Karl Barth (Bonhoeffer’s primary mentor who resided in Switzerland): “there must be a crisis that denies all human thought.”
“The ‘frivolous’ attitude of the mainline churches in America had been vexing from the start [to Bonhoeffer].. [American churches] conveying a Protestant establishment seeking relevance at all costs: ‘Jesus hides the Creeds,’ ‘Pastor urges strong values,’ ‘After all, it’s character that counts,’ Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick stated.” “But Fosdick’s gospel was bereft of miracle, modernized and Americanized.” p. 111.
“What he [Bonhoeffer] tasted was the shock that comes of reckoning for the first time with the wages of one’s dissent. He belonged to a faction whose politics he no longer shared and a church whose preaching he found stultifying and dull–and a pervasive loneliness overtook him. To Sutz [friend in Switzerland who went to school with him in America] he confessed feeling ‘dreadfully [alone] even sitting in a whole crowd of people.’” p. 145.
The next paragraph (to the above):
“The situation led Bonhoeffer into a season of new self-examination.” p. 145.
Bonhoeffer in his first position in a church had a weekly 3 hour seminar for 12 theology students and their teachers. It was not the subjects that Bonhoeffer taught that got their attention. “It was the way Bonhoeffer addressed persons with an ardent, inspiring respect.” p. 151
“He [Bonhoeffer] had opened the Bible to unleash the living word against a church and nation on the threshold of catastrophic apostasy.” p. 156.
“Bonhoeffer said that beyond reading the Bible as God’s word to us [his students], the time had come to begin reading it ‘against ourselves as well,’ accepting the word’s power to implicate us as well as to redeem us.”
“I [Bonhoeffer] no longer believe in the university…In fact I never really have believed in it.” page 156.
(Bonhoeffer was almost totally alone in his beliefs because the remainder of the pastors were apostate pastors.) Read that again. (The remainder of the pastors were passive and apostasy came fast and easy.) Read that again. The first thing that Hitler did is run every single person out of Germany who he knew were the only ones who would stand for God and against him even unto death.
Friends, Bonhoeffer was almost totally alone in his beliefs because the remainder of the pastors were apostate pastors. Read that again. The remainder of the pastors were passive and apostasy came fast and easy. Read that again.
Bonhoeffer, in his entire life, very rarely went to church. He even very rarely attended the church where he received his ordination.
A student (talking about Bonhoeffer): We followed his word with such attention that one could hear the flies humming.” Another student said: “Sometimes, when we laid out pens down after a lecture, we were literally perspiring.” P. 152.
His students loved him because “it was the way that Bonhoeffer addressed persons with an ardent, inspiring respect…What was important for us, one student said, was working together to find clear ways of thinking, practicing simplicity, learning not to slink off into side-issues, or be satisfied prematurely with cheap and easy answers.” Page 152.
He began with 12 students but it rose to 200. The other professors did not like this (those professors and Bonhoeffer rarely saw each other) and they did not renew his contract as an adjunct professor.
The students interest in Bonhoeffer instead of pastors or churches was because: In churches there are certain things the congregations know they cannot say. This lack of freedom was not liked by his students and not liked by Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer did not like (and his students did not like) the fact that after one attended a church for a period of time he could see the boundaries and limits of what one could say and do (and not say and not do). Bonhoeffer did not like this lack of freedom. In other words, Bonhoeffer and his students did not like the “controls” inside a congregation.
“Bonhoeffer found himself moved by these people on the margins (unemployed and desperate), ‘far away from the masquerade of the Christian world’—the little people who lived more under grace than under wrath.” p.148.
“As a result of Niebuhr’s efforts, Bonhoeffer was now known throughout Protestant circles as the courageous, lonely voice crying out against the Nazi church, and as founder of an illegal seminary. ” p. 274.
From the book: Strange Glory–A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer