesotheycouldlistenprayerfullytotheWordofGodandtothewords

of those who share life in community.132 Periods of silence were necessary

componentsoftheday:

ThisisthesilenceneededtoletGodhavethefirstwordintheearlymorning
hourandthelastwordasoneendsthedayinsleep.Ithelpsthemembersof
the community to avoid idle chatter and misuse of speech that can wound
themostvulnerablemembersofthecommunityithelpspeopletomanage
their speech during their daily conversations. There is power, Bonhoeffer
says, in this kind of silence, the power of clarification, purification, and
focus on what is essential that contributes to proper speaking of Gods
wordattherighttime.133

130
Bosanquet,152.
131
WilliamKuhns, InPursuitofDietrichBonhoeffer(Dayton: PflaumPress,1967),9495.
132
GeffreyB.KellyandF.BurtonNelson,eds., TheCostofMoralLeadership:The
SpiritualityofDietrichBonhoeffer(GrandRapids:WilliamBEerdmansPublishingCompany,
2003),166.
133
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 166.

50
OneofthebenefitsofthisattentivelisteningtoGodsWordwasamore

effectiveprayerlifebecausetheWordofGodspeakstoonespersonalsituation,

tasks,decisions,sinsandtemptations.134

TherewerealsocriticsofBonhoeffersemphasisonmeditationoutsidethe

seminary. Karl Barth was one. He could not accept the benefit of edifying

contemplation.135 Plus,hewasdisturbedbyanindefinableodouroftheerosand

pathosofthecloister.136 Nevertheless,Barthfoundsomedifficultyindefining

hiscriticism137:InfactwhatBarthsuspected,incompanywithmanyothersinthe

Confessing Church, was that Bonhoeffer was open to Catholic influence to an

extent which seemed to him dangerous. The extent to which he was in fact so

influenced,andthemannerofit,isnoteasilydefined.138

The truth was that Bonhoeffer was influenced by the Catholic tradition of

monasticlifeinhisearlyformativeyears.Hewasnotashamedtoadmitthatthere

were catholic insights in the sense that they belonged to the treasury of the

Christiantradition,andtheyprovedtheirvaluethroughsomefifteenhundredyears

ofreligioushistoryhemadeuseofthemwithoutprejudiceandbuiltthemintohis

ownconceptionofthepossibilitiesoftheChristianlife139

134
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 166.
135
Bosanquet,159.
136
Bosanquet,159.
137
Bosanquet,159.
138
Bosanquet,159.
139
Bosanquet,160

51
LaterBonhoefferbeguntomakehisowntheologicalexplorationswithin

theCalvinistLutheranframework140 andindoingsoBarthandhewereeventually

reconciledinthisarea.BythetimeFinkenwaldeopened,Bonhoefferwasconfident

andreadytoexperimentwiththeinsightshedeveloped.

WolfDieter Zimmermann was Bonhoeffers teaching assistant at the

UniversityofBerlin.141 Later,Zimmermannwasoneofstudentsattheseminaryin

Finkenwalde.142 LutherSeminary student,Kyle KennethSchiefelbein, interviewed

Zimmermannin2003forhisundergraduatethesis.Theinterviewwaspublishedin

theWinter2006issueof Word&World.143

Zimmermann vividly remembers the Finkenwalde schedule. Silence


structured the day: Dietrich instituted silence in the morning between
waking up and breakfast and between dinner and bedtime a half hour of
meditation breakfast. The seminarians concentrated on one passage of
Scriptureperweek.BonhoeffergavethemtwelveversesofGermanbiblical
texts,andtheyweretoconcentrateonthese verses,withoutcommentaries,
forsixdays.

On Saturday, the students and Dietrich would come together and discuss
what came to them from these verses. Zimmerman recalls the excitement
amongtheseminariansaseachone found somethingdifferent inthetexts.
Afterthestudentshaddiscussedtheirinsights,Dietrichwouldthenanalyze
these verses in ways that the students had not even considered and would
sometimesofferthesametextsforanotherweektoseeifanynewmeanings
wouldcometothem.144

140
Bosanquet,159.
141
KyleKennethSchiefelbein,IntheVoicesofThoseWhoKnewHim:AnIntroduction
toDietrichBonhoeffer,ATLASerials,2008,
http://search.atlaonline.com/pls/eli/eli_bg.superframe?PID=n0275
5270_026_01_0077&artid=ATLA0001490852 (accessedApril5,2009).
142
Schiefelbein.
143
Schiefelbein.
144
Schiefelbein.

52
Bonhoeffer wrote in Spiritual Care that since pastors provide spiritual

comfort and care to others, scripture meditation must be a necessary element of

theirdailyroutine:

Exercises for the one who gives spiritual care are made concrete in such
thingsasBiblereading,meditation,prayer,abstinence,silence,andhumble
service to the neighbor. In the background stands the old dogmatic
relationship between contrition of the heart, confession with the lips, and
satisfaction bywords.We mustregaintheNew Testamentandevangelical
senseofthisthreesome.We should nottrytobypassthe necessityof such
exercises.145

David Mcl. Gracie writes that Bonhoeffers example should serve as


motivationforustomeditateonGodsword:

Thegreatpoint,afterall,isnottotakeupBonhoefferandreadhimforhis
ownsake,buttotakeupandreadGodsWordinourdayashedidinhis.
ThecommandspokenoncetoSt.Augustine,tolleetlege,isacommand
to each generation of Christians. Observing how Dietrich Bonhoeffer
obeyed it on a daytoday basis, during his lifetime and in his work as a
pastor, teacher, and political activist, can motivate us, I believe, to do so
whereweare.146

JimWallispointsoutthatscripturemeditationispartoftheentirepackage
thatattracts21st centuryChristianstoBonhoeffer:

Bonhoeffer will appeal today tothose who are hungry for spirituality. But
hiswasnotthesoftnewagevarietythathasmostlytodowithinnerfeelings
and personal enlightenment. Rather, it was Bonhoeffers spirituality that
made him so politically subversive. His commitment to daily prayer and
meditationiswhatsustainedhimandprovidedthecourageforhispolitical
resistance. But his was never a private spirituality. Bonhoeffer offers us
spiritualityforpublicengagement,inatimethatcriesoutforboth.147

145
DietrichBonhoeffer,SpiritualCare (Minneapolis:FortressPress,1985), 6465.
146
Bonhoeffer,MeditatingontheWord, 12.
147
JimWallis,Hearts&Minds:WhenIFirstMetBonhoeffer,Sojourners,2005,
http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0512&article=051251 (accessed
April5,2009).

53
Fellowship

ToDietrichBonhoeffer,Christianfellowshipwithoneanotherwasessential

tobetrulyaChristian:ChristianitymeanscommunitythroughJesusChristandin

Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a

brief,singleencounterorthedailyfellowshipofyears,Christiancommunityisonly

this.WebelongtoanotheronlythroughandinJesusChrist.148

Bonhoeffers emphasis on Christian fellowship began after he spent three

months in Rome in 1924. Bosanquet writes that during this period Bonhoeffer

realizedthatLutheranshadabandonedtherichnessoffellowship:

Here,forthefirsttime,hesawtheChurchasthetruesupernationalnation
ofGodspeople,Christexistingascommunity.Thetremendousimpactof
this experience seems to have touched some deep spring in his intuitive
faculty,sothathebeganfromthistimeontofeelaboutinthedarkforsome
oftheChristianinsightswhichLutheranismhadabandoned,andwasableto
makequickresponsewhenhefoundthem.149

The emphasis on fellowship continued when he was student at Berlin

University from 1924 to 1927. On December 27, 1927, at the age of 21, he

successfullydefendedhisdoctoraldissertation,entitledTheCommunionofSaints,

or Sanctorum Communio.150 While the young Bonhoeffer wrote it to impress a

smallgroupofUniversity professors151,yet:

ItisofseminalimportanceinthegrowthofDietrichBonhoeffersthought.
No other work concentrates so intensely upon the nature of the
churchAndapartfromLifeTogether,innootherworkdoesBonhoeffer

148
Bonhoeffer,LifeTogether, 21.
149
Bosanquet,160.
150
Kuhns,16.
151
Kuhns,16.

54
betterexplainthestructureoftheChurchascommunity,anintegralconcept
inallhisthinkingontheChurch.152

Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson explore the development of

Bonhoeffers picture of Christian community in their book, The Cost of Moral

Leadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrichBonhoeffer:Oneofthemainreasonswhy

readers find Bonhoeffers writings so compelling lies in the inner strength and

intensity of his relationship with Jesus Christ developed in the practical everyday

lifeofaChristiancommunity.153

BonhoeffersinterestinthisrelationshipbetweenthepresenceofJesusand

Christian community began during those years he was a student at Berlin

University:

Bonhoeffer harbored a desire to live in and help shape a Christian


community from his first days as a student at Berlin University. He was
intrigued then, as he was in the years that ensued, by the mystery of how
God in Jesus Christ becomes present in and among those who gather to
professtheirfaithtogetherandcelebratethroughWordandsacramenttheir
onenessintheLord.154

After he was appointed a lecturer in theology at Berlin University in

1929and1931155,hewasaffordedtheopportunitiestoputintopractice his views

onfellowship:

His earliestattemptstoputintopracticehis idea,onChristiancommunity,


howeverbeganinthecircleofhisadmiringstudentshisseminars,evening
discussions, and country excursions brought him into closer contact with

152
Kuhns,17.
153
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer,145.
154
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer,146.
155
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,531.

55
likeminded students, some of whom later became his colleagues in the
church struggle. Several would enter the seminary to study under him.
Together with these students of theology he organized frequent weekend
tripstoarentedcottageinthehillycountrysidewellbeyondtheoutskirtsof
Berlin, where they could discuss theology (and) work into their day some
spiritualexercises.

Though these beginnings in community life were informal and


spontaneous,theyprovidedsomeofthesparksforthecreationofthekindof
community life that Bonhoeffer presented in Life Together with a view to
reanimate the Christian churches in Germany and withstand the lure of
Nazism.156

This casual experience of community would not become permanent

becausetheriseofAdolfHitlerintopowerin1933wouldbeginthechurchstruggle

in Germany.157 Nevertheless, Bonhoeffer would continue to develop his view on

Christian fellowship through lecturesonthenatureofthechurch158 andthrough

conferenceswherehewasabletoexplainthenecessityofbelongingtoagenuine

Christian community.159 Such a community could be a safeguard in a turbulent

Germansociety:

Bonhoeffer was interested not in merely theologizing about church, but in


beingpartofachurchcommunitycommittedtoGods Word in serviceof
others, particularly societys unfortunates, and willing to make sacrifices
embodiedintruthfullyfollowingJesusChrist,eventhoughitmightleadto
thecross.

Heleftnodoubtabouthisdesiretoenterintoacommunitylifethat,withthe
courageofJesusChristandinobediencetoJesusteachings,couldliveout
thegospelmoreintenselyandthuscopemorecourageouslywiththecrises

156
KellyandBurton, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 146.
157
KellyandBurton, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer,147.
158
KellyandBurton, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 147.
159
KellyandBurton, The CostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 147.

56
thenoverwhelmingtheGermanpeopleandtheirchurches.Inhindsight,one
wonders whether the slaughter that took place in the war and the death
camps could have been avoided had the Christians of Germany professed
theirfaithintrulyChristiancommunitieslikethatdirectedbyBonhoeffer.160

Could genuine communities of faith have made a difference in Nazi

Germany?Bonhoefferbelievedtheywould:

OnesfaithinJesusChristexpressedthroughthebondingofChristianswith
eachotherwasmorethananabstract,rationalizedtheorytoBonhoefferthe
young student,and latertoBonhoefferthe maturetheologiandrawn intoa
bitter struggle over whether the churches in Germany were truly
representing Jesus Christ in the Hitler era. Hitlers popularity with the
massesgeneratedadilemmaforthechurches.

Afraidtocontradictwhatthepeoplesoenthusiasticallyapplauded, in spite
oftheirownmisgivings,mostofthechurcheswentalongwiththepopular
mood.Bonhoefferwasconvincedthatthefailureofthechurchestobecome
propheticcommunitiescontributedtotheperverseattractivenessofNational
Socialism.Hecriticizedthechurchesforbeingturnedinonthemselves,lost
inakindofsanctimoniousnarcissism.161

At the end of 1934162, Bonhoeffer visited various monasteries and

seminaries of other denominations to to examine their monastic training

programsandtheirdifferentmodesofcommunitylife.163 InMarchof1935,while

in England, he visited the Anglican Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield.

Bonhoeffer had long been aware of the need for the church to be a living

160
KellyandBurton, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 147.
161
KellyandBurton, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 149.
162
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,532.
163
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer,154.

57
community of persons rather than a conglomerate of justified individuals. The

experienceatMirfieldstrengthenedthisconviction.164

Bonhoeffers conviction led him to accept the invitation to become the

directorofthePreachersSeminaryatFinkenwaldein1935.165 Bonhoeffernowhad

theuniqueopportunitytoputhisthoughtsintopractice:166

UnderBonhoeffersleadership,Finkenwaldethusbecameanexperimentin
Christian community. This was something unprecedented in the German
EvangelicalChurchwithitshistoricwarinessofanythingthatlookedlikea
CatholicMonastery.ButBonhoefferwasconvincedthatthechurchand its
pastorscouldnotministerintheworld,especiallyinaworldincrisis,unless
thebodyofChristbecameareality.

