You Have 10 Days to Get Yourself a Bonhoeffer Hoodie or T-Shirt

This is easily the most awesome piece of clothing I have ever seen:

 

Bonhoeffer Hoodie

 

And the Teespring “campaign” that offers it has enough pre-orders that it will go into production again! So you can order one now before the window closes.

Read details about Teespring and how it works here. You can go get the shirt ($20) or hoodie ($30) here.

A First Look Inside Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 17 (VIDEO)

DBWE17

After nearly 20 years the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (English edition) is complete.

Yesterday I received the concluding Volume 17, Index and Supplementary Materials. Take a look inside–this is a fittingly well-done volume to complete the set. (Make sure you click the gear icon to watch in HD.)

 

 

I describe the volume more in detail here.

To learn more about Fortress Press’s giveaway of the entire 17-volume Bonhoeffer Works, go here.

Bonhoeffer’s Life Together for $2.99, Chance to Win 17 Bonhoeffer Works

DBWE Life Together

 

For $2.99, Fortress Press is selling Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, the purchase of which also gives you chance to win all 17 volumes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (English Edition). This includes the new, forthcoming Volume 17: Index and Supplementary Materials.

Life Together is a powerful and heart-transforming book. I just finished reading it at the end of the summer, and reflected:

Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is substantial evidence that this servant of God saw himself as belonging to the church. The short, powerful book is both a gift and a challenge to any Christian who will take the time to study it.

My full review of the book is here.

Go here to check out Life Together for $2.99, as well as to have a chance to win the whole DBWE hardcover set.

Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: A Review

A scroll through some of my recent Facebook statuses shows the quotability of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and its impact on me:

And:

Also, this one:

And, just for fun, here’s some Bonhoeffer from a letter quoted in Eberhard Bethge’s biography of him:

Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is substantial evidence that this servant of God saw himself as belonging to the church. The short, powerful book is both a gift and a challenge to any Christian who will take the time to study it.

I have just finished reading it through all the way for the first time. Though it’s true that there is a focus on how one can be a faithful member of a Christian community, the application to the Christian-as-individual is rich, as well.
 

How Life Together is Structured

 
There are five main sections of Life Together:

  1. Community
  2. The Day Together
  3. The Day Alone
  4. Service
  5. Confession and the Lord’s Supper

Bonhoeffer was, in fact, writing with his own seminary community in mind (see “Benefits of the DBWE Critical Edition,” below), but he also intended with Life Together something more universal:

We are not dealing with a concern of some private circles but with a mission entrusted to the church. Because of this, we are not searching for more or less haphazard individual solutions to a problem. This is, rather, a responsibility to be undertaken by the church as a whole.

Throughout each of the sections, the focus of the book is “life together under the Word” (my emphasis, but also an ongoing emphasis of Bonhoeffer). An editor’s footnote explains that “life together” can also be translated from German as “common life.”

Christians in community are a sort of sacrament to each other, a theme throughout Life Together:

The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian living in the diaspora recognizes in the nearness of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. In their loneliness, both the visitor and the one visited recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body.

Through prayer and worship together, intentional solitude, service to each other, hearing confession of sins and–ultimately–through participation in the Lord’s Supper, the purpose and aim of Christian communities is “to encounter one another as bringers of the message of salvation.”
 

Bonhoeffer’s Dialectic of Solitude and Community

 
Throughout the book Bonhoeffer explores the dialectic between living in community (“The Day Together”) and the individual’s time alone (“The Day Alone”). He suggests that the ones who will do best living in community are those who already do well alone. Those who cannot already live at peace with themselves will not do well in community:

Those who take refuge in community while fleeing from themselves are misusing it to indulge in empty talk and distraction, no matter how spiritual this idle talk and distraction may appear.

On the other hand, “the reverse is also true.” Discipleship is best when not received, experienced, and lived just as a solitary endeavor. Bonhoeffer says, “Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone” (emphasis in original).

Both solitude and the company of others, then, are needed:

We recognize, then, that only as we stand within the community can we be alone, and only those who are alone can live in the community. … It is not as if the one preceded the other; rather both begin at the same time, namely, with the call of Jesus Christ.

Bonhoeffer’s characteristic and refreshing forthrightness brings the point to a head:

Those who want community without solitude [Alleinsein] plunge into the void of words and feelings, and those who seek solitude without community perish in the bottomless pit of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.

 

Benefits of the DBWE Critical Edition

 
Bonhoeffer Life TogetherLife Together is Volume 5 of Fortress Press’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (English Edition); it’s also the first one published (1995) in the series.

