A summary of “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Riddle”–My Christian History Term Paper

Here is the summary of the paper I wrote for my Christian History course this past semester:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a man who has been claimed by both sides of the theological spectrum–both for good reasons. First, his theology is entirely focused on Christ and him glorified. If your theology didn’t include Christ in abundance, Bonhoeffer would consider it invalid. The place where this is seen best is his travels and experiences in America. Bonhoeffer took a fellowship at Union Theological Seminary during a time when Henry Emerson Fosdick was a prominent figure in both the life of the school and progressive theology. Bonhoeffer believed that Fosdick and his contemporaries preached on everything but Christ and him crucified. This was unacceptable–and that is why conservatives love him.

However, Bonhoeffer also attended a Baptist church–while in America–which taught him how Christianity could be effective in the fight against oppression. The church was a black Baptist church which was heavily involved in bringing to light the atrocities happening to blacks across the country. Bonhoeffer, already sympathetic to the ecumenical movement, took cues from them as to what he should do back home in Germany–especially in relation to the Jewish Question.. Bonhoeffer became heavily involved in the German Resistance–many would say he was its religious leader. The ecumenical movement was a large part of what Dietrich did with his time. He would use his connections to it to shore up support for the government that the resistance set up to replace the Nazi regime–given a successful coup with the July 20th plot. He was a true man of the world and ready to step in when his help was needed–and that is why liberals love him.

Bonhoeffer is greatly misunderstood along these lines. He was a theologian of the utmost traditional tenor. He was also a well-traveled, metropolitan Christian who loved culture in its highest forms. He would preach the church as the representation of Christ in the world, and use that as his reasoning for reaching across all sorts of boundaries for the sake of it. That is Dietrich Bonhoeffer–a riddle for the ages.

I will be updating this post to include a link to the whole paper for those who are interested. It is of an academic nature, but is very readable. I hope it spurs you onto a further study of this great martyr/theologian.

UPDATE: Here is the entire paper for your perusal. I might suggest the bibliography for further reading on Bonhoeffer.


  1. Why Christians Should Be Reading The Religion Section of The Huffington Post « Notes from the Pastor's Office - May 25, 2011

    […] will often hear me quote of cover anything having to do with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. On this subject, he would agree with me. The only reason he never met with the Dali Lama during […]

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