Life at Finkenwalde was not a way of escape from the political and
churchstruggles,butawayofengagement.Finkenwaldewas notsimplya
communityofpreparation forministry,butonealreadyengaged in serving
others.167

Bonhoeffer also realized that the German church was in great need of a

placewherefutureleaderscouldbetrained:

Bonhoeffer became even more convinced to establish the kind of training


center for these future moral leaders where everyone would be fully
committedtoincorporatingJesusSermonontheMountintotheirdailylife.
Thiscommitmentwouldinturnbesustainedbycommunitystructuresbased
onthegospel,structuresthatemphasizedtheirtogethernessaswellastheir
need for prayerful time alone in order to foster the mutual support they
needed and their service of one another as a prelude for serving the wider
churchcommunity.168

164
JohndeGruchy,ed.,DietrichBonhoeffer:WitnesstoJesusChrist,(Minneapolis,
FortressPress,1991),26.
165
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,532.
166
DeGruchy,ed.,DietrichBonhoeffer:WitnesstoJesusChrist, 26.
167
DeGruchy,ed.,DietrichBonhoeffer:WitnesstoJesusChrist,2627.
168
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer,154.

58
These future leaders of the church were familiar with suffering even

beforetheirtimeatFinkenwalde.Bosanquetwrites:

These young men all knew what it was to sufferfrustration, repression,


enmity, even personal danger. Four had been turned out of a theological
college in Wittenberg because of their refusal to compromise with the
official line. All were ready to sacrifice themselves in order to guard the
purity of the faith at the same time they were young, healthy and
boisterous.169

BytheorderoftheGestapo,theseminarywascloseddowninSeptemberof

1937.170 Yet,duringtheshortperiodtheseminarywasopen,apictureofChristian

fellowshipwasestablished:

The students of Finkenwalde past and present were welded into a


community of Christian brothers who found in their unity a source of
strengthandasharedtreasuryofspiritualriches.Itwasanexperiencewhich
to this day shows its profound effect on those who survive, and what
FinkenwaldemighthavemeantfortheChristianlifeofGermanyifitcould
havecontinuedintothepresentmaystillbeconjectured.

Itsachievementinthelessthanthreeyearsofitsexistencewasprodigious,
anditsinfluencewasextendednotonlythroughtheyoungpastorswhowent
out from it, but also by means of those missions in surrounding
parishes171

DevinewritesthatBonhoeffersoughttoestablishagenuinefellowshipthat

wouldbringblessingbothinthislifeandinthelifetocome:

Freedom to worship and serve our Lord in the visible church with our
brothers and sisters is a great blessing, a special mercy. It constitutes a
concrete anticipation of and dress rehearsal for the true and permanent
fellowshipofthesaintsinthenextworldWeweremadeforoneanother,
andourrelationshipwithChristincludesourdivinelycreatedandsustained
connectiontooneanother.172

169
Bosanquet,151.
170
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentofFreedom,533.
171
Bosanquet,183.
172
Devine, 82.

59
One year after the seminary closed, in the home of his twin sister Sabine,

BonhoefferwouldwriteLifeTogether.173
KellyandNelsonpointoutthatthiswork

ofBonhoefferwasquicklyacceptedbyreaders:

The book was published in 1939 as Volume 61 in a series of theological


monographs Theologische Existenz Heute (Theological Existence Today).
Within one year it had been through a fourth printing. Kaiser Verlag
published the fifth edition after World War II, in 1949. Its twentyfirst
printing in 1986 is a strong testimony to the enduring quality of what has
becomeagenuineclassicincontemporaryliterature.174

DevinepointsoutthatBonhoeffers messageof fellowship is needed more

thaneverinthe21st centuryevangelical,consumerdrivenchurch:

evangelicals,atthebeginningofthetwentyfirstcenturyareexperiencing
arenewedinterest,ifnotinthedoctrineofthechurchassuch,certainly in
the quest for community. With the waning, if not the collapse of
denominational loyalty in America, the mobility of evangelicals between
congregations has never been greater. Local churches minister in a highly
competitive, Christianconsumer, winner takeall environment. Perhaps as
never before, joining a church may do little to satisfy the current self
conscioussearchforcommunity.175

CostlyGrace

Dietrich Bonhoeffers most famous work is The Cost of Discipleship,

published first in 1937.176 Todd Kappelman writes that This book is a rigorous

exposition and interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, and Matthew 9:35

10:42.177 Eberhard Bethge points out that: Many of the great men of the

173
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
174
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,322.
175
Devine,99.
176
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
177
ToddKappelman.DietrichBonhoeffer,ProbeMinistries,1999,
http://www.probe.org/history/history/dietrichbonhoeffer.html#text2 (accessedApril2,2009).

60
Protestant tradition, like Luther and Barth, have made their reputation with a

commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Bonhoeffer made himself to a wider

circlewithanexegesisoftheSermonontheMount.178

JohndeGruchy,inDietrichBonhoeffer:WitnesstoJesusChrist,writesthat

Bonhoeffer firstbegantoexploreChristsradicalcalltofollow himwhile hewas

anunpaidlecturerattheUniversityofBerlin179:

During his two years (193133) at the university he became a minor


sensation,attractingasignificantnumberofstudentstohislivelyseminars.
Many of the insights which later found expression in The Cost of
Discipleship were first explored in the informal discussions which
Bonhoefferhadwiththecircleofstudentswhogatheredaroundhim.180

It was also through his formal lectures atthe university where Bonhoeffer

coulddeveloptheconnectionbetweentheologyandrealityintheworld:

Bonhoeffers formal lectures began with a course on The History of


SystematicTheology inthe20th Century.Then followedthe seriesonthe
essenceofthechurch,Christianethics,CreationandSin(publishedlater
asCreationand Fall),and finally,Christology. Alsoof note is hisseminar
onHegelintheSummerof1933.

Theselecturesprovidethebridgebetweenhisearlytheologyandthatwhich
followsinthechurchstruggleandinprison.TheydemonstrateBonhoeffers
new commitment to doing theology from the perspective of committed
discipleshiptoJesusChristasLordoftheworld.181

Bonhoeffers chief concern in the The Cost of Discipleship is that

gracehas becomesowatereddownthatitno longerresemblesthegraceofthe

178
EberhardBethge, CostlyGrace:AnIllustratedIntroductiontoDietrichBonhoeffer(San
Francisco:HarperandRow,Publishers,1979),153.
179
DeGruchy,ed.,DietrichBonhoeffer:WitnesstoJesusChrist, 13.
180
DeGruchy,ed.,DietrichBonhoeffer:WitnesstoJesusChrist, 1314.
181
DeGruchy,ed.,DietrichBonhoeffer:WitnesstoJesusChrist, 14.

61
NewTestament,thecostlygraceoftheGospels.182 Bonhoeffercalledthisacheap

grace183 andithadbeentheruinofmoreChristiansthananyothercommandment

of works.184 Bonhoeffer defined cheap grace as: the preaching of forgiveness

without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion

without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace

withoutdiscipleship,gracewithoutthecross,gracewithoutJesusChrist,livingand

incarnate.185

Costlygrace,ontheotherhand,is:

isthetreasurehiddeninthefieldforthesakeofitamanwillgladlygo
and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the
merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule ofChrist, for whose
sakeamanwillpluckouttheeyewhichcauseshimtostumbleitisthecall
of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. It is
costlybecauseitcostsamanhislife,anditisgracebecauseitgivesaman
theonlytruelife.186

Of all the works of Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship is certainly his

angriestbookpossiblyhisoneangrybooknoneofBonhoeffersearlyworks

revealhiminflamedandvehement,asthisbookdoes.Thetonethroughoutthebook

is entirely serious, rarely speculative, often rhetorically powerfulbut always

angry.187

182
Kappelman.
183
DietrichBonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship(NewYork:SimonandSchuster,1995),
43.
184
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship,55.
185
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship,4445.
186
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship,45.
187
Kuhns,81.

62
ThereisanideaofBonhoeffersangerinthefirstchapterofthebook:

We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcase of cheap grace,
and there we have a drunk of the poison which has killed the life of
followingChristTobeLutheranmustmeanthatweleavethefollowing
ofChristtolegalists.Calvinistsandenthusiastsandallthisforthesakeof
grace.

Wejustifiedtheworld,andcondemnedashereticsthosewhotriedtofollow
Christ. The result was that a nation became Christian and Lutheran, but at
thecostoftruediscipleship.Thepriceitwascalledtopaywasalltoocheap.
Cheapgracehadwontheday.188

There was urgency for Bonhoeffer to complete the book because he

believedthattruediscipleshipwastheonlyhopeforGermany:

Theconditions Bonhoeffer faced aresimplereasonenough why.Hewrote


the book between 1935 and 1937, while directing the seminary at
Finkenwalde.HitlerbynowhadrousedtheGermanpeopletoanationalistic
furorandanutterblindnesstosocialresponsibility.The imprisonmentand
terrorization of Jews raged through the large cities. Any outspoken
criticismsoftheNaziregime,includingthosefromtheConfessingChurch,
werequicklysquelched.

Germany had been, not too long ago, a Christian nation now men and
womencontinuedtoattendchurchservices,buttherealspiritofChristianity
had dimmed to a darkness. At this time Bonhoeffer wrote his strongest
book,achallengetoChristiandiscipleship,becausehebelievedthatonlya
realreturntotheChristianfaithcouldsaveGermany.189

This challenge of Bonhoeffer has been heard and accepted outside of

Protestantcircles.TheCatholicHermesDonaldKreilkampwrote that:

The message of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is not an easy message, even for


believers. But it was Bonhoeffers response to the Jesus who said, If
anyone wishes to be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross,
and follow me. Christ meant this more literally than most of us imagine
thatcertainlywasBonhoeffersconviction.190

188
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, 53.
189
Kuhns,8182.
190
HermesDonaldKreilkamp, DietrichBonhoeffer:ProphetofHumanSociety,2000,
http://www.spiritualitytoday.org/spir2day/843625kreilkamp.html (accessedApril2,2009).

63
The Cost of Discipleship is not without its critics who see The Cost of

DiscipleshipasanunfortunatedetourinthedirectionofBonhoefferstheological

development.191 Kuhnssummarizesthecriticism:

Its seeming emphasis on personal sanctification, the Christians aloofness


from the world, and a religious sense verging on piety have, they say,
distorted the real Bonhoeffer, the champion of religionless Christianity.
They are fond of quoting his letter from Tegel prison of July 21, 1944: I
oncethoughtIcouldacquirefaithbytryingtoliveaholylife,orsomething
like it.Itwas inthatphasethatIwroteTheCostof Discipleship.TodayI
can see the dangers ofthe book,though I am prepared to stand by what I
wrote.192

AccordingtoKuhns,byquotingBonhoeffer,suchcriticsprovidetheirown

rebuttals. The Cost of Discipleship was written during a distinct place of

Bonhoefferslife.193 Kuhnscontinues:

In 1936 Bonhoeffer was highly conscious of the Confessing Churchs


precarious situation, the need for deep spiritual motivation among the
ministers he was training, and, not least of all, his own state of personal
danger.Suchconditionshardlydiscourageonefromlivingaholylifeinthe
sightofGod,andhopinginthat.

It is perfectly understandable that The Cost of Discipleship would reflect


thisurgencyforaholy,personallife.Thebook,however,reflectsmoreitis
asignofBonhoeffersfaithintheworldevenatthistimethatnothingin
TheCostofDiscipleshipreallycontradictsthecentralpassagewrittenlater
intheJuly21letter:Itisonlybylivingcompletelyinthisworldthatone
learns to believe. The book might emphasize heavily to Christians
separation from the worldbut never to the point of any lack of
responsibilitytoit.194

191
Kuhns,82.
192
Kuhns,82.
193
Kuhns,82.
194
Kuhns,8283.

64
ForBonhoeffer,ifafollowerofJesuswasresponsibleintheworld,itmeant

obediencetoJesus.Hewrotethatthereareformidableforcesandobstacleswhich

try to interpose themselves between the word Jesus and the response of

obedienceButthecallofJesusmadeshortworkofallthesebarriers,andcreated

obedience. That call was the Word of God himself, and all that it required was

singlemindedobedience.195

ManyhavewrittenaboutBonhoeffersunderstandingofChristsradicalcall

tofollowhim.KellyandNelsonwritethatTheCostofDiscipleshiphasbecomea

genuineclassicinChristianspirituality.196 Theywritethatthebookisthesolution

to Bonhoeffers problem of slipping into a soft Christianitywithin a

comfortablechurchministry.197

KellyandNelsoncontinue:Thequestionwasatroublingintruderintohis

budding success story: What was he as a Christian to do about the impossible

demandsofChristsSermonontheMount?Hisanswerbecameacalltoasimple,

unflinchingobedience.198

Bonhoeffer was able to give more concrete shape to the hold that the

SermonontheMounthad exertedin hisown life199 while hewasdirectoratthe

Finkenwaldeseminary:

195
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, 79.
196
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,304.
197
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,304.
198
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,304.
199
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,304.

