Monday, August 27, 2012

Character traits of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I've been reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. I'm on page 81 of a book that has over 500 pages.

There has been many things that have moved me and inspired me in the 80 pages that I've taken in, but today I'd like to share some of the remarkable character traits that Eric Metaxas has gleaned from Bonhoeffer's family friends, and college professors.

Now keep in mind that these character traits that I'd like to share were ascribed to Bonhoeffer when he was still just a teenager or a very young man. Bonhoeffer received his doctorate degree in theology at the age of 21. He had already decided to become a theologian as a young teen, but if you read the book you will find that God began to give Bonhoeffer a pastoral heart and eventually he went into the pastorate.

Listed below are just a few of the character traits that were used to describe a young precoucius Bonhoeffer:

1. A fellow member of the Igel-pronounced eagle-means hedgehog (this was Bonhoeffer's fraternity), described him as secure and self-confident, not vain and able to handle criticism.

2. Emmi Bonhoeffer describes her brother as "not being able to stand empty talk" now this was the description of a 13 year old boy.\

3. A fellow student at Berlin's school of theology Helmuth Goes describes Bonhoeffer as a free, critical and independent theological thinker. Helmuth tells how Bonhoeffer would go up against the then living legend of the theology department Adolph von Harnack---Helmuth says, " I had the experience of hearing a young fair-haired student contradict the revered historian his Exellency von Harnack, contradict him politely but clearly on positive theological grounds. Harnack answered, but the student [Bonhoeffer] contradicted again and again."

4. Eric Metaxas describes Bonhoeffer as having an "open intelligence" which allowed him to think and understand the liberal historical critical method, but maintain a more orthodox position. Metaxas notes that because of Bonhoeffer's self-critical intellectual integrity and confidence he could sometimes come off as being arrogant.

5. Metaxas tells us that many who knew Bonhoeffer described him as having a bit of distance between himself and others, some even described him as being aloof. He was described as unquestionably intense and always measured in his dealings with others. He never took others lightly, even if they took themselves lightly.

6. When Bonhoeffer went to Barcelona to take a job as an assistant pastor he was struck with the huge cultural difference from the prestigious academia of Berlin university. Bonhoeffer was shocked to see such an intellectual dullness and such a languorous atmosphere that pushed hard against Bonhoeffer's hyperactive mind and personality. But Bonhoeffer knew that he must enter the lives and, to some extent, the lifestyles of the people he was charged with serving.

I thought that this was worth sharing with you today---it is always a good thing to put strong character traits out in front of us and then pursue them with great vigor.

I'd encourage you to get the book and read of a man that died at such a young age (39) by the evil Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer's life could certainly go in the Hebrews hall of faith chapter.

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