Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters & Papers from Prison was a most edifying read, primarily because it stripped away the mystery and mythical aura that surrounded him, before and after his murder by the Nazis in 1945. The fact that his reputation is so universally well known is greatly due in part to his brother-in-law, the late Eberhard Bethge.
Having been raised in a very German household myself, I would hear occasional stories from my own father, who grew up in Germany at that time, about the German pastor who was a part of the plot to kill Hitler, the one who was the moral conscience who aided the conspirators while they tried to rid Germany of the diabolical dictator and his vile atrocities that were sweeping throughout the land, for nothing was sacrosanct.
Bonhoeffer, known throughout the Christian world for his books, The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics, among other treaties, pamphlets and sermons, was a great example in respects to how a man or woman can truly live an independent Christian life while working in the world and that heroism does not necessarily come from preaching the Gospel, but rather, living it or trying to. It also comes from incorporating nuances of those truths, big or small, into the daily activities of ones life and sharing that Christian goodness (in a healthy and practical manner) with people from all walks of life, irrelevant of class structure, education, ethnic background, et cetera.
In this book, Bonhoeffer's theological musings move from the act of suffering to the meaning of love, whether human, religious or even material, and the insights that he shares with some of his correspondents, especially Eberhard Bethge, is sometimes profoundly compelling, and one can endlessly cite the abundant source material to back that up. But while he was accepting his cross of suffering, knowing in a way that it was a gift, he had an agony for those whom he was separated from, specificially his fiance, Maria von Wedemeyer-Weller.
The overall profile of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as presented in this work, showcases an all too human man, sometimes short-tempered and impatient yet very religious, contemplative, moral, ethical and surprisingly creative. For an example of that, read his short fiction piece entitled: "Lance-Corporal Berg: A narrative" which is almost similarly reminiscent, style-wise, to that of the writer and author Erich Maria Remarque. His poems, however, were not that great, but it made him only more real.
Though I am Catholic and my interpretation of Scripture is slightly different, much of what Bonhoeffer wrote spoke volumes to me, especially in tackling the day-to-day challenges and experiences that life has to offer. I think he speaks to many people, and that is good, for what he has to say, by his life, writings, choices, down to his martyrdom can cross all ecumenical boundaries. And that is indeed a remarkable witness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters & Papers from Prison was a most edifying read, primarily because it stripped away the mystery and mythical aura that surrounded him, before and after his murder by the Nazis in 1945. The fact that his reputation is so universally well known is greatly due in part to his brother-in-law, the late Eberhard Bethge. Having been raised in a very German household myself, I would hear occasional stories from my own father, who grew up in Germany at that … more
Letters and Papers from Prisonis a collection of notes and correspondence covering the period from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's arrest in 1943 to his execution by the Gestapo in 1945. The book is probably most famous, and most important, for its idea of "religionless Christianity"--an idea Bonhoeffer did not live long enough fully to develop, but whose timeliness only increases as the lines between secular and ecclesial life blur. Bonhoeffer's first mention of "religionless Christianity" came in a letter in 1944:
What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience--and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as "religious" do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by "religious."
The pleasures ofLetters and Papers from Prison,however are not all so profound. Occasionally, Bonhoeffer's letters burst into song--sometimes with actual musical notations, other times with unforgettable phrases. Looking forward to seeing his best friend, Bonhoeffer writes, "To meet again is a God."--Michael Joseph Gross