What do you know about Bonhoeffer’s life?
- he had a major effect on protestant and catholic theology
- he displays what it means to put christian moral principles into action
List key facts about Bonhoeffer’s early life
- Bonhoeffer was born in Germany, 1906
- his father was a professor of physiatry and neurology
- brother was killed in ww1, which caused him to study theology
List key facts about Bonhoeffer’s life in university
- studied in Tubingen university then Berlin a year later.
- completed doctoral thesis act
- worked on a radical form of Christianity and believed the church should impact the state to achieve justice
List key facts about America
- travelled to America in 1930 and studied with USA’s most influential theologians.
- impressed with teachings on social responsibility but it underestimated the goodness of human nature.
- introduced to the black church, viewed it as vibrant and realised the importance of building relationships with different churches regardless of race and geographical barriers.
List Key facts about Bonhoeffer’s resistance to Nazism
- delivered a radio broadcast at the time of Hitler’s rise to power ‘the younger generations altered view of the concept of the fuhr’
- which criticised the leadership that hitler represented.
- joined the resistance
How did Bonhoeffer work against the state?
Bonhoeffer worked against the state in two ways :
- became a member of the confessing church , a group that refused to accept that only arian germans can attend church.
- joined the resistance, stayed in america due to investigations from the gestapo and eventually decided to return to Germany as he wanted to be true to his teachings and try to other throw the Nazi regime.
Why did Bonhoeffer disagree with secular pacifism?
Bonhoeffer called this a scandal as it failed to recognise that true justice and peace are not aspects of this world.
- secular pacifism was not enough to tackle evil and injustice.
- his decision to join the violent resistance was not good in itself but justified the outcome.
Key facts about Bonhoeffer’s arrest and persecution
- Arrested by Gestapo in 1943 for helping jews escape to switzerland
- In Berlin’s Tegel prision he wrote many letters a play and a novel.
- implicated in a failed plot to kill Hitler
- sent to Buchenwald concentration camp
What are Bonhoeffer’s teachings on duty to God and the state?
Bonhoeffer argued that:
- No human decision can be absolutely right or wrong, as humans are finite and sinful
- in extreme circumstances we can do nothing but act of despair but in faith and hope.
- luther quoted ‘here i am , i can do no other’
- the state can never represent Gods’ will
- the state cannot believe that they are the embodiment of justice, as problems will arise.
What did Bonhoeffer view as a christians duty to God and the state?
Bonhoeffer stated that:
-it was the duty of christians to be obedient to the government as the government aim to impose law and order to avoid sinful tendencies.
According to Bonhoeffer, why do problems occur?
Bonhoeffer stated that:
- problems occur when the state fails to acknowledge its obedience to God’s will
- problems occur when the state gain too much power and views justice in accordance to its policies
What are Bonhoeffers’ teachings on the obedience to God’s will?
Christians have a duty to obey the state as Luther taught, there are two kingdoms ordained by God:
- the spiritual kingdom, governed by Christ(Mark 12:17)
- the political kingdom, governed by the State(Romans 13:1)
How does Mark 12:17 support the spiritual kingdom?
Mark 12:17 states ‘give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.
This indicates that God has ordained for there to be two kingdoms but the spiritual kingdom is truly his. This is where peace and justice will be restored. But the political kingdom belongs to the state.
How does Romans 13:1 support the political kingdom?
Romans 13:1 states ‘let every person submit to the governing authorities’
This indicated that the political kingdom is governed by the state and our duty as christians is to submit to the state.
According to Bonhoeffer, how can one know what the will of God is?
Bonhoeffer said that the will of God will be clear in the moment of action, bringing your own will unto God.It is an act of faith.
Why is Bonhoeffer critical of the autonomy of christian ethics school of thought?
Bonhoeffer is critical of this as it believes that the principle of love is the only moral principle we need to live a moral life. This views morality as human and reduces the belief in God.
What is a disadvantage of human based principles?
Human based principles make humans slave to ideas. Whereas, responding to the will of God liberates people through prayer and reflection on Jesus’ life.
What is Bonhoeffer’s teaching on leadership?
- Focuses on matters beyond the leader
- Bonhoeffer argues that Germany has invented a new category of leader which is divorced from society
What is the role of the leader according to Bonhoeffer?
The leader replaces the imperfect father and teacher with one that is strong.
What is Bonhoeffer view on the perfect father and teacher?
Bonhoeffer believes this is extraordinary because groups have given up its freedom and identity in obedience to a tyrant.
What is Bonhoeffer’s teaching on the justification of civil disobedience?
Christians have a responsibility over Gods’ state and ensuring it is in accordance with Gods’ will.
When do Christians have a duty disobey the state?
Christians can disobey the state if it is making ‘reasonable people face unreasonable situations’, Christians have a duty to disobey.
What is an example of an unreasonable situation Bonhoeffer had a duty to disobey?
Germany under Hitler’s power- Bonhoeffer had a duty to disobey.
The church believed that Nazism caused a disordered nation, where individuals were being marginalised there was a disregard for life that was against God’s will/order for society.
What did Bonhoeffer conclude about the justification of civil disobedience?
Bonhoeffer concluded that tyrannicide may be a christian duty if it means establishing social order.
What was Luther’s interpretation on justifying disobedience in order to establish order?
Luther called this ‘suffering disobedience’ and argued that disobedience is not easy to justify as it may not be clear if our actions are good or not.
What did Bonhoeffer criticise in the justification of civil disobedience?
Bonhoeffer was critical of those who justify their actions as they believe they are doing their duty but allowing evil to prevail.
-he was also critical of consequential ethics.
What is consequential ethics?
Consequential ethics is where the ends justify the means.
Why does Bonhoeffer criticise consequential ethics?
Bonhoeffer criticises consequential ethics as there is no way of calculating all possible outcomes so there is no rational justification for civil disobedience, so the only option is for christians to act in faith.
What quote supports acting in faith as a justification of civil disobedience?
“we are confronted with unparalleled situations in which we must make a decision and in which we must make a decision … the will of God does not reveal itself before our eyes as clearly as we hoped.”
How did Bonhoeffer link this to his attempt to other throw Hitler?
Bonhoffer concluded that his attempt to kill Hitler and disobey the state was not justified in ethics but instead it was a ‘bold action as the free response of faith.
Killing is killing , cannot be morally justifiable the only hope is that God forgives a ‘sinner in the process’