[In Our Time] Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

27/09/2018 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=56021540
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p06m8c6y.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and life of the German theologian, born in Breslau/Wroclaw in 1906 and killed in the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 9th April 1945. Bonhoeffer developed ideas about the role of the Church in the secular world, in particular Germany after the Nazis took power in 1933 and demanded the Churches’ support. He strongly opposed anti-Semitism and, with a role in the Military Intelligence Department, took part in the resistance, plotting to kill Hitler and meeting with contacts in the Allies. Bonhoeffer’s ideas on Christian ethics and the relationship between Christianity and humanism spread more widely from the 1960s with the discovery of unpublished works, including those written in prison as he awaited execution.


Stephen Plant
Dean and Runcie Fellow at Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge

Eleanor McLaughlin
Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at the University of Winchester and Lecturer in Ethics at Regent’s Park College at the University of Oxford


Tom Greggs
Marischal Chair of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen

Producer: Simon Tillotson

This was one of those ideal podcast episodes, about a subject I knew absolutely nothing at all about, and which was extremely interesting. The things which interested me the most:

  • Bonhoeffer being a friend of Reinhold Niebuhr, who came to my consciousness last year thanks to all the drama surrounding Donald Trump and James Comey
  • The opposition by German churches to the Nazi party, which did not end up