Monday, August 11, 2014

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: For God Before Caesar

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In "Between God and the Führer," a review (August 8, 2014) by Randall Balmera of Charles Marsh's Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we read the following:
As a leader of what would become the Confessing Church, Bonhoeffer organized a school for dissident seminarians at Finkenwalde, near the Baltic Sea. Until it was closed down by the Gestapo in 1937, Finkenwalde immersed Bonhoeffer in Christian community, a place where, in his words, "the pure doctrine, the Sermon on the Mount, and worship are taken seriously" . . . . An avowed pacifist, Bonhoeffer secured an appointment with German military intelligence, which allowed him remarkable freedom to travel both in and out of Germany. His complicity in a plot to assassinate Hitler, however, sealed his fate, although his principal involvement lay in providing moral justification for tyrannicide.

Marsh contends that Bonhoeffer produced his finest work during his final months, including those in prison, where "the strenuous austerity of his writings" gave way to "a faith more open, munificent and sensuous." Here the paradox of a believer in the face of evil comes fully into focus. Bonhoeffer "gave his blessings to those who conspired to murder the Führer while affirming the essential nonviolence of the Gospel," Marsh writes, invoking Luther's dictum to sin boldly. "Bonhoeffer did not try to resolve the paradox by assuming moral innocence but accepted the paradox by incurring the guilt born out of responsible action."
Bonhoeffer evidently put God before 'Caesar,' but Islamists do the same, yet we judge them extremists. What is the difference? The difference between Allah as pure, absolute will for Islamists and God as rational in essence, at least in the best of Christianity?

An appeal to God's will alone is an appeal to ungrounded fideism, but that's the error Protestants most often fall into . . .

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