Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Christian who led a resistance movement against the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s. His resistance cost him his life when he was executed in 1945, about a month before the end of World War II. Bonhoeffer was a leader in the “Confessing Church” in Germany that opposed the changes made in the German Church to accommodate the Nazis. Members of the Confessing Church saved lives by helping people leave the country before they could be sent to concentration camps.
Resistance Against Evil
Although Bonhoeffer was criticized by some Christian pacifists who believed it was immoral to resist evil with violence, he believed it was important for Christians to be willing to fight and even die for their beliefs. He played a leadership role in the resistance movement against the Nazis in Germany, trying to recruit help from abroad. In 1943, some members of the resistance attempted to assassinate Hitler, but ultimately failed. According to BBC News, Bonhoeffer's role in the conspiracy was as a diplomat and courier to the British government, working for Allied support against Hitler. Bonhoeffer died at the age of 39 when he was hung by the Nazis because of his resistance efforts.
Primary Allegiance to God
Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that Christians owed their primary allegiance to God. He said the Christian must be ready to sacrifice “his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue” to God. Bonhoeffer believed that allegiance to God is more important than allegiance to the State. He said that the Christian's life will be “nothing but an answer to God's question and call.”
Bonhoeffer was committed to the spread of Christianity. He believed that God's plan for the Jewish people included their eventual conversion to the Christian religion. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, some Jewish scholars believe that Bonhoeffer was motivated to help the European Jews by a desire to convert them to Christianity and a deep sense of German patriotism.
Bonhoeffer preached against what he called “cheap grace.” “Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession,” he said. Cheap grace was one that satisfied the Christian's desire to be saved, but Bonhoeffer called for a more costly grace that required the Christian to be willing to die for his religious beliefs.
In 1937 he wrote a book called “The Cost of Discipleship,” in which he argued that Christians must offer a more radical obedience to Christ and his teachings. Bonhoeffer called for a grace that was costly because it condemns sin and requires Christians to follow Jesus Christ. “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again,” he wrote.
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