The Story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Michael Van Dyke


“You’ll be inspired by this story of a German pastor and theologian who gave his life to oppose Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. Born into a prominent German family, Dietrich Bonhoeffer died in a Nazi prison camp, hanged for his plot against the man who’d plunged the world into war. Find out what made Dietrich Bonhoeffer the man he was—compassionate minister, brilliant thinker, opponent of the heresies of Nazism and Aryan superiority. This easy-to-read biography details both Bonhoeffer’s life and his powerful theology—of “cheap” versus “costly” grace.”

There are few books that change ones life, or the way the think, or for that matter truly effect you. This book had a profound effect on me. The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of great moral courage and strength. C.S. Lewis and Bonhoeffer have both inspired and moved me in not only a moral capacity, but in a way that has shaped who I want to be, and how I want to live. C. S. Lewis books are philosophical while Bonhoeffer himself is a theologian, expressing himself through that lens first and foremost.

Bonhoeffer was not raised in a particularly religious family. While his mother was religious (in the basic understanding of the word) his father and siblings were agnostic. Two of his grandfathers were theologians, and after he lost his eldest brother in WWI he decided that he wanted to pursue theology in strictly the educational sense. He himself would not become a Christian until after a very intense and eye opening visit to an African American congregation in the United States. There he witnessed worship in a way that was exciting and passionate, in a way never before seen in Europe. In the US he also saw first hand segregation, which would strengthen his resolve later in speaking out against the treatment of Jews in Germany.

Bonhoeffer became a man of great faith. I simply cannot do his story justice here and ask that you take the time to read about his life, if not a book than at least do a Google search. He loved his country, but was one of the first to see the evil of Nazism and have the courage to speak out against the regime and the church when it too fell into the darkness.

He spoke up against the treatment of Jews (his brother-in-law was Jewish), and eventually joined a group that would have attempted several times to assassinate Hitler, which caused him a great moral tug of war since he himself was a pacifist. He would eventually be arrested and imprisoned for his involvement, and killed in a concentration camp shortly before the end of WWII. The stories from fellow prisoners during his time spent imprisoned, confirm who he was; a man of tremendous faith, even during a time of great mental and physical suffering.

Bonhoeffer saw way beyond his years as well. A great thinker. He realized society was not “religious”, and asked what the church should do in the future to bring more people to faith and Christianity.  There is a difference, and a big one, between being religious or saying you are religious, and being a Christian. Saying you are religious is not the same as living as a Christian. He knew that there were problems within the Church itself that added to decline, and asked how and what should be done in the future for Christianity itself to thrive and grow in a world where masses of people were walking away from being a Christian in the way they live their lives. He saw how the Church stepped away from being involved in people’s life on a daily basis, and while ministering he personally took the time to visit the his parishioners.

Controversially, he wrote of a religionless Christianity, which to me echoed on the same lines but in a very, very different way as what C.S. Lewis referred to as “Mere Christianity.” Something that echoes again and again in my heart and mind.

I have re-read this and it is nothing compared to what Bonhoeffer was and who he continues to be for so many. His life simply cannot be summed up in this blog post and  I will no longer ramble on.

Read something, ANYTHING about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A life of tremendous courage and faith in the most perilous of times.



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