Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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The journey to happiness involves finding the courage to go down into ourselves and take responsibility for what's there: all of it.
Richard Rohr
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and founding member of the Confessing Church.

Der Freund (a poem)

(Widerstand und Ergebung, Briefe und Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft, München, 1952, p. 269; cited in Herman Dooyeweerd, A new critique of theoretical thought, volume 3, pages 179 and 180)

Nicht aus dem schweren Boden
wo Blut und Geschlecht und Schwur
mächtig und heilig sind,
wo die Erde selbst
gegen Wahnsinn und\
die geweihten heilgen uralten Ordnungen
hütet und schützt und rächt, —
nicht aus dem schweren Boden der Erde,
sondern aus freiem Gefallen
und freiem Verlangen des Geistes,
der nicht des Eides und des Gesetzes bedarf,
wird der Freund dem Freunde geschenkt.

[A friend is a gift to a friend
not from the heavy soil where blood and
race and oaths are mighty and holy,
where the earth itself watches over the sacred
hallowed and ancient ordinances
and defends and avenges them,
not from the heavy soil of the earth,
but from free choice and the free desire
of the heart, which are not in need of
an oath or a law.]

The Cost of Discipleship (Nachfolge)

Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death. (Jeder Ruf Christi führt in den Tod)

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.

[Costly grace] is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ...Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'

Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

The right way to requite evil, according to Jesus, is not to resist it...At this point it becomes evident that when a Christian meets with injustice, he no longer clings to his rights and defends them at all costs. He is absolutely free from possessions and bound to Christ alone. Again, his witness to this exclusive adherence to Jesus creates the only workable basis for fellowship, and leaves the aggressor for him to deal with. The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a stand-still because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames.

Letters and Papers from Prison

Touchstone, New York, 1997

  • "Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering."
    • p. 47

Macmillan, New York, 1967 (Revised)

  • “Who Stands Fast? The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on out traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.... Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God - the responsible man, who tries to make his whole like an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?”
    • p2,4
  • “Civil Courage? What lies behind the complaint about the dearth of civil courage? In recent years we have seen a great deal of bravery and self-sacrifice, but civil courage hardly anywhere, even among ourselves.... We have looked upwards, not ins servile fear, but in free trust, seeing in out tasks a call, and in out call a vocation. This readiness to follow a command from 'above' rather than out own private opinions and wishes was a sign of legitimate self-distrust. Who would deny that in obedience, in their task and calling, the Germans have again and again shown the utmost bravery and self-sacrifice? But the German has kept his freedom - and what nation has talked more passionately of freedom that the Germans, from Luther to the idealist philosophers? - by seeking deliverance from self-will through service to the community. Calling and freedom were to him two sides of the same thing. But in this he misjudged the world; he did not realise that his submissiveness and self-sacrifice could be exploited for evil ends. When that happened, the exercise of the calling itself became questionable, and all the moral principles of the German were bound to totter. The fact could not be escaped that the Germans still lacked something fundamental: he could not see the need for free and responsible action, even in opposition to he task and his calling; in its place there appeared on the one had and irresponsible lack of scruple, and on the other a self-tormenting punctiliousness that never led to action. Civil courage, in fact, can grow only out of the free responsibility of free men. Only now are the Germans beginning to discover the meaning of free responsibility. It depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith, and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in that venture.”
    • p4-5