Bookish Thoughts | Faith & Encouragement

BonHoeffer – by Metaxes – Ch 1-8 Observations

August 6, 2012


Chapters 1 – 8

He was born into a legacy of sharp wits, intelligent discussion, and spiritual curiosity.  His mother believed the earliest instruction of her large family should be her own and facilitated their schooling until she believed they were ready to endure the hardships of education under those “less sensitive” than she.

A fine musician, devoted son, divinely interested, and profoundly counter-culture in his achievements and temperament, I find myself both intrigued and a bit intimidated by his drive and zeal.

Within his home, he was ordinary.  As a ruby set in a jeweled crown blends in beautifully with its surroundings.  But in the darkness of pre-WWII Germany, he was truly brilliant.

I am inspired to glean from his life the aspiration of shining a bit more brightly than the dulled and utilitarian masses around me.

As a parent, I can see how the passion to instill a love for truth and an empathy and compassion for the feelings and concerns of others while leaving “no room for narrow-mindedness” is imperative to the formation of young men and women who long to live far outside the boundaries of their own self-absorption.

As a person, I look at the audacity of a 13 year old to declare to the world and his family that he would, indeed, study theology.  Will I choose to take my passion and to make it my occupation?   His brother, Klaus, challenged him with the following scathing but rather appropriate evaluation of the Church,  saying it is a “poor, feeble, boring, petty bourgeois institution.” To which young Dietrich replied, “I shall have to reform it.”

How often, when approached by the skeptic about the state of our fellowship, our causes, and our Martha/Mary dichotomy of expression have we responded with enough humility to acknowledge the rightness of their skepticism? Is it not audacious to attempt to exemplify an Infinite Being through our finite expression and understanding?  We should  be responding to such queries with the response, “I shall have to reform it.”  Not in my image, heaven forbid, but to re-form what has been so distorted from the Image of Christ through our millennium of vain imaginings and posturing into that simple message and method exemplified by the Apostles and kept in quiet remnants of sincere believers.

However, despite all of the richness and depth offered in the chapters I read, I was most challenged by the following statement by Metaxes, “But Bonhoeffer was no mere academic. For him, ideas and beliefs were nothing if they did not relate to the world of reality outside one’s mind.”

Ideas and beliefs that are not only imagined to be relevant to the world in which we live but are, in order to be considered viable, required to be.

How would that simple litmus test of our theology revolutionize the world?  How would it revolutionize our places of worship?

Imagine a gathering of believers where the discussion, as it veered toward an esoteric bent, was halted, mid-stride, to evaluate if those things which were captivating our attention had merit beyond the discussion.  Or are we just indulging ourselves in a mental exercise that serves little more than to show off the information we’ve gathered and to confuse those less informed.  Are we eager to bridge the gap between our years of study and their eagerness to learn?  Am I determined, even dedicated, to not just duplicating myself but hoping to inspire a fellow believer to, one day, become the one who teaches me?

Not so many conclusions, rather quite a few questions today.

There is nothing so marvelous as a book that prompts more questions.  Which is, I suppose, a fitting observation about the life of Bonhoeffer.  A man who “often countered with another question which took us further than a concise answer might have done.”

  • Nice work, Heidi! Looking forward to book club. 😉
    Chapter 7 was interesting, “Bonhoeffer in America,” the years were 1930-31, but strangely sound current. He said “the sermon has been reduced to parenthetical remarks about newspaper events,” and that in New York they preach about everything except Jesus: “only one thing is not addressed, or it is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.” I wonder about the roots of this move away from preaching Jesus in the 1930s, how did this begin, and it was in reaction against what? And look at the consequences, that is, the church in American in this new century.