Bonhoeffer Dietrich

break out your badges for




4.2.1906 – 9.4.1945


Here and there people flee from public altercation into the sanctuary of private virtuousness.

But anyone who does this must shut his mouth and his eyes to the injustice around him.


Born in Breslau  4.2.1906 his Sanctorum Communio was accepted for doctorate in 1927 and he was appointed assistant pastor in Barcelona in 1928 and in Berlin 1929.  In 1932 when the Nazis gained 230 seats in the German Parliament, he attended a disarmament conference in Geneva.  Hitler became Chancellor of Germany the following year and Bonhoeffer became more outspoken on the evil of Nazism.  Martin Niemoller was arrested in July 1937.

In June 1939 after the annexures of Austria, Sudentenland and Czechoslovakia, Bonhoeffer left for London and USA but came back to Berlin despite persuasion to stay overseas, convinced that he had to face the difficulties ahead with the Christians in Germany.  Sept 1: Hitler invaded Poland.  Sept 3: Britain and France declared war.

He was arrested on suspicion of subversive activities in April 1943 but was able to continue to write in prison until Oct 1944.  Taken to Buchenwald in Feb 1945 and then to Flossenburg where he was hanged on April 9th – shortly before the end of the war in Europe.


In 1937 in The Cost of Discipleship he argued that the Sermon on the Mount is not to be shelved because it sets an impossible ideal only to convict men of sin, but in contrast to ‘cheap grace’ offered too easily to western congregations as part of the standard view of justification by faith, the ideals are to be striven for and grace comes when people step out and follow Christ in costly discipleship.


It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human command than to accept suffering as free responsible men.  It is infinitely easier to suffer with others than to suffer alone.  It is infinitely easier to suffer as public heroes than to suffer apart and in ignominy.  It is infinitely easier to suffer physical death than to endure spiritual suffering.  Christ suffered as a free man alone, apart and in ignominy, and since that day many Christians have suffered with him.                                                                                     Letters and Papers from Prison


Man no longer lives in the beginning – he has lost the beginning.  Now he finds he is in the middle, neither knowing the end nor the beginning.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Creation and Fall


The demand for absolute liberty brings men to the depths of slavery.                                                                      The Cost of Discipleship


The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.


If they follow Jesus, men escape from the hard yoke of their own laws and submit to the kindly yoke of Jesus Christ.

                                                                                                                                                                                    The Cost of Discipleship

One is distressed by the failure of reasonable people to perceive either the depths of evil or the depths of the holy.


The believer can be neither a pessimist, nor an optimist.  To be either is illusory.  The believer sees reality… as it is and believes in God and His power over all.                                                                                                                                                                                        No Rusty Swords


Bonhoeffer talks about those who confront evil and fail: the man of reason, the man of moral fanaticism, the man of conscience, the man of duty, and the man of freedom.  He continues:  Who stands fast?  Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and exclusive allegiance to God – the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.  Where are these responsible people?                                                                                                                Letters and Papers from Prison


Will we shrink into our sanctuaries of private virtuousness or will we stand fast?


Sources:  Charles Ringma Seize the Day;  Michael Green;  Carroll E. Simcox;  Lion History of Christianity.

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