In addition to its being a new translation from Bonhoeffer’s German, there is an Editor’s Introduction to the English Edition, Editors’ Afterword to the German Edition [abridged], and an extensive (though not distractingly so) set of footnotes as part of an explanatory critical apparatus.

Though one could certainly read Life Together in its own right, editor Geffrey B. Kelly’s introduction is a great set-up. From the very beginning he highlights the fascinating history of the book:

It was because [the Gestapo] had shut down the preachers’ seminary at Finkenwalde that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was finally persuaded to compose his thoughts on the nature and sustaining structures of Christian community, based on the “life together” that he and his seminarians had sustained both at the seminary and in the Brothers’ House at Finkenwalde. … With the closing of the seminary at Finkenwalde and the dispersal of the seminarians, however, Bonhoeffer felt compelled not only to record for posterity the daily regimen and its rationale, but also to voice his conviction that the worldwide church itself needed to promote a sense of community like this if it was to have new life breathed into it.

Kelly brings to light more about the historical situation leading to Life Together (including the Finkenwalde seminary), as well as ties it in with some of Bonhoeffer’s earlier writing that undergirds the book. Kelly notes that Life Together is ultimately a highly Christocentric work. Indeed, Bonhoeffer writes:

Christian community means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. There is no Christian community that is more than this, and none that is less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily community of many years, Christian community is solely this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.

The critical footnotes are excellent and seem to be placed at just the right spots. They include biblical references, historical background, explanations of German-to-English translations, and descriptions, where needed, of the larger body of Bonhoeffer’s thought that informs a given passage.

For those wanting to read Life Together, there’s a nice bonus with the Fortress Press DBWE edition: it includes also Bonhoeffer’s Prayerbook of the Bible: An Introduction to the Psalms. Given his emphasis already in Life Together on the importance of the Psalms for the prayer life of the community (“The Psalter is the great school of prayer”), its inclusion in this volume is perfectly fitting. The text itself is just above 20 pages, with the addition of an English editor’s introduction and German editors’ afterword.
 

One More Bonhoeffer Quote,
and How to Get the Book

 
The last word of this review goes to Bonhoeffer. Here it is:

The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I will die. And the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, will be raised on the day of judgment. Our salvation is “from outside ourselves” (extra nos). I find salvation not in my life story, but only in the story of Jesus Christ. Only those who allow themselves to be found in Jesus Christ—in the incarnation, cross, and resurrection—are with God and God with them.

If you don’t already own Life Together, you should. If you do own it in an old paperback edition, you should get the Fortress Press Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works edition, if possible, whether through purchase or library check-out.

If you really want to go in depth, Geffrey B. Kelly (lead English editor of DBWE 5) wrote Reading Bonhoeffer, which includes a reading companion to Life Together.

Many thanks to Fortress Press for the review copy, given to me with no expectation as to the content of my review. You can find Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible here on Amazon (affiliate link), or here at Fortress Press.

Bonhoeffer: If You Can’t Listen to Others, You Won’t Listen to God

Bonhoeffer Life Together

I’m reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together for the first time. As I near completion of the book, here is a convicting passage that jumped out at me:

But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. The death of the spiritual life starts here, and in the end there is nothing left but empty spiritual chatter and clerical condescension which chokes on pious words. Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it. Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only for themselves and for their own words and plans.

You can find the book here (affiliate link) or here (they sent me a review copy). I’ll post again soon when I finish.

FREE THIS MONTH: Bonhoeffer’s Creation and Fall

DBWE 3 Creation and Fall

You may have read Bonhoeffer on the Sermon on the Mount, but did you know that he has a compelling and inspiring set of published lectures of Genesis 1-3, too?

Already at the age of 19, Bonhoeffer was laying the groundwork for what would become Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1-3. In an early essay he talked about God as the one

for whom the terms “God spoke” and “it became so” are identical.

In Creation and Fall this idea reaches fuller expression:

That God creates by speaking means that in God the thought, the name, and the work are in their created reality one. What we must understand, therefore, is that the word does not have ‘effects’; instead, God’s word is already the work. What in us breaks hopelessly asunder–the word of command and what takes place–is for God indissolubly one. With God the imperative is the indicative.

This month Logos Bible Software offers Creation and Fall for free. I haven’t read the whole thing, but what I have read has helped even familiar chapters of Scripture come alive in new ways. Highly recommended.

You can find Creation and Fall for Logos here. As part of the same promotion, Logos is also offering Bonhoeffer’s Fiction from Tegel Prison for $0.99.

If you’re not already set up with Logos, feel free to message me here, and I’ll tell you how to do it.

Fall 2014: A New Dietrich Bonhoeffer Book (DBWE 17!)

