3 comments on “Bonhoeffer: One of the 20th Century’s Great Men

  1. It was great to read about Bonhoeffer. I knew a little about what he had done, but did not know he ran seminaries in secret or had a hand in assassination attempts against Hitler. It is remarkable that he did so much.

    I wonder whether guilt was partially driving him. His most famous quote does concern the fact that he said nothing as other groups were targeted by the Nazis until his turn came. But he seems to have more than made up for his silence.

  2. Yes indeed. I don’t think he was buying explosives or anything, but he was privy to the plots and provided spiritual counsel to those wrestling with the morality of assassinating their country’s leader. Those he worked with in the resistance documented as best they could many of the atrocities the Nazis kept hidden from the German public and the Allies. If I recall properly, it was the discovery of these documents that led to the execution of a number of Bonhoeffer’s contacts in the resistance and led at least indirectly (if not directly; my memory is fuzzy on this point) to Bonhoeffer’s arrest. His seminaries are also worth study in and of themselves, as he ran them based on a model that could almost be described as a Protestant monasticism, with a focus on fellowship and meditation on the Scriptures.

    Which quote are you referring to? The only one that I can think of that fits your description is the famous “First they came for the Socialists…” quote, but that was Martin Niemöller, a contemporary of Bonhoeffer’s, not Bonhoeffer himself. Overall, I think it would be difficult to argue that guilt drove Bonhoeffer, as he was one of the few who saw through the Nazis from the very beginning and fought (with less success than he would have liked) their attempts to turn the official German church into a tool of the regime and against the general theological decay and timidity in the church that made the Nazis’ work much easier than it should have been.

  3. Wonderful read, thanks Delta! It is interesting to me to see that wherever an official or sanctioned Church/Religion is established, it is always incorporated as a tool of the State, not as a counter weight to the State.

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