Author calls Dietrich Bonhoeffer a man of 'staggering' relevance for our time [CNA]

New York City, N.Y., Jul 25, 2010 / 08:07 am (CNA).- Discussing his recent and critically acclaimed book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the famed Lutheran theologian who was killed in the 1940s for opposing Nazism – author Eric Metaxas spoke to CNA in an exclusive interview, calling the pastor a man of “staggering” relevance for our time.

The late German theologian is the subject of Metaxas’ recent work, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” which was published in April.

In an email correspondence, the author reflected on the relevance of Bonhoeffer’s life and writings in contemporary society. He noted Bonhoeffer’s “extremely pro-Catholic” stance and refuted common misconceptions by “liberal theologians” who have “hijacked” the pastor’s writings in support of atheism.

Full article…

I know nothing about his theology, all I need to know about him I’ve found in his poetry.

He wrote this before his execution.

It moved me to tears.

**“Night Voices in Tegel”

Night and silence.
I listen.
Only the steps and cries of the guards.
The distant, hidden laughter of two lovers.
Do you hear nothing else, lazy sleeper?

I hear my own soul tremble and heave.
Nothing else?
I hear, I hear
The silent night thoughts
Of my fellow sufferers asleep or awake,
As if voices, cries,
As if shouts for planks to save them.
I hear the uneasy creak of the beds,
I hear chains.

I hear how sleepless men toss and turn,
Who long for freedom and deeds of wrath.
When at grey dawn sleep finds them
They murmur in dreams of their wives and children.

I hear the happy lisp of half-grown boys,
Delighting in childhood dreams;
I hear them tug at their blankets
And hide from hideous nightmares.

I hear the sighs and weak breath of the old,
Who in silence prepare for the last journey.
They have seen justice and injustice come and go;
Now they wish to see the imperishable, the eternal.

Night and silence.
Only the steps and cries of the guards.
Do you hear how in the silent house
It quakes, cracks, roars
When hundreds kindle the stirred-up flame of their hearts?

Their choir is silent,
But my ear is open wide:
‘We the old, the young,
The sons of all tongues,
We the strong, the weak,
The sleepers, the wakeful,
We the poor, the rich,
Alike in misfortune,
The good, the bad,
Whatever we have been,
We men of many scars,
We the witnesses of those who died,
We the defiant, we the despondent,
The innocent, and the much accused,
Deeply tormented by long isolation,
Brother, we are searching, we are calling you!
Brother, do you hear me?’

Twelve cold, thin strokes of the tower clock
Awaken me.
No sound, no warmth in them
To hide and cover me.
Howling, evil dogs at midnight
Frighten me.
The wretched noise
Divides a poor yesterday
From a poor today.
What can it matter to me
Whether one day turns into another,
One that could have nothing new, nothing better
Than to end quickly like this one?
I want to see the turning of the times,

When luminous signs stand in the night sky,
And over the peoples new bells
Ring and ring.
I am waiting for that midnight
In whose fearfully streaming brilliance
The evil perish for anguish
And the good overcome with joy.

The villain
Comes to light
In the judgment.

Deceit and betrayal,
Malicious deeds-
Atonement is near.

See, O man,
Holy strength
Is at work, setting right.

Rejoice and proclaim
Faithfulness and right
For a new race!

Heaven, reconcile
The sons of earth
To peace and beauty.

Earth, flourish;
Man, become free,
Be free!**

Continued…

**Suddenly I sat up,
As if, from a sinking ship, I had sighted land,
As if there were something to grasp, to seize,
As if I saw golden fruit ripen.
But wherever I look, grasp, or seize,
There is only the impenetrable mass of darkness.

I sink into brooding;
I sink myself into the depths of the dark.
You night, full of outrage and evil,
Make yourself known to me!
Why and for how long will you try our patience?
A deep and long silence;
Then I hear the night bend down to me:
‘I am not dark; only guilt is dark!’

Guilt! I hear a trembling and quaking,
A murmur, a lament that arises;
I hear men grow angry in spirit.
In the wild uproar of innumerable voices
A silent chorus
Assails God’s ear:

‘Pursued and hunted by men,
Made defenseless and accused,
Bearers of unbearable burdens,
We are yet the accusers.

‘We accuse those who plunged us into sin,
Who made us share the guilt,
Who made us the witnesses of injustice,
In order to despise their accomplices.

‘Our eyes had to see folly,
In order to bind us in deep guilt;
Then they stopped our mouths,
And we were as dumb as dogs.

‘We learned to lie easily,
To be at the disposal of open injustice;
If the defenseless was abused,
Then our eyes remained cold.

‘And that which burned in our hearts,
Remained silent and unnamed;
We quenched our fiery blood
And stamped out the inner flame.

‘The once holy bonds uniting men
Were mangled and flayed,
Friendship and faithfulness betrayed;
Tears and rue were reviled.

‘We sons of pious races,
One-time defenders of right and truth,
Became despisers of God and man,
Amid hellish laughter.

‘Yet though now robbed of freedom and honour,
We raise our heard proudly before men.
And if we are brought into disrepute,
Before men we declare our innocence.

‘Steady and firm we stand man against man;
As the accused we accuse!

‘Only before thee, source of all being,
Before thee we are sinners.

‘Afraid of suffering and poor in deeds,
We have betrayed thee before men.

‘We saw the lie raise its head,
And we did not honour the truth.

‘We saw brethren in direst need,
And feared only our own death.

‘We come before thee as men,
As confessors of our sins.

‘Lord, after the ferment of these times,
Send us times of assurance.

‘After so much going astray,
Let us see the day break.

‘Let there be ways built for us by thy word
As far as the eye can see.

‘Until thou wipe out our guilt,
Keep us in quiet patience.

‘We will silently prepare ourselves,
Till thou dost call to new times.

‘Until thou stillest storm and flood,
And thy will does wonders.

‘Brother, till the night be past,
Pray for me!’

The first light of morning creeps through my window pale and grey,
A light, warm summer wind blows over my brow.
‘Summer day,’ I will only say, ‘beautiful summer day!’
What may it bring to me?
Then I hear outside hasty, muffled steps;
Near me they stop suddenly.
I turn cold and hot,
For I know, oh, I know!
A soft voice reads something cutting and cold.
Control yourself, brother; soon you will have finished it, soon, soon.
I hear you stride bravely and with proud step.
You no longer see the present, you see the future.
I go with you, brother, to that place,
And I hear your last word:
‘Brother, when the sun turns pale for me,
Then live for me.’

Stretched out on my cot
I stare at the grey wall.
Outside a summer morning
Which is not yet mine
Goes brightly into the countryside.
Brother, till after the long night
Our day breaks
We stand fast!

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer**

I have several of friend Dietrich’s books. I have a devotional based upon his writings which I use some mornings. His “Letters and Papers From Prison” is on my bookshelf right next to the “Journal of George Fox”.

He was a shining light in the darkness of his times…

I watched a dramatization of his life on PBS one evening…as he stripped naked and marched to the gallows…I found myself holding my breath…

I missed the PBS special. may try to get a copy.

As a little girl I was fortunate to meet a few who lived during very dark times. And it wasn’t planned. In a way I think God planned it because I had only found evil in church during my childhood.

Richard Wurmbrand was tortured for years under Communism and I could not believe what a gentle man he was.

I do believe dark times will return and I wonder how we as a modern society will react.

Bonhoeffer is mentioned in several Holocaust museums. An SS Doctor who witnessed the execution wrote this about him:

**“I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer … kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” **

Friend Auriel,

The movie was titled “Bonhoeffer, Agent of Grace”. If you get a chance to watch it…it is a powerful portrayal of this man of faith.

Thanks so much! I’m checking on it now. :thumbsup:

The movie is available from Netflix on DVD.

The most (spiritually) life changing book I have ever read was Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer’s theology is strong and challenging. This is a must read for those who desire to live the gospel message in the midst of this “me first” culture of excesses. May it inspire you as well.

I have Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book “The Myster of Easter”. I take it out every Easter. It is in the box with my Fontanini Resurrection Set. I reread it and set it up by the scene, and I remember how he died for his beliefs. I actually bought the book at a Catholic mission giftshop.

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