Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Report
La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church
November 4, 2012
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Family
Academic training
Time in Barcelona, New York
Confessing Church
Time in London
Finkenwalde Seminary
Return to U.S.
Agent of Abwehr
Arrest, imprisonment, execution
Legacy
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Father, Karl – professor of
neurology and psychiatry,
University of Berlin; director
of psychiatric clinic, Charite
Hospital
Mother, Paula von Hase –
daughter of Clare von Hase,
pupil of Liszt; granddaughter of Karl von Hase,
distinguished church
historian, preacher to Kaiser
Wilhelm II
Paula home-schooled each
child until age 6 or 7
A family saying: Germans had their
backs broken twice in the course of
their lives: first at school, then
during military service
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Eight Bonhoeffer children
◦ Karl Friedrich (1899-1957),
chemist, worked with
Einstein and Max Planck on
splitting the atom
◦ Walter (1899-1918), killed
in action, WWI
◦ Klaus (1901-45), lawyer,
general counsel for
Lufthansa; hospital orderly,
WWI; executed 4/23/45
◦ Ursula (1902-83), married
lawyer Rüdiger Schleicher,
who was executed 4/23/45
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Eight Bonhoeffer children
◦ Christel (1903-65), married to
Hans von Dohnanyi, who was
executed 4/9/45 (?)
◦ Dietrich (1906-45), executed
4/9/45 – 23 days before
German surrender
◦ Sabine (1906-99), Dietrich’s
twin, married to Jewish
lawyer/professor Gerhard
Leibholz
◦ Susanne (1909-91), married
to theologian Walter Dress
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Announcement at 14:
Want to be theologian
Family thought he
would follow in
father’s footsteps
Brother Klaus: Church
is “poor, feeble,
boring, petty,
bourgeois”
Dietrich:“In that case, I
shall have to reform it”
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First year at Tübingen
University, took trip to
Rome
1924, enters University
of Berlin
◦ Center of liberal theology
– Schleiermacher, Adolf
von Harnack
◦ Bonhoeffer more aligned
with Karl Barth, neoorthodox Swiss
theologian
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Harnack: “Unscientific” to speculate on who
God is; just study texts and their history
Barth: The God on the other side of the fence
revealed himself through the texts; the only
reason for the texts was to know him
◦ The ONLY way to know anything about God was to
rely on revelation FROM God
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Completed doctorate
at age 21
Sanctorum Communio:
A Dogmatic Inquiry
into the Sociology of
the Church
Question that occupied
Bonhoeffer his whole
life: What is the
church?
◦ His answer: It is Christ,
existing as churchcommunity
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Too young to be a pastor;
vicarage in Barcelona, 1928
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Post-graduate study at Union,
1930-31
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Studied under Reinhold
Niebuhr
Critical of theological
liberalism at Union; found real
preaching and faith in Harlem;
Adam Clayton Powell Sr.
“Man’s capacity for justice
makes democracy possible;
man’s capacity for injustice
makes democracy necessary”
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Friends with a
student from France,
Jean Lasserre
Saw All Quiet on the
Western Front
together
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Lasserre said the
Sermon on the Mount
had influenced his
theology
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Back in Berlin, writing
Act and Being, a
continuation of his
dissertation
Completing it would
make him eligible to
be a university lecturer
Submitted, accepted in
1931 after he returned
from America
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Bonhoeffer opposed Nazism from the start –
1/30/33
Radio address two days later warning against the
idea of Der Führer
4/33 – Told his fellow churchmen that the church
must resist Hitler, speak up for Jews, who have
no voice
7/33 – Hitler imposes new church elections;
rigged, and most positions went to Nazi
sympathizers
◦ Lutheran churches of Bavaria, Hanover, Württemberg
remain “intact,” not corrupted
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8/33 – Opposition church leaders ask Bonhoeffer
to write Bethel Confession; after revisions, he
refuses to sign – too watered down
9/33 – Bonhoeffer helps organize the
Pfarrernotbund, forerunner to Confessing Church
9/33 – National church accepts the Aryan
Paragraph – prohibits non-Aryans from parish
post
9/33 – Bonhoeffer refuses parish post in Berlin in
protest
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5/34 – Confessing Church founded at Barmen
in opposition to Nazi Party; Karl Barth writes
the Barmen Declaration
◦ Christ, not Hitler, is the head of the church
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Not a large movement, but a substantial
source of opposition to Nazis
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Disheartened, Bonhoeffer takes a two-year
appointment in London in autumn 1933
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Becomes pastor to two German-speaking
churches
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Barth accused Bonhoeffer of running away
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Bonhoeffer used time to generate contacts,
support in the ecumenical movement; very
important for later activities
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Bonhoeffer starts underground
seminary in 1935
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Seminarians led communal life
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Had to meditate on Scripture
each day – and sing!
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Nazis closed in September
1937; arrested 27 pastors and
students by November
“Seminary on the run” taking
place as he traveled from
village to village
Cost of Discipleship published
in 1937
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2/38 – Bonhoeffer makes initial contact with
German Resistance; introduced by Dohnanyi
Learned that war was imminent; could not swear
an oath to Hitler, was concerned about being
drafted
Went to the U.S. in 6/39; friends arranged to help
protect him
Returned quickly to Germany; felt called by God
to be with his people
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Back in Germany, harassed by Nazis
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Joined the Abwehr, a branch of military intelligence
AND a center of resistance
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Dohnanyi brought him in; claimed Bonhoeffer’s wide
ecumenical contacts would be good for Germany
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Gave him cover to travel, seek support from other
nations for the German resistance
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Bonhoeffer knew he was supporting and engaging in
a movement to assassinate Hitler
◦ Had to report regularly to police
◦ Forbidden to publish in 1941
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Arrested April 6, 1943
He, Dohnanyi helped 14 Jews (Abwehr agents)
get to Switzerland; sent large sums of money
to them; were charged with corruption
Charges
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Subverting Nazi policy toward Jews
Evading military call-up
Using Abwehr to circumvent ban on public speaking
Using Abwehr to further Confessing Church
activities
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In a military prison at Tegel for a year and a half
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July 20, 1944 – one of several plots to kill Hitler
fails
◦ Supportive of fellow inmates
◦ Respected by guards; one offered to help him escape
◦ 9/44 – Abwehr documents found, tie Bonhoeffer to
assassination plot
◦ Transferred to Reich security prison, then Buchenwald in
2/45, then Flossenbürg
◦ Diary of Abwehr head found 4/4/45; Hitler goes into
rage
◦ Bonhoeffer hangs on 4/9/45, two weeks before
Flossenbürg is liberated
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Christocentric approach appeals to conservative,
confession-minded Protestants
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Social justice, “religionless Christianity” appeal to
liberal Protestants
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The Incarnation – combining body and spirit,
affirming flesh – makes it unacceptable to speak of
God and the world in terms of two spheres
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Christians should not retreat from the world but act
within it
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Christians must be a voice for those who can’t speak
for themselves
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What is truth?
◦ God’s standard is more than merely not lying
◦ To be true to God meant having a relationship with him, not living
legalistically by rules and principles
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Be willing to act in response to God
◦ He felt moved beyond the easy legalism of truth-telling
◦ Believed that responsible includes readiness to accept both guilt and
freedom
◦ To live in fear of incurring guilt is itself sinful
◦ God wants us to operate out of freedom and joy to do what is right and
good, not out of fear of making a mistake
◦ Impossible to avoid incurring guilt, but if you wish to live responsibly and
fully, you will be willing to do so
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Read through page 56 – foreword, memoir,
introduction, first chapter
Bring your favorite Psalm!

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