Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich
Bonhoeffer
1906
1945

German Theologian, Lutheran Pastor, Dissident Anti-Nazi, Imprisoned and Executed by Nazis

Author Quotes

We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility.

We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.

We ought not to be in too much of a hurry here to speak piously of God's will and guidance. It is obvious, and it should not be ignored, that it is your own very human wills that are at work here, celebrating their triumph; the course that you are taking at the outset is one that you have chosen for yourselves.

What lies behind the complaint about the dearth of civil courage? In recent years we have seen a great deal of bravery and self-sacrifice, but civil courage hardly anywhere, even among ourselves. To attribute this simply to personal cowardice would be too facile a psychology; its background is quite different. In a long history, we Germans have had to learn the need for and the strength of obedience. In the subordination of all personal wishes and ideas to the tasks to which we have been called, we have seen the meaning and greatness of our lives. We have looked upwards, not in servile fear, but in free trust, seeing in our tasks a call, and in our call a vocation. This readiness to follow a command from "above" rather than our own private opinions and wishes was a sign of legitimate self-distrust. Who would deny that in obedience, in their task and calling, the Germans have again and again shown the utmost bravery and self-sacrifice? But the German has kept his freedom — and what nation has talked more passionately of freedom than the Germans, from Luther to the idealist philosophers? — by seeking deliverance from self-will through service to the community. Calling and freedom were to him two sides of the same thing. But in this he misjudged the world; he did not realize that his submissiveness and self-sacrifice could be exploited for evil ends. When that happened, the exercise of the calling itself became questionable, and all the moral principles of the German were bound to totter. The fact could not be escaped that the Germans still lacked something fundamental: he could not see the need for free and responsible action, even in opposition to the task and his calling; in its place there appeared on the one hand an irresponsible lack of scruple, and on the other a self-tormenting punctiliousness that never led to action. Civil courage, in fact, can grow only out of the free responsibility of free men. Only now are the Germans beginning to discover the meaning of free responsibility. It depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith, and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in that venture.

What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straghtforward men.

When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.

When we come to a clearer and more sober estimate of our own limitations and responsibilities, that makes it possible more genuinely to love our neighbor.

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God — the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?

God's truth judges created things out of love, and Satan's truth judges them out of envy and hatred.

One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.

There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.

Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.

Only he who believes is obedient and only he who is obedient believes.

There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture.

How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.

Possessions delude the human heart into believing that they provide security and a worry-free existence, but in truth they are the very cause of worry.

There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.

A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol.

How wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.

Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one's heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty.

This is the end — for me the beginning of life.

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

Human love has little regard for the truth. It makes the truth relative, since nothing, not even the truth, must come between it and the beloved person.

Should the church be trying to erect a spiritual reign of terror over people by threatening earthly and eternal punishment on its own authority and commanding everything a person must believe and do to be saved? Should the church's word bring new tyranny and violent abuse to human souls? It may be that some people yearn for such servitude. But could the church ever serve such a longing?

Time is lost when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering.

Author Picture
First Name
Dietrich
Last Name
Bonhoeffer
Birth Date
1906
Death Date
1945
Bio

German Theologian, Lutheran Pastor, Dissident Anti-Nazi, Imprisoned and Executed by Nazis