Bonhoeffer, to those who don't know, was a German pastor in pre-Hitler and pre-World War II Germany, as well as during the war. He could have established residency in the United States in the 1930's, but declined to do so. Instead, he followed the call of God to speak God's truth to the secular power of the age. . . Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich itself. Bonhoeffer actually participated in a failed plot to assasinate Hitler just before Bonhoeffer himself died in a German war camp just prior to World War II ending. Exciting times, and an eventful man with God's leading. May we be the same in our generation! With that background given, here's some worthwhile quotes. All are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer unless otherwise indicated.
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Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued. (Page 85)
A summary from Metaxas: "In an attempt to be more sophisticated than the fundamentalists, whom they (theological liberals) hated, they had jettisoned serious scholarship altogether. They seemed to know what the answer was supposed to be and weren't much concerned with how to get there. They knew only that whatever answer the Fundamentalists came up with must be wrong. For Bonhoeffer, this was scandalous." (Page 103)
The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events. (Page 106)
. . .
In New York they preach about virtually everything: only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life. (Page 106)
So what stands in the place of the Christian message? An ethical and social idealism born by a faith in progress. . .
The (liberal) church (is) as a social corporation. . . (Page 107)
From Metaxas: "Bonhoeffer quickly grew weary of the sermons in places like (theologically liberal) Riverside (Church, New York City), so when Fisher invited him to a service at Abyssynian (Baptist Church, New York City), he was thrilled to go along. There, in the socially downtrodden African American community, Bonhoeffer would finally hear the gospel preached and see its power manifested. The preacher at Abyssinian was a powerful figure named Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr." (Pages 107-8)
Again, from Metaxas: "By the mid-1930's, Abyssinian boasted fourteen thousand members and was arguably the largest Protestant church of any kind in the whole United States. When Bonhoeffer saw it all, he was staggered." (Page 108)
Metaxas again: ". . . the only real piety and power that he had seen in the American church seemed to be in the churches where there were a present reality and a past history of suffering." (Page 110)
I still believe that the spiritual songs of the southern negroes represent some of the greatest artistic achievements in America. (Page 114) I'll add this note: Bonhoeffer was so struck with the power and influence of the negro spirituals he listened to that he took these recordings with him back to Germany, to allow his students and others to listen to them as he first did so. They were some of his most treasured possessions, according to Metaxas.
From Metaxas: "He seemed to want to warn everyone to wake up and to stop playing church." (Page 122)
When I took leave of my black friend, he said to me: 'Make our sufferings known to Germany, tell them what is happening to us, and show them what we are like.' I wanted to fulfill this obligation tonight. (Page 128)
From Metaxas: (from one of Bonhoeffer's students) "Among the public, there spread the expectation that the salvation of the German people would now come from Hitler. But in the lectures we were told that salvation comes only from Jesus Christ." (Page 128)
If you want to be pastors, then you must sing Christmas carols. (Page 129)
From Metaxas: "He loved. And by being with his disciples, he showed them what life was supposed to look like, what God had intended it to look like." (Page 129)
From Metaxas, again: "Bonhoeffer aimed to model the Christian life with his students. This led him to the idea that, to be a Christian, one must live with Christians." (Page 130)
Leaders or officers who set themselves up as gods mock God and the individual who stands alone before him, and must perish. (Page 142)
From Metaxas: "The words of the decree (Reichstag Fire Edict), produced and signed into effect before anyone had had time to think carefully about it, made possible most of the horrors ahead, including the concentration camps." (Page 149) Yup. . . there went the German people's individual liberties and civil rights, just like that!
All of this reminds me of the famous quote by philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
"Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall," the Apostle Paul advised in another context in 1 Corinthians 10:12, but one connected to the issue at hand: the allowance of evil and idolatry in one's life and in the culture at large.
I hate evil, because God does. It's real. C'mon. . . you mean to tell me that the Aurora, Colorado Batman movie theater killer was a good guy? He was and is mentally troubled, for starters. Or how about the Iranians rattling their sabers at Israel? Is that good? No! Or how about what happened to Kelly Thomas, the homeless man who was beaten and killed at the hands of the Fullerton, California police department? Is that good? Look at all the demonstrations that event caused. No! How about the inclination of my heart to not be with God's people, the ekklesia, the called out ones of God, and share my life transparently in front of God and man as I do Sunday by Sunday? Is that good? No!
See, evil is everywhere in every person, because "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," Paul wrote in Romans 3:23. "All our righteousness is as filthy rags," the prophet Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 64:6). This is why Jesus came. To allow us to exchange our filthy rags for a white robe, where we are judged "not guilty" by God the Father, because he sees "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow," Isaiah the prophet declared (Isaiah 1:8)
This is the Great Exchange. . . one Bonhoeffer had, and I've had as well. It's the best exchange you'll ever have in your life, to rid yourself of all your guilt and shame you have before God the Father and let Jesus bear the burden and the punishment of your sin. . . a subsitutionary sacrifice. . . which is one main reason why he is worshiped as God the Son, part of the Trinity.
Questions about the above? Please do leave a comment below. I do check regularly for them, and I'd be honored to help folks deal with this issue in a gentle, loving, compassionate way. I know. I've been in that position.