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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (dēˈtrĭkh bônˈhöfər) [key], 1906–45, German Protestant theologian. Bonhoeffer, influenced early by the thinking of the young Karl Barth, urged a conformation to the form of Jesus as the suffering servant in a total commitment of the self to the lives of others. His ethical thinking led him to become an outspoken leader in the breakaway Confessing Church in Germany that openly declared its theological oppositon to Nazism in the Barmen Declaration of 1934. After the state cracked down on the church, Bonhoeffer continued his ministry underground and eventually became involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler; he was imprisoned for two years and hanged for his role in the plot. His writings, which have had considerable influence on postwar ethics and theology, include The Cost of Discipleship (tr. 1948), Prisoner for God: Letters and Papers from Prison (tr. 1953), and Ethics (tr. 1965).

See biographies by A. Dumas (1971), E. Bethge (rev. tr. 1999), and E. Metaxas (2010); studies by L. Rasmussen (1989) and R. Wind (1992); M. F. Marty, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison: A Biography (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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