About ‘The Bonhoefferian’ – Get Involved

Do you blog or write about the thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer? If the answer is yes and you would like to become a contributor to this site please email me or leave an email address in the comments screen and I will send you an invite.

In particular the type of content that is sought includes:

  • Articles/Essays
  • Links
  • Book Reviews

The Bonhoefferian is as an online repository of resources on the theology and life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The vision of this site is to become a central resource for reflection and web resources for Bonhoeffer’s thought and also a site for discussion. In particular whilst it is aimed that this will be a scholarly respectable site it is hoped that The Bonhoefferian will serve as an introduction to those who have not encountered either Bonhoeffer or theological study before.

If you think this sounds interesting please get involved.

27 responses to “About ‘The Bonhoefferian’ – Get Involved

  1. I don’t yet have a comment as I have only recently become nascently aware of Bonhoeffer’s existence through a book we are studying in Sunday school. (Christmas Sermons)
    At this point I am trying to find out more about the nature of his involvement in the attempt to bring Hitler’s life to an end. From there I hope to gain a greater understanding of the relationship of his theology to the tension between pacificism and activism as it relates to Faith expressed in Love. Can you suggest a good source for a layperson?


  2. First of all thanks for stopping by and for being the first to post a comment!

    By far the best account of the theology behind Bonhoeffer’s actions is Larry Rasmussen’s book “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance” a review of which is on this site. This is quite heavyweight and does not go into a great deal of the actual resistance work of Bonhoeffer.

    For an account of the resistance work I would suggest picking up one of the number of biographies out there, the standard is the one by Eberhard Bethge (who was a friend of Bonhoeffer). Another good (and shorter) account is Edwin Robertson, “The Shame and the Sacrifice: The Life and Teaching of Dietrich Bonhoeffer”.

    There are lots more books out there on these subjects but I think these would be good places to start. I hope this helps.

  3. Hi!

    I am writing my MA thesis on Bonhoeffer currently and have been posting many of my reflections on my blog over the last week:

    Bonhoeffer posts

    Thanks for your blog. I’ll be bookmarking and linking to it.

    Julie Bogart

  4. It seems that the IBS has a new site. http://www.dbonhoeffer.org has not worked for me for a few days. However, http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/~diebon06/ works.

  5. I have blogged a few posts about The Cost of Discipleship but not familiar enough to do what you are talking about. Glad I found your site!

  6. Dieter Schneider

    How do Jews view Bonhoeffer’s solidarity with their plight? Any help would be appreciated.

  7. Well, such a generic phrase such as “the Jews” is obviously imprecise and the answer to that would be “it varies”. Such an answer is I suspect not what you are looking for.

    The simple answer is extent of Bonhoeffer’s solidarity with Jews is itself a debated issue; there is no doubt that Bonhoeffer went a lot further than most protestants even in the Confessing Church (eg in his walking away from the Bethel Confession because of its focus only on converted Jews). However, there are voices of criticism. The best place to start is the 2006 book by Stephen Haynes called “The Bonhoeffer Legacy” which is simply written but gives a good introduction and link to all the secondary literature.

    Another important act of Bonhoeffer’s solidarity with Jews is his involvement in “Operation 7” under the auspices of the Abwehr (German Intelligence – but in partially a resistance movement); this was an attempt to smuggle 14 Jews out of Germany (this was the reason he was initially arrested by the Gestapo).

    There have been claims to add Bonhoeffer to the list of those “righteous among the gentiles” something that the Yad Vashem have disagreed with (see the article here: http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/~diebon06/Archive/www.dbonhoeffer.org/node/27/index.html)

    The only sustained piece of writing Bonhoeffer did on the subject was the 1933 essay “The Church and the Jewish Question” which you should obviously check out (although this was hastily written).

    I hope this is useful for you.

  8. My name is Byron and I’m working on an MA in Systematic Theology at Harding University Graduate School. I’m writing my masters thesis on Bonhoeffer’s view of the conscience, particularly as represented in the Ethics. I can offer a unique 22 page treatise that compares/contrast Bonhoeffer/Newman on the conscience. Let me know if you’re interested.

