Was Bonhoeffer a martyr?

In the comments to my earlier post, Larry asked if it was “a deliberate choice … or coincidence” that I should post a Bonhoeffer quote on 20 July, the anniversary (I now realise) of the failed Stauffenberg bomb plot.

Answer: it was because the secondhand copy of “Letters and Papers” that I ordered at the weekend arrived this morning, and I’d been wanting to post that quote for ages. It’s not in the abridged edition I previously owned, but I’d loved the quote ever since reading a library copy of the full edition a number of years ago.

Anyway, the anniversary of the attempt on Hitler’s life is a good excuse to post the following quote from Martin Luther King (HT to British Muslim blogger Yusuf Smith):

If your opponent has a conscience, then follow Gandhi and non-violence. But if your enemy has no conscience, like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer.

“Discuss.”

Actually no, discuss this instead (or as well…): is it appropriate to describe Bonhoeffer as a “martyr” in the first place? We can see that Bonhoeffer died as a consequence of his faith; we can see how his imprisonment and death became a great witness to Christ and to Bonhoeffer’s faith in Christ; but (some might suggest) that’s not the same thing as dying for one’s faith.

His executioners did not consider themselves to be killing him for being a Christian, but for being a member of a failed political plot to assassinate their national leader. So does that make him a martyr?

On the other hand, were the first Christian martyrs really executed for “religious” reasons, or for “political” ones (as if those categories were so easily separable in the first century Roman Empire)? In other words, for the bold assertion that (as NT Wright is fond of putting it) “Jesus is Lord, and therefore Caesar isn’t”.

Perhaps Bonhoeffer serves as a caution to us against over-spiritualising (and de-politicising) martyrdom in a manner that is alien to the spirit of the New Testament and the experience of the early church.

(PS: on the subject of the Stauffenberg plot, this post from last year summarised Frank Johnson’s argument that the failure of the plot was probably, in retrospect, a Good Thing.)

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Was Bonhoeffer a martyr?

  1. Larry says:

    I see your point, John. Bonhoeffer wasn’t killed because he was a Christian (Hitler didn’t order the wholesale extermination of Christians); he was killed because he took part in a plot against Hitler, his actions being motivated by at least these two factors:
    1. Christian convictions
    2. German patriotism
    I think Admiral Canaris was executed around the same time as Bonhoeffer, and he is not generally thought of as a Christian martyr.
    Stauffenberg himself was a devout Catholic, and his participation in the plot was probably also motivated by a mixture of Christian convictions and patriotism.
    Both, then, can be thought of as Christian heroes rather than Christian martyrs. A martyr being someone who is killed purely and simply because of the fact that she or he is a Christian. Because their existence as Christians is an affront to their killers.

  2. Larry says:

    I see your point, John. Bonhoeffer wasn’t killed because he was a Christian (Hitler didn’t order the wholesale extermination of Christians); he was killed because he took part in a plot against Hitler, his actions being motivated by at least these two factors:
    1. Christian convictions
    2. German patriotism
    I think Admiral Canaris was executed around the same time as Bonhoeffer, and he is not generally thought of as a Christian martyr.
    Stauffenberg himself was a devout Catholic, and his participation in the plot was probably also motivated by a mixture of Christian convictions and patriotism.
    Both, then, can be thought of as Christian heroes rather than Christian martyrs. A martyr being someone who is killed purely and simply because of the fact that she or he is a Christian. Because their existence as Christians is an affront to their killers.

  3. Larry says:

    I see your point, John. Bonhoeffer wasn’t killed because he was a Christian (Hitler didn’t order the wholesale extermination of Christians); he was killed because he took part in a plot against Hitler, his actions being motivated by at least these two factors:
    1. Christian convictions
    2. German patriotism
    I think Admiral Canaris was executed around the same time as Bonhoeffer, and he is not generally thought of as a Christian martyr.
    Stauffenberg himself was a devout Catholic, and his participation in the plot was probably also motivated by a mixture of Christian convictions and patriotism.
    Both, then, can be thought of as Christian heroes rather than Christian martyrs. A martyr being someone who is killed purely and simply because of the fact that she or he is a Christian. Because their existence as Christians is an affront to their killers.

