Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a modern Christian martyr who voluntarily returned to Germany to speak out against Hitler and accept almost certain death for doing so. He was executed shortly before the Allies defeated Germany near the end of World War II.
The integrity of his Christian faith and life, and the international appeal of his writings, have led to a broad consensus that he is the one theologian of his time to lead future generations of Christians into the new millennium.
He was hanged in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg on April 9, 1945, just three weeks before the city was liberated . His brother and two of his brothers-in-law also died at the hands of the Nazi regime for their participation in the Protestant resistance movement. The letters he wrote during these final two years of his life were posthumously published by his student and friend, Eberhard Bethge, as Letters and Papers from Prison. His correspondence with his fiance, Maria von Wedermeyer, has been published as Love Letters from Cell 92.
An SS prison doctor who was at the execution described Bonhoeffer as "kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God", and he went on to say "at the place of execution, he again said a short prayer... In almost 50 years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."
Bonhoeffer on Abortion
According to Bonhoeffer, killing an embryo in mother’s womb violates the right of emerging life granted by God. Entering the marriage is in his view associated with recognizing this right of future new life as right that spouses do not have at their own discretion. If this right is not honored, marriage is ceasing to be a marriage and becomes a mere affair. Honoring this human right opens a room for the free creative will of God that can elicit a new life from this marriage. If we investigate the question whether the human embryo is a human being or not, this only serves to obfuscate the fundamental issue that God intended, by all means, to create a human being here and that we are wittingly taking the life of this developing innocent human being against the natural course of events. This is nothing else than a murder. Although the motives of such act can differ widely, they however do not change the very fact of this murder whatsoever. When this is taking place in the hopeless human loneliness and poverty, the guilt is more correctly to be attributed to society than to an individual. In any case, this definitely requires a personal approach and tactful treatment of person with such experience. Namely the mother that underwent the difficult decision process that contradicts her own nature, will be unlikely denying the weight of guilt. Only God as Creator and donor of bodily life has right to have the life at His disposal.[note 1] The right to end this life is reserved by God to Himself, as He is the only one who knows towards what goal he wants to lead the life.
List of major works
- Ethics. When Gestapo arrested Bonhoeffer, most manuscripts of this work were hidden in various shelters. Only later, based on sketch of Bonhoeffer's concept, they were put together by author's friend Eberhard Bethge who prepared the first edition published in 1949.
- cf. “…keep in mind God's sovereignty over life. … God created life and He has the right to take it. If you can create life, then you can have the right to take it. But if you can’t create it, you don’t have that right.”
- Lee Strobel (September 2000). The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity. Zondervan, 119. ISBN 978-0310234692.
- Dietrcih Bonhoeffer (2007). Etika (Ethics, in the German original 'Ethik') (in Czech). Kalich, 177.
- Etika Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Czech). kumran.sk.
- Bonhoeffer.org A website dedicated to his memory describes his sacrifice
- A Third Testament: Free e-book about Christian saints, including Augustine, Kierkegaard, and Bonhoeffer