The Reluctant Revolutionary

The Reluctant Revolutionary: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Collision with Prusso-German History

John A. Moses
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 324
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  • Book Info
    The Reluctant Revolutionary
    Book Description:

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a uniquely reluctant and distinctly German Lutheran revolutionary. In this volume, the author, an Anglican priest and historian, argues that Bonhoeffer's powerful critique of Germany's moral derailment needs to be understood as the expression of a devout Lutheran Protestant. Bonhoeffer gradually recognized the ways in which the intellectual and religious traditions of his own class - theBildungsburgertum- were enabling Nazi evil. In response, he offered a religiously inspired call to political opposition and Christian witness-which cost him his life. The author investigates Bonhoeffer's stance in terms of his confrontation with the legacy of Hegelianism and Neo-Rankeanism, and by highlighting Bonhoeffer's intellectual and spiritual journey, shows how his endeavor to politicially reeducate the German people must be examined in theological terms.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-910-9
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Michael Lattke

    At least in Australia, Professor John Moses is one of the few secular historians who consider church history, religion, and theology to be essential factors in the Rankean reconstruction and critical evaluation of what happened in the past, and why it happened as it happened.

    When I met John Moses, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, and his German wife Ingrid, for the first time in 1981, I had already studied the most influential books of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and, also as an integral part of German theological curricula, Eberhard Bethge’s monumental biography of 1967, which has been kept in print to...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxii)

    As indicated in the Preface, this book is the work of a historian of modern Germany, and was written in the conviction that many interested people, particularly clergy in the Anglo-Saxon world, who may or may not have a background in German history, could benefit from having a straightforward text that explained in broad outline the peculiarities of German history, especially where it differs from British and American history. And here, of course, Reformation history is of crucial importance. Without this background knowledge, it is argued, a full appreciation of Bonhoeffer’s historic achievement would not be possible. It would not...

  7. 1 The “Peculiarity” of German Political Culture
    (pp. 1-26)

    The wordpeculiarityin the German context takes its meaning from a work by two British historians, David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley, entitledThe Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth Century Germany.¹ The work challenged current German historiographical explanations based on the so-calledSonderwegthesis, which argued that the Nazi regime was the endpoint of a historicalFehlgang, or “wrong way,” constituted by the failure of the middle class in nineteenth-century Germany to progress to a level of parliamentarianism similar to that achieved in Western Europe and North America. In fact, Blackbourn and Eley argued, Imperial...

  8. 2 Bonhoeffer’s Formation
    (pp. 27-45)

    An individual’s way of comprehending the world is conditioned by where he or she was born, who the parents were, and of course, the peculiarities of the education system. At this point, it is important to recall the Germany of Bonhoeffer’s childhood, the values of his parents, and particularly those of the academic teachers who had most influence on him during his university training.

    First, the figure of the Wittenberg Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, and the consequences of his rebellion against the papacy in the sixteenth century have been paradigmatic for subsequent German history. The outcome of the German Reformation,...

  9. 3 The Problem of Anti-Semitism in Germany from Luther to Hitler
    (pp. 46-73)

    At this point it is necessary to introduce the Jewish Question, as it is central to Bonhoeffer’s development as a revolutionary in the context of the Third Reich.¹ Indeed, it is the key to understanding Bonhoeffer’s new kind of Lutheran theology. As will be shown, Bonhoeffer, reacting to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as he did, with very little support from his coreligionists, overthrew centuries of Christian prejudice and theological debate on the role of the Jews in the history of the church. In doing so he had built a theological bridge for Christian-Jewish reconciliation, the construction...

  10. 4 Bonhoeffer’s Opening to the West and the Involvement in Ecumenism
    (pp. 74-102)

    It is important to grasp that by mid-1932 at the latest—that is, some six months prior to Hitler’s appointment as Reich Chancellor—Bonhoeffer had become extremely allergic to National Socialism as a political ideology. As far as his fellow pastors were concerned it would be quite fair to say that the vast majority had been at that time deeply unhappy with the Weimar Republic, chiefly because a Lutheran church without a hereditary monarch assummus episcopuswho epitomized the ancient union of “throne and altar” (church and state) was an unaccustomed and possibly heretical novelty. As a professional group the...

  11. 5 The Church Struggle to 1937
    (pp. 103-129)

    Bonhoeffer’s intellectual-spiritual biography has been traced up to 1933 in order to show on what basis he was able to critique the Nazi regime, and to do so, moreover, in such a unique way. Numbers of other fellow pastors and theologians also saw the threat to the church’s existence, but none were able to articulate it as consistently as Bonhoeffer did. It is here crucial to keep in mind that Bonhoeffer’s critique derived not from having absorbed Anglo-Saxon ideas of constitutional freedom and the rule of law, although he certainly had every opportunity to do so from his sojourns in...

  12. 6 The Ethics of Conspiracy
    (pp. 130-147)

    One of the remarkable features of the advent of the Hitler dictatorship in Germany was the rapidity with which the professions welcomed the “New Order” as signaling a rebirth of genuine Germanic culture and values. These had been supposedly perverted by foreign imports such as liberalism, parliamentary democracy, and communism. And, of course, Jews had been accused of spearheading all of these supposedly deleterious influences.

    Consequently, the birth of the Third Reich heralded a reassessment among all the professions of their role in this revitalized fatherland. There were now such things as German physics, German medicine, German engineering, German law,...

  13. 7 Bonhoeffer and the Jewish Question
    (pp. 148-172)

    If there was one single issue that set Bonhoeffer apart from his contemporaries, his coreligionists, and theBildungsbürgertumgenerally, it was the Jewish question. This chapter seeks to flesh out a number of the points raised in chapter 3. Attention has already been drawn to the tradition of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism in German history, particularly as it developed in the nineteenth century. At that time, the ideals ofKulturwere being enunciated by leading German philosophers and educationalists, who taught that a person had to be of German blood in order to be able to participate in and appropriate true...

  14. 8 Bonhoeffer as Critic of His Class in Retrospect
    (pp. 173-203)

    To recapitulate: It is recalled that by early 1934, at the latest, Bonhoeffer had identified the Führer as a menace—indeed, as the agent of the anti-Christ—lost confidence in his own class for submitting so spinelessly to the seducer (theVerfűhrer,“misleader”), identified the Nazi Jewish policy as the key issue for the future of the church—indeed, as astatus confessionis—and come to the conclusion that sooner or a later “a spoke will have to be jammed into the wheel” of the Nazi movement. The fact that the “German Christians” had declared unequivocal support for the Führer...

  15. 9 The Postwar Confrontation with the Nazi Past
    (pp. 204-232)

    With the final collapse of Nazi Germany, an overriding problem for the compromised German Protestant Church was to achieve reconciliation with the churches of the former enemy countries. It was a priority of the highest order for the Protestant leadership to be reintegrated into ecumenical fellowship. Consequently, anyone who had identified with the pro-Nazi “German Christian” movement needed to keep a low profile, but members of the Confessing Church felt that they had retained a modicum of honor and decency that allowed them to address their foreign counterparts without being totally paralyzed by shame and remorse. And as far as...

  16. Epilogue Bonhoeffer Reception in Postwar Germany
    (pp. 233-254)

    It has been already indicated that it took some considerable time after the end of the Second World War for Bonhoeffer’s significance both as a theologian and an opponent of National Socialism to be recognized. Many pastors and theologians, not to mention church people generally, had difficulty in coming to a positive assessment of the young theologian’s thought and action. Few were able to assess Bonhoeffer as a martyr for the gospel or, indeed, as a heroic political reformer. Indeed, the West German legal system took decades, as we have seen, to clear Bonhoeffer’s name of the charge of treason...

  17. Appendix I The Barmen Declaration of Faith
    (pp. 255-258)
  18. Appendix II The Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt
    (pp. 259-260)
  19. Appendix III A Statement by the Council of Brethern of the EKD Concerning the Political Course of our People (The Darmstadt Statement, August 1947)
    (pp. 261-262)
  20. Appendix IV Ecumenical Assembly: More Justice in the GDR—Our Task and Our Expectations
    (pp. 263-272)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-290)
  22. Index
    (pp. 291-301)