  4. Larry says:

    I see your point, John. Bonhoeffer wasn’t killed because he was a Christian (Hitler didn’t order the wholesale extermination of Christians); he was killed because he took part in a plot against Hitler, his actions being motivated by at least these two factors:
    1. Christian convictions
    2. German patriotism
    I think Admiral Canaris was executed around the same time as Bonhoeffer, and he is not generally thought of as a Christian martyr.
    Stauffenberg himself was a devout Catholic, and his participation in the plot was probably also motivated by a mixture of Christian convictions and patriotism.
    Both, then, can be thought of as Christian heroes rather than Christian martyrs. A martyr being someone who is killed purely and simply because of the fact that she or he is a Christian. Because their existence as Christians is an affront to their killers.

  5. Tom R says:

    Kenneth Woodward’s book Making Saints http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684815303/ref=pd_sxp_f/104-5159076-2635142 has an interesting discussion of this dilemma in a specifically Roman Catholic context, given that the RC criteria for “sainthood” include martyrdom. The Roman Emperors and the Protestant English monarchs were considered obvious cases of killing/ persecuting Catholics qua Catholics, but Nazi Germany was a borderline case because officially Nazism was not opposed to Catholicism as such. (In hindsight, it is claimed with good reason that Mit Brennender Sorge “declares war” on Nazism from the Catholic side, but although the Nazis persecuted many priests who publicised the encyclical, they did not declare Catholicism an outlawed religion in toto.
    Anyway, see http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0684815303/104-5159076-2635142?v=search-inside&keywords=nazi for what Woodward says — I hope that “search text” link works: you shouldn’t need a paid subscription.

  6. Tom R says:

    Kenneth Woodward’s book Making Saints http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684815303/ref=pd_sxp_f/104-5159076-2635142 has an interesting discussion of this dilemma in a specifically Roman Catholic context, given that the RC criteria for “sainthood” include martyrdom. The Roman Emperors and the Protestant English monarchs were considered obvious cases of killing/ persecuting Catholics qua Catholics, but Nazi Germany was a borderline case because officially Nazism was not opposed to Catholicism as such. (In hindsight, it is claimed with good reason that Mit Brennender Sorge “declares war” on Nazism from the Catholic side, but although the Nazis persecuted many priests who publicised the encyclical, they did not declare Catholicism an outlawed religion in toto.
    Anyway, see http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0684815303/104-5159076-2635142?v=search-inside&keywords=nazi for what Woodward says — I hope that “search text” link works: you shouldn’t need a paid subscription.

  7. Tom R says:

    Kenneth Woodward’s book Making Saints http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684815303/ref=pd_sxp_f/104-5159076-2635142 has an interesting discussion of this dilemma in a specifically Roman Catholic context, given that the RC criteria for “sainthood” include martyrdom. The Roman Emperors and the Protestant English monarchs were considered obvious cases of killing/ persecuting Catholics qua Catholics, but Nazi Germany was a borderline case because officially Nazism was not opposed to Catholicism as such. (In hindsight, it is claimed with good reason that Mit Brennender Sorge “declares war” on Nazism from the Catholic side, but although the Nazis persecuted many priests who publicised the encyclical, they did not declare Catholicism an outlawed religion in toto.
    Anyway, see http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0684815303/104-5159076-2635142?v=search-inside&keywords=nazi for what Woodward says — I hope that “search text” link works: you shouldn’t need a paid subscription.

  8. Tom R says:

    Kenneth Woodward’s book Making Saints http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684815303/ref=pd_sxp_f/104-5159076-2635142 has an interesting discussion of this dilemma in a specifically Roman Catholic context, given that the RC criteria for “sainthood” include martyrdom. The Roman Emperors and the Protestant English monarchs were considered obvious cases of killing/ persecuting Catholics qua Catholics, but Nazi Germany was a borderline case because officially Nazism was not opposed to Catholicism as such. (In hindsight, it is claimed with good reason that Mit Brennender Sorge “declares war” on Nazism from the Catholic side, but although the Nazis persecuted many priests who publicised the encyclical, they did not declare Catholicism an outlawed religion in toto.
    Anyway, see http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0684815303/104-5159076-2635142?v=search-inside&keywords=nazi for what Woodward says — I hope that “search text” link works: you shouldn’t need a paid subscription.

