Bonhoeffer — The Cost of Discipleship

Image result for bonhoefferEric Metaxas is the author of four New York Times Best Sellers, including Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Named “Book of the Year” by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), it has sold over one million copies in 19 languages. It is ranked #21 on Amazon’s Most Highlighted Books of all time. Host of the Eric Metaxas Show, a nationally-syndicated daily radio program (, Metaxas is also host of Socrates in the City, a broadcast on the NRB network and These edited excerpts are from his foreword to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship:

In the summer of 1988, a friend asked whether I had ever heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I confessed that I had never heard of him… My friend told me that Bonhoeffer lived in Germany during the Third Reich. Because of Bonhoeffer’s Christian faith, he valiantly spoke out against Hitler… His conviction that a true Christian must help those who are suffering — and for him this was principally the Jews of Germany — he eventually became involved in the resistance to Hitler, and then even in an assassination plot against him. This was not typical for a man of God, but I soon learned there was nothing typical about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. My friend also told me that Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and eventually murdered by the Nazis just three weeks before the end of the war. He was thirty-nine years old.

So, I began reading this book. In the foreword… Bishop George Bell quoted Bonhoeffer from what was at the heart of his theology: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die…. As I read the book, my life was forever changed.

Bonhoeffer was a genius. Born in 1906 into a celebrated family of brilliant figures. Bonhoeffer’s father was the most famous psychiatrist in Germany and ranked among Europe’s most renowned scientists. One of Dietrich’s brothers was a physicist who worked with Einstein and another the legal head of Lufthansa. Dietrich was one of eight siblings whose vibrant company honed his skill as a rigorous thinker.

After Dietrich’s seventeen-year-old brother Walter was killed in WWI, Dietrich seemed catapulted from his idyllic childhood into a sudden maturity, given to thought of God and eternity. At thirteen, he decided to become a theologian. He waited a year to tell his family, knowing his scientifically-minded brothers and father would not be pleased. When they chided him for joining the flawed church, he shot back, “I shall reform it!”

Bonhoeffer entered Tübingen University at 17, then studied in Berlin, under legendary professors. At 21, he earned his doctorate in theology. The subject of his dissertation was, “What is the Church?” His academic luminosity astonished the best theological minds of the era.

Bonhoeffer believed that if one could not translate his theological ideas for the layman and his children, he might not understand or have much to say. For Bonhoeffer, what he said he believed, was not as important as living what he believed. That is what led him to [later] write his 1937 book, Nachfolge, (“Discipleship”). The Lutheran Church required ordination candidates to be 25 years old. So, at 24, Bonhoeffer embarked to New York City for a fellowship at Union Theological Seminary. But he wrote home, “there is no theology here.” But his time in New York was to be marked by his experience at the African American Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. What he saw took his breath away. The congregation was on fire with faith, shouting and rejoicing in the worship and during the sermon, too. Their many activities during the week reflected what they did on Sunday. Dietrich saw that they were not merely religious, but that they were real Christians, disciples of the Christ they worshiped. They did not play church but rather were the church, the people of God living out their faith with a joy Bonhoeffer had never seen, neither in the churches in Germany nor in the white Protestant churches in New York. Whatever faith resided in his head descended to his heart and from there suffused his whole being. When he returned to Germany in 1931, everyone saw that he was somehow different.

While he had been away, the political winds had shifted…Under Hitler, the persecution of the Jews increased dramatically, and Bonhoeffer knew that it must be the church that led the way in opposing this.

Bonhoeffer gave a radio speech just days after Hitler’s election as chancellor in 1933. In it, Bonhoeffer explained that the popular German idea of a strong leader — or Führer — was not based on God’s idea of leadership. Bonhoeffer’s cries fell mostly on deaf ears…The typical religious pieties — that it was not the role of Christians to be involved in politics or that it was their role only to pray and “preach the gospel” — were all trotted out and firmly believed. By the time some church leaders saw what was happening, it was too late to do anything…The window of religious liberty in Germany had been shut.

In 1935 he started an illegal seminary to train men who…understood what it meant to follow Jesus with their whole beings — to be real disciples. When, two years later, the Gestapo shut this seminary down, Bonhoeffer took it underground. The Nazis were relentless and forbade Bonhoeffer to teach at all, then even to speak in public…When in 1939 he had the temerity to publish a book on the Psalms, titling it The Prayerbook of the Bible, the Nazis had had enough. They forbade him to publish in the Third Reich. …. Everyone could see that war was coming. Bonhoeffer knew he could never fight in Hitler’s war. Well-meaning friends in America pulled strings and invited him to return to New York, teach at the Union Theological Seminary and to lecture around the country, safe from the Nazis.

