Scholar, theologian, professor, pastor, visionary, double agent, conspirator, and martyr are some of the attributes associated with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The manner in which Dietrich was reared lent a hand to the path he took as a young man, his family having the means to properly educate him and his siblings gave him a thirst for knowledge. That thirst lead him to pursue an academic career as a theologian, and later his work as a theologian lead him to be a pastor. Bonhoeffer lived in the midst of a severe moral and political ineptness yet he continued to hold to the truths of Scripture while his fellow countrymen were walking the slippery slope of Nazism. The ideals Bonhoeffer held to heart were constantly under attack from the oppressive government under which he lived. The result of this oppression was at first productive in the development of Dietrich's theology and his resolve to teach the next generation of pastors to hold true to the gospel in the midst of oppression. Later this oppression led Bonhoeffer to leave Germany for the United States this trip was short lived as Dietrich soon resolved he must return to Germany upon his return he joined a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer's decision to conspire against Hitler ultimately led to his imprisonment and death. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in February 1906 to Karl Bonhoeffer and Paula von Hase Bonhoeffer. Karl Bonhoeffer was an esteemed professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Berlin and also served at Chairte Hospital in Berlin serving in the psychiatric unit. The Bonhoeffer family consisted of eight children including Dietrich, there were four boys and four girls. There were 3 older boys, Karl-Friedrich, Walter (who perished in World War 1) and Klaus. The older girls were Ursula and Christine, Dietrich had a twin sister Sabine and to complete the family was Susanne. Karl Bonhoeffer was an agnostic while Paula came from a family of theologians. “The household was not notably religious. The conventional Bible-story Christian nurture was supplied in the children's early years, the two governesses were pious young women, a simple blessing was always asked at table- and that was it. Dr. Bonhoeffer and the older children were all of scientific or legal bent; an unaggressive agnosticism prevailed among them.” Coming from the environment stated above made things interesting when as a young teenager Dietrich informed his parent that he wanted to study theology. This came as a shock to his family as they thought he would pursue music due to his abundant skills in this area. His father thought the sedentary life of a pastor was not a good fit for his son, but after seeing how he lived he knew that it was the right path for him. Paula Bonhoeffer was trained as a teacher at the university and home-schooled all her children until they were ready to enter the German Gymnasium which was a college preparatory school. Dietrich started his study of theology at Tubingen at age seventeen. He excelled in his studies to the point that he finished his dissertation, titled Sanctorum Communio; “The Communion of Saints,” by the time he was twenty-one years of age. Over the next few years Dietrich would travel to Barcelona, Spain back to Berlin, and then to the United States. While in the United States he studied and taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He did all this traveling because he was too young to be ordained. This gave Dietrich the ability to pursue his studies more and focus his career on teaching and not pastoring a church. While in New York he made a habit of worshipping with an African-American congregation and teaching Sunday School. While in the United States he also was introduced to many ideas such as pacifism, social justice, and ecumenism. “He (Dietrich) encountered a pacifism that was rooted in the Sermon on the Mount- personified in the French theologian and friend Jean Laserre.” The idea of pacifism is one...
Bibliography: Dramm, Sabine. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An introduction to his thought. Translated by Thomas Rice. Peabody: Hendrickson. 2007.
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Hunt, George L., ed. Twelve Makers of Modern Protestant Thought. New York: Association Press. 1971. Pp 93-110
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Miller, Patrick. "Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Psalms," The Princeton Seminary Bulletin 15, no. 3 (1994): 274ff
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[ 2 ]. Sabine Dramm Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought (Peabody, Mass Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 9
[ 3 ]
[ 4 ]. David P. Gushee, “Following Jesus to the Gallows,” Christianity Today 39, April 3, 1995, 31.
[ 9 ]. James Woelfel, Bonhoeffer 's Theology: Classical and Revolutionary, (Nashville: Abingdon Press 1970) 253.
[ 10 ]. George L. Hunt, ed., Twelve Makers of Modern Protestant Thought (New York: Association Press 1971), 107-108.
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