65
For the young seminarians, the thoughts Bonhoeffer shared with them on
this theme led to that exhilarating experience of being drawn into a
revolutionary movement. At stake were Christianity in Germany and,
indeed, Christian faith itself. The German title of this work (Nachfolge)
statesinonewordnotonlywhatBonhoefferperceivedtobethevocationof
aChristianministerbutalsowhathappenedtohimatacrucialturningpoint
inhisspirituallife.FollowingChrist!200

A key principle for Bonhoeffer in the book was obedience to Jesus: the

book puts forth what Bonhoeffer himself had come to hear in the Sermon on the

Mount:Christs Word,commandingobedience.201 ToBonhoeffer,thisobedience

to Christ meant abandoning his own careerism and embracing dedicated

servanthoodeventothepointofbecomingapropheticcriticofhischurch.202

From Bonhoeffers perspective, the church in Germany was selfserving,

had accommodated herself to evil and, often, an open endorsement of Hitlers

plansfornationalisticexpression.203 BonhoefferwroteTheCostofDiscipleshipto

confronttheunfaithfulnessofthechurch:

In the context of such church infidelity, Bonhoeffers book confronts


individualChristianandChristian communityalikewiththecrisispointof
theirfaith:theyarecalledtothesameobediencethatChristsfirstfollowers
heard.ThisisthecostlygraceofdiscipleshipThesituationinGermany
under the spell of Nazism, Bonhoeffer claims, is identical tothat faced by
thefirstdisciplesaskedtochoosewhetherornottofollowChrist.204

Kelly and Nelson point out that Bonhoeffer somewhat wrestles with the

tensionbetweenfullyrepresentingthepresenceofJesusinNaziGermanyandyet

opposingtheunderminingofthechurchsauthoritybyHitler:

200
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,304305.
201
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,305.
202
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,305.
203
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,305.
204
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,305.

66
The thorniest aspect of this choice, which is only partially resolved in the
book, is how to be fully decisive in ones opposition to the Nazi
inculturation of church and society and how, atthe same time, to affirm a
churchpresenceinandChristslordshipovertheworld.

The Christian is one who has promised to follow Christ even should this
mean an inglorious martyrdom for refusing to worship the god national
socialismFor Bonhoeffer, the call (to follow Jesus) was clear: self
sacrificing faith and wholehearted solidarity with ones neighbor,
particularly those of ones community and those cast out by a heartless
society.205

Concerning The Cost of Discipleship Karl Barth wrote in 1955 that

Bonhoeffernotonlywrotethedefinitiveworkonthesubjectofdiscipleship,buthe

alsoliveditout:

The matter (of Christian discipleship) is handled with such depth and
precision that I am almost tempted simply to reproduce themin an
extendedquotation.ForIcannothopetosayanythingbetteronthesubject
than what is said here by a man who, having written on discipleship, was
readytoachieveitinhisownlife,anddidinhisownwayachieveitevento
thepointofdeath.206

G. K. A. Bell, wrote in the Forward in The Cost of Discipleship that

WhenChristcallsaman,saysDietrichBonhoeffer,hebidshimcomeanddie.

There are different kinds of dying, it is true but the essence of discipleship is

contained inthosewordsDietrich himselfwas a martyr manytimesover before

hedied.207

G. Leibholz explained the Memoir section of The Cost of Discipleship

thatBonhoefferneverwascontenttosimply followJesusthroughmerewords:

205
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,305306.
206
Kuhns, 81.
207
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, 11.

67
ItwashisbrotherlyloveofhisfellowmenwhichalsocausedBonhoefferto
believethat itwas notenoughtofollow Christbypreaching,teachingand
writing. No, he was in deadly earnest when he called for Christian action
and selfsacrifice. This explains why Bonhoeffer always acted
spontaneously,inhiding,farfrompublicity,andwhyheconsideredself
righteousness and complacency great sins against the Holy Spirit and
regardedambitionandvanityasthestarttohell.208

G. Leibholz also writes that Bonhoeffers example provides hope for the

churchinthefuture:

WehavenotfoundDietrichBonhoeffersgrave,butthememoryofhislife
willsafelybeguarded,notonlyintheheartsofthosewhoareindissolubly
united with him, but also in the heart of the Church who draws her life
bloodagainandagainfromthosewhofollowhim.

Bonhoeffers life and death have given us great hope for the future. He
has set a model for a new type of true leadership inspired by the gospel,
daily ready for martyrdom and death and imbued by a new spirit of
Christianhumanismandacreativesenseofcivilduty.Thevictorywhichhe
has won was a victory for us all, a conquest never to be undone, of love,
lightandliberty.209

StandingAgainstEvilinSociety

MuchhasbeenwrittenonBonhoeffer,whoontheonehandwasapacifist,

andontheotherhand,wasinvolvedintheresistancethatactivelysoughttoremove

AdolfHitlerfrompower.Thisisanintriguingareaofhislifebecausethereseems

to be a contradiction between Bonhoeffer before he joined Abwehr in 1939 and

BonhoefferafterhejoinedAbwehr.

Abwehr was the counterintelligence agency of the armed forces in Nazi

Germany.210 Many members of Abwehr were part of the German resistance

208
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship,2324.
209
Bonhoeffer, TheCostofDiscipleship, 33.
210
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentofFreedom,543.

68
movement that provided coverups for the resistance activities.211 Abwehr also

actively plotted forthe assassination ofAdolf Hitler.212 Bonhoeffer was a civilian

memberof Abwehrfrom1939untilhisarrestin1943.213

WhatwerethecircumstancesthatledBonhoeffertojoinAbwehr?Isiteven

possibletoarriveatalogicalconclusion? Larry Rasmussen,in DietrichBonhoeffer:

RealityandResistancewrites:

How is it that this man, neither born nor educated for conspiracy,
nevertheless moved through many forms and stages of passive and active
resistance,includingconspiracy,untilhewashangedforhisparticipationin
the plot to end the reign of Adolf Hitler? How is it that he, so self
consciously an admirer of Martin Luther, departed from almost all his
Lutheran colleagues in sounding pacifist themes and carrying out
conspiratorialdeeds?214

Forsome,thereare notalways clearanswerstothosequestions. Attimes,

hiswritingsandlifearehardtounderstand.PeterVorkinkIIsaid:

Interpretations of the life and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer are like the
answers elicited by a Rorschach testno two commentators see the same
thingsWhatBonhoefferreallymeantandwhathewouldhavesaidhadhe
lived has become a wideopen pastime, little previous experience
required.215

DespitethedifficultyinalwaysunderstandingBonhoeffer,hisperseverance

and example during a dark period of the twentyfirst century continues to inspire

people across the spectrum. Martin E. Marty observes: Between East and West,

211
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentofFreedom,543.
212
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentofFreedom,543.
213
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentofFreedom,543.
214
LarryL.Rasmussen, DietrichBonhoeffer:RealityandResistance (Louisville:
WestminsterJohnKnoxPress,2005),11.
215
Haynes,xvi.

69
Protestant and Catholic, Liberal and Conservative, clergyman and layman,

theologian and activist, Calvinist and Lutheran, across the ecumenical spectrum

(Bonhoeffer)hasstoodasasymbol.216

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was made chancellor of Germany217

ushering in a period of twelve years that shook the earth.218 From the onset of

Hitlers control, Bonhoeffer was actively promoting the cause of Jesus though

GermanywasrapidlyfallingunderthedarkcloudofNazism:

By midsummer of 1933, Hitler was master of Germany. The Lutheran


Church fell quickly under his spell. The socialist party within the church,
soonknownastheGermanChristians,wonelectionsinJuly,andnominated
LudwigMuller, handpicked byHitler,ReichBishop.Bonhoeffer made his
way to Gestapo headquarters for the first time, already questioning the
compatibilityofloyaltytoJesusChristandmembershipinachurchthat,in
hismind,hadlapsedintoheresy.219

RenateWinddescribedtheweeksandmonthsthatfollowedHitlersriseto

powerasamassexodusfromresponsibilityintoacultoftheFuhrernotonlya

largepartofthenationbutalmostalltheProtestantchurchwasprostratebeforethe

Fuhrer.220

One pastor from the Rhineland named Paul Humburg took the tune of a

wellknownNazi hymn,the HorstWessel,and composedthe following versethat

appealedtothechurchofGermany:

216
Haynes,xvi.
217
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,532.
218
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 17.
219
Devine,14.
220
ReneWind,DietrichBonhoeffer:ASpokeintheWheel(GrandRapids:WilliamB.
EerdmansPublishingCompany,1991),66.

70
Allhandstowork,youngGermanyrisksanew,
Germany,thebattlecryinneedanddeath,
TheFuhrercalls,wegladlyrejoice.
Thedaybeforeus,andourstrengthisGod.221

OneoftheFuhrersfirsttaskswastopurgeGermanyofpeoplewithJewish

ancestry.OnApril1,1933,therewasanationalonedayboycottofJewishowned

businessesinGermany.222 Sixdayslater,theAryanCivilServicebannedallpeople

ofJewishancestry fromemploymentincivil service, including jobswiththestate

andchurch.223 ThisbecameknownastheAryanClause.224

Laterthatmonth,BonhoefferaddressedagroupofBerlinpastorswhomet

monthly to discuss theological matters.225 His address, which later published as

The Church and the Jewish Question,226 was the first public response to the

churchsresponsibilitytotheJewsinsociety.227

In that address, Bonhoeffer referred to the Nazi government as the

wheel.228 Andthechurchcanrespondtothewheelinthreeways.First,itcan

askthestatewhetheritsactionsarelegitimateandinaccordancewithitscharacter

asstate,i.e.,itcanthrowthestatebackonitsresponsibilities.229

221
Wind,6667.
222
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,532
.
223
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,532.
224
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,543.
225
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,15.
226
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentto Freedom,532.
227
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,15.
228
Wind,69.
229
Wind,69.

71
Second,ifthewheelrunsoverandhurtspeopleinsociety,thenthechurch

has the responsibility to bandage the victims.230 Third, the church even had the

responsibilitytoputaspokeinthewheelitself.231 Thatstatementcausedmanyof

Bonhoeffersfellowpastorstoleavetheroom:Dietrichgavetherestofhislecture

toanalmostemptyroom.

His demand that the church must be prepared for political resistance had

flabbergasted mostof his audience. With this attitude, Dietrich remained alone in

hischurch.232

Despite the lack of support from his brethren in the church, Bonhoeffer

pressedforwardtoformalizeaproper,Biblicaldoctrinethatdefinedtherelationship

between the church and the world. William Kuhns writes that this pursuit would

consumeBonhoefferduringthemiddleyearsof1930s:

ThequestionbecameurgentduringtheNaziregime:howshouldthechurch
respondtotheJewishpersecution,thenationspreparationforanaggressive
war, the intoxication of the people with a dangerous leader? Bonhoeffer
realized that a major reason for the failure of the Confessing Church in
GermanywasalackoftheologicaldoctrineofChurchandworld.

Worse: the absence of such a doctrine forced upon the Church an unreal
notion of itself which was, as Bonhoeffer later suggested in his prison
letters,essentiallyselfdestructivehiswritingsoftheperiodbetween1932
and 1936 show a recurring questioning of the relationship, and a circling
efforttodefinetheproblem.233

230
Wind,69.
231
Wind,69.
232
Wind,69.
233
Kuhns,60.

72
Duringtheseyears,Bonhoefferwasalsoabletolaythegroundworkforhis

work,Ethicswhichhebeganin1940.234 Bonhoefferconsideredthishismainwork

inhislife:Isometimesfeelasifmylifeweremoreorlessover,andasifallIhad

todoweretofinishmyEthics.235 Onewillnotfindasystematicdoctrineofthe

relationshipbetweenthechurchandstatein Ethics:

According to Bonhoeffer, the movement from life in the Christian


community to service of ones neighbor is the only one true movement
toward Godthat Gods gift of faith makes possible. He argues, moreover,
thatthedemandforspontaneityinonesresponsetopeopleinneedmakesit
impossibletoproduceasystematicethic.Everychangingsituationof need
canbecomethespecificlocusofGodscommand.236

ThisdemandforspontaneityexplainswhyitseemedthatBonhoefferwent

fromapacifisttoanactiveroleintheassassinationofAdolfHitler.Whenhewrote

TheCostofDiscipleshipin1937,237 Bonhoefferofferedacompellingargumenton

behalf of pacifism as blessed in Jesus beatitudes238 However, when he wrote

Ethics:

his thoughtsbecame conditioned by the reality of an entrenched,


seemingly insurmountable evil that no ordinary means, least of all that of
pacifism, appeared capable of nullifying. The times called for another
approach, one inspirited by his practical sense of responsibility for the
victims of Nazism and his trust in the incarnate presence and forgiving
powerofJesusChrist.239

234
Kuhns,285.
235
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,343.
236
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,343.
237
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
238
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 112.
239
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 112.

