The Ongoing Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Bryan Galloway is Senior Pastor at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Bryan graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in May 2009 with a Doctor of Ministry. His thesis-project was on the difference that Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes in twenty-first century preaching.
I'm grateful that Bryan was willing to answer some questions about Bonhoeffer and his ongoing legacy.
How did you get interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer?
I became interested with Dietrich Bonhoeffer when I was a college student at Bethel College in St. Paul, MN. Dr. Al Glenn introduced me to Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship. I was fascinated by Bonhoeffer’s blunt approach to discipleship and fellowship; and by his story of a pastor who stood up to Hitler and Nazi polices.
What does Bonhoeffer have to teach us as preachers?
My D.Min. thesis dealt with the impact of Bonhoeffer on 21st preachers. There are six reasons why Bonhoeffer can impact preachers today:
- Scripture meditation;
- A devotion to Christian fellowship;
- An understanding of “Costly Grace”;
- Standing against evil in society;
- Serving Jesus even in the severest of trials;
- The grace of living well and dying well.
There are links on BonhoefferBlog where each of these six reasons are expanded on.
Everyone seems to claim Bonhoeffer as part of their own camp. Why do you think this is so?
It is amazing that Bonhoeffer has been by embraced by evangelical, mainline, Catholic and liberal Christians. I believe his story (opposition to Hitler; martyred for Jesus) has a broad appeal. How can you not be attracted to a Christian who was willing to take bold opposition to a monster like Hitler? He even posed as a double agent in order to eliminate Hitler. He was also willing to die in doing so.
Since Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran, he naturally appeals to that camp. He appeals to many camps because of his devotion to Christ and his commitment to the authority of the Word of God.
One theory to why liberals embrace Bonhoeffer is because they are ashamed how liberals in 1930’s Germany embraced Hitler. Eric Metaxas, of course, was accused by Clifford Green of hijacking Bonhoeffer to the evangelical camp. However, Bonhoeffer did resemble an evangelical because he affirmed the authority of the Word of God, the priority of prayer, the importance of fellowship; the importance of preaching and the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
How have people reacted to your work?
Since the introduction of my blog on Bonhoeffer back in February of 2008, I believe people have reacted positively. I get excited when people who know nothing or little of Bonhoeffer get excited for the first time. The legacy of Bonhoeffer seems to be growing year by year.
What resources would you suggest for those who want to learn more about Bonhoeffer?
Anyone who is interested in Bonhoeffer should read three of his works:
Also, there are excellent biographies of Bonhoeffer…
- Ferdinand Schlingensiepen: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945, Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance (an excellent bio)
- Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (a great bio but he has been criticized on the certainty of some details)
- Eberhard Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Biography (This book is over 800 pages and considered the biography of Bonhoeffer)
- Mary Bosanquet: The Life and Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (This book I thoroughly enjoyed).
Find out more at BonhoefferBlog.