  9. Defensor says:

    Bonhoeffer was no martyr. He was executed for his complicity in trying to kill Hitler.
    If he wouldn’t have done this, would he be as highly touted by some today? I doubt it.
    Herman Sasse is far superior to Bonhoeffer.

  10. Defensor says:

    Bonhoeffer was no martyr. He was executed for his complicity in trying to kill Hitler.
    If he wouldn’t have done this, would he be as highly touted by some today? I doubt it.
    Herman Sasse is far superior to Bonhoeffer.

  11. Defensor says:

    Bonhoeffer was no martyr. He was executed for his complicity in trying to kill Hitler.
    If he wouldn’t have done this, would he be as highly touted by some today? I doubt it.
    Herman Sasse is far superior to Bonhoeffer.

  12. Defensor says:

    Bonhoeffer was no martyr. He was executed for his complicity in trying to kill Hitler.
    If he wouldn’t have done this, would he be as highly touted by some today? I doubt it.
    Herman Sasse is far superior to Bonhoeffer.

  13. Atwood says:

    Interestingly, in Islam the concept of martyr (shahid, literally “witness”) would definitely include Bonhoeffer. In fact, I’ve noticed in reading Islamic histories, that pretty much any time a man dies in battle in a just war (against the infidels or against a Muslim tyrant or invader) or is executed as a result of a conspiracy of bad guys (e.g. a good vizier gets slandered to the king as an embezzler and gets the axe, so the bad guys can take his place and hike the taxes) is said to be martyred.
    And in the East Roman Empire, the emperor Nicephorus Phocas in the 960s declared that all soldiers who died in his battles to recover Christian lands lost in Cilicia and Syria were martyrs. (The response of the Orthodox church is not recorded).
    About Rome, it’s also worth noting that Christians were noticeably less political than the Jews. In fact, one of the litmus tests of Jews vs. Christians was, Jews participate in revolts against Rome, Christians don’t. Also, it’s worth noting Jews refused to burn incense to Caesar, but that was OK, Judaism was a licit religion because it was the way of their ancestors. We often forget that it was the newness and conversion-basis of Christianity that made its legal position so weak in Rome.

  14. Atwood says:

    Interestingly, in Islam the concept of martyr (shahid, literally “witness”) would definitely include Bonhoeffer. In fact, I’ve noticed in reading Islamic histories, that pretty much any time a man dies in battle in a just war (against the infidels or against a Muslim tyrant or invader) or is executed as a result of a conspiracy of bad guys (e.g. a good vizier gets slandered to the king as an embezzler and gets the axe, so the bad guys can take his place and hike the taxes) is said to be martyred.
    And in the East Roman Empire, the emperor Nicephorus Phocas in the 960s declared that all soldiers who died in his battles to recover Christian lands lost in Cilicia and Syria were martyrs. (The response of the Orthodox church is not recorded).
    About Rome, it’s also worth noting that Christians were noticeably less political than the Jews. In fact, one of the litmus tests of Jews vs. Christians was, Jews participate in revolts against Rome, Christians don’t. Also, it’s worth noting Jews refused to burn incense to Caesar, but that was OK, Judaism was a licit religion because it was the way of their ancestors. We often forget that it was the newness and conversion-basis of Christianity that made its legal position so weak in Rome.

  15. Atwood says:

    Interestingly, in Islam the concept of martyr (shahid, literally “witness”) would definitely include Bonhoeffer. In fact, I’ve noticed in reading Islamic histories, that pretty much any time a man dies in battle in a just war (against the infidels or against a Muslim tyrant or invader) or is executed as a result of a conspiracy of bad guys (e.g. a good vizier gets slandered to the king as an embezzler and gets the axe, so the bad guys can take his place and hike the taxes) is said to be martyred.
    And in the East Roman Empire, the emperor Nicephorus Phocas in the 960s declared that all soldiers who died in his battles to recover Christian lands lost in Cilicia and Syria were martyrs. (The response of the Orthodox church is not recorded).
    About Rome, it’s also worth noting that Christians were noticeably less political than the Jews. In fact, one of the litmus tests of Jews vs. Christians was, Jews participate in revolts against Rome, Christians don’t. Also, it’s worth noting Jews refused to burn incense to Caesar, but that was OK, Judaism was a licit religion because it was the way of their ancestors. We often forget that it was the newness and conversion-basis of Christianity that made its legal position so weak in Rome.