73
LarryRasmussenoffers legitimatequestionsaboutthispossibleshiftingof

Bonhoeffersposition:

But what about that most intriguing journey of all, from a committed
ChristianpacifismtoChristianparticipationintyrannicideandcoupdetat?
What explains Bonhoeffers twisting path of resistance in the Church
Struggleand inthe militarypoliticalconspiracy? Doesthis journey, varied
in form and perhaps contradictory and ethically problematic, also belong
andholdtogether?240

To Bonhoeffer, however, there was no contradiction because he would

maintainthathisdevotiontotheexampleofJesusallowedtimes forpacifismand

alsotimesforamoreactiveroleinrepresentingChristintheworld:

AlthoughthepeacemakingdimensionsofBonhoeffersChristianspirituality
seemedmutedbyhisargumentsinEthicsinfavoroftyrannicideandviolent
interventionstotheendofthewar, intruthBonhoeffersrelianceonJesus
Christs example and mandates of responsibility never ceased to be his
primarymotivatingforceToactonbehalfofthevictimsofthewidespread
suffering inflicted by Nazism militaristic bloodletting meant that law
abiding citizens had to break the laws and plan the violent death of a
dictator.241

Rasmussen alsoarguesthattherewas no inconsistency in Bonhoeffer,and

thattheseeminglydifferentapproachestoNazismaresimplytheunfoldingof his

Christology:

Dietrich Bonhoeffers resistance activity was his Christology enacted


with utter seriousness. Bonhoeffers resistance was the existential playing
outofchristologicalthemes.Changesandshifts in hisChristologywereat
the same time changes and shifts in the character of his resistance. In the
other direction, changes in his resistance activity had an impact on his
Christology.242

240
Rasmussen,8.
241
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer,113.
242
Rasmussen,15.

74
Bonhoeffersvariedresponsescorrespondedtothethreepossibleresponses

ofthechurchheoutlinedinhisaddress,TheChurchandtheJewishQuestionin

Aprilof1933.243 Intheearlyyears,Bonhoeffersresponseresembledsomethingof
244
a pacifist. But as the historical conditions changed, Bonhoeffer reacted

accordingly.

Forexample,BonhoeffereventuallywasinvolvedinsmugglingJewsoutof

Germany. He was a civilian member of Abwehr245 from 1938 until his arrest in

1943.246 This was the German Intelligence Service. Bonhoeffers brotherinlaw,

Hans von Dohnanyi, a staff member of Abwehr, recruited him as a front for

exemption from being drafted into the military.247 This gave Bonhoeffer an

appearanceofloyaltytotheNazis.

Bonhoeffers involvement with a movement to smuggle Jews out of

Germany again corresponded with his essay, The Church and the Jewish

Question.In it,Bonhoeffer appealedto Galatians6:10as supporttobandagethe

woundsoftheJewishpeople:Therefore,aswehaveopportunity,letusdogoodto

all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. He argued

243
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,532.
244
Kuhns,228.
245
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 28.
246
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,543.
247
Kellyand Nelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 28.

75
that the church has an unconditional obligation tothe victims of any ordering of

society,eveniftheydonotbelongtotheChristiancommunity.248

There was a biblical mandate for Bonhoeffer to risk his own life to save

others.ThisriskbecamemoreapparentasconditionsworsenedinGermany.Kuhns

writesthattheneedwassharper,moreurgent.249

A demonic government was dragging the German people into destruction


andrippingopenEuropeatthesametime.Whattheworldneededmostnow
was notpeace,notaquietingofthe havoc,norevenprimarily aneffortto
rescuethevictimsofthehavoc.Thethirdpossibility,Dietrichhadwritten
in1932,isnotjusttobandagevictimsunderthewheel,buttoputaspoke
inthewheelitself.

The historical moment made that third alternative for Bonhoeffer an


imperativeIntermsofthehistoricalmoment,then,Bonhoefferstransition
to conspiracy against the government is not a total reorientationWhat
BonhoefferdidwhenhebecameinvolvedintheAbwehrcirclemakessense
in terms of what he always believed and hoped in. For he believed more
deeply in relating to the present, in identifying the concrete needs of the
moment,thaninsimplepacifism.250

KuhnsalsoarguesthattherewereothermotivationsforBonhoeffersnew

form of actionOne motivation may well have been a disillusionment with

pacifism.251

Bonhoefferembracedpacifismlargelybecauseitheldatacticaladvantage:
itansweredaneed.ButthecomingoftheWarmadepacifismanindividual
(and highly risky) decision, and by obliterating the very peace which
Bonhoeffer had struggled for, made his style of pacifism somewhat
obsolete. And obsolescence was something which Bonhoeffer instinctively
abhorred.

248
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,132.
249
Kuhns,229.
250
Kuhns,229.
251
Kuhns,229.

76
Another motivation may figure in, Bonhoeffers growing disappointment
withtheConfessingChurch.Inthelate1930sanefforthadbeenmadeby
Reich Church and Confessing Church leaders to consolidate the two
churches.Bonhoefferhadviolentlyopposedtheeffort.Andthoughitfailed,
the attempt seriously weakened the Confessing Churchto the point at
whichitsleaderswerefarmoreworriedaboutitsstabilitythanthesalvation
ofthepeopleitwasintendedtoserve.

HadtheConfessingChurchactuallydonewhatBonhoefferhopeditwould
dosharpenconsciences,stimulatecriticalthoughtaboutGermanlifeunder
theregime,identifytheimperativesofdiscipleshiptoChristinthepresent
thenverypossiblyBonhoefferneverwouldhavehadtoentertheresistance.

Athirdreason forenteringresistancewascertainly Bonhoeffersprofound


love for Germany and the German people. In his 1939 letter to inform
Niebuhrthathewas suddenly leaving America,Bonhoefferwrote:I must
live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian
peopleofGermany.Iwillhavenorighttoparticipateinthereconstruction
oftheChristianlifeinGermanyafterthewarifIdonotsharethetrialsof
thistimewithmypeople.

A finalandrelatedreason forBonhoeffersentry intotheresistancewould


betheverytermsinwhichheconceivedresistanceaction.Ouraction,he
toldBishopBellintheirmeetinginStockholmin1942,mustbesuchthat
theworldwillunderstanditasanactofrepentance.

Inhis meetingwithW. A.VissertHooftin1941,hedescribedresistance


asasalvagingaction,andanactofrepentance:salvaging,inthatoutofthe
warwouldbepluckedthefoundationofanewinternationalorderofjustice
repentance,meaninginhisownwordsthatonlyindefeatcanweatonefor
theterriblecrimeswehavecommittedagainstEuropeandtheworld.

Out of this context, out of these motivations, Bonhoeffer took part in a


conspiracytoendtheThirdReich.Amanwholovedhiscountryandcould
not bear to see it drag Europe into another holocaust a man whose
disappointmentwithearliercausesmadehimrealizethatthetimescalledfor
action of heroic and desperate proportions a man whose commitment to
pacifism followed from a deeper commitment, which led him in time to
resistance:thiswasBonhoeffer.252

Bonhoeffers involvement with Abwehr was a means for him to put a

spoke in the wheel of Nazism in order to jam it. Bonhoeffer explained his

reasoning in joining the resistance to his sisterinlaw Emmi Bonhoeffer. He told


252
Kuhns,229232.

77
her: If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I

cant,asaChristian,simplywaitforthecatastropheandthencomfortthewounded

andburythedead.Imusttrytowrestlethesteeringwheeloutofthehandsofthe

driver.253

Mark Devine explained Bonhoeffers motive towrestle the steering wheel

outofthemadmanshands:

Without taking a dogmatic position, perhaps we can say that Bonhoeffer


fairly consistently maintained a strong Christian aversion to the use of
violence, accepting its inevitability only as a last resort. This leaves aside
thequestionofthecriteriabywhichbelieversrecognizewhetherlastresort
conditionsaremet.

WhatwecansaywithrealconfidenceisthatBonhoefferfoundretreatfrom
the concrete problems on humankind on supposed Christian or theological
groundsintolerable.Bettertosinboldlyandletgraceabound(Luther)than
towelcomeandenjoythebenefitsofHitlersassassinationbyotherswhile
smuglyadoringanddisplayingonesownostensiblycleanhands!

Bonhoeffers pacifism accepted agonizing participation in violence, asking


for forgiveness all along the way but refusing to stand by and let
nonbelieversdothedirtywork.254

KellyandNelsonwritethatthechangingcircumstances forcedBonhoeffer

toabandonthe morepeaceful formsofresistance:Butby,1938,giventhe mood

for compromise, the drive for civil legitimation, and the rise of a national

patriotism,thenerodingConfessingChurchresistance,Bonhoefferhadbeenedged

253
GlimpsesofChristianHistory,Glimpses#63:TheologianBonhoefferExecutedon
OrderfromHitler,ChristianityTodayInternational, 2007,
http://www.christianhistorytimeline.com/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps063.shtml (accessedApril2,
2009
254
Devine,137138.

78
past mere church agitation toward the more murkier actions demanded by a

politicalmilitaryconspiracy.255

Among the murkier actions was Bonhoeffers silence in ecclesiastical

circles.ThereasonwasthathisinvolvementwithAbwehrallowedhimtobeaware

ofdamninginformationfromtheconspirators.256 Thesharingofthisinformation

wouldcertainlyputhispeersindanger.

BonhoeffersinvolvementwithAbwehreventuallyledtohisarrestonApril

5,1943.257 AbwehrwasresponsibleforOperation7258,aplantotransportasmall

group of Jews out of Germany. Abwehr provided passports and papers to Jews

allowing them to pose as Abwehr agents. Bonhoeffer was heavily involved in

Operation7:

Bonhoefferwasalsoinstrumentalintheimplementationofatopsecretplan
to assist the smuggling of Jews outof Germany, referred to as Operation
7. Three times he crossed the border himself to Switzerland, connecting
withkeyecumenicalfiguressuchasKarlBarth,W.A.VissertHooft,and
others. He was able to make several important contacts for the resistance.
TogetherwithHelmutCountvonMoltke,healsotraveledtoNorwayunder
theauspicesoftheAbwehr.259

255
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentofFreedom,482.
256
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamentofFreedom,482.
257
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoral Leadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 28
258
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 29.
259
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 29.

79
Bonhoeffersmostdangerousjourneycameinthespringof1942,whenhe

met with his ecumenical friend, Bishop George Bell of England, in Sigtuna,

Sweden:Thecrucialimportanceofthismissioncanscarcelybeexaggerated260:

In this secret rendezvous, Bonhoeffer relayed to the bishop precise


information, including names of key resisters in the German underground.
ThehopewasthatBellwouldtransmitthisimportantmessagetotheBritish
Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, thence to Prime Minister Winston
ChurchillandfurthertoFranklinRoosevelt.

It was hoped that the Allies would initiate a contract with the resistance,
negotiatingacompromisepeaceafterHitlerhadbeenoverthrowninacoup.
There was no return message by Allied leaders. The unconditional
surrender policy of the Allied leaders seemed set in stone, much to the
consternation of the resistance movement and also at great cost of life
duringthefinaltwoyearsofthewar.261

However, the Gestapo learned that Abwehr was using Jews as military

agents.262 This led to an investigation into Operation 7. In October of 1942,

Abwehr agent, Consul Wilhelm Schmidhuber was arrested. He was one of

Bonhoefferssuperiors.Duringinterrogation,Bonhoeffersnamehadsurfaced.263

This eventually led to the arrest of Bonhoeffer in April of 1943. He was thirty

sevenyearsoldatthetime.264

A few months prior to his arrest, Bonhoeffer wrote the essay, After Ten

Years. It was a Christmas gift to his closest fellow resisters when the race

260
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 29.
261
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 29.
262
Wind,152.
263
Devine,30.
264
Kuhns,114.

80
betweenarrestandsuccesswasclose.ThiswasalsoatimewhenBonhoefferknew

thattheReichSecurityHeadOfficewasgatheringevidenceagainsthim.265 After

Ten Years was Bonhoeffers attempt to give some account of what we have

experiencedandlearntincommonduringtheseyears.266

Todd Kappelman writes that in this essay, Bonhoeffer identifies with the

evilofthetimes,andespeciallythewar.Hespeaksoftheunreasonablesituations

which reasonable people must face.267 One lesson that Bonhoeffer learned ten

yearsafterHitlertookpowerwastheneed forcivilcourageamong citizenswhen

evilprevailed:

Whatliesbehindthecomplaintaboutthedearthofcivilcourage?Inrecent
years we have seen a great deal of bravery and selfsacrifice, but civil
couragehardlyanywhere,evenamongourselves.Toattributethissimplyto
personal cowardice would be too facile a psychology its background is
quitedifferent.

In a long history, we Germans have had to learn the need for and the
strengthofobedience.Inthesubordinationofallpersonalwishesandideas
tothetaskstowhichwehavebeencalled,wehaveseenthemeaningandthe
greatnessofour lives. We have lookedupwards, notin servile fear,but in
freetrust,seeingin ourtasksacall,andinourcallavocation.268

Bonhoeffer continued by reminding his fellow conspirators that Germany

hasaproudhistoryofhavingthefreedomtofollowacommandoutsideofselfin

ordertoservethecommunity.269 Yet,thissamefreedomtoobeyandfollowcan

265
Rasmussen,63.
266
DietrichBonhoeffer,LettersandPapersFromPrison(NewYork:MacmillanPublishing
Company,1972),3
267
ToddKappelman,DietrichBonhoeffer:TheManandHisMission,ProbeMinistries,
1999, http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/bonhoeffer.html (accessedApril2,2009).
268
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersFromPrison,56.
269
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersFromPrison,56.