DBWE17

This October Fortress Press will publish a new–and the final–volume of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (English edition). This is Volume 17: Index and Supplementary Materials.

Here is the description from Fortress Press:

The completion of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, the definitive English translation of the Critical Edition, represents a milestone in theological scholarship. This wonderful series is a translation from the German editions of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke. The product of over twenty years of dedicated labor, the comprehensive and thoroughly-annotated sixteen-volume series will be the essential resource that generations of scholars will rely upon to understand the life and work of this seminal thinker in the wider frame of twentieth-century thought and history.

Now, the editorial team has offered an essential companion to the entire series in the form of an index volume.

Here are the book’s contents. It is more than just an index, per se:

General Editor’s Foreword to the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English Edition—Victoria J. Barnett
The Translation of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English Edition: An Overview—Victoria J. Barnett
The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English Edition: A Retrospective—Clifford J. Green
The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke: Afterword to the German Edition—Wolfgang Huber

Part I: Additional Letters and Documents

Part II: Comprehensive Chronology and Master List of Documents
1. Chronology 1906–1945
2. Master List of Documents for DBWE 8–17

Part III: Master Indexes
1. Master Index of Scriptural References
2. Master Index of Names
3. Master Index of Subjects

New to Bonhoeffer? I collected some reflections on his writings after spending much of Lent reading him. All my Bonhoeffer posts are gathered here. I’m currently reading Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (DBWE 5) and will post a review some time this summer.

As for DBWE 17, here is its product page at Fortress Press. It’s also here at Amazon.

My understanding is that the “Additional Letters and Documents” (Part I) have been published elsewhere, but not necessarily in English, and not in the German Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke. So DBWE 17 will include material that is new to the Works series, some of it appearing in English for the first time anywhere.

The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series in English is described here, available for purchase (hardcover) through Fortress Press here. Fortress Press tells me that once DBWE 17 is published, there will be a discounted purchase rate available for the whole set for a short time this fall.

A Personal Reflection on Dietrich Bonhoeffer: What I’ve Found This Lent

 

Bonhoeffer with Confirmands, 1932
Bonhoeffer with Confirmands, 1932

I knew when I was preaching through the Sermon on the Mount recently that I would make good use of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship. I had no idea that a single question I asked would lead me–in my quest for an “answer”–so far into the life and writings of Bonhoeffer.

Of War and Peace: Which Bonhoeffer? (Revisited)

Russia invaded Ukraine in early March, just days after the Revised Common Lectionary reading was Matthew 5:38-48, which reads in part:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

I wondered: does “turn the other cheek” apply just on an interpersonal level, or at a state level? I turned to Bonhoeffer, who rejected a privatized read of Jesus’ words. In 1937’s Discipleship he wrote:

The overcoming of others now occurs by allowing their evil to run its course. The evil does not find what it is seeking, namely, resistance and, therewith, new evil which will inflame it even more. Evil will become powerless when it finds no opposing object, no resistance, but, instead, is willingly borne and suffered….

Should Ukrainians (or other oppressed peoples) just let themselves be invaded (or oppressed)? I struggled with Bonhoeffer’s words:

There is no thinkable deed in which evil is so large and strong that it would require a different response from a Christian. The more terrible the evil, the more willing the disciple should be to suffer. Evil persons must be delivered to the hands of Jesus. Not I but Jesus must deal with them.

And yet in 1945 he was hanged for his involvement in a conspiracy to kill Hitler. This was not the “no opposing object” and “no resistance” that Bonhoeffer had talked about in Discipleship.

But maybe Bonhoeffer differentiated between evil done to him and evil done to others? Should the Christian be willing “to suffer” in the former instance but willing to act and resist on behalf of another in the latter instance?

As I asked these questions a month and a half ago, I found my own response to Matthew 5 and “turn the other cheek” to be more tension-filled than I would have liked.

Is There a Resolution to the Tension in Bonhoeffer? 

I had been hoping that further study of Bonhoeffer would help me to find some writing where he would essentially repudiate his non-violence stance in Discipleship, saying instead something like, “But when others are oppressed, take up force to eliminate evil, if necessary.”

Bonhoeffer never said any such thing. In fact, on July 21, 1944, the day after a bomb intended for Hitler failed to kill him, Bonhoeffer wrote from prison (about that 1937 book) to his good friend and biographer-to-be Eberhard Bethge:

Today I clearly see the dangers of that book, though I still stand by it.

He still stood by it. Did he mean he also stood by the line from that book, “Not I but Jesus must deal with them”? Was not his involvement in an effort to bomb Hitler a way of trying to deal with him? (Note: I’m not sure I fault Bonhoeffer either way.)