  16. Atwood says:

    Interestingly, in Islam the concept of martyr (shahid, literally “witness”) would definitely include Bonhoeffer. In fact, I’ve noticed in reading Islamic histories, that pretty much any time a man dies in battle in a just war (against the infidels or against a Muslim tyrant or invader) or is executed as a result of a conspiracy of bad guys (e.g. a good vizier gets slandered to the king as an embezzler and gets the axe, so the bad guys can take his place and hike the taxes) is said to be martyred.
    And in the East Roman Empire, the emperor Nicephorus Phocas in the 960s declared that all soldiers who died in his battles to recover Christian lands lost in Cilicia and Syria were martyrs. (The response of the Orthodox church is not recorded).
    About Rome, it’s also worth noting that Christians were noticeably less political than the Jews. In fact, one of the litmus tests of Jews vs. Christians was, Jews participate in revolts against Rome, Christians don’t. Also, it’s worth noting Jews refused to burn incense to Caesar, but that was OK, Judaism was a licit religion because it was the way of their ancestors. We often forget that it was the newness and conversion-basis of Christianity that made its legal position so weak in Rome.

  17. Atwood says:

    If you’re asking me what is the POINT of all those random facts, I guess it would be, other people have already conflated political deaths and religious martyrdom and the result is usually a watering down of the concept of martyrdom, often to the point of meaninglessness. and that the subversive nature of the Chrisitans in Rome can be exagerrated. See my post on the Wheat and Tares in HWS– Tertullian speaks of the prayers of the church for the emperor being what keeps the empire from falling and the apocalypse from happening sooner–and he doesn’t want those things to happen because it would be so terrible. One thing that strikes me about the Revelation is how JEWISH it is in tone and feeling; and that includes its attitude to Rome. The Gentile converts, even under persecution, felt differently.

  18. Atwood says:

    If you’re asking me what is the POINT of all those random facts, I guess it would be, other people have already conflated political deaths and religious martyrdom and the result is usually a watering down of the concept of martyrdom, often to the point of meaninglessness. and that the subversive nature of the Chrisitans in Rome can be exagerrated. See my post on the Wheat and Tares in HWS– Tertullian speaks of the prayers of the church for the emperor being what keeps the empire from falling and the apocalypse from happening sooner–and he doesn’t want those things to happen because it would be so terrible. One thing that strikes me about the Revelation is how JEWISH it is in tone and feeling; and that includes its attitude to Rome. The Gentile converts, even under persecution, felt differently.

  19. Atwood says:

    If you’re asking me what is the POINT of all those random facts, I guess it would be, other people have already conflated political deaths and religious martyrdom and the result is usually a watering down of the concept of martyrdom, often to the point of meaninglessness. and that the subversive nature of the Chrisitans in Rome can be exagerrated. See my post on the Wheat and Tares in HWS– Tertullian speaks of the prayers of the church for the emperor being what keeps the empire from falling and the apocalypse from happening sooner–and he doesn’t want those things to happen because it would be so terrible. One thing that strikes me about the Revelation is how JEWISH it is in tone and feeling; and that includes its attitude to Rome. The Gentile converts, even under persecution, felt differently.

  20. Atwood says:

    If you’re asking me what is the POINT of all those random facts, I guess it would be, other people have already conflated political deaths and religious martyrdom and the result is usually a watering down of the concept of martyrdom, often to the point of meaninglessness. and that the subversive nature of the Chrisitans in Rome can be exagerrated. See my post on the Wheat and Tares in HWS– Tertullian speaks of the prayers of the church for the emperor being what keeps the empire from falling and the apocalypse from happening sooner–and he doesn’t want those things to happen because it would be so terrible. One thing that strikes me about the Revelation is how JEWISH it is in tone and feeling; and that includes its attitude to Rome. The Gentile converts, even under persecution, felt differently.

