Skip to content

Session One Meeting Outline

August 3, 2011

Bonhoeffer session one

Session Six Discussion

August 3, 2011

Clifford Green comments, “Ethics is unique in being the only ethic written by a Lutheran theologian while engaged in a conspiracy to topple a tyrant.“(Clifford J.Green. Pacifism and Tyrannicide: Bonhoeffer’s Christian Peace Ethic, pp.31,47)  It is fascinating how in Green’s opinion that Bonhoeffer did not abandon his peace ethics after all, even though he attempted tyrannicide. Richard Hays thinks otherwise, “Is it ever God’s will for Christians to employ violence in defense of justice? The New Testament contains important texts that seem to suggest that this question must be answered in the negative…An often-cited example is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s agonized decision to participate in a plot to kill Hitler.”(Richard B. Hays. The Moral Vision of the New Testament, pp.317-318).

  • Hays frames the question: Is it ever God’s will for Christians to employ violence in defense of justice?
  • What about war?
  • What about “rights”?
  • What about family?
  • What about the slaughter of the innocents?
  • Other?

 

Bonhoeffer concluded with this remark before execution, “This is the end; but for me, also the beginning of life.

  • He seems at peace through this justification. What do you think?

Chapter Twenty-three: To be or not to be…

July 20, 2011

Chapter 23 caused me to have a mental car wreck. As a pastor, the move from word to deed often seems simple. I advocate for it all the time. I love to teach about integrity and harmony. Usually it is simple – “Do not just tell you kids not to lie. Don’t lie!” All that stands in the way is courage and a misunderstanding of what God wants for us – our best interest is found in obedience.  The complexities of Bonhoeffer’s case in this chapter make a mockery out this word – integrity. Dietrich’s sister convicted him by her words, “You Christians are glad when someone else does what you know must be done, but it seems somehow that you are unwilling to get your own hands dirty and do it” (p. 359). I am convicted, too. I will readily confess (or admit, or boast…) that coming in to the seminar, I easily found my ground in the “just war” theory – or more appropriately, the “just warrior.” My problem is that I have always thought of this position in the context of “events.” You know – somebody breaks into your house and has your wife at knifepoint, but you have a gun…” Make the decision and do the deed. Later on we can figure out if it was right or wrong. The recent conviction of the OKC pharmacist (look it up if you don’t know!) could keep me talking for weeks! Bonhoeffer was not considering an act or event when he pondered the move from confession to conspiracy. He was considering his entire “being.”

This was illustrated through one of my favorite Bonhoeffer stories – the cafe salute. I have used this anecdote often to reference priority and value. The easy lesson of Bonhoeffer’s “Heil, Hitler,” is choosing the hill upon which you will make your stand. I had reduced it to two events – the cafe salute and the assassination attempt. Bonhoeffer’s friend Eberhard saw it as so much more. He saw it as Bonhoeffer crossing a line –  a line of no return. Bonhoeffer’s ethic of truth-telling was left behind. His ethic of national loyalty was left behind. His ethic of do no harm was left behind. Ahead of him lay no personal gain except that of the cross.

Chapter Twenty-two: No more Germany – just Reich

July 20, 2011

My apologies for the gap between chapter discussions! Though Bonhoeffer has been present in conversations and reading, I have been short on time. Summer vacation? Right….

Anyway, on with some new thoughts. Chapter 22 is titled; “The End of Germany.” In Ethics, Bonhoeffer argues that the ethic of the world is success. As early as 1928, Bonhoeffer had feared that the political moves being made by German leaders and politicians could bring disaster  to his beloved Germany. He feared that nationally sanctioned resistance to world-wide punishments stemming from WWI could cause Germany to be destroyed. By 1939, his fears of the destruction of Germany through politically unwise steps had given way to a newer, deeper fear – that Germany could now be destroyed by its own success. Though this chapter speaks to the lost hope of Bonhoeffer’s Germany, it also sets forth the prophetic realization by Bonhoeffer that Hitler’s new success would lead to the very end of Germany, rather than Hitler’s new world. Bonhoeffer’s role was crucial from this point forward. Since his Germany was come to an end – his work now was to reach beyond and to make a critical difference through his communications with George Bell. He was beginning his life as a double agent.

I wonder how Bonhoeffer’s loss of his German-ness can be compared to our own situations? Are we not also double agents? We are identified by passports as citizens of countries, yet our eternal allegiance is to our real home with God. We reach beyond our own borders for help and direction that not only comes from sources other than our governments, but may be contradiction to our governments. A bit of a stretch? Maybe…

Session Five Discussion: Pacifist or “Just War”

July 20, 2011

“The pacifist as surely a traitor to his country and humanity as the most brutal wrongdoer.”  Theodore Roosevelt

I certainly do not consider myself permanently dedicated to a crusade for peace and I am beginning to see the uselessness and absurdity of getting too involved in a ‘peace movement.’ The chief reason why I have spoken out was that I felt I owed it to my conscience to do so. There are certain things that have to be clearly stated. I had in mind particularly the danger arising from the fact that some of the most belligerent people in this country are Christians, on the one hand fundamentalist Protestants and on the other certain Catholics. They both tend to appeal to the bomb to do a ‘holy’ work of destruction in the name of Christ and Christian truth. This is completely intolerable and the truth has to be stated. I cannot in conscience remain indifferent. Thomas Merton

  • Where do you stand on the question of an ethical person’s position regarding war? Pacifist?  “Just War” theorist? Something else?
  • What are the limits to our ethical requirements to any U.S. war position?
  • Should the U.S. government ever be involved in the tyrannicide of figures in other-nation situations? Are there limits?

Session Four Discussion: The Church must work against the State if necessary

July 6, 2011
  1. On page 155 of the Metaxas text, Bonhoeffer sets forth three conclusions regarding church and state that stay firm throughout his life’s activities and thinking. The way he responded to the three ideals may have changed over time, but the principles seem to hold firm.

 

His third conclusion was this: The church must work against the state if necessary.

 

Do you think this advice is misunderstood or misappropriated by the church today?

How do you feel about the US church members who were sneaking orphans out of  Haiti after the earthquakes?

Do we have “special rules” that supercede the laws of the land or governments?

Session Four Discussion: The Church must help the state’s victims

July 6, 2011
  1. On page 155 of the Metaxas text, Bonhoeffer sets forth three conclusions regarding church and state that stay firm throughout his life’s activities and thinking. The way he responded to the three ideals may have changed over time, but the principles seem to hold firm.

 

His second conclusion was this: The church must help the state’s victims.

Who do you see as victims of the state in the US?

Who do you see as victims of the state in a worldwide context?

How can we help the victims of any state?