81
be exploited for evil ends.270 And it was at this point when courage failed the

Germanpeople:

Whenthathappened,theexerciseofthecallingitselfbecamequestionable,
and all the moral principles of the German were bound to totter. The fact
could not be escaped that the German still lacked something fundamental:
hecouldnotseetheneedforfreeandresponsibleaction,eveninopposition
to his task and his calling in its place there appeared on the one hand an
irresponsible lack of scruple, and on the other a selftormenting
punctiliousnessthatneverledtoaction.271

Rasmussen points outthat even though Bonhoeffer advocatedthe freedom

toactagainstoppression,hestopsshortofmakingsuchfreedomnormative:

Bonhoeffer immediately counters an ethic in which unbound freedom is


normative. Certainly the man of unbound freedom knows the necessary
deed and practice the artof compromise as well. He might also be clearly
cognizant that compromise may prove the wrong tack and that a fruitful
radicalismmaybethedemandofthehourinstead.

Heisfreetomoveinanyandallofthesedirections...Bonhoefferfallsshort
here of his standing criticism of an ethic that makes free responsibility
normative, i.e., an ethic that ignores law as a generally binding
boundaryhe concludes that the exceptional act must never be made the
normativeone,thatnecessitymustnotbecomeaprinciple.272

Nevertheless, there will be times when citizens must be exceptional in

their actions. This leads to another lesson in the essay. The Church also has the

responsibilitytotakeanactiveroleagainsttyranny.Bonhoefferwrote:

WearenotChrist,butifwewanttobeChristians,wemustshareinChrists
largeheartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the
hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not
from fear, but from liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who
suffer.

270
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersFromPrison,56.
271
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersFromPrison,56.
272
Rasmussen,65.

82
MerewaitingandlookingisnotChristianbehavior.TheChristianiscalled
tosympathyandaction,notinthefirstplacebyhisownsufferings,butby
thesufferingsofhisbrethren,forwhosesakeChristsuffered.273

Whiletheessayisanaccountoftheresistanceexperienceandnotanessay

in Christology or theological ethicsBonhoeffer does not omit deeprunning

themes of his christological ethic.274 It was the sufferings of others that call

Christiansintoaction.KellyandNelsonwrite:

The essay is a reminder of the ideals for which they were joined in the
struggle.TheycouldderivesatisfactiononlyfromtheexampleofChristin
hiswillingnesstosufferforothersandinthatremarkablesolidaritywiththe
oppressed that had continued to animate their decisions to deliver their
nationfromNazism.275

There certainly was a progression in Bonhoeffers actions from 1933 to

1943.Thisprogressionwas,again basedonthethreeresponses heoutlined inthe

1933essay,TheChurchandtheJewishQuestion.TheconditionsinGermanyand

Europeeventuallyreachedthepointwhereitwasnecessarytojamthewheel.

Bonhoefferknewthatmurderwasmorallywrong.Yet,Hitlerwasguiltyof

horrifying massacres of countless Jews and others. When Bonheoffer realized the

gravity of terror inside the walls of the Nazi death camps, he concluded that he

couldnolongerpassivelysitandwatchmillionsofinnocentpeoplediebecauseof

theevilofHitler.

273
DietrichBonhoeffer,LettersandPapersFromPrison,14.
274
Rasmussen,66.
275
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,483.

83
In1939whentheConfessingChurchinGermanylostherbackbonetostand

up to Hitler, Bonhoeffer joined the resistance. His activities within the Abwehr

progressedtothepointofcommittingtreason.

By 1940, Bonhoeffer believed that his involvement in the conspiracy to

remove Hitler from power was the only path that made any sense.276 Yet,

Bonhoeffer was always careful to make sure that his devotion to Christ was the

overridingreasontotakesuchapath.InthesamewaythatJesussufferedanddied

for the oppressed, they sacrificed their lives for the sake of the oppressed.

Bonhoeffer, thus, identified with Jesus through his own suffering and eventual

execution.

ServingJesusinSevereTrials

As society in Germany deteriorated, Dietrich Bonhoeffer realized that the

church,inherpresentform,wasincapableofstandingstrongforJesus.Thechurch

certainlyhadreligiousforms,butthoseformsactuallyrestrictedthechurch.277

Bonhoefferbelievedthatadaywouldcomewhenthechurchwouldbefreedfrom

these religious forms: indeed, evidences are clear that Bonhoeffer welcomed the

secular forces in the world, and saw in them a growing liberation from mans

enslavementtoreligiousformsaliberationtobefullermeninChrist.278

276
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,483.
277
Kuhns,196
278
Kuhns,196.

84
NeartheendofDietrichBonhoefferslife,hewasabletobegintoarticulate

his concept that the world was in a transition to a day when the real meaning of

Christianitywouldbefinallyrealized:

Inoneof his last letterstoBethge,Bonhoefferdescribeda bookwhich he


waspreparingtowrite,TheEssenceofChristianity,ontheworldscoming
of age, the dissolution of religion, and the real meaning ofthe Christian
faith. Obviously such a book would have been invaluable in clarifying
BonhoeffersthoughtinthecriticalareaofreligionlessChristianityanda
non religious interpretation of biblical concepts. Unfortunately, he was
neverabletofinishthebook.279

Itwasunfortunatebecause TheEssenceofChristianitywouldhavebeen

Bonhoeffers most mature importantthought.280 On April 30, 1944, Bonhoeffer

describedinaletterEberhardBethgehisthoughtsonreligionlessChristianity.281

Bonhoefferwas concernedthatchurchpeople in Germanywerecontenttosimply

wear a thin garment of Christianity.282 Yet, a day is coming when people will

realizehowhelplesstheyarewithsuchagarment:

WhatisbotheringmeincessantlyisthequestionwhatChristianityreallyis,
orindeedwhoChristreallyis,forustoday.Thetimewhenpeoplecouldbe
told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over,
and soisthetimeof inwardnessandconscienceandthat meansthetime
of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless
timepeopleastheyarenowsimplycannotbereligiousanymore.

Even those who honestly describe themselves as religious do not in the


leastactuptoit,andsotheypresumablymeansomethingquitedifferentby
religiousHowthisreligionlessChristianitylooks,whatformittakes,is
somethingthatImthinkingaboutagreatdeal283

279
Kuhns,194.
280
Kuhns,194.
281
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersfromPrison,282.
282
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersfromPrison, 280.
283
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersfromPrison,279,282.

85
Kelly and Nelson offer the following definition and understanding of

religionlessChristianity:

(It) refers to a new form of Christianity in which people of a genuine


Christianfaithwouldliveinamoreopen,constructiverelationshipwiththe
world. In this process, religion itself, considered and historically
conditioned, transient, dying form of Christianity, would undergo drastic
changes as faith is freed from its more Westernized, selfserving
constrictionsandemphasisoninwardpietyandemptyrituals.

...Bonhoeffer had criticized religion for its having inflicted on people a


psychic posture of weakness and immature dependence and for having
encouraged individualistic, selfcentered attitudes toward God and others.
Christians living a nonreligious form of Christianity, on the other hand,
would draw on the example of Christ, the man for others, and live in a
paradoxofbeingcalledoutoftheworldwhilebelongingwhollytoit.284

ReligionlessChristianityisconnectedwithcostlygraceandobedienceto

Jesuscalltoradically follow him.However,thechurchstructureofBonhoeffers

dayhinderedChristiansfromdoingso.Thus,thestructurehadtochange:

From the prison letters, one can deduce that Bonhoeffer was calling for a
complete restructuring of ecclesiastical offices and for a reshaping of the
churches so they can become more like Christ, divested of their
possessivenessandencouragedtoliveonlytoserveothers.

SuchaChristianity,withitschurch,Sacrament,andsermonstillneededthe
disciplineofthesecret,inorderforChristians tobecompletelyengaged
inamoresilentlifeofprayeranddedicationtosocialjustice.Inthisway
Bonhoeffer hoped that a new form of Christian church would come into
being.285

It is in this framework of religionless Christianity that helps us to

understandhowBonhoefferwasabletostandfastduringseveretrials.Eventhough

the time was harsh and dangerous, Bonhoeffer saw this as an opportunity for the

284
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,547548.
285
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,547548.

86
church to be revised and repaired.286 Even from his days as the director of the

Finkenwalde Seminary, he looked forward to the revitalization of the church.287

Bonhoeffer longed forthedaytocomewhenthechurchwould no longer be self

servingandcowardly.

Bonhoeffer worked hard to provide the church with a backbone, even

though setbacks plagued him until his death. For example on August 5, 1936, he

was no longerallowedtoteachatBerlinUniversity.288 InSeptemberof1937,the

Seminary at Finkenwalde was closed by the Gestapo.289 On January 11, 1938,

BonhoefferwasinformedthathecouldnolongerworkinBerlin.290 OnSeptember

9,1940,hewasprohibitedtospeakpubliclyandwasorderedtoregularlycheckin

withthepolice.291 On April5,1943 hewas arrestedand imprisoned.292 InJulyof

that year, Bonhoeffer wentthrough intense interrogation.293 On February 2, 1945,

hewassentencedtodeathandonApril9,1945,DietrichBonhoefferwasexecuted

atFlossenberg.294

286
Rasmussen,45.
287
KellyandNelson: TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityof Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, 158.
288
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
289
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
290
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,533.
291
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,534.
292
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,535.
293
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,535.
294
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,535.

87
Bonhoeffer also faced opposition from fellow Christians who opted for a

saferroute.Bonhoefferwasamongthe firsttorecognizetheantiSemitismwithin

thegovernment.SoheurgedhisfellowpastorstostandupandprotecttheJewish

people. Asstatedabove,Bonhoefferreasoned from scripturethatChristfollowers

areobligatedtointerveneforthehelplessinsociety.

ButthisinterventionwasnottojustprotestNazipolicesnorwasitjustto

providesafepassageofJewsoutofGermany.Again,Bonhoeffersuggestedthatthe

spokes of the Nazi wheel are to be broken by those who profess Jesus Christ.

Bonhoeffersviewpointwasseenastooextremebymanyofhispeers.Hebecame

anenigmatomanyofhiscolleaguesinthechurchwhowereattemptingbypolitical

quietism,indifference,andreligiouscompromisetosurviveadifficultsituation.295

Yet, this passivity and inaction of the church would allow for the the

insidiousNazitakeoverofthechurches.296 In1933,Bonhoefferpleadedwiththe

churchtoremaintruetobiblicalvalues.Nevertheless,inJulyofthesameyear,the

Evangelical Church in Germany (composed of Lutheran and Reformed churches)

electedasReichbishop,LudwigMuller.HewasasympathizerofNazipolicesand

was an ecclesiastical counterpart to the political leadership of Adolf Hitler.297

Thus,withinthechurch,Hitlerhadanallywhowouldendorsehisracialpolicies.

The fact that Muller was elected by church delegates indicated Hitler had

already cast his spell. The door was now open for national policies to become

295
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,127.
296
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,127.
297
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,127

88
church polices. For example, the Law for the Reconstruction of the Professional

CivilServicewaspassedbytheGermanReichstagonApril7,1933.Itcontained

the Aryan Clause298 which banned Jews from serving in the government. On

September4,1933,theEvangelicalChurchadoptedtheAryanClause.Fromthat

pointon,pastorsofJewishdescentweredeniedrightsasordainedministers.299

FromBonhoefferspointofview,thechurchhadfallenintoheresy.Thecall

ofJesusforradicaldiscipleshiphadbeenreplacedbyracialpurity.Thechurchhad

optedforcheapgracebyskirtingherresponsibilitytostandupfortheoppressed

insociety.

BonhoeffercouldnotsitbackandwatchthechurchtransformintoHitlers

puppet. There had to be action. Bonhoeffer and others formed a resistance

movement within the church to not only oppose the proNazi policies within the

churchbutalsotoshowunitywiththeirJewishcolleagueswithinthechurch.This

resistance was known as the Pastors Emergency League.300 This organization

wouldeventuallyformtheConfessingChurchofGermany.301

TheConfessingChurchthencommissionedBonhoefferandHermannSasse

to formulate a confession of faith that would serve as a counter to the Nazis

invasion intotheGermanNational Church.BonhoefferandSassewoulddraftthis

confessionataretreatcentercalledBethel.Thus,theconfessionwasknownasthe

298
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,543.
299
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 17.
300
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,17.
301
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,17.

89
Bethel Confession.302 This document, in its original form was perhaps the most

devastating condemnation of the Nazi point of view. Yet, the Bethel Confession

went through several revisions to make it less offensive. Bonhoeffer was so

disappointedinthefinal watereddownversionthatherefusedtosignit.303

In May of 1934, the Confessing Church adopted the Barmen

Declaration.304 The primary author of this document was theologian Karl Barth.