  21. greg bourke says:

    What is this “pure martyr” who is slaughtered for the singular affront of “Christianity”? Rather than being a pure action of rejecting of Christ surely the murders of many, not all, certified martyrs are complicated in the perpetrator’s mind by politics, social upheaval, military orders, and xenophobia.
    If this is the case, then I think the bomb-plotting Bonhoefferm, whom I like, is a martyr… but then what does that make Guy Fawkes?

  22. greg bourke says:

    What is this “pure martyr” who is slaughtered for the singular affront of “Christianity”? Rather than being a pure action of rejecting of Christ surely the murders of many, not all, certified martyrs are complicated in the perpetrator’s mind by politics, social upheaval, military orders, and xenophobia.
    If this is the case, then I think the bomb-plotting Bonhoefferm, whom I like, is a martyr… but then what does that make Guy Fawkes?

  23. greg bourke says:

    What is this “pure martyr” who is slaughtered for the singular affront of “Christianity”? Rather than being a pure action of rejecting of Christ surely the murders of many, not all, certified martyrs are complicated in the perpetrator’s mind by politics, social upheaval, military orders, and xenophobia.
    If this is the case, then I think the bomb-plotting Bonhoefferm, whom I like, is a martyr… but then what does that make Guy Fawkes?

  24. greg bourke says:

    What is this “pure martyr” who is slaughtered for the singular affront of “Christianity”? Rather than being a pure action of rejecting of Christ surely the murders of many, not all, certified martyrs are complicated in the perpetrator’s mind by politics, social upheaval, military orders, and xenophobia.
    If this is the case, then I think the bomb-plotting Bonhoefferm, whom I like, is a martyr… but then what does that make Guy Fawkes?

  25. John H says:

    Hopefully I will find/make time for more posts on this issue of the political nature of the gospel, having been reading some very interesting material by Wright on this subject. This includes some thoughts on how Christians could (on the one hand) firmly insist that Jesus is Lord rather than Caesar – a very politically-charged statement – but at the same time pray for the civil authorities, including Caesar.
    However, Wright’s point is not that the Jews were political and the Christians weren’t, but that the Christians were political in a different way: one that was actually more radical than the politics of Jewish rebels taking up arms against Rome, but expressed in a way that did not involve the use of political violence.
    As for Bonhoeffer, it is easier to see him as a martyr when we recognise his involvement in both the political resistance and then the plots against Hitler as the culmination of a decade-long process in which his Christian convictions had led him first into the Confessing Church and then into greater political involvement. But I agree there is considerable ambiguity.
    The comparison with Roman Catholics killed under Elizabeth is an interesting one. My understanding is that Roman Catholics were not generally killed by Elizabeth for “purely” religious reasons (unlike with, say, Mary) but because of the political threat which they represented, especially after the Papal Bull(s?) that called on Roman Catholics to overthrow Elizabeth. Not that that makes it OK, of course.
    And Elizabeth wasn’t Hitler. Even Henry wasn’t Hitler (though some have argued that he was England’s Stalin).
    Anyway, Guy Fawkes was framed. 😉

  26. John H says:

    Hopefully I will find/make time for more posts on this issue of the political nature of the gospel, having been reading some very interesting material by Wright on this subject. This includes some thoughts on how Christians could (on the one hand) firmly insist that Jesus is Lord rather than Caesar – a very politically-charged statement – but at the same time pray for the civil authorities, including Caesar.
    However, Wright’s point is not that the Jews were political and the Christians weren’t, but that the Christians were political in a different way: one that was actually more radical than the politics of Jewish rebels taking up arms against Rome, but expressed in a way that did not involve the use of political violence.
    As for Bonhoeffer, it is easier to see him as a martyr when we recognise his involvement in both the political resistance and then the plots against Hitler as the culmination of a decade-long process in which his Christian convictions had led him first into the Confessing Church and then into greater political involvement. But I agree there is considerable ambiguity.
    The comparison with Roman Catholics killed under Elizabeth is an interesting one. My understanding is that Roman Catholics were not generally killed by Elizabeth for “purely” religious reasons (unlike with, say, Mary) but because of the political threat which they represented, especially after the Papal Bull(s?) that called on Roman Catholics to overthrow Elizabeth. Not that that makes it OK, of course.
    And Elizabeth wasn’t Hitler. Even Henry wasn’t Hitler (though some have argued that he was England’s Stalin).
    Anyway, Guy Fawkes was framed. 😉

