Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s most famous book is The Cost of Discipleship. The German title was Nachfolge, which means simply “Following” or “Discipleship.” We do not have web rights to reprint excerpts from the book, but you can read them on page 28 of both the original magazine and the reprint.Read More
items tagged with dietrich bonhoeffer
German Lutheran clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives a radio speech warning about the consequences of putting blind trust in any man (i.e. Hitler). His address is abruptly cut off at the warning.Authority for the date:
Colson, Charles. Kingdoms in Conflict. Morrow
While in prison in Berlin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his famous poem “Who Am I” that begins, “Who am I? They tell me….”
Unfortunately we are not able to reproduce it here because we do not have web rights. You can read it in full on page 15 of the original magazine or on page 13 of the reprint.Read More
For information about Bonhoeffer’s own writings, see Exploring Bonhoeffer’s Writings in this issue. Here Dr. Clifford Green, professor of theology and ethics at Hartford Seminary, recommends books about Bonhoeffer. For a comprehensive bibliography, see Bonhoeffer Bibliography: Primary Sources and Secondary Literature in English by Wayne W. Floyd and Clifford J. Green (Evanston: American Theological Library Association, 1991). For information about scholarly publications and conferences, write: The Bonhoeffer Society, English Language...Read More
A MAN DESTINED TO FAIL, hanged as a 39-year-old, has now deeply influenced—perhaps troubled—Christianity for half a century.
The career in theology for which Dietrich Bonhoeffer was prepared opened with highly specialized works (The Communion of Saints and Act and Being ). But then came books addressed to insiders of the church, who, like he, were fighting on the losing side in Germany (The Cost of Discipleship ). Later, the Nazis prohibited Dietrich from speaking, printing, and writing. During this time only fragments of manuscripts,...Read More
FROM THE AGE OF 14, Bonhoeffer yearned for ministry in the church. His brothers, however, charged that the church was “a poor, feeble, boring, petty bourgeois institution.” Dietrich’s physician father wrote later: “When you decided to devote yourself to theology, I sometimes thought to myself that a quiet, uneventful minister’s life, as I knew it . . . , would really almost be a pity for you.”
Ministry in Spain and the U.S.
Despite his family’s reservations, Bonhoeffer prepared himself for ministry. At age 22, he received an appointment as...Read More
Franklin Fisher (1906–1960)
When Dietrich Bonhoeffer arrived for the 1930–31 academic year at Union Theological Seminary in New York, he had encountered few blacks during his life. Early in his Union days, he met Franklin Fisher, a black student from Birmingham, Alabama. Fisher was assigned to the Abyssinian Baptist Church for his field work, and Bonhoeffer accompanied him there. During the spring term, Bonhoeffer helped teach a Sunday school class.
Through Fisher, Bonhoeffer gained “a detailed and intimate knowledge of the realities of...
Phrases like cheap grace , costly grace , and religionless Christianity are common coin, because they come from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s two best-known books, The Cost of Discipleship and Letters and Papers from Prison .
But what about the rest of Bonhoeffer’s writings, now being republished in sixteen volumes in German? What else might today’s reader find stimulating and helpful?
Here are brief introductions to Bonhoeffer’s books, including many that deserve to be more widely known.
The Communion of Saints (1927)
His first two works, both...Read More
MOST GERMANS welcomed Adolf Hitler’s appointment as German chancellor (prime minister) on January 30, 1933. Few were more jubilant than Protestant church leaders. They welcomed the possibility of a national regeneration.
The dean of the Magdeburg Cathedral exulted in the Nazi flags prominently displayed in his church. “Whoever reviles this symbol of ours is reviling our Germany,” he declared. “The swastika flags around the altar radiate hope—hope that the day is at last about to dawn.”
