What Would Dietrich Bonhoeffer Do?

The last time I asked this question in a blog entry the subject of conversation was the unification of Germany under the direction of Otto von Bismarck and its implications for European unity by iron and blood rather than peaceful trade and treaties [1]. This time I ask the question of a different and much better man, brave Lutheran martyr during the wicked times of Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I received an e-mail forward from a friend [2], and the thoughts of that message echoed some thoughts of my own about the dangerous times in which we live and the threat of liberal fascism to our cherished liberties of religious freedom. Therefore, at some risk to myself, I feel compelled to speak out.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s bravery against Nazi Germany was done despite extreme danger to himself, which led to his eventual death. He recognized that any government which sought to put Christianity on a reservation with strict limitations on what it could preach about was a satanic and corrupt government that was not worthy of obedience, but rather deserved the principled opposition of people of faith committed to dangerous but godly action. Christianity speaks many truths that are unpopular to despotic and corrupt regimes. In Nazi Germany the dignity of humanity, including the Jews, was seen as a threat to the cherished racial ideals of the Nazi state. In the antebellum South, the truth that Christians could not justly own other believers served as a threat that the tyrannical aristocracy of the South could not accept. We could judge both of these as right wing fascism.

However, fascism is a threat from the left as well. The biblical truth that all authorities are subject to God and are His servants accountable for their obedience and enforcement of His moral standards is a threat to any totalitarian state that views itself as the sole source of legitimacy in a given society. It scarcely matters what moral standard of the Bible is offensive to a regime for it to be a threat to Christianity and its open and free practice, so long as that society seeks to prevent the preaching of that truth through corrupt and ungodly laws. Sadly, many liberal fascist regimes including Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and even the United States are making laws that threaten the freedoms of Christians to condemn certain types of sin because to condemn sin is seen as a hate crime against individuals.

The task of prophecy is not so much reading the future or setting dates and times, but is rather a matter of trends and a belief in divine law and its consequences. If one is a genuine and outspoken believer in God’s ways, one believes that God operates according to blessings for national obedience to His laws and curses for national disobedience. Therefore, if someone astutely sees a society as being stiff-necked and rebellious against any of God’s laws, and refusing to accept even being told that one is wrong by those who are without any hostile intent whatsoever, then national judgment at the hands of God is imminently threatening. Only repentance can save an ungodly nation (particularly one whose blessings come from God’s faithfulness to His covenantal promises), and a desire to censor would-be prophets from condemning obvious and flagrant immorality on the part of an ungodly regime cuts off the process of repentance at its source–with the realization that one is committing sin, which can only come from outside when one’s moral worldview is debased and corrupted.

In a world such as we live in now, societal trends push all of us as people into one of two directions (and which direction depends on our sin of choice). Either we are pushed into a violent and destructive hostility toward sinners of one type or another, or we are pushed into a desire to use and abuse the power of government to thwart any kind of dissent to our own particular worldview. It matters not whether our worldview is to be judged as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative,’ as both political worldviews fall short of the biblical standard on some grounds and the use of government to enforce such a worldview against legitimate complaint creates a fascist state where it is impossible to be free and faithful to God’s ways.

The only just way of behavior is to criticize abuses wherever they may be found, whether in our own behavior or those of others, by pointing loudly and consistently to the full and complete biblical standard of behavior, which is the only source of enduring blessings for any nation, and the only chance we all have of escaping God’s judgment for our collective sins. Whether we must repent of sexual sins, genocidal wrath against the unborn, fraud and greed and exploitation of the poor and foreigners, or any other sin is immaterial. God is not partial nor partisan, and a society that enshrines and protects flagrant and unrepentant sin will be judged. Therefore, a society that wishes to have the chance of avoiding this judgment must allow others the freedom to condemn sin without hating the sinner (by recognizing that we all struggle with sin and therefore none of us can sit in the place of judge, jury, and executioner, but rather all of us seek God’s mercy and seek to mend our ways so that they are in accordance with His ways).

When a society threatens the freedom to openly condemn sin because it is not politically correct to do so, no matter what sin it may be, a genuine Christian is left with a choice of how best to resist such oppression and tyranny. This is the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a reminder that evil must be fought as best as possible, even at the risk of our own personal freedom or even our lives. Some things are more important than our life, such as setting a positive example of faith and obedience to God, even under great pressures or immensely difficult lives. Bonhoeffer backed up his faith (as imperfect as it was) with immensely brave actions, that we ought to recognize. He was willing to publicly oppose corrupt leadership on biblical grounds, willing to resist the government takeover of Christianity by helping to form an underground church, and he was willing to bravely (and dangerously) work to bring down a satanic regime. As we face dangerous times like his, we ought to remember his example and prepare to follow it, as we too will face choices as he did. Will we choose to remain faithful to God, or will we cravenly try to save our own skins and keep our head down. The choice is ours.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/what-would-otto-von-bismarck-do/

[2] http://www.breakpoint.org/the-center/columns/call-response/15129-metaxas-what-would-bonhoeffer-do

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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