Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Birthday Today


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Today we are witnessing the throes of political unrest in an important part of the world. Cries of revolution are all over the news.

Today, it happens, is also the 104th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday. Bonhoeffer famously and courageously determined to participate in a plot to assassinate Hitler. He and his co-conspirators failed. They were arrested and executed. Their execution occurred just 23 days before the Allied victory in World War 2. And do you know, Bonhoeffer did not have a high expectation that their plan would succeed? Rather, he believed he was under an obligation, that it was the right thing to do, even should the effort fail. In his case, the verdict of obligation was worked out in thoughtful consideration of the authoritative will of the loving God of the Christian Bible. Not everyone agreed with him then (most disagreed), and many would disagree still. But the point is simply that he acted from a sense of duty and deep moral principle informed by a close study of God’s revealed purposes.

The moral justification of a political revolution, on my view, must be justified on grounds that do not depend on the actual outcome. What do you think?

Note: Today I attended a luncheon at my university where the author of a new biography of Bonhoeffer spoke about the great man’s conviction and self-sacrifice. The biography is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxas.

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