Pacesetters For The Radical Theologians Of The 60s And 70s -- By: Vernon C. Grounds

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 18:4 (Fall 1975)
Article: Pacesetters For The Radical Theologians Of The 60s And 70s
Author: Vernon C. Grounds


Pacesetters For The Radical Theologians Of The 60s And 70s*

Vernon C. Grounds

Conservative Baptist Seminary, Denver, Colorado 80210

III. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Born February 4, 1906, in Breslau, Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the son of a prominent psychiatrist. His mother was a loving, cheerful, artistic woman. Reared in bourgeois comfort and culture, the boy decided to enter the ministry despite strong paternal objections. After study at Tübingen and Berlin, he secured a licentiate degree when he was only 21 with his thesis, “The Communion of Saints,” which Karl Barth called “a theological miracle.” In 1930 he began to teach at the University of Berlin, leaving there, however, to spend a year at Union Theological Seminary in New York City as a Sloan Fellow. He was then appointed Youth Secretary of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches. With Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, Bonhoeffer became a leader in the Confessional Church. In 1935 he was asked to direct its seminary which started in Zingst and soon moved to Finkenwalde. Though urged to remain in the United States where he had influential friends, Bonhoeffer elected to cast in his lot with his own people and especially with the resistance movement. Following an abortive attempt to assassinate der Feuhrer, Bonhoeffer was arrested on April 5, 1943, and sent to the military prison, Tegel, in Berlin. He was later removed to Prinz-Albrecht-Strase, shipped next to Buchenwald, and finally to Flossenburg where he was hanged on April 9, 1945, a week before Hitler committed suicide.

Something of Bonhoeffer’s spirit, his candor, his faith, his struggle against doubt and despair during his years in Nazi hands, is .shown in his moving poem, Wer Bist Ich?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly
As though they were mine to command.

*Part II of a chapter from a forthcoming Moody Press book (1976) on Tensions in Contemporary Theology edited by S. Goudry and A. Johnson. Part I was published in the Summer issue of the ETS Journal, Vol. 18, No. 3, 1975.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly
Like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, a...

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