“Then came the crisis of 1933.” This is Bonhoeffer’s own phrase in a letter that documents a turning point in his own life as well as that of the nation. Of Bonhoeffer’s own life at this time, his biographer writes, “The period of learning and roaming” from 1928 until 1931 “had come to an end” as the young lecturer, age 26, began to teach “on a faculty whose theology he did not share” and to preach “in a church whose self-confidence he regarded as unfounded.” Bonhoeffer was becoming part of a society “that was moving toward political, social, and economic chaos.”
Events moved quickly at the onset of 1933 in Berlin. In only 100 days the path was cleared by the German Parliament and the Nazi Party for the establishment of the fascist dictatorship. These 100 days, as well as the preceding and succeeding months, are reflected in the materials in this volume: in letters, in sermons, in Bonhoeffer’s university teaching, in manifestos and a church confession, and in his proactive engagement in the developing church struggle. The vast majority of these are translated here for the first time.
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This volume reveals Bonhoeffer’s theological and political response to the rise of fascism in Germany—a decisive turning point in his life that would shape his work from that point on. With powerful clarity, editor Larry Rasmussen’s introduction, commentary, and notes illumine the links between this history and Bonhoeffer’s Christological lectures, his sermons calling the church to repentance and resistance, his critique of National Socialism, his contributions to ecological theology, his understanding of the goodness and godliness of the body and of the human as Earth creature, and his engagement in the conspiracy. Rasmussen provides nuanced interpretation of language, symbols, theological claims, and other contextual factors heavily weighted with moral significance not evident to readers unfamiliar with National Socialism’s appropriation of Christian symbols and with German language, history, and culture. The reader seeking to ‘think with Bonhoeffer’ for the sake of a more just and sustainable world today will find no better resource than these documents and Larry Rasmussen’s brilliant introduction to them.
—Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, associate professor of Christian ethics, Seattle University
This volume spans 12 months in 1932–1933 that proved to be pivotal for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the people of Germany, and the millions of victims of National Socialism. Larry Rasmussen’s masterful introduction provides an illuminating guide to the various lectures, letters, essays, sermons, and other works Bonhoeffer drafted during this tumultuous period. The translators also make key decisions that invite new and better ways to understand Bonhoeffer’s views on ‘the Jewish question’ and his lectures on Christology. Throughout these pages Bonhoeffer continues to challenge readers to take seriously what it means to follow Christ and to ‘be the church for others.’
—James B. Martin-Schramm, associate professor of religion, Luther College
This volume finally brings us Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s seminal writings surrounding a turning point in history: Adolf Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933 and the beginning of one of history’s darkest chapters. Grounded firmly in his Christian convictions, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was among the first to take a clear and uncompromising stand against the atrocities of the Nazi regime. This long-awaited volume provides us with essential information on Bonhoeffer’s courageous and unrelenting struggle with monstrous Nazi politics, grotesque ‘Aryan theology,’ and a church divided against itself. Bonhoeffer’s famous essay ‘The Church and the Jewish Question’ is among the many captivating documents contained in this work, displaying his exceptional prophetic analysis of reality and theological acuteness. prefaced by a deeply insightful introduction, this critical edition of Bonhoeffer’s works offers the highest scholarship in a very readable translation.
—Christine Schliesser, author, Everyone Who Acts Responsibly Becomes Guilty: Bonhoeffer’s Concept of Accepting Guilt
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) a German theologian, pastor, and ecumenist, was a professor in Berlin, an uncompromising teacher in the Confessing Church, and a consistent opponent of National Socialism. Executed by Hitler at the end of World War II, his influence continues today as one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century.