~ 22 November 2004 ~



My wife and I watched Martin Doblmeier’s documentary Bonhoeffer over the weekend, and we were both duly impressed. The film chronicles the life of the German theologian alongside the German church’s downward spiral and eventual capitulation to the Nazis in the pre-WWII era.

Once a committed pacifist, Dietrich Bonhoeffer ultimately rejected his pacifism and joined a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was caught by the SS, imprisoned, and executed by personal order of Hitler. As a young pastor, he stood against the tide of the bulk of German clergy who had sold their souls to the Third Reich. A member of the breakaway “Confessing Church,” Bonhoeffer headed an illegal seminary that trained pastors who were loyal to Christ, rather than the Nazis.

I’ve studied Bonhoeffer’s history quite a bit over the years (my wife just bought me Eberhard Bethge’s massive biography for my birthday!), and Doblmeier’s documentary is very comprehensive—especially in painting a detailed picture of the religious setting that was Bonhoeffer’s Germany. I highly recommend the DVD.

I also recommend Bonhoeffer’s writings as well. His Cost of Discipleship was one of the first theological books I read, and challenged me to really look closely at the Sermon on the Mount. Ethics and Life Together are superb as well. I will caution against Bonhoeffer’s tendency toward neoorthodoxy, and also be wary of his prison writings, which must be interpreted in context of the immense strain Bonhoeffer was under (the later “death of God” movement grossly took his writings out of context). Overall, however, Bonhoeffer’s work can be very helpful to evangelicals, and a studious evangelical would be remiss not to read him.

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