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Was Bonhoeffer Right?
Rating: 5.00

To follow up Gina’s blog post last Friday commemorating the 65th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s death, I'm throwing out this question for open discussion:

Is it ever right for a pastor, or any Christian leader for that matter, to seek to assassinate a head of state, no matter how evil?

Bill Smith, one of the members of the BreakPoint Facebook Fan Page, said:

"If Bonhoeffer was hung, 65 years ago today, just because he spoke against the regime, I think that was within his role as a Christian leader…. However, I think Bonhoeffer erred when he left his calling to save and instead joined a plot to have Hitler killed. That was God’s prerogative, whether by sickness, sword, or supernatural means."

I can't help but be reminded of anti-abortion activists killing abortion doctors or bombing abortion clinics. Was it a fair comparison or not? Do you think the plot to kill Hilter was a misplaced calling or was it justified?

For more on Bonhoeffer, don't forget to check out the new book by Eric Metexas and the articles available at the Colson Center (you can find them by searching for his name).


Comments:

Sigh - So many great topics, so little time…
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Some hastily jotted thoughts. First, to Bill Smith: Bill, with Just War Theory as a backdrop, I have to respectfully disagree. In my opinion Bonhoeffer was right to attempt to kill Hitler, and, for the sake of the countless many who suffered and died as a result of Hitler’s continuation, I regret that Bonhoeffer and others failed.

Bonhoeffer reasoned that being a civilian, a fellow countryman, a Christian, or even a pastor did not excuse him from what he saw to be a clear moral responsibility. To him the issue was one of conscience, not of calling.

Better than most of us, this remarkable man saw that to follow Christ did not mean solely to be a representative of the church and to do things in the official name of the Christian religion. He saw that to be a follower of Christ also meant being a forgiven member of sinful humanity willing to live out the law of Christ – love – in all situations, not only those which the church can officially endorse, but also those where no formal church sanction can be given.

In a sense his religion enabled him to transcend his religion in much the same way as the apostle Paul, who said “by the law I died to the law that I might live unto God” (Galatians 2:19).

Bonhoeffer understood that there are two kingdoms – the kingdom of God (the church) and the kingdom of man (civilization). For that reason he was very careful to distance himself in his capacity as conspirator from any association with the church. But he also understood that the faithful servant of Christ will take his responsibility in both kingdoms equally seriously because in fact, God is Lord over both.

Thus, in his capacity as a churchman, he could have no part in the assassination of Hitler. But as a human being, and especially one who was informed by the love of Christ, he could – indeed he must -- do the right thing, which in this case, was to rid the world of a great evil.

I could imagine Bonhoeffer, animated by the love of Christ, with his gun to Hitler’s head saying, “not as a Lutheran do I end your life of evil, but as a decent and responsible human being.”

Bonhoeffer saw with clarity that only when we Christians are truly human are we truly holy. For only then are we being faithful subjects of both kingdoms. Only then are we living out the law of love both as “Christians” intent upon establishing Christ’s kingdom on earth, and also as fellow human beings who, irrespective of our “calling”, share in a common responsibility to oppose threats to the freedom, security, and dignity of mankind.

Had I been in Bonhoeffer’s place, the only question I would have wrestled with is this: can I face God knowing I have *not* done every lawful thing possible to stop the evil incarnate that Hitler embodied? Maybe you could, my friend, but like Bonhoeffer, I could not.
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Second, to Jason Bruce: By Just War Theory, Hitler’s assassination was lawfully and divinely authorized. Likewise, self-defense that requires use of lethal force is also authorized by law. But killing abortionists is not authorized by law. And if it were, it is unlikely it would be for private individuals to enforce; it would be the State’s responsibility to arrest, try, sentence, and execute by due process of law.
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Third, to Dan Gill: The “sovereignty” of God doesn’t (in my considered opinion) mean absolutely everything that happens was ordained or willingly permitted by God. It just means that in the end God will win, and that in the meantime He will bring good even out of evil. We pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” precisely because the will of God is *not* always done here.

God is invincible, but not invulnerable. That is, He cannot be conquered, but He *can* be hurt. Truth cannot become untruth, but Truth *can* be contradicted. Christ conquered Satan at Calvary, but at great personal cost. The serpent’s head was crushed, but the heel of God the Son was bruised; etc. The point is, Satan gets his way in a lot of things, but not for long, not permanently. And eventually, inevitably, God causes “all things” – even things Satan does against the will of God – “to work together for good to them that love God.” *That’s* sovereignty at work.

So, to answer the question, “did God ordain that ALL leaders of nations rise to their present positions of power?” I think not. It seems to me He ordained that people could choose their kings *in spite of* His counsel against it (cf. Saul).
I'm kind of surprised nobody has yet stepped up to this one.

David would not raise his hand against Saul, God's annointed. That says something to me. However, Saul was no Hitler. He was not a good king, but he wasn't even in Hitler's league when it comes to evil actions.

However . . . you only have to read the book of Judges to see God raising up deliverers who did assasinate oppressors.

Here's a question for us to add to this discussion: Has God ordained that ALL leaders of nations rise to their present positions of power? We know that Jesus called Satan "The Prince of the Earth". God is sovereign, but he is still at war with Satan, and Satan does have some dominion here.

This one ought to be interesting.