Sixty-five years ago today (April 9, 1945), German pastor/theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung in the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp for his participation in an assassination plot against Hitler. With this anniversary in mind today, Thomas Nelson Publishers released the first new biography of Bonhoeffer in forty years — Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.
(((If you missed it, click here for my earlier post/pics on my recent visit to the Bonhoeffer home in Berlin.)))
Fox News did a story today on this newest Bonhoeffer book:
“There were many German churchgoers, whether they were Christians or not I don’t know, but they went to church and somehow they made peace with the Nazis,” Metaxas says. “They thought there was nothing wrong. Bonhoeffer had such a devoted faith he knew without any question that the Nazis were anti-Christian and they were evil, and if he didn’t stand against them he would have to answer to God.” Bonhoeffer believed he was called by God to help those who wanted to assassinate Hitler. “Bonhoeffer was not a pacifist,” Metaxas says. “And that will be news to a lot of people who think of Bonhoeffer as their hero, as some kind of pacifist.” He was willing to be involved in a plot to kill Hitler. “He wasn’t helpful as a gunman; he was helpful with contacts all around Europe,” Metaxas says. “He had the ability because he had ecumenical church contacts to work as a double agent, and that is what he was, he was a double agent.”
Read that first sentence again, the part about church-going “Christians” making peace with evil. Bonhoeffer was a prophetic voice to a church paralyzed by false grace, cheap grace. Metaxas writes:
What was left in its wake was the murder of 6 million Jews and a legacy that has tarnished the Christian faith in Europe. But the legacy that Bonhoeffer leaves future generations is of the untold dangers of idolizing politicians as messianic figures. Not just in the 1930s and ’40s, but today as well. “It’s a deep temptation within us,” says Metaxas. “We need to guard against it and we need to know that it can lead to our ruin. Germany was led over the cliff, and there were many good people who were totally deluded.” Bonhoeffer, says Metaxas, was a prophet. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. He was God’s voice at a time when almost no one was speaking out against the evil of the Nazis.
Good church-going people in Germany were deluded and led over a cliff,,,, by four hundred years of a Lutheran theology of non-engagement with society. As I say in my earlier post:
Bonhoeffer criticized Luther for two things; 1) focusing the Reformation only on the church (whereas Zwingli sought to influence – salt and light – all of society). Bonhoeffer believed Luther’s views on this set the stage for the German Church of the 1930’s to stay out of Hitler’s business. In the 1000+ plus pages of Reformation history I’ve read this month, I’ve had the sense that had Zwingli been in Germany and not in Switzerland, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened. Bonhoeffer also was one of the earliest voices in the German Lutheran Church to renounce 2) the anti-Semitism and treatment of the Jews.