  9. Hey Byron,
    In April at the Stone-Campbell Conference in Cincinnati, I heard an attorney from Nashville give a paper on Bonhoeffer, JFK, and social ethics, something like that. I’ll see if I can find my copy and remember his name.

  10. Hello, I am curious to know if the names of the people Bonhoeffer was smuggled (I have seen both 14 and 15 as the count) are known, and whether their passage was successful. who were they and what became of them? I think it would be interesting to know.

  11. Robin,
    The relevant section in Eberhard Bethge’s massive biography starts on page 747 in my edition. The biography is likely available at most major libraries. The only name I found in a cursory re-reading was Charlotte Friedenthal, whose escape story is told in some detail.

    To my knowledge, Bonhoeffer did not directly smuggle anyone out of Germany (i.e. escort them), but he was instrumental in an operation that provided “12 to 15” Jews the opportunity to reach Switzerland.

    Relatedly, theologian Karl Barth was involved in ensuring that the Jews were welcomed and protected in Switzerland.

  12. Thank you for the interesting site. Amazing the hold that Bonhoeffer has on people.

    I’m writing my Ph.D on Bonhoeffer’s views of evil, justice, and perseverance. I would recommend the works that Bonhoeffer wrote himself. It is amazing how convoluted the material about Bonhoeffer has become by relying on secondary literature.

    As far as assisting Jews, I will bring up the point that he didn’t bury his brother-in-law’s father because he wasn’t baptized. He apologized later, but it still reflects on his mindset while writing “The Church and the Jewish Question” (check the dating of both). But also with Operation 7, the woman listed was a friend of Oster’s…not Bonhoeffer’s. Bonhoeffer was arrested due to the money that went missing from the Abwehr because of this operation, not because of direct actual physical involvement.

    But that really isn’t so important anyway. It isn’t necessary to link him to Jewish support to appreciate the incredible theology of the man and his fight for the church. I sometimes worry that the need to make him a hero for Jewish causes means that someone has a presupposition to prove before examining the theologian’s theology. Which is really too bad because Bonhoeffer had so much to say about living under tyranny and fundamentalism!

  13. Annette,

    Thanks for stopping by. I had forgotten about the issue with his brother in law.

    I absolutely agree regarding readin Bonhoeffer himself, paricularly as he is a fairly accessible thinker; it was one of my concerns regarding posting the recommended reading page (to which I am open to any additions you may want to recommend).

    If you’d like to sign up as a contributer to the site let me know, it would be great if you could.

  14. Annette,

    Glad to hear from you. I’d like to pipe in on the question of Bonhoeffer’s relationship to the Jews in Germany.

    You are certainly right to bring up the event with his father in law. So far as I understand it, the string of events reflects even worse on him than you might have suggested. His reasons were political as well as theological. It wasn’t merely that his father in law was not a baptized believer in Christ (though that may have been a theological layer of justification with merit of its own), but that his bishop strongly discouraged him from speaking at the service. Bonhoeffer regretted that decision for years and apologized for it, as you mention.

    But on the other side, we shouldn’t be too quick to distance Bonhoeffer from “the Jewish question either.” Bonhoeffer was certainly one of the first, if not the first, German theologian to realize that the critical issue in the Nazi’s grab for power was the treatment of the Jews. Barth gives Bonhoeffer great credit for this. Prior to the Barmen Synod, Barth and Bonhoeffer had a great disagreement. Bonhoeffer was sure that the requirement that pastors of Jewish heritage give up their role in the ministry constituted a status confessionis a fundamental compromise of the Christian gospel. Bonhoeffer urged that the Church make a stand on this point. Barth recommended caution and patience (and regretted it ever after).

    You are certainly right to point out that Bonhoeffer’s character and the value of his theology do not stand or fall on the case that we make for his advocacy for the Jews. On the other hand, his voice was one of the few urging sanity in a time of madness, and that should not be minimized.

    I’d be interested in hearing more about your dissertation–especially what you are encountering with regard to Bonhoeffer’s perspective on evil. Surely you’ve come across the excellent article by Charles Matthewes that deals with Bonhoeffer and Arendt on evil…

    At any rate, I’m curious….


  15. Thanks for the warm welcome guys! I sent another post before this one…but I don’t think it arrived.

    I don’t have a problem with Bonhoeffer being associated with the Jewish situation…to a point.
    I believe much of the problem comes with a misunderstanding of the whole of his theology and too much emphasis on “Letters and Papers.”

    I agree that Bonhoeffer quickly understood the problem of the Aryan Clause…much quicker than more seasoned and older theologians…such as Barth. That is the brilliance of Bonhoeffer. He was quickly able to go from point A to point B. But I disagree that it was a rejection for a Jewish reason. The rejection of Bonhoeffer was a rejection of a clause that placed culture, race, etc. over justification. I believe today he would do the exact same if a baptized Arab was ejected from the pulpit or refused ordination because they are not Aryan. And we should expect from a Lutheran theologian to immediately understand an attack on Luther’s baby: sola fide!

    That is the problem of connecting Bonhoeffer to the Jewish issue after the fact. I think the facts become confused because we think from a culture seeped in Zionism…a point that would not have been in Bonhoeffer’s mind. At least not in the same way.

    Israel was not existent during Bonhoeffer’s life, and not even planned. The only Zionists were the Jewish community themselves and Hitler’s group. The Jewish community for obvious reason, and the Nazis because they really wanted to get rid of the Jews and send them away. Of course, because other countries were not willing to take the refugees from Germany, they had to develop the final solution.

    So when we talk about the Jewish Question in the 1930s-40s, we are not talking about Israel or a Jewish homeland…all the problems of today.

    The problem was what we see here in Europe and beginning in America. The mindset that Hitler began to cultivate towards the Jews is very similar to the mindset that is being cultivated towards Muslims in Western Europe and Mexicans in the States. Hitler promoted the idea that Jews were tribal people that came and destroyed business because they only took care of their own. He based Germany’s financial problems on the Jews “controlling the world’s finances” rather than placing the blame where it belonged…war restitution. He claimed that the Jews were destroying the economy, taking away jobs from the Aryans, raising taxes because of their social problems, etc. etc. Sounds very familiar. That is why Jewish business owners started placing their war service records on their windows. They were attempting to repute the charges against their community, but, of course, Hitler needed an enemy in order to scare the people into his plan. Bonhoeffer understood that reparations were the seed of the problem…that was his work for the Abwehr. To use his ecumenical contacts to negotiate reasonable reparations if Germany surrendered.

    So the problem was social and political as Eric pointed out…although I would disagree that Bonhoeffer covered any of his political beliefs with theology. I would assert that Bonhoeffer formed his political ideas from his theology…not vice-versa and that was the difference between him and the Deutsche Christen.

    I will take a leap out on a limb and say that if Bonhoeffer were alive today, I think he would go so far as to reject much of what is happening in the world. He was so opposed to isms that I think we would find him on the other side now.

    And I imagine, after knowing what he wrote in his Bible on Kristallnacht, that he would write the date of immigration raids in his Bible next to Leviticus 19: 33-34, or he would be writing theological protest against the ever expanding Green Line.

    And so that is why I have a problem with connecting him to closely with what we are experiencing in much of evangelicalism today. I think part of the danger of this is that we are missing so much of what he had to say about the church that we are contributing to the secularization of, at least, Europe. Maybe the opposite in the States. I believe that the real heart of Bonhoeffer was the church.

    As far as evil, I hope you will soon be able to hear my viewpoints on that as well!

    Thanks guys for the great discussion!


  16. Annette,

    Thank you for the extended reply.

    I wholeheartedly agree that any attempt to connect Bonhoeffer’s adamant stance on “the Jewish question” of his day can in no way be the starting point for any argument whose trajectory leads to contemporary Zionsim. That would certainly be importing an agenda into history where it does not belong. And your point is well taken that Bonhoeffer would have made the same argument if it were baptized Arabs or Mexicans being disqualified from the ministry. I think you are exactly right. But the historical reality that he dealt with was the exclusion, marginalization, and ultimately ruthless extermination of Jewish persons (among others). A proper response to his life and action, I should say, a responsible course of action would be to look for people who are being similarly mistreated, and to stand up on their behalf. The Palestinians certainly come to mind, though the issues are certainly complex—and I want to stay far, far away from drawing analogies between 1930’s Germany and contemporary Israel.

    Do you see Bonhoeffer being co-opted for conservative agendas very often?

    And what do you mean by:
    He was so opposed to isms that I think we would find him on the other side now.

    The other side of what?

    At any rate, thanks for your response. I wish you good luck and the gifts of creativity and clarity in your dissertation labors.

    God’s peace,

  17. Thanks for your response, Eric!

    What I mean “on the other side” is that IF we follow the argumentation that Bonhoeffer’s goal was to defend the Jews, then at this point I imagine he would be defending the Palestinians.

    And also that he would reject the idea of a promised land. While I do believe he honored the Old Testament and the historical legacy Judaism brought to Christianity, he was pretty adamant in Ethics that the whole world is redeemed and brought to reconciliation with God…the world just doesn’t know it.

    So the whole Israel as promised land and fulfillment of end time prophecy wouldn’t be something Bonhoeffer would embrace, I imagine. That would be completely opposite of his theology in “Christ, Reality, and Good.” He obviously rejected dispensationalism and the thought that the world would be destroyed. In fact he argued that the penultimate had to be maintained for the sake of the ultimate.

    About your other question, I guess I do see a lot of co-opting Bonhoeffer for Jewish and conservative causes. One theologian became so angry here that he threatened to come and appeal my promotion based on my argument that Bonhoeffer’s cause was the church and not the Jews! He was rather hot under the collar about that one. 🙂

    I can’t understand that type of thinking…but then he had written his masters thesis on the argument that Bonhoeffer did his theology in order to “save the Jews” so I think I hit a nerve.

    Your point about the reality of the Jewish Question was point on. It was an historical necessity and not because he made the Jewish community more holy because they were Jews.

    Good stuff, thanks!

  18. Pamela Gustafson

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer was quoted in a book I am using for a Bible study. The theme of the study is the difference between beliving and following. I found you blog helpful to my bible study and my growth as a follower of Christ.

  19. Byron turned me on to this site, and I’m really enjoying it. I’d be willing to submit a 20 page paper on the consistent theological ethics of Bonhoeffer. If you’re interested, please email me.

  20. The life and thoughts of Bonhoeffer has toughed me a lot. Right now I am writing my BD thesis on Bohoeffer and this site is helpful for my work.

  21. Is there any divinity school or university that has a professor who specializes in Bonhoeffer studies? I am generally interested in Christian ethics but more specifically in Bonhoeffer’s idea of the will of God as the base for ethics.

  22. Hi!

    I’m writing an MTh dissertation on Bonhoeffer’s theology and practice of community. I’m planning to trace the development of his theology of community through his writings and compare them to the various experiences of community (especially Finkenwalde and the somewhat different community of Tegel) in his life. I’m using this as a pilot study in advance of a PhD which explores the most effective ‘form’ of community for forming ministers, hence the focus on Finkenwalde. Bonhoeffer’s pseudo-monastic model looks intriguing and could be a frontrunner (I’m keen on the idea of monastic communities as more formative than university communites, for example – anyone agree/disagree?)

    If anyone knows of any obvious sources for exactly these areas in the secondary literature, other than Day and Green, then I’d be keen to hear from them! Also, I’m eager to network with the broader Bonhoeffer academic community – please do drop an email to tom.oldman123@gmail.com

    Many thanks.

  23. Dean S. Skelley

    I am editor of the Newsletter, International Bonhoeffer Society – English Language Section and would to re-print the book review Authentic Faith, which appeared in the November 28, 2008 issue of your publication. I would apprecate receiving your permission to re-print his review. Thank you.

  24. Hi,

    I was excited when I came across this blog, and dismayed when I realized that the posts are two to three years old.

    Is this site still active? I would appreciate any opportunity to read and discuss B. I had hoped this might be it.

    If it is not active, do you know of any?

    Bill Cook

  25. Fascinating material on Bonnhoeffer. Looking for his essay on the Jewish question.

  26. I wold love to take part in this kind of dialogue, and contribute. Please let me know if this site is becoming active again. Bill Cook.

    My email: revbillcook93@gmail.com

  27. I have a book I just released on Dietrich Bonhoeffer I want to make you aware of it. Please let me know if you would be able to put a link on the site to direct people to the new book.


    If you go to the link above you can see the book and the description of the book. Thank you, Dr. Craig Lantz

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