  27. John H says:

    Hopefully I will find/make time for more posts on this issue of the political nature of the gospel, having been reading some very interesting material by Wright on this subject. This includes some thoughts on how Christians could (on the one hand) firmly insist that Jesus is Lord rather than Caesar – a very politically-charged statement – but at the same time pray for the civil authorities, including Caesar.
    However, Wright’s point is not that the Jews were political and the Christians weren’t, but that the Christians were political in a different way: one that was actually more radical than the politics of Jewish rebels taking up arms against Rome, but expressed in a way that did not involve the use of political violence.
    As for Bonhoeffer, it is easier to see him as a martyr when we recognise his involvement in both the political resistance and then the plots against Hitler as the culmination of a decade-long process in which his Christian convictions had led him first into the Confessing Church and then into greater political involvement. But I agree there is considerable ambiguity.
    The comparison with Roman Catholics killed under Elizabeth is an interesting one. My understanding is that Roman Catholics were not generally killed by Elizabeth for “purely” religious reasons (unlike with, say, Mary) but because of the political threat which they represented, especially after the Papal Bull(s?) that called on Roman Catholics to overthrow Elizabeth. Not that that makes it OK, of course.
    And Elizabeth wasn’t Hitler. Even Henry wasn’t Hitler (though some have argued that he was England’s Stalin).
    Anyway, Guy Fawkes was framed. 😉

  28. John H says:

    Hopefully I will find/make time for more posts on this issue of the political nature of the gospel, having been reading some very interesting material by Wright on this subject. This includes some thoughts on how Christians could (on the one hand) firmly insist that Jesus is Lord rather than Caesar – a very politically-charged statement – but at the same time pray for the civil authorities, including Caesar.
    However, Wright’s point is not that the Jews were political and the Christians weren’t, but that the Christians were political in a different way: one that was actually more radical than the politics of Jewish rebels taking up arms against Rome, but expressed in a way that did not involve the use of political violence.
    As for Bonhoeffer, it is easier to see him as a martyr when we recognise his involvement in both the political resistance and then the plots against Hitler as the culmination of a decade-long process in which his Christian convictions had led him first into the Confessing Church and then into greater political involvement. But I agree there is considerable ambiguity.
    The comparison with Roman Catholics killed under Elizabeth is an interesting one. My understanding is that Roman Catholics were not generally killed by Elizabeth for “purely” religious reasons (unlike with, say, Mary) but because of the political threat which they represented, especially after the Papal Bull(s?) that called on Roman Catholics to overthrow Elizabeth. Not that that makes it OK, of course.
    And Elizabeth wasn’t Hitler. Even Henry wasn’t Hitler (though some have argued that he was England’s Stalin).
    Anyway, Guy Fawkes was framed. 😉

  29. Were the first Christian martyrs really executed for “religious” reasons, or for “political” ones (as if those categories were so easily separable in the first century Roman Empire)?
    Aye, there’s the rub! Does anyone read Eric Voegelin anymore? Not that I’m necessarily advocating his Grand Theory but he does perhaps speak directly to this question in a very insighful manner. Christianity is de facto the de-divinization of the pagan political sphere. The “religious” reasons and the “political” ones are two sides of a coin.
    Anyway, Guy Fawkes was framed.
    Hie thee back to Oxford where you belong.

  30. Were the first Christian martyrs really executed for “religious” reasons, or for “political” ones (as if those categories were so easily separable in the first century Roman Empire)?
    Aye, there’s the rub! Does anyone read Eric Voegelin anymore? Not that I’m necessarily advocating his Grand Theory but he does perhaps speak directly to this question in a very insighful manner. Christianity is de facto the de-divinization of the pagan political sphere. The “religious” reasons and the “political” ones are two sides of a coin.
    Anyway, Guy Fawkes was framed.
    Hie thee back to Oxford where you belong.

  31. Were the first Christian martyrs really executed for “religious” reasons, or for “political” ones (as if those categories were so easily separable in the first century Roman Empire)?
    Aye, there’s the rub! Does anyone read Eric Voegelin anymore? Not that I’m necessarily advocating his Grand Theory but he does perhaps speak directly to this question in a very insighful manner. Christianity is de facto the de-divinization of the pagan political sphere. The “religious” reasons and the “political” ones are two sides of a coin.
    Anyway, Guy Fawkes was framed.
    Hie thee back to Oxford where you belong.

