Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Nazi Germany: New Biography on the Life of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
February 7, 2011 marked the 56th anniversary of the date on which Lutheran Pastor,Dieterich Bonhoeffer, was transferred to Buchenwald Concentration Camp where he was hanged three (3) months later, just three (3) days before the camp was liberated. A new biography by Eric Metaxas, author of Amazing Grace, renews the spotlight on Bonhoeffer and his life and times. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Nazi Germany video: Eric Metaxas – Christian foundations – Christianity.com.
Near the beginning of World War II, Bonhoeffer found himself an exile in America for speaking out against Hitler and the Nazi regime. Rather than stay in the safety of the then neutral country, Bonhoeffer returned to his homeland and continued to preach and speak out against the Nazi atrocities. He aided the underground resistance as well, helping Jews to safety. He was also involved in a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler.
Because of his actions as a member of the clergy during World War II, Bonhoeffer is often cited as an exemplar of social justice programs and as a proponent of the social gospel. He is also held up as an “authentic disciple” or an “authentic Christian” or, rather, an “authentic Christ follower” whom we should emulate and follow. However, just as the Gospel cannot be reduced to a “social gospel” or a “prosperity gospel” or a “_______ gospel,” neither can Bonhoeffer’s life and writings be reduced in such a manner either (The terms “authentic” and “Christ follower” are often used by advocates of the post-modern-emerging-church-rejection of the traditional-orthodox-church-worship-life to justify a search for a church and/or community that fills the needs of the individual Christian in a real way that church as it has been for 2000+ years somehow can no longer do). He was an orthodox Lutheran theologian whose contributions to the church in the Lutheran tradition and, ecumenically, in the entire Body of Christ go beyond his writings on Ethics, and the Cost of Discipleship and his choice to participate in the assassination of an evil dictator. A cursory examination of his writings reveals that there was more that motivated the man than the writings and actions by which he is most well known. Bonhoeffer’s life was characterized by Christ — Christ at the Center, and a realization that our lives are more than just you and me as individuals. For our lives encompass, as Bonhoeffer often stressed, our life TOGETHER as Christians not just as individual disciples of Christ, but as members of the larger Body of Christ. Ethics and The Cost of Discipleship may be his most well known books, but both must be read in context with his other writings on the church — Communio Sanctorum (Communion of Saints) and Life together. It is within this context and tradition that Bonhoeffer’s life and contributions to the catholic Church must be examined.