Thedelegatesfromnineteenprovincialchurchesvotedunanimouslytoopposethe

intrusionofNazivaluesintotheGermanchurch.TheBarmenDeclarationincluded

thefollowingstatement:Werepudiatethefalseteachingthatthereareareasofour

lifeinwhichwebelongnottoJesusChristbuttootherlords,areasinwhichwedo

notneedjustificationandsanctificationthroughhim.305

Itwasastrongandclearcalltoallowthechurchtotrulybethechurchand

tobecompletelydevotedtoJesus.BonhoefferwasastrongadvocateoftheBarmen

Declaration:

Bonhoefferhimself,thoughnotpresentatBarmen,wouldlookbackonthat
moment as an affirmation that church order was bound solely to Jesus
Christ.Thisaffirmation, forhim,wasaclearrejectionofthe heresythata
churchcouldbeallowedtosuititsconvictionstothedictatesofpoliticsor
publicopinion.Thechurchwas,toputitsimply,theBodyofChrist.306

302
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,1517.
303
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,17.
304
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,20.
305
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,20.
306
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,20.

90
Bonhoeffer also pushed that the Confessing Church be recognized as the

onlytruerepresentativeoftheEvangelicalChurchofGermany.Unfortunately,this

never became areality becauseevenwithintheConfessingChurch,pastorsbegan

to waver in their original commitment to Gods word. The Barmen Confession

eventually became blunted by compromise and the seductive siren of

patriotism.307

By1936,compromisehadslippedintotheConfessingChurch.OnJanuary

10, 1936, Bonhoeffer addressed a groupof clergy at StettinBredow and declared

that the church had, in short, become susceptible to skilled subversion by state

propaganda.Instandingstill,hesaid,theydestroythechurch.Heurgedthemto

move forward.308 Overthecourseoftime,as morepastorswereimprisoned,the

voiceoftheConfessingChurchlostherboldness.

This path of neutrality baffled Bonhoeffer because in life, either a person

followedJesusChristordidnot.ThisloyaltytoJesuswastestedonApril20,1938

when all the pastors in Germany were ordered to take the oath of allegiance to

AdolfHitlerinhonorofhisfiftiethbirthday.309 TheConfessingChurchrefusedto

take an official stance against this oath to Hitler, but simply left the matter upto

individual pastors. Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to Berlin Council of Brethren and

voiced his bitter disappointment that pastors caved in to political pressures rather

thanobeythedemandsofJesus.

307
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,28.
308
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,29.
309
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 26.

91
Later that year, on November 9, the churchs loyalty to Jesus was tested

again when Nazi storm troopers mobilized hordes of willing citizens toterrorize

theJewishpopulation,breakingthewindowsofhousesandstoresandburningthe

synagogues.310 This became known as Krisallnacht (Crystal Night)311 because

broken glass littered the streets in the towns and cities after that night of

devastationandterror.312

Bonhoeffer was stunned and angry that only a few pastors spoke out

against this latest violence against the Jews and their places of worship.313 The

otherchurchleaderswithdrewintoapioussilence.314 Hewasalsoangrybecause

it was reprehensible for Christians to make the connection, as many did,

betweenthedestructionofJewishpropertyandthesocalledcurseonJewsbecause

oftheirallegedparticipationinthedeathofChrist.315 KellyandNelsonwritethat

scarcelyanypastorsorchurchleadersspokeoutagainsttheseactsofblatantanti

Semitism.Bonhoefferhimselfwasoutraged.316

Allthepersonal setbacksanddisappointmentswiththechurchemphasized

theneedtoBonhoefferforthechurchtobecomereligionless.Bonhoeffercameto

310
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,32.
311
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,32.
312
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,545.
313
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,32.
314
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,32.
315
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,32.
316
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 26.

92
realize that religion, however helpful in previous ages, was now an obstacle to

genuine faith in Jesus Christ.317 Bonhoeffer was not seeking to propose an

apologeticforChristianity,noradilutionoftheChristianmessage.318

Bonhoeffers concern was that the churchs openness to the world

wouldlead to a loss of Christian identity and substance, and righteous action

alone could not sustained for long.319 A religionless Christianity would restore

the courage and substance tothe church because believers would be strengthened

throughgenuinecommunityandthespiritualdisciplines.

David H. Jensen writes that even though Bonhoeffers religionless

Christianity was not fully developed and often misunderstood, it is nevertheless

christocentric:

In a letter to Eberhard Bethge dated April 30, 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer


wrestleswiththeideaofareligionlessChristianity.AlthoughBonhoeffer
approaches this idea more in form of questions and less as an explicit
theological topic, this has not deterred legions of interpreters from seizing
hiscatchphraseforabewilderingarrayoftheologicalprojects.

From Death of God theologians to postmodernists, religionless


Christianity has served as a rallying cry for a new way of Christian
thinking (and acting) in the world. Though the details of Bonhoeffers
proposalofreligionlessChristianityaresketchyatbest,thequestionsthat
he asks become especially relevant as Christianity approaches its twenty
firstcenturyandconfrontsissuesofreligiouspluralismmoreopenly.

ForBonhoeffer,religionlessChristianityisassteadfastlychristocentricas
itisamodeloffacetofaceencounterandsolidaritywithothersinaworld
of difference. In an age that should herald the death of Christian
triumphalism,BonhoeffersalternativeposturemayallowChristianstohold

317
DeGruchy,39.
318
DeGruchy,39.
319
DeGruchy,40.

93
fasttotheircoreconfessionsaboutJesusChristwithoutobscuringtheclaim
andwisdomofreligiousothers.320

Bonhoeffer, according to Jensen, was convinced that most Godtalk was

either strange or irrelevant to modern ears.321 Another dangerous tendency was

thatreligion had become autonomousand inward,andthus, had run itscourse

with even more disastrous consequences. A preoccupation with personal (and

national)salvationhadsoturnedtheChristianeyeawayfromothersthatthechurch

nowmanifesteditselfinamonstrouslydistortedcultofuniformity.322

Thus, the church was rendered both irrelevant in the face of crisis and

incapable of openness to vulnerable others beyond its walls...For Bonhoeffer, this

focus on religion resulted in an impotent church, incapable of sustaining the new

lifeithadbeenentrustedtoproclaim.323

A religionless Christianity is a sharp contrast to a religion that would

insulateChristianswithintheirrelevantconfinesoftheirSundaysanctuariesandit

willreturnthechurchtoChrist,thepersonofdifferenceandareturntoaworld

in its turmoil and struggle.324 This return to Jesus within a religionless

ChristianitywouldfreeChristiansfromthepreviousinsulationofthechurch:

BonhoeffercanthussaythatChristtakesholdofChristiansatthecenterof
their lives, while at the same time recognizing that it is also Christ who
320
DavidH.Jensen, ReligionlessChristianityandtheReligiousOther:Bonhoeffers
InvitationtoInterreligiousEncounter,ATLASerials,2002,
http://search.atlaonline.com/pls/eli/eli_bg.superframe?PID=n00069663_047_0304_0113&artid=AT
LA0001378716 (accessedonApril2,2009).
321
Jensen.
322
Jensen.
323
Jensen.
324
Jensen.

94
launchesChristiansintoaworldofsufferinganddifference.Hurledintothe
midstofthisworld,Christiansarenottoassumeasenseofprivilege,butto
relinquishprivilegeforthesakeofothers.

Bonhoeffers steadfast christocentrism thus results in a model of


discipleship that is thoroughly eccentric. If we follow its contours, a
religionless Christianity might otherwise be expressed as beingfor
othersinChrista commitment that involves the entire human life.
Becausethedemandofthisstanceisgreat,thecostislikewisesubstantial:a
sharinginthesufferingofGodinChrist.325

BonhoefferwasawareoftherisksofwholehearteddevotiontoJesusChrist

when he first challenged the policies of Hitler back in 1933. Even though

Bonhoeffers model of religious Christianity was not fully developed when he

wasexecuted,itwasverypossiblethathisownpracticeofitsustainedhimduring

theyearsafter1933andithelpedpreparehimforhisimpendingdeath.

TheGraceofLivingandDyingWell

DietrichBonhoefferslegacyisbasedonmorethanjusthisworks.Asseen

above,Bonhoeffer lived forthegloryof Jesuseven as herisked his lifeopposing

Nazi oppression. The source of strength for him to live well, and eventually die

well,wasthegraceofGod.

His good friend, Eberhard Bethge delivered a lecture entitled The Living

God Revealed in this Church in Coventry Cathedral on October 30, 1967.326 In

that lecture, he expressed his concern that Bonheoffers legacy was marred by

misunderstanding the source of power that sustained Bonhoeffers life. For

example: The isolated use and handing down of the famous term religionless

325
Jensen
326
Bosanquet,279.

95
Christianity has made Bonhoeffer the champion of an undialectical shallow

modernismwhichobscuresallthathewantedtotellusaboutthelivingGod.327

ThatsourceofpowerwasactuallyGodsgracethatBonhoefferreliedupon

during the times he stood alone for the cause of Jesus and during the times he

displayed the image of Jesus through his words and action. Bethge summed it up

withthephrase:secretdiscipline.328

To Bonhoeffer: Secret discipline meantall that power to deepen and

sustain Christian life: prayer, meditation, common worship, the sacraments, and

experiments in lifesuchasFinkenwalde had been,all in factthathelpedtofitthe

ChristianforalifeoflovelivedwithGodandforhisfellowmen.329

MostmodernreadersofBonhoefferwhoareenthralledbyhiswritingscan

completelymisswhyhelivedandwrotethewayhedid:

The Letters and Papers from Prison, which are the most widely read and
quoted of all Bonhoeffers works, explore extensively the problems of
identificationwhich facethe Christian inthepresentcentury,whilesaying
little about that secret discipline by which his identity as a Christian is
maintained.Butwhatthewriterdidnotsayhewaslivingdailyandhourly,
andtheeloquenceofhislifecounterbalancesthereticenceoftheletters.

His life had in fact represented a continuous effort to hold the two in
balance,anattemptcomplicatedbypowerfulinwardandoutwardpressures,
so that at certain stages the scale tipped more heavily to the one side and
certain stagestotheother.330

While Bethge believed that many readers may miss the reason why

Bonhoefferlivedthatway,KellyandBurtonbelievemanyareactuallyattractedto

327
Bosanquet,279.
328
Bosanquet,279.
329
Bosanquet,279.
330
Bosanquet,279280.

96
BonhoefferbecauseofhisintenserelationshipwithJesus.Theywritethatgenuine

communitywasakeycomponenttoBonheoffersspirituality:

One of the main reasons why readers find Bonhoeffers writings so


compelling lies in the inner strength and intensity of his relationship with
Jesus Christ developed in the practical everyday life of a Christian
community. When he wrote his account of his communitysustained
spirituallifeintheFinkenwaldeseminary,hewasnotreminiscingaboutan
agreeable, idyllic experience of a likeminded group of dedicated
seminarians.

Heintendedtosharewithothersthisexperience,withitsjoysandtrials,its
mutualsupportandenduringfriendships,thatitmightserveasamodelfor
forming moral leaders and for the creation of new forms of church
communitythroughoutGermany.331

Moralleaderswillbethefruitofthenewformsofchurchcommunity.

BonhoeffersharedhisexperienceatFinkenwaldeinthepagesof LifeTogether.

If this new and different way to be the church became a reality, then vibrant

followersofJesuswouldbeproduced:

In depicting that community in Life Together, Bonhoeffer also


acknowledgedtheurgentneedforthechurchtodiscovernewanddifferent
ways to be the church. He thus emphasized the courageous following of
Jesus Christ within a genuine community formed along the lines of the
gospel, not the typical kind of church gatherings where strangers met and
remainedstrangers,andwhosedullblandnessofferedlittleresistancetothe
politicalideologythathadgainedtheallegianceofmostchurchgoers.

InBonhoeffersspirituality,effectivemoralleadershipandonespersonality
strengthsaresupportedinandthroughthesharingofconvictionsthattakes
placeingenuineChristiancommunitieswheretheteachingsofJesusChrist,
notpoliticalideology,shouldinspirebelievers.332

331
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 145.
332
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 146.

97
Insuchcommunities,thefollowersofJesusshouldbeinspiredtoliveout

the gospel more intensely and thus cope more courageously with the crisis then

overwhelming the German people and churches.333 Kelly and Nelson speculate

that the German landscape would have been transformed and the atrocities

committed during the war could have been avoided if genuine Christian

communitieswereformedwithinthechurches:Inhindsight,onewonderswhether

the slaughter that took place in the war and in the death camps could have been

avoided had the Christians of Germany professed their faith in truly Christian

communitieslikethatdirectedbyBonhoeffer.334

Though history turned out differently, Bonhoeffer himself served as a

prototype in both his life and his death. An early example of this was that he

displayedintensityduringtheologicaldebateswithhisstudentsatFinkenwalde,and

yet he deeply cared for each of them. His assistant, Wilhelm Rott wrote that

Bonhoeffer always had time for the brethren.335 His compassion for his fellow

believers grew out of his own passionate and personal relationship with Jesus

Christ.336

333
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 147.
334
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 147.
335
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 24.
336
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 145.