  32. Were the first Christian martyrs really executed for “religious” reasons, or for “political” ones (as if those categories were so easily separable in the first century Roman Empire)?
    Aye, there’s the rub! Does anyone read Eric Voegelin anymore? Not that I’m necessarily advocating his Grand Theory but he does perhaps speak directly to this question in a very insighful manner. Christianity is de facto the de-divinization of the pagan political sphere. The “religious” reasons and the “political” ones are two sides of a coin.
    Anyway, Guy Fawkes was framed.
    Hie thee back to Oxford where you belong.

  33. (Oh, and while you’re there say ‘hello’ to our lads in the Mission Society for me 🙂 )

  34. (Oh, and while you’re there say ‘hello’ to our lads in the Mission Society for me 🙂 )

  35. (Oh, and while you’re there say ‘hello’ to our lads in the Mission Society for me 🙂 )

  36. (Oh, and while you’re there say ‘hello’ to our lads in the Mission Society for me 🙂 )

  37. Jordan says:

    “A martyr being someone who is killed purely and simply because of the fact that she or he is a Christian.”
    The relevant Webster’s dictionary entry for a martyr is this: “One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.”
    Strictly speaking then, Bonhoeffer wouldn’t fit this definition, since he wasn’t clearly and explicitly given a choice by the Nazis, e.g. “Renounce Christ or we’ll kill you.”
    I would argue, however, that Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the plot, when placed against the arc of his involvement with and eventual estrangement from the Confessing church, is an act of Christian conviction and faithfulness to Christ.
    In a broader sense of martyrdom, then, Bonhoeffer would easily meet the requirements of someone who is killed because of their Christian beliefs as expressed in their lives and actions.
    A number of factors make such an assessment far from unambiguous, however, especially given Bonhoeffer’s resistance to justifying or rationalizing his own actions.

  38. Jordan says:

    “A martyr being someone who is killed purely and simply because of the fact that she or he is a Christian.”
    The relevant Webster’s dictionary entry for a martyr is this: “One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.”
    Strictly speaking then, Bonhoeffer wouldn’t fit this definition, since he wasn’t clearly and explicitly given a choice by the Nazis, e.g. “Renounce Christ or we’ll kill you.”
    I would argue, however, that Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the plot, when placed against the arc of his involvement with and eventual estrangement from the Confessing church, is an act of Christian conviction and faithfulness to Christ.
    In a broader sense of martyrdom, then, Bonhoeffer would easily meet the requirements of someone who is killed because of their Christian beliefs as expressed in their lives and actions.
    A number of factors make such an assessment far from unambiguous, however, especially given Bonhoeffer’s resistance to justifying or rationalizing his own actions.

  39. Jordan says:

    “A martyr being someone who is killed purely and simply because of the fact that she or he is a Christian.”
    The relevant Webster’s dictionary entry for a martyr is this: “One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.”
    Strictly speaking then, Bonhoeffer wouldn’t fit this definition, since he wasn’t clearly and explicitly given a choice by the Nazis, e.g. “Renounce Christ or we’ll kill you.”
    I would argue, however, that Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the plot, when placed against the arc of his involvement with and eventual estrangement from the Confessing church, is an act of Christian conviction and faithfulness to Christ.
    In a broader sense of martyrdom, then, Bonhoeffer would easily meet the requirements of someone who is killed because of their Christian beliefs as expressed in their lives and actions.
    A number of factors make such an assessment far from unambiguous, however, especially given Bonhoeffer’s resistance to justifying or rationalizing his own actions.

  40. Jordan says:

    “A martyr being someone who is killed purely and simply because of the fact that she or he is a Christian.”
    The relevant Webster’s dictionary entry for a martyr is this: “One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.”
    Strictly speaking then, Bonhoeffer wouldn’t fit this definition, since he wasn’t clearly and explicitly given a choice by the Nazis, e.g. “Renounce Christ or we’ll kill you.”
    I would argue, however, that Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the plot, when placed against the arc of his involvement with and eventual estrangement from the Confessing church, is an act of Christian conviction and faithfulness to Christ.
    In a broader sense of martyrdom, then, Bonhoeffer would easily meet the requirements of someone who is killed because of their Christian beliefs as expressed in their lives and actions.
    A number of factors make such an assessment far from unambiguous, however, especially given Bonhoeffer’s resistance to justifying or rationalizing his own actions.

