Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You have probably heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer before–even Richard Dawkins, who doesn’t read theology, knows about him. Bonhoeffer was a member of the Confessing Church in Germany during the Nazi’s rise to power. The Confessing church refused to acknowledge any “Führer” other than Jesus Christ.

One of Bonhoeffer’s early books, the Cost of Discipleship is still popular today. In it he complained of a kind of cheap grace that appealed to God’s mercy as an excuse for complacency and compromise. The book is an exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and some other passages in the Bible.

Bonhoeffer was a pacifist. He had spent some time in New York, as a visiting scholar. He was impressed with the African American Christians’ struggle for freedom. He was also impressed by the teachings of Ghandi, and had plans to travel to India. Had he lived he might have joined Dr. King in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Although Bonhoeffer was committed to nonviolence, he came to the conclusion that if a madman is driving a car through a crowd of people, a Christian has the obligation, not only to comfort the victims, but to stop the madman.

He joined a group that conspired to assassinate Germany’s mad Führer. He worked as a sort of double agent for the German intelligence, while working with the resistance.

I belong to a group called “Wellspring,” that meets out on Judd and Nancy’s farm. We currently have chosen to read Cost of Discipleship together over the next couple months. Wellspring has just started its own blog, and–I have begun posting my translations of the reading selections from the letters.

I am going to post the first selection here in a couple of days. After that, you can check the “Blogroll,” and click on Wellspring if you want to continue reading the Bonhoeffer selections.