After a Lenten discipline of reading Bonhoeffer (and sections of his biographies) slowly and meditatively, I’m no closer to a resolution of such tensions than I was when I first discovered them. If anything, I’ve been encouraged to see other readers of Bonhoeffer wrestling with the same sorts of questions. This question of whether a ready-to-use-violence Bonhoeffer is consistent with the turn-the-other-cheek Bonhoeffer is, in fact, a fruitful question in Bonhoeffer studies.

What I’ve Found Instead

Tension in Bonhoeffer notwithstanding (and I’m actually coming to appreciate it), I’ve been deeply moved at nearly every turn as I’ve delved more deeply into the life and writings of an activist pastor.

I’ve found:

  • An inspired and passionate preacher, not afraid to tell the truth about life and about Jesus
  • A brilliant writer, already evident at age 19 and age 21
  • An eloquent catechist and Christian educator
  • A brave and gutsy man, who valued the life of others more than his own
  • A gifted poet with incisive awareness of the human condition

His preaching has encouraged mine. His deliberateness in pastoral care and visiting congregants has inspired me. I used one of his catechisms for our church membership class (his writing in that context was met with appreciation by all of us). His courage has bolstered mine, even if I don’t face the sort of trials that he did.

And, best of all, he has pointed away from himself and to the cross of Christ, so that my appreciation for Bonhoeffer doesn’t finally center on Bonhoeffer himself. Rather, through the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer–no doubt inhabited again by the Holy Spirit–I have come to see and know and love Jesus more deeply.

As Bonhoeffer says of the early disciples, listening to Jesus on the mountainside:

They have only him. Yes, and with him they have nothing in the world, nothing at all, but everything, everything with God.

A Short Review of R. Bethge’s Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life

Bonhoeffer_A Brief Life

Renate Bethge’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life, is about as short a Bonhoeffer biography as there is. Renate’s husband was the late Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer’s dear friend and biographer. Renate is also Bonhoeffer’s niece.

Whereas Eberhard’s bio is well over 900 pages, Renate’s Brief Life is under 90. It’s laid out nicely, with lots of photographs, wide margins, and quotations from Bonhoeffer’s writing and correspondence. Given how little text is actually on a page, it’s a quick read.

The book offers a succinct overview of Bonhoeffer’s life, yet it does not lack substance in its brevity. Highlights for me were the overview of his parents (and their character, and its effect on Bonhoeffer), a chapter called “Contacts with Jews,” and the personal touch of including some of Bonhoeffer’s correspondence. His beautiful poem “Who Am I?” is re-printed here in its entirety.

There are brief mentions of his writings: Life TogetherEthics, and Letters and Papers from Prison (but not, surprisingly, Discipleship). Page 87 offers a nice one-page summary chronology of Bonhoeffer’s life.

If you want to look at a couple sample pages from the book, Logos Bible Software has put some up here and here. (This book will soon be offered in Logos as part of its forthcoming Bonhoeffer Studies Collection.)

Someone looking for biographical detail will want to look elsewhere, but this only claims to be a “brief” biography, which has value especially for folks like me who are coming seriously to Bonhoeffer for the first time. As I continue to read through Eberhard Bethge’s biography, it was nice to put it aside for a bit to get a quick overview of all of Bonhoeffer’s life.

The above book was an unexpected  but welcomed gift from somebody (not a review copy from the publisher). It’s on Amazon here. See my other Bonhoeffer posts here.

In Memoriam: Bonhoeffer’s “Who Am I?”

Bonhoeffer in Prison

In July 1944, less than a year before Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s death (69 years ago today), Bonhoeffer wrote a poignant and self-probing poem called, “Who Am I?” It is found in his Letters and Papers from Prison. Here it is, in its entirety:

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I step out from my cell
calm and cheerful and poised,
like a squire from his manor.

Who am I? They often tell me
I speak with my guards
freely, friendly and clear,
as though I were the one in charge.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bear days of calamity
serenely, smiling and proud,
like one accustomed to victory.

Am I really what others say of me?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
Restless, yearning, sick, like a caged bird,
struggling for life breath, as if I were being strangled,
starving for colors, for flowers, for birdsong,
thirsting for kind words, human closeness,
shaking with rage at power lust and pettiest insult,
tossed about, waiting for great things to happen,
helplessly fearing for friends so far away,
too tired and empty to pray, to think, to work,
weary and ready to take my leave of it all?

Who am I? This one or the other?
Am I this one today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? Before others a hypocrite
and in my own eyes a pitiful, whimpering weakling?
Or is what remains in me like a defeated army,
Fleeing in disarray from victory already won?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest me; O God, I am thine!

See my other Bonhoeffer posts here.