  41. John H says:

    Jordan – I think you’re right that its the overall arc of Bonhoeffer’s career that constitutes his “witness”, rather than the narrow circumstances of his death.
    I thank God, however, that we have a definition of martyrdom that makes Bonhoeffer’s case “far from unambiguous”, rather the distorted version described by Chris Atwood above.

  42. John H says:

    Jordan – I think you’re right that its the overall arc of Bonhoeffer’s career that constitutes his “witness”, rather than the narrow circumstances of his death.
    I thank God, however, that we have a definition of martyrdom that makes Bonhoeffer’s case “far from unambiguous”, rather the distorted version described by Chris Atwood above.

  43. John H says:

    Jordan – I think you’re right that its the overall arc of Bonhoeffer’s career that constitutes his “witness”, rather than the narrow circumstances of his death.
    I thank God, however, that we have a definition of martyrdom that makes Bonhoeffer’s case “far from unambiguous”, rather the distorted version described by Chris Atwood above.

  44. John H says:

    Jordan – I think you’re right that its the overall arc of Bonhoeffer’s career that constitutes his “witness”, rather than the narrow circumstances of his death.
    I thank God, however, that we have a definition of martyrdom that makes Bonhoeffer’s case “far from unambiguous”, rather the distorted version described by Chris Atwood above.

  45. Larry says:

    Let me say this to leave no doubt about my feelings, after my post at the top of the replies above: Whether or not he meets the technical definition of a martyr, Bonhoeffer was a giant of the faith and a great man, a courageous man who loved his Lord and followed his principles to the end, at the cost of his own life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was truly a witness to Jesus Christ.

  46. Larry says:

    Let me say this to leave no doubt about my feelings, after my post at the top of the replies above: Whether or not he meets the technical definition of a martyr, Bonhoeffer was a giant of the faith and a great man, a courageous man who loved his Lord and followed his principles to the end, at the cost of his own life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was truly a witness to Jesus Christ.

  47. Larry says:

    Let me say this to leave no doubt about my feelings, after my post at the top of the replies above: Whether or not he meets the technical definition of a martyr, Bonhoeffer was a giant of the faith and a great man, a courageous man who loved his Lord and followed his principles to the end, at the cost of his own life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was truly a witness to Jesus Christ.

  48. Larry says:

    Let me say this to leave no doubt about my feelings, after my post at the top of the replies above: Whether or not he meets the technical definition of a martyr, Bonhoeffer was a giant of the faith and a great man, a courageous man who loved his Lord and followed his principles to the end, at the cost of his own life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was truly a witness to Jesus Christ.

  49. Jordan says:

    Larry and John H, yes I agree. In the original sense of the Greek word “marturon,” or “witness,” Bonhoeffer was just that. On tomorrow’s date, July 23, 1933, the day of the church elections in which the German Christians would ascend to dominance, Bonhoeffer preached a powerful and brave sermon.

  50. Jordan says:

    Larry and John H, yes I agree. In the original sense of the Greek word “marturon,” or “witness,” Bonhoeffer was just that. On tomorrow’s date, July 23, 1933, the day of the church elections in which the German Christians would ascend to dominance, Bonhoeffer preached a powerful and brave sermon.

  51. Jordan says:

    Larry and John H, yes I agree. In the original sense of the Greek word “marturon,” or “witness,” Bonhoeffer was just that. On tomorrow’s date, July 23, 1933, the day of the church elections in which the German Christians would ascend to dominance, Bonhoeffer preached a powerful and brave sermon.

  52. Jordan says:

    Larry and John H, yes I agree. In the original sense of the Greek word “marturon,” or “witness,” Bonhoeffer was just that. On tomorrow’s date, July 23, 1933, the day of the church elections in which the German Christians would ascend to dominance, Bonhoeffer preached a powerful and brave sermon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s