Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on February 4, 1906, in Breslau, Germany. Later a student in Tubingen, Berlin, and at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Bonhoeffer became known as one of the few figures of the 1930s with a comprehensive grasp of both German and English-language theology. He wrote his dissertation, Sanctorum Communio, at the end of three years at the University of Berlin (1924-1927) and was awarded his doctorate with honors. Bonhoeffer spent a postgraduate year at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He assumed his post as a lecturer in theology at the University of Berlin in August 1931.
Bonhoeffer’s theologically rooted opposition to National Socialism first made him a leader and an advocate on behalf of the Jews. Indeed, his efforts to help a group of Jews escape to Switzerland were what first led to his arrest and imprisonment in the spring 1943. Bonhoeffer was also a spiritual writer, a musician, and an of fiction and poetry. The integrity of his Christian faith and life, and the international appeal of his writings, have led to a broad consensus that he is the one theologian of his time to lead future generations of Christians into the new millenium.
He was hanged in the concentration camp at Flossenbrg on April 9, 1945, one of four members of his immediate family to die at the hands of the Nazi regime for their participation in the small Protestant resistance movement.
“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”
“The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.”
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.”
“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.”
“It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.”
“We are silent at the beginning of the day because God should have the first word, and we are silent before going to sleep because the last word also belongs to God.”
“If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure.”
“During the last year or so, I have come to appreciate the “worldliness” of Christianity as never before. The Christian is not a homo religiosus but a man, pure and simple, just as Jesus became man… It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe. One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman, a righteous man, or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one… This is what I mean by worldliness — taking life in one’s stride, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness… How can success make us arrogant or failure lead us astray, when we participate in the sufferings of God by living in this world?”