Episode 21: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Discipleship for the Common Good – Interview with Brant Himes

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life is an incredibly powerful story. The son of a German psychiatrist in an aristocratic family back in the early 20th century, Bonhoeffer made the unlikely decision to study theology. In so doing, Bonhoeffer encountered a Jesus who revolutionized his life would not let go of him.

In this episode of Spiritual Life and Leadership, we speak once again with Brant Himes, author of For a Better Worldliness: Abraham Kuyper, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Discipleship for the Common Good.

Brant and I talk about Bonhoeffer’s understanding of discipleship and how that understanding not only shaped the way he trained pastors, but also led him to participate in a conspiracy against Adolf Hitler—a conspiracy that ultimately failed and led to his execution.

 

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THIS EPISODE’S HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:

  • Brant Himes is the author of For a Better Worldliness: Kuyper, Bonhoeffer, and Discipleship for the Common Good.
  • Brant is the Assistant Professor of Humanities for Los Angeles Pacific University (part of the Azusa Pacific University system). He is also the Managing Editor for Resonance Journal.
  • The most formative book Brant has ever read is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship. Brant explains why the English title was changed from The Cost of Discipleship to simply Discipleship.
  • The first half of For a Better Worldliness focuses on Abraham Kuyper, whom Brant and Markus discuss in Episode 15 of Spiritual Life and Leadership. The title of Episode 15 is “Abraham Kuyper and Discipleship for the Common Good.”
  • The main difference between the Kuyper’s and Bonhoeffer’s understandings of discipleship was their context. Kuyper was a Dutch Reformed Calvinist in the Netherlands, while Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran in Nazi Germany.
  • Brant gives a brief biography of Bonhoeffer’s life.
  • Bonhoeffer was a brilliant theologian, and also had a pastor’s heart.
  • As the Nazis took control of Germany, he felt the need to establish underground training centers for pastors.
  • Bonhoeffer eventually got involved in the Valkyrie conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. It was his involvement in this conspiracy that led to his execution.
  • There was a strong emphasis on spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation in Bonhoeffer’s seminaries.
  • The danger of the Nazi influence was a catalyst for the way Bonhoeffer trained pastors.
  • Was Bonhoeffer a pacifist? Brant Himes suggests that a better word to describe Bonhoeffer is “peacemaking.”
  • Discernment was a really important theme for Bonhoeffer. We need to be spiritually formed such that we can discern how we are called to follow Jesus in various contexts.
  • In regard to the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, Bonhoeffer concluded it was a sin if he participated in the conspiracy and it was a sin if he didn’t. He had to rest on God’s grace.
  • Brant Himes explains three key concepts in Bonhoeffer’s writings—“theology of life” (God is over all of life, even the painful parts), “this-worldliness” (God is not far removed from us; God is present in all aspects of our life and the world), and “God of the gaps” (the purpose of God is not merely to fill in the gaps in our understanding; God is Lord over all of life).
  • Bonhoeffer’s and Kuyper’s theologies remind us that our theologies are strongly influenced by the contexts we find ourselves in.
  • Brant Himes’ definition of discipleship: Discipleship is the response to the call to follow-after Jesus Christ in all aspect of human life and endeavor, from the inner personal disciplines to the deliberate shaping of culture—in the very midst of the world.
  • The church’s use of discipleship is too often limited to educational curriculum.
  • Discipleship has to be first of all a response to Jesus’ call to follow him.

 

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