98
Bonhoeffer was known to be a man of action.337 But his writings reveal

thathewasalsoamanofdeep,personalprayer.338 Itwashisferventspirituality

thatsustainedhimandmotivatedhimtostandforthetruthoftheWordofGod:

HispracticeofquietmeditationontheWordofGodhelpedhimtobecome
a unique advocate for truth and freedom as his own country was being
overwhelmed with mendacious distortions of the truth by the Nazi
government. The truth, as Bonhoeffer saw it, was that Jesus Christ was
beingcrucifiedanewinthepersecutionoftheJewsanddissidentsandlater
inthosemurderedinthedeathcampsandonthebattlefieldsofWorldWar
II.339

Bonhoeffers resolve to spend time in prayer and scripture meditation

strengthenedhimtostandupagainsttheNazigovernment:

HisdeterminationtoresistNazismwasreinforcedby hisdaily meditations


on the biblical texts. It was in fact his dedication to prayer, as Bethge has
observed, that kept Bonhoeffers conspiratorial actions from degenerating
into selfrighteousness, that buoyed his spirits with unflinching
perseverance, that kept his pursuit of justice in line with the gospel. No
prayerseemedcompleteforhimunlessitwaslinkedtopropheticactionfor
justice.340

Bonhoeffers final published book was a lengthy commentary on the

Psalms.341 ItearnedhimamonetaryfinefromReichBoardfortheRegulationof

Literature. After Bonhoeffer appealed the fine, the Board threw at him a

strengthenedprohibitionagainstanyfurtherpublishingventureonhispartbecause

337
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 227
338
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 227.
339
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 227.
340
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 227.
341
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 231.

99
of the dangerous dogmatic and spiritual connections that conflicted with the

prevailing Nazi ideology.342 It was Bonhoeffers longing in the commentary to

retrievethePsalmsastheprayerbookofJesusChristhimself343:

Against the quasiapocalyptic background of a Europe at war, a church


divided, and a nation engaged in a malignant policy of genocide,
Bonhoeffers study of the Psalms takes on a new lifeThe Psalms are
Gods mode of enabling the followers of Gods son Jesus to speak to and
withJesus.

God hears those in the language of Jesus who, as Gods Word, allows his
followerstoenterintohisownprayerandthustofindtheirwaywithJesus
back to God. Bonhoeffer argued that this prayer is Gods gift to the
followersofJesusbecauseitfocusesthemnotonthemselvesbutonJesus,
thebiblicalcenter,wholeadsthemtoprayasGodwants.344

Bonhoeffer wanted to put into the hearts of German Christians a practical

wayofenrichingtheirprayerlives.Forhim,thePsalmsenabledhimtocopewith

his own shifting moods amid all the vicissitudes of his ministry, including his

imprisonment. The Psalms taught him that God was near in all the sorrows and

joys, successes, and disappointments that had marked his own days.345 At the

Finkenwaldeseminary,BonhoefferoftenincorporatedthePsalmsintotheregular

communityprayerservices.346

342
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 231.
343
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 231.
344
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 232.
345
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 232.
346
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 232.

100
Thispracticealsoencouragedandstrengthened him evenduringthe most

dismaldaysinTegelprison.347

The Psalms were for him the prayer of Jesus Christ, who, as Bonhoeffer
claimed, perhaps paraphrasing Augustines Dues intimior intimo meo
(GodismoreintimatetomethanIamtomyself),knowsusbetterthanwe
knowourselves.

Itwaspredictable,therefore,thattheprayersBonhoeffercomposed forhis
fellow prisoners were filled with the spirit of the Psalms. Their constant
theme was to trust in Gods love and acceptance of whatever God has
permittedintheirregard.348

BonhoefferenteredtheTegelPrisoninBerlinonApril5,1943.349 Therehe

ended each day in prison with praise350 to God and prayer for his family and the

people around him: He commended into Gods hands at close of day his loved

onesand his fellowprisoners,andeventheirwardens,aswellas hisownperson.

He asked for strength to bear what God might send and the courage toovercome

theirfears351 HisdevotiontoChristexceededhisownprison cell:

Intheallpervasivedistressofprison life, hewouldsaytoGod,Itrustin


your grace and commit my life wholly into your hands. Do with me
accordingtoyourwillandas it is bestfor me.WhetherI liveordie,Iam
withyou,andyou,myGodarewithme.

These prayers, which were circulated illegally among the cells, manifest
manyoftheinsightsthathelpedguideBonhoeffersownactionsonbehalf

347
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 232.
348
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 233.
349
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,535.
350
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 233.
351
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 233.

101
ofpeaceandfreedomandexudehisconcernforChristiancommunityeven
inprison.352

Fellow prisoner and conspirator, Fabian von Schlabrendorff wrote that

Bonhoefferwasconcernedforthespiritualandemotionalwellbeingofhisfellow

prisoners: To the very end, Bonhoeffer took advantage of (their) condition by

arrangingprayer services,consolingthosewhohad lostall hope,andgivingthem

freshcourage.Atoweringrockoffaith,hebecameashiningexampletohisfellow

prisoners.353

OnestudentofBonhoeffersspirituality,F.BurtonNelsonrealizedwitha

new appreciation the source of Bonhoeffers spiritual stamina and vitalityhis

constant,daily,childlikerelationshiptoGod.354

Bonhoeffers fervent relationship with Jesus would also maintain him

during his two years of imprisonment. This can be seen in a letter from prison to

EberhardBethgeonAugust21,1944:

It is certain that we may always live close to God and in the light of
Godspresence,andthatsuch living is anentirely new life forusthat
nothing is then impossible for us, because all things are possible with
God that no earthly power can touch us without Gods will, and that
dangeranddistresscanonlydriveusclosertoGod.355

352
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 233.
353
FabianvonSchlabrendorff,TheSecretWarAgainstHitler(London:Hodderand
Stroughton,1966).324.
354
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer,233234
355
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:TestamenttoFreedom,512513.

102
InthelonelydarknessofaNaziprisoncell,Bonhoeffersspiritwasnotonly

strengthened and encouraged through the presence of Jesus, but ironically by the

community356 ofChristsbody.Noteventhebarbwiredfencesandguardedcells

couldseparateBonhoefferfromtheexperienceoffellowshipwithhisbrothersand

sistersinJesus:

But whether they were physically present or close to him in prayers and
meditative reflections, Bonhoeffer experienced intense comfort from the
thought that they were all in a community that sustains (them). He
specified that such community in Jesus Christ was the firm ground on
which he had taken his standSeparated from his family and friends and
denied the physical support of the Confessing Church while in prison,
Bonhoefferwasstrengthenedbythethoughtofhisbeingrememberedinthe
prayersofferedonhisbehalf.357

ItwasBonhoeffersfriendshipwithEberhardBethgethatgavehimthemost

joyandcomfort.InhislastlettertoBethge,datedAugust23,1944,heopenedwith:

DearEberhard,Itsalwaysanalmostindescribablejoytogetlettersfromyou.The

peace and quiet in which your last letter was written was especially splendid.358

Laterintheletter,Bonhoefferwrites:

Pleasedontevergetanxiousorworriedaboutme,butdontforgettopray
formeImsureyoudont!IamsosureofGodsguidinghandthatIhope
I shall always be kept in that certainty. You must never doubt that Im
travelling with gratitude and cheerfulness along the road where Im being
led.MypastlifeisbrimfullofGodsgoodness,andmysinsarecoveredby
theforgivingloveofChristcrucified.

ImmostthankfulforthepeopleIhavemet,andIonlyhopethattheynever
have to grieve about me, but thatthey, too, will always be certain of, and
thankfulfor,Godsmercyandforgiveness.Forgivemywritingthis,butlet

356
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 234.
357
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 234.
358
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersfromPrison,392.

103
itmakeyouhappy.ButIdidnotwanttosayitforonce,andIcouldntthink
ofanyoneelsewhoIcouldbesurewouldtakeitaright.359

Kelly and Nelson write Bonhoeffers close relationship with Bethge was a

keyingredienttoBonhoeffersstrongfaith:

In the intensity of such a friendship and mutual prayer, Bonhoeffers


concernforpersonalsurvivalandthesafetyofhislovedonesyieldedtothe
quietconfidenceinGodsprotectionthatmadehiseventualdeathanactof
faith and resignation to what he perceived as his destiny under Gods
salvificwill.360

One other component found in Bonhoeffers life in prison was his poetry.

From1928to1943,thereisnotasinglepoeminhiswritings.361 ButtheninJuneof

1944, he wrote the first of ten poems. It was entitled, The Past and it was

significant for the way it depicts Bonhoeffers sense of loss at having to be

separated from his loved ones.362 In the remaining months of 1944, Bonhoeffer

composedtheotherninepoems363:

The tenth and final poem, By the Powers for Good, was written in the
Gestapo cellars of Prinz Albrecht Strasse in Berlin, where prisoner
Bonhoeffer had been transferred from Tegel Prison a few weeks earlier.
This poem is widely known in the Christian world because of its having
been adapted into a hymn and translated into a variety of languages. It
includedinchurchhymnalsthroughouttheworld.364

359
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersfromPrison,393.
360
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 235.
361
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 236.
362
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 236.
363
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 237.
364
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 237.

104
Bonhoeffers final poem, By the Powers for Good was dated December

19, 1944.365 It was composed in the more severe surroundings of the Gestapo

prison,wherehewassubjectedtomoreintenseinterrogations366 Bonhoefferhad

beenmovedfromtheTegelPrisontotheGestapoPrisonatPrinzAlbrechtStrasse

inBerlinonOctober8,1944.367

Inthisfinalpoem,BonhoefferexpressedhistrustinthesovereignGodwho

gives strength and endurance and hope in a dark world. There were powers for

goodthatsurroundedBonhoefferevenduringthediredaysofimprisonment368.

ThesepowerswereasourceofcomfortforBonhoeffer:

Witheverypowerforgoodtostayandguideme,
Comfortedandinspiredbeyondallfear,
Illlivethesedayswithyouinthoughtbesideme,
Andpass,withyou,intothecomingyear

Theoldyearstilltormentsourhearts,unhastening
Thelongdaysofsorrowstillendure
Father,granttothesoulsthouhastbeenchastening
Thatthou hastpromised,thehealingandthecure.

Shoulditbeourstodrainthecupofgrieving
Eventothedregsofpain,atthycommand,
Wewillnotfalter,thankfullyreceiving
Allthatisgivenbythylovinghand.

Butshoulditbethywilloncemoretoreleaseus
Tolifesenjoymentanditsgoodsunshine,
Thatwhichwevelearnedfromsorrowshallincreaseus,

365
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersfromPrison,246.
366
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 247.
367
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,535.
368
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer,248.

105
Andallourlifebededicatetothine.

Today,letcandlesshedtheirradiantgreetings
Lo,onourdarknessaretheynotthylight
Leadingus,haply,toourlongedformeeting?
Thoucanstillumineevenourdarkestnight.

Whennowthesilencedeepensforourhearkening,
Grantwemayhearthychildrensvoicesraise
Fromalltheunseenworldaroundusdarkening
Theiruniversalpaean,inthypraise.

Whileallthepowersofgoodaidandattendus,
Boldly,wellfacethefuture,comewhatmay.
AtevenandatmornGodwillbefriendus,
Andoh,mostsurelyoneachnewbornday!369

Thereisaparadoxicalpeace370 inthepoem.Bonhoefferexperiencedthat

peace of God in a harsh environment. Kelly and Nelson also point out that

Bonhoeffers faith in cruel times can serve as an example for moral371 leaders

facedwithopposition.ItalsofollowstheexampleofJesus:

This poem offers unique insights into what can support Christian moral
leaders,facedastheymaybewithfrustration,opposition,rejectionoftheir
vision,andtheshatteringoftheirhopes.Thesustainingforcesforgoodare
thesameforBonhoefferastheycanbefortheChristianmoralleader:faith
in Gods promised grace, solace from the risen Lord ever present in lifes
sorrows, and the breaking into each day of the divine love thatovercomes
hatredandthedivinelifethatovercomesdeathitself.372

369
Bonhoeffer,LettersandPapersfromPrison,400401.
370
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 248.
371
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 248.
372
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 248.

106
Bonhoeffers poems probably cannot be classified among the

unforgettable, enduring gems of world literature, though they belong to an

important epoch of Christian history.373 Even Bonhoeffer exhibited no illusions

abouttheirliteraryexcellence.374 Nevertheless,BethgesawvalueinBonhoeffers

poetry:

Despitethisdisclaimer,Bonhoeffersbiographer(Bethge)sawtheirvalueas
poetry because of the special circumstances in which they were composed
andbecausethepoetrywassharedinsuchapersonalwaywithhim.Inthe
extremeconditionsofimprisonmentandGestapointerrogations,Bonhoeffer
had bared his soul as never beforeThey are efforts to overcome his
isolation.375

KellyandNelsonwritethatthepoemsofBonhoefferareimportantbecause

they serve as keys to interpret the moods and profound thoughts harbored by

Bonhoeffer during the months of his forced confinement.376 His poems were an

outletforBonhoefferinhisfinalmonthsoflife:

Bonhoefferspoemsrepresentawayofexpressinghisprofoundfeelings,his
faith,hisloveforhisfriends,hisstruggleforfreedom,andthedepthsofhis
prisonandlifeexperiences.Thepoemsserveveritablyaswindowsintohis
ownsoul,carryingthefreightofhisloneliness,hisanxiety,hislongings,his
faith, and his spirituality. Not only are they in large measure links to his
autobiography they also reflect his personal assessment of the cost of his
moralleadershipinthemidstoftheNazinightmare.377

373
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 237.
374
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 237.
375
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 237.
376
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 238.
377
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 238.

107
EdwinT.Robertsonconcludesthat theimportanceofthepoemshewrote

lies in the fact that they were the ultimate attemptto express his deepest feelings

abouthimself,hisfriends,hischurch,thefutureofGermany,andhisfuture.378 The

futureforBonhoefferwasexecution.

Heknewthathisdeathwasnearingwhenhewrotethepoem,TheDeath of

MosesinSeptemberof1944.ThispoemseemstobeaneffortbyBonhoefferin

the more strained circumstances of the Gestapos tightening grip on the

conspirators, to peer into the future and to see some meaning amidst the

bleakness.379

BonhoeffercomparedhimselftoMosesinthatbothofthemwereonlygiven

a glimpse of the future for their people. Death would hinder both of them from

sharinginthatfuture.Thelastlineswere:

HoldmeFast!forfallenismystave,
OfaithfulGod,makereadynowmy grave.380

LikeMoses,whoneverenteredintothePromisedLand,Bonhoefferwould

notbealivetoseeanewGermanyafterthewar:

Bonhoeffersaw himself as a Moses on the threshold of the Promised


Land.Heharboredhopeinthemidstofthemassivedestructionandruinall
abouthim,hopethatoutoftheashesandshatteredlivesanewGermany,a
newEurope,andanewworldmighteventuallyarise.

His death he now understood and accepted for the sake of his people. He
wouldnotlivetoseetheirliberationbutwascontenttoknowhehaddone

378
EdwinT.Robertson, ThePrisonPoemsofDietrichBonhoeffer:ANewTranslationwith
Commentary (Surrey:InterPublishingService,1998).
379
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,494.
380
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofMoralLeadership,
245.

108
all hecouldtoshare inthesufferingsofChristatthehandsofthegodless
worldofNazism.381

Nevertheless, it was enough for Bonhoeffer to at least see his people

marching free.382 Bonhoeffers freedom would not come. By early 1945,

interrogations were taking a much more serious turn. Communication could no

longer be maintained between those who had privy to

conspiracyBonhoefferandotherswerebeing examinedundertorture,allwere

ontrialfortheirlives.383

Yet,therewereglimmersofhopebecause therewerecuriouselements in

the interrogationsTheir captors were plainly ill at ease. They could not remain

unaware of the crumbling fortunes of the Nazi partythe British and Americans

fromtheWestandtheRussiansfromtheEastwereconvergingonBerlin.384

At the same time, Hitler gave the orders that the trials of the conspirators

be prolonged in order that they might be forced to reveal as much as possible

aboutthenationwidenetworkofwhoseexistencehewasnowconvinced.385

The uncertainty of the future had not dimmed Bonhoeffers radiance or

disturbed his peace.386 Fellow prisoner Fabian von Schlabrendorff would later

writeaboutBonhoeffer:

381
KellyandNelson, TheCostofMoralLeadership:TheSpiritualityofDietrich
Bonhoeffer, 246.
382
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,494.
383
Bosanquet,267.
384
Bosanquet,267,268.
385
Bosanquet,267.
386
Bosanquet,267268.

109
Hewasalwaysgoodtempered,alwaysofthesamekindlinessandpoliteness
towardseverybody,sothattomysurprise,withinashorttime,hewonover
hiswarders,whowerenotalwayskindlydisposed.Itwassignificantforour
relationship that he was rather the hopeful one, while I now and then
sufferedfromdepressions.Healwayscheeredmeupandcomfortedmehe
nevertiredofrepeatingthattheonly fightwhichwe lose isthatwhichwe
giveup.387

OnFebruary7,1945,BonhoefferwasmovedtoBuchenwaldconcentration

camp.388 Thereweretwelvecellsinthecamp.Bonhoefferwasincellnumberone.

Theauthorof TheVenloIncident,BritishCaptainS.PayneBestwasincellnumber

eleven.CaptainBestverifiesthateveninBonhoeffersfinalweeks,daysandhours,

helivedforthegloryofJesus.Bonhoefferwasdeeplygratefulforthefactthathe

wasalive.389

In a letter, dated March 2, 1951, to Bonhoeffers sister, Sabine Leibholz,

Best wrote that Bonhoeffer was different just calm and normal, seemingly

perfectlyathiseasehissoulreallyshoneinthedarkdesperationofourprison.390

BosanquetexplainsthatBonhoefferwaspassingthelastlandmarksinhisspiritual

journey391:

ThestrugglesoftheTegeldayshadendedinvictory,andheseemstohave
attainedthatpeacewhichisthegiftofGodandnotastheworldgiveth.The
struggletoabandontoGodhisrichandtreasuredpast,thestrugglewiththe
last vestiges of his pride, the struggle to suffer, in full measure and yet in
gratitude,his human longingsandtoremainopentoothers inthe midstof
hisownpainallthishadledhimtotheexperienceoftheCross,inwhichat
least,throughagraspofrealitysointensethatitfusedalltheelementsofhis

387
Bosanquet,268.
388
KellyandNelson,eds.,DietrichBonhoeffer:ATestamenttoFreedom,535.
389
S.PayneBest,TheVenloIncident(London:HuthchsonandCo.,LTD,1950),180.
390
Bosanquet,271.
391
Bosanquet,271.

110
beingintoasingleshiningwhole,helearntwhatlifecanbewhenwethrow
ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own
sufferings,butthesufferingsofGodintheworld.

OutofthisdeathtothelastvestigesofselfBonhoefferseemstohavebeen
raisedupquietly,unspectacularlyintothelaststageofhislife,inwhichhe
was made whole, made single, finally integrated in Christ. In a way more
completethananythathadgonebefore,theChristianhadbecometheman
forothers,thediscipleashisLord.Aswelookback,strugglingwithsuch
help as we have to pierce the obscurity that surrounds him in these last
months,thisseemstobethetruth.392

Asamanforothers,Bonhoeffersgenerositytohisfellowprisonersbecame

aconstanttheme.ThiswasseenonApril3,whentheprisonerswereinformedthat

theywerebeingtransferredtoanotherfacility.Sixteenprisonersandtheirluggage

alltightlycrammedintoaneightpassengervan.393 Thevanwaspoweredbyawood

generatorthatfilledthe vanwith fumes.The vanwouldoften breakdown,sothe

prisonersjustsatuntil thevancouldmove.

Captain Best describes one of the stops: There was no light, we had

nothingtoeatordrink nor,butforthegenerosityofBonhoeffer,who,although a

smoker,hadsaveduphisscantlyrationoftobaccoandnowinsistedincontributing

ittothecommongood,anythingtosmoke.Hewasagoodandsaintlyman.394

Captain Best also noted that while everyone, including Bonhoeffer,

alternated between hopes and fears, Bonhoeffer did reach the stage of knowing

thathecouldfaceanytrialwithoutfear:Hehadalwaysbeenafraid,thathewould

392
Bosanquet,271.
393
Best,190.
394
Best,191.

111
notbestrongenoughtostandsuchatest,butnowheknewthattherewasnothingin

lifeofwhichoneneedeverbeafraid.395

The prisoners finally made it to Schonberg on April 6. On April 8, a

Sunday, Bonhoeffer led a small worship service for the prisoners: He gave an

expositionoftheScripturesfortheday:Throughhisstripeswearehealed(Isaiah

53:5)andBlessedbetheGodandFatherofourLordJesusChrist,whichaccording

tohisabundantmercyhathbegottenusagainintoalivelyhopebytheresurrection

ofJesusChristfromthedead(1Peter1:3).396 CaptainBestwritesthatBonhoeffer

spoketousina mannerwhichreachedthe heartsofall, finding justthe


rightwordstoexpressthespiritofour imprisonmentandthethoughtsand
resolutions which it had brought. He had hardly finished his last prayer
whenthedooropenedandtwoevillookingmenincivilianclothescamein
and said: Prisoner Bonhoeffer. Get ready to come with us. Those words
Come with usfor all prisoners had come to mean one thing onlythe
scaffold.397

Bonhoefferthengatheredhisfewbelongings.InacopyofPlutarchthathe

had received for his birthday he wrote his name in large letters and left it on the

table.398 As the other prisoners said their goodbyes to Bonhoeffer, he talked to

Captain Best privately and gave him a message to pass on to his English friend

BishopBell399:

Tell him that for me this is the end, but also the beginning. With him I
believe in the principle of our universal brotherhood which rises above all

395
Bosanquet,272.
396
Bosanquet., 277.
397
Best,200.
398
Bosanquet,277.
399
Bosanquet,277.

112
national interests, and thatour victory is certainTell him toothat I have
neverforgottenhiswordsatourlastmeeting.400

There was a trial that lasted through the night: the prisoners were

interrogatedoncemoreandconfrontedwithoneanother.Allwerecondemned.401

Early in the morning on April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by

hanging.Bosanquetwrites:

Sothe morningcame.Nowtheprisonerswereorderedtostrip.Theywere
led down to a little flight of steps under the trees tothe secluded place of
execution. There was a pause. For the men about to die, time hung a
momentsuspended.Nakedunderthescaffoldinthesweetspringofwoods,
Bonhoeffer knelt for the last time to pray. Five minutes later, his life was
ended.402

ThecampdoctorwasaneyewitnessofBonhoeffersfinalminutes:

Through the halfdoor in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer,
beforetakingoffhisprisongarb,kneelingonthefloorprayingferventlyto
hisGod.Iwasmostdeeplymovedbythewaythislovablemanprayed,so
devoutandsocertainthatGodheardhisprayer.Attheplaceofexecution,
heagainsaidashortprayerandthenclimbedthestepstothegallows,brave
and composed. His death ensued a few seconds. In the almost fifty years
that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly seen a man die so entirely
submissivetothewillofGod.403

Summary

Dietrich Bonhoeffer will continue to influence the followers of Jesus well

intothe21st Century.InanarticlethatappearedinTheChristianCenturyonApril

2,1997,DeGruchywrote:

400
Bosanquet, 277.
401
Bosanquet,277.
402
Bosanquet, 15.
403
Devine,3637.

113
The relevance of Bonhoeffers theology is unlikely to diminish. Even if
some of his comments now strike us as problematic and often
embarrassinglypatriarchal,hecontinuestohaveanuncannywayofrelating
to"theOther,"oftensurprisinguswithnewinsights.ManyChristiansfind
Bonhoeffers witness helpful in their own struggles against racism and
poverty, or in efforts to engage in JewishChristian dialogue, especially
abouttheHolocaust.Thesurprising,oftenriskyelementsofbothactionand
thoughtina lifeprofoundly marked byconsistencyof faithand hopekeep
interestinBonhoefferalive.

Of course, much of contemporary and contextual concern lies beyond the


parametersofBonhoefferslegacy.ThosewhoturntoBonhoefferforallthe
answers will be disappointed. But time and again his approach to doing
theology suggests the way forward. Those who explore his writings will
usuallyfindsomecluewhichprovidesawayofgrapplingwiththeissues.In
this sense, it is fortunate that Bonhoeffer never completed his theological
workinany systematicway.Itremainsopenended,thereby invitingusto
participateinanongoingtaskofactionandreflection.404

The legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer will grow as the amount of literature

abouthislifeandwordscontinuestobeproduced.LarryL.Rasmussenmakesthis

clear:

April 9, 2005, marked the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Dietrich


Bonhoeffer for his attempted overthrow of the Nazi regime. February 4,
2006, marks the onehundredth anniversary of his birth in Breslau,
Germany. Few pastors and theologians of such youth have captured the
interestandattentionofthechurchworldwideashe.

ThistwentiethcenturyChristianleansintothetwentyfirstcenturybecause
heisbothrootedandpostmodern,bothgroundedandcapableoflivingwith
fragments, boththeologically traditional andtheologically innovative, both
churchcentered and worldly, both sensuously bound to earth and deeply
pious.ThevarietyofBonhoefferskeensensibilities,and howthey belong
andholdtogether,intriguesus.405

404
JohnW.DeGrunchy,BonhoeffersLegacy:ANewGeneration, ReligionOnline,
1997, http://www.religiononline.org/showarticle.asp?title=72(accessedApril2,2009).
405
Rasmussen,DietrichBonhoeffer:RealityandResistance,7.

114
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VITA

Bryan EugeneGallowaywasbornonJuly18,1959inCouncilBluffs,Iowa.

He grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He is a graduateof Bethel College in St. Paul,

Minnesota with a B. A. in Biblical and Theological Studies in 1982. He also is a

graduateof BethelTheologicalSeminaryinSanDiego,CaliforniawithaMasterof

Divinityin1985.

He served as Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church, San Diego, California

from 1983 to 1985. He has also served as pastor of First Baptist Church of

Dannebrog, Nebraska (1985 to 1993) and Calvary Church of the Pacific in Aiea,

Hawaii (1994to2001).HecurrentlyservesasSeniorPastorofHarveyOaksBaptist

ChurchinOmaha,Nebraska.

Thisthesisprojectissubmittedinpartial fulfillmentoftheprerequisitesof

the Doctor of Ministry degree, The Preacher and the Message track, at Gordon

ConwellTheologicalSeminaryinSouthHamilton,Massachusetts.BryansDoctor

ofMinistry studiesbeganin2004andwillbecompletedinSpring2009.

Bryan Galloway currently lives in Omaha with wife, Lois. They are the

parentsofJonandAli.

119