With extensive commentary about their historical context and theological significance, this volume of writings covers a crucial time and an understudied period of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life. It begins during the final period of his illegal work in training Confessing Church seminarians and concludes as he begins his activities in the German resistance. Bridging these two periods is his brief journey to the United States in summer 1939, when he pondered and ultimately rejected a move to the safety of exile. Bonhoeffer’s writings from this transitional period, particularly his New York diary, offer a rare and more deeply personal picture of Bonhoeffer in a time of great inner turmoil.
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Banned by the Gestapo in 1937 from preaching and teaching, Bonhoeffer went through a period of existential insecurity. How could he best uphold his forthright Christian witness against Nazi totalitarian claims? One recourse was to maintain his theological education activities underground and illegally. Another was to go abroad and thus avoid conscription for military service. But a quick visit to New York in the summer of 1939 convinced him that such an exile would be a mistake. He had too many ties to his family, his seminarians, and to his country. He returned to Germany just before Hitler launched his wars of aggression in September 1939. This meticulously edited and translated collection of Bonhoeffer’s letters and papers for this period describes his often traumatic dilemmas, both theological and personal, in his attempt to remain true to his vocation in these critical years of conflict and confrontation.
—John S. Conway, author, The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933–1945
This is one of the most absorbing and illuminating volumes of the Bonhoeffer collected works, giving us the Bonhoeffer who struggled under terrible circumstances in Nazi Germany to provide seminary training worthy of the Christian name, even as he struggled with fundamental decisions about his future. We are indebted to the editors and translators for another superb volume in this series.
—Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary Professor of Religion, Columbia University
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.
“Therefore, it is never enough to have read God’s word. It must enter us deeply, dwell in us like the Holiest of Holies in the sanctuary, so that we do not stray in thoughts, words, and deeds. Often it is better to read little and slowly in the Scriptures, and to wait until it has penetrated into us, than to know much about God’s word but not to ‘treasure’ it.” (Page 514)
“as such, for God does not call every person into martyrdom” (Page 447)
“Adam’s temptation has been brought to an end through the temptation of Jesus Christ. Just as all flesh fell in Adam’s temptation, so likewise all flesh has been extricated from Satan’s power in the temptation of Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ bore our flesh, he suffered our temptation, and he has gained the victory. Therefore, all of us today bear the flesh that overcame Satan in Jesus Christ. In the temptation of Jesus, even our flesh, we ourselves, have overcome.” (Pages 395–396)
“It demands a great measure of spiritual experience and practice as well as childlike faith and confidence to be able to speak ‘all demands’ of God with one’s lips without succumbing to a spiritual routine, without becoming a moralizer or an obtrusive babbler. The whole heart must belong to the word of God before we learn to place our lips also entirely into the service of Jesus Christ.” (Page 515)
“There is no doubt: God has given his commandments for us to know and we have no excuse, as if we did not know the will of God. God does not allow us to live in irresolvable conflicts; he does not turn our lives into ethical tragedies; rather, he lets us know his will, demands its fulfillment, and punishes disobedience.” (Page 524)