Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young theologian when Hitler came to power in Germany. He became a leader in the Confessing Church, the church that was formed in opposition to the tyranny of Hitler and his henchmen. His opposition to the Nazis and his involvement with an attempt to assassinate Hitler cost him his life. On April 9, 1945, three weeks before Germany’s surrender, he was taken from his jail cell and hung on the gallows. His final words to his cell mates were these: “This is the end. For me it is the beginning.”
The one thing shaped his faith and his commitment was his love for Scripture and his belief that it was the Word of God. This is an amazing thing when you consider that he was raised the son of a renowned but unbelieving German psychiatrist, was a student of the liberal theologian Adolph von Harnack and did studies in theology at Union Seminary, one of America’s foremost promoters of liberal theology. In spite of those formidable influences, Bonhoeffer came to a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible. I have found few affirmations written by the hands of non-canonical authors, that expresses more clearly and closely my own devotion to God’s Word than the words I share below. I pray that this testimony from the heart of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian and martyr, will encourage you to a new love and devotion to the Bible and the God who speaks there.-[Gary Rieben, Give Me That Book Ministries; www.givemethatbook.com.]
Note: This testimony was written in 1936 to his liberal brother-in-law, Rudiger Schleicher.
First of all I will confess quite simply- I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. This is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to enquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us. Of course it is possible to read the Bible like any other book, that is to say from the point of view of textual criticism, etc.; there is nothing to be said against that. Only that is not the method which will reveal to us the heart of the Bible, but only the surface, just as we do not grasp the words of someone we love by taking them to bits, but by simply receiving them, so that for days they go on lingering in or minds, simply because they are the words of a person we love, and just as these words reveal more and more of the person who said them as we go on, like Mary, “pondering them in our heart,” so it will be with the words of the Bible. Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does not will to leave us alone with our questions, only then shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible…
If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which will not be congenial to me. This place is the cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all; it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only the New but also in the Old Testament….
And, I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have learnt to read the Bible in this way- and this has not been so very long- it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and the evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as to really hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.
Note: Cited in: Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010] pp. 136-137
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