Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and key leader of the German Confessing Church, which opposed and encouraged resistance to Adolph Hitler's Nazi policies. Bonhoeffer was born in Germany in 1906, educated in Tubingen and Berlin, then did post-graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He returned to Germany in 1931 and was soon a respected theologian and author.
Bonhoeffer spearheaded the Barmen Declaration, a statement by Confessing Church members that they would not cooperate with Nazi policies. He led an illegal seminary for pastors who wanted to be part of the Confessing Church, but Hitler shut that down in 1937. American friends asked him to return to Union Seminary in 1939 as a visiting professor but soon after his arrival in New York, the theologian minister decided he needed to be in his country involved in active resistance. He joined a group of soldiers in the German Military Intelligence who wanted to overthrow Hitler and was arrested in 1943 when the plot was discovered.
Bonhoeffer was sent to a series of concentration camps and on April 9, 1944 he was hanged with five others in the resistance group, including his brother and two brothers-in-law. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was thirty-nine years old.
Central to Bonhoeffer's theology is Christ, in whom God and the world are reconciled. Bonhoeffer's God is a suffering God, whose manifestation is found in this-worldliness. Bonhoeffer believed that the Incarnation of God in flesh made it unacceptable to speak of God and the world "in terms of two spheres". Bonhoeffer stressed personal and collective piety and revived the idea of imitation of Christ. He argued that Christians should not retreat from the world but act within it. He believed that two elements were constitutive of faith: the implementation of justice and the acceptance of divine suffering. Bonhoeffer insisted that the church, like the Christians, "had to share in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world" if it were to be a true church of Christ.
If you have not read any of his works, I would suggest starting with The Cost of Discipleship.