This current bio of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas is one of the best books of 2010. A fascinating look at Bonhoeffer’s life and times in Nazi German.
Bonhoeffer became a theologian who was driven by the question “what is the church?”. First in regards to what that meant to the German Lutheran church and later what it meant to be in opposition to the anti-Jesus Third Reich of Nazi Germany. It also became a personal question for him regarding how to oppose Nazism and it cost him his life.
The sections of the bio that focus on pre-war Germany were a real eye-opener for me. The oppression of Jews began long before the war started and Bonhoeffer was a leader in trying to move the German Lutheran church to react to it.
Regarding the Church and the State he said:
The Church must continually ask the state whether its action can be justified as legitimate action of the state, i.e. as action which leads to law and order, and not to lawlessness and disorder.
Bonhoeffer said there are three ways in which the church can act towards the state:
- The church is to question the state regarding its actions and their legitimacy–to help the state be the state as God has ordained.
- The church is to aid the victims of state action even if they do not belong to the Christian community. He strongly felt the Christian church had to help the Jews in pre-war Germany.
- At some point the church must directly take action against the state to stop it from perpetrating evil.
This led him to make the decision that he needed to participate in the plot to assasinate Hitler. He was executed for that decision three weeks before the end of the war.
Much of Bonheoffer’s thinking is relevant for today’s world. I now want to read his books The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics. (Just a side note…a couple of years ago I found his Cost of Discipleship in the clearance section at Half Price Books and then I lost it.)
Read this book…it could change your life.
I gotta go…