Posted by: beattieblog | June 9, 2008

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you’re a protestant living in the western hemisphere, odds are you’ve heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. German theologian and pastor; Nazi resister; martyred on special order from Adolf Hitler on April 9, 1945 for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler. One of the best Christian book I’ve ever read is his treatise on community, Life Together. For a long time that remained the extent of my exposure to him. My current course at Fuller Seminary however, has given me the opportunity to read his writing on ethics and the Christian response to violence and war. He died at 39 a brilliant, passionate Christian who had an understanding of obedience to God (obedience that brings true freedom) that blows my mind. At the beginning of his ethics book, there’s listed the brilliant “Stations on the Way to Freedom”. Here they are:

Stations on the Way to Freedom


If you set out to seek freedom, you must learn before all things mastery over sense and soul, lest your wayward desirings, lest your undisciplined members lead you not this way, now that way. Chaste be your mind and your body, and subject to you and obedient, serving solely to seek their appointed goal and objective.


Do and dare what is right, not swayed by the whim of the moment. Bravely take hold of the real, not dallying now with what might be. Not in the flight of ideas but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living. God’s command is enough and your faith in him to sustain you. Then at last freedom will welcome your spirit amid great rejoicing.


See what a transformation! These hands so active and powerful now are tied, and alone and fainting, you see where your work ends. Yet you are confident still, and gladly commit what is rightful into a stronger hand, and say that you are contented. You were from from a moment of bliss, then you yielded your freedom into the hand of God, that he might perfect it in glory.


Come now, highest of feasts on the way to freedom eternal, death, strike off the fetters, break down the walls that oppress us, our bedazzled soul and our ephemeral body, that we may see at last the sight which here was not vouchsafed us. Freedom, we sought you long in discipline, action, suffering. Now as we die we see you and know you at last, face to face.

Put in context of his fight against Nazism and a church that largely acquiesced to Hitler in Germany; his struggle to mentor young seminarians amidst persecution; his decision to remain in Germany with the people he felt called to ‘shepherd’; his participation in a plan he saw as a sin (murder) because of an even greater evil (Hitler); his eventual unjust hanging just days before the WWII’s end – all this makes these words even more striking.


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