Some churchmen even referred to the “turning point in...Read More
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life
1906: Feb 4: Dietrich and twin sister, Sabine, born in Breslau
1912: Bonhoeffers move to Berlin
1913: Dietrich enters grammar school after early years of home schooling
1918: Oldest brother, Walter, killed in World War I
1920: At 14, decides he will be a theologian
1921: Confirmed at Grunewald Church, Berlin
1923: Begins theological studies at Tübingen University
1924: Travels to Rome and North Africa with brother Klaus; Begins studies at Berlin University
1927: Receives licentiate in theology, summa cum laude ;...Read More
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER first became widely known not for his thought but for his actions. He was talked about as the German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was executed by the Nazis for resisting the racial and military policies of Hitler’s totalitarian regime. Only gradually did the church and world become aware of the rich theological legacy of this modern Christian martyr.
In May of 1924, Bonhoeffer had just completed a year of theological studies at Tübingen. That fall he began studies at Berlin University, including seminars under...Read More
Karl & Paula Bonhoeffer
Dr. Karl Bonhoeffer was a prominent neurologist and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Berlin. In addition, he served as director of the psychiatric and neurological clinic at the Charite Hospital Complex in Berlin. Trained in the disciplines of science, he encouraged in his children self-reliance, control, independence, and objectivity. He was not at all enthused when Dietrich decided as a boy to become a minister and theologian.
Paula Bonhoeffer was...Read More
THE CHURCH WAS SILENT when it should have cried out.
Christ kept himself from suffering till his hour had come, but when it did come he met it as a free man, seized it, and mastered it . . . We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s largeheartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes . . .
In a letter from prison to his fiancee, Maria: It would be better if I succeeded in writing to you only of my gratitude, my joy, and my happiness in having you and in...Read More
THIS ISSUE marks only the second time Christian History has featured a twentieth-century figure. (The first was Issue 7 on C.S. Lewis)
I happily acknowledge a long-standing debt to Bonhoeffer. During my seminary days, in the midst of an overly smug orthodoxy, his writings motivated me to keep on with the theological quest. At a practical level, his forthright explications of “cheap grace” and “religionless Christianity” helped make sense of the church in today’s world.
It seems that about every five years, Bonhoeffer has provided a needed...Read More
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER was a twin. (He was born just before his twin sister, Sabine.)
Dietrich’s father, Karl, was Berlin’s leading psychiatrist and neurologist from 1912 until his death in 1948.
Dietrich was so skilled at playing the piano that for a time he and his parents thought he might become a professional musician.
At 14, Bonhoeffer announced matter-of-factly that he was going to become a theologian.
Bonhoeffer earned his doctorate in theology when he was only 21.
Though later he was an outspoken advocate of pacifism, Bonhoeffer was an...Read More
SWISS THEOLOGIAN KARL BARTH (1886–1968) rocked the world of theology when he published his commentary on Romans in 1919. His focus on God as truly God and his return to Scripture “destroyed the older liberalism, ” in one scholar’s words. Later, Barth helped draft the Barmen Declaration (1934) that declared the true German church could never give ultimate allegiance to the Nazi state.
How much did Barth influence Bonhoeffer, who was twenty years younger?
Bonhoeffer studied theology at the great liberal faculties of Tübingen and Berlin. At...Read More
IN 1942, Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer sent a Christmas gift to his family and his friends who were involved in a plot to kill Hitler. It was an essay, titled “After Ten Years.” In it, Bonhoeffer reminded his coconspirators of the ideals for which they were willing to give their lives. In his words: “We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled—in short, from the perspective of those who...Read More
Using torture to interrogate suspected terrorists. Intervening in other countries to stop genocide. Resolving ancient disputes and modern violence in the Middle East. Blowing the whistle on corporate crime. Restraining a rogue state. Confronting the crack dealers across town—or down the street.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has become the patron saint of hard cases, a guide to the ethically perplexed, an inspiration in a dilemma, a beacon in moral murk. His participation in a conspiracy to murder Hitler and his subsequent imprisonment and execution...Read More