Today the church commemorates Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor who was executed by the Nazis because he was caught in a plot to kill Hitler. One of my teachers, Paul Holmer, used to speculate about what Bonhoeffer might have meant to us if he hadn’t died when he was just 40 years old. He gave us a lot in those few years of writing and teaching. I can’t think of any other teacher of the church I admire so much. While he was in prison he sketched out a view of Christianity that tried to come to terms with a profoundly secular world that did not care about speculation regarding the existence of God and did not support personal piety. Bonhoeffer developed Luther’s “theology of the cross” for our time.
“God’s transcendence must be seen as a this-worldly transcendence in that God is known neither by abstract reasoning nor by mystical contemplation but in concrete living for others. The Christian’s life is a “worldly” life in that Christians are called to range themselves with God in his suffering at the hands of a godless world. And thus the vocation of the Church is that of a servant….The Church must take part in the social life of the world, not lording over people, but helping and serving them…it is not abstract argument, but concrete example which give her word emphasis and power.”
I write this thinking about my friend Fritz Wald who admired Bonhoeffer.