Bonhoeffer on the Bible

By February 6, 2015Reflections/Essays

One of the best books I have read recently is Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. While Bonhoeffer’s opposition to Hitler is well known I had not realized fully how deep was his commitment to orthodox theology, and to the Bible.

In 1936, Bonhoeffer wrote his brother-in-law Rudiger Schleicher, who was as liberal theologically as Bonhoeffer was conservative. It says much about their relationship that he could write such things:

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 the 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. That is because in the
Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength,
one has to inquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us. Of course it is also
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 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 our 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 so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible.

(From Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy)



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