Bonhoeffer accepted the offer. But no sooner had he boarded the ship in 1939 than he had second thoughts. All that June in New York he searched the scriptures for an answer to the unshakable feeling of being in the wrong place. In the end his distance from Germany felt to him like an escape and a mistake. He knew he must return. When at last he boarded the ship to go back to Germany, Bonhoeffer had been in New York no more than twenty-six days. Upon returning his brother helped him get a job in the Abwehr (the center for military intelligence, but he became a double agent when his brother-in-law, Dohn??nyi, invited him to join the conspiracy against Hitler. Bonhoeffer knew that to sit on the sidelines while innocents were being murdered was to be complicit in their murders. As Bonhoeffer saw it, it was the church’s duty to call the state to account for its actions; and in the end, if the state did not do the right thing, it was the duty of the church to oppose the state. Most Christian leaders in Germany were unwilling to follow Bonhoeffer in this, and what had been a lonely road for him now became lonelier still. Bonhoeffer felt more alone than ever, but he knew that in the end he answered to his audience of One, the only One whose opinion mattered. (Eric Metaxas, New York City, March 2018)

Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Nazis in April of 1943 and moved often among prisons and concentration camps. At Flossenb??rg, on April 9, 1945,he was executed by hanging. The camp physician told the war crimes tribunal that before Bonhoeffer stepped onto the platform, he saw him “bow to his knees and pray fervently to God.” Biographer Rev. Dr. Lloyd Buss wrote that Bonhoeffer’s “practice and discipline of prayer, daily reading of Scripture, and meditation were the means by which he stood before the Son of God made man, Jesus Christ, and standing beside Christ engaged in life in all its forms in this world and in the resurrection of Christ in the world to come.” On his return to Germany, Bonhoeffer’s first book was The Prayerbook of the Bible, and his Prayers from Prison was published from content derived from his prison letters. May God grant America men of learning, character, and courage, for whom the practice of diligent daily prayer is important!

Values Voter Summit VVS was amazing and well worth what it cost Summit attendees to travel to Washington, D.C. from around the nation (and distant nations). For those not able to attend, and at no cost to them, all of the plenary sessions from the Summit have been preserved on video and can be viewed on the VVS archive. The speakers were all leading experts and/or newsmakers who deal with matters FRC and our partners champion — life, family, and freedom (especially religious freedom at home and abroad) and who engage politics and public policy from a biblical worldview. We had President Trump with us for nearly an hour and a half and we honored Pastor Andrew Brunson, the American missionary who was arrested on false charges and spent two years in a Turkish prison, believing he would never be free. See Brunson receive FRC’s 2019 Cost of Discipleship Award exactly one year after a Turkish judge released him, enabling Tony Perkins, at President Trump’s request, to whisk Brunson and his wife, Norine, away to a waiting military transport plane and to the White House within hours (read more).

Northeast SyriaSanctions May Dampen Turkish Delight over Syria

A week ago, Turkish troops began pouring into northeastern Syria after President Trump announced that he would withdraw the small number of U.S. troops in the vicinity and continue to withdraw all of the several thousand troops inside the borders of Syria. Tens of thousands of Christians have enjoyed unusual peace and safety in the region, together with Arabs, Muslims, Kurds, Yazidis, and others. Yet now these Syrian Christians are in jeopardy. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue to feel the responsibility they have been shouldering to protect the land and maintain the amazing peace their land has been enjoying. But they know that is not to be. The Turks are capable of an unthinkable slaughter of people and utter destruction of the infrastructure of the cities and towns upon which the people depend. Now, the Turks have the backing of the Russians and others.

President Trump announced that he would issuing an executive order authorizing sanctions not only against Turkey, but specific Turkish officials. “I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” the president tweeted. The administration doubled steel tariffs on Turkey and halted a $100 billion trade agreement that was in the works. Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to make an emergency trip to Turkey today in an effort to obtain a cease-fire. But Erdogan refused to see him. Senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) will introduce a bill this week that would create even heavier sanctions on the Turks, including freezing the assets of Turkey’s leaders such as those of President Erdogan and Turkey’s energy and military sectors. The bill will impose travel restrictions on Turkish officials and freeze all U.S. military sales to Turkey.

FRC has created a petition to send President Trump, urging him to take U.S. action to defend Kurds, Christians, and thousands more among the religious minorities now in the path of destruction. This is not to mention the likely release of now imprisoned ISIS fighters, eager to create even more mayhem in Syria and elsewhere in pursuit of their vision for a worldwide Caliphate. With a growing, Russia-Turkey-Iran alliance, the American surprise decision to withdraw U.S. troops and allow a Turkish invasion worries Israel and other nations about long-term U.S. policy in the Middle East. Iran is a dedicated enemy of Israel, and Turkey regularly denounces Israel in the UN and other international platforms. (Please sign FRC’s Petition; U.S. must stand with our Kurdish allies; Netanyahu offers gallant kurds humanitarian aid, declares Israel must rely on itself)

  • May multiplied thousands of Americans sign the petition and may God intervene to guide our president and Congress to do what he would have us do to preserve lives and to prevent the advance of evil across the world. May we pray for the peace of Jerusalem as God says to do. (Judges 5: all; Ps 107:2; Pr 4:7; Is 55:6; Mt 5:37; Lk 14:31-32)

Finally, please take time to review the VVS Video Archive, hear President Trump and others, and pray over each of the current issues that are so clearly and vitally explained.

As always, thank you for praying!


Rev. Pierre Bynum
Chaplain & National Prayer Director

Family Research Council
801 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-393-2100
Fax: 202-393-2134

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