Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have just finished reading Eric Metaxas's BONHOEFFER Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

It was a gripping read. I had only a vague idea of Bonhoeffer before reading this book . My admiration for him simply skyrocketed after reading about his life.
He was a brilliant child amongst 8 brilliant children and had a brilliant father who was the leading teacher of psychiatry in Germany for a long period.

Although he studied under a quite liberal Professor of Theology Bonhoeffer became very much the biblical based Christian. In other circles he would be known as either evangelical or fundamentalist!

I think Timothy Keller in his foreword gets it right on how German Christians simply capitulated to Hitler.
they were predominately either formalists who simply heard God loved them and forgives everyone so it doesn't matter how you live or they were legalists  which meant God loves you because you have puled yourself together and are trying to live a good, disciplined life.

Their biblical understanding was so bad they accepted the Aryan Jesus. They accepted any Jews who converted to Christianity were not real Christians. They accepted the Old Testament was Jewish and shouldn't be read. As you read this you almost want to weep at how they simply had no biblical understanding at all. You can see this in comparing the German church reaction to Hitler to that of the church in Norway to Quisling.

Bonhoeffer saw the evil of Nazism straight away because he faithfully read his bible every day and knew what God was telling him. He also knew a lot about Luther and so could answer the Nazis when they brought up Luther's writings when he was an old, sickly and grumpy old man. Even at his worst Luther always was willing to accept Jews into the Church. Luther's early writing were very different and he was very supportive of Jews and bringing them into the church. It does show what old age and ill health can do to a person.

Metaxas is very good at showing Bonhoeffer and his understanding of the bible. He is also good at showing how the Germans accepted things little by little which by 1938  turned into maelstrom.

Although his knowledge of the period is limited it doesn't take away from the book. We know Germany was affected by the Great Depression worse than any other nation and they adopted the wrong policies to combat it. It was those very economic policies that led to Hitler gaining power. Put in the large reduction in crime that occurred after the Nazis gained power ( they were the first people to practice the broken windows theory before it was even thought of) and also that most people then begin to think only the Nazis could save them from the USSR and bingo the perfect political storm for the Nazis had arrived.

People forget that putting political prisoners in concentration camps had started in 1919 and then again when hyperinflation happened. The German people didn't think twice when Hitler did this nor when he put various people to death on attaining power. They deserved it. there was too much violence around. They didn't care about the Night of the Long knives indeed this bloody night made Hitler more popular!

They wanted Germany to be a proud country of order again. They did not see the Nazis destroying the Church.There was far too much patriotism and too little discernment.

Bonhoeffer understood God's word and how God wanted him to live and hence his decision to join forces with others, mainly (actual) Christians to kill Hitler and end the barbarity in Germany and in other nations they had conquered. He was prepared to die.

One small thing we do note was Churchill's decision to link every German to Nazism was disastrous for Germans wanting to get rid of Hitler,the irony here he did this to pacify Stalin! Bonhoeffer tried to get the British to understand this. George Bell his main intermediary was unsuccessful.

I highly recommend this book. It is the most enjoyable but possibly saddest book I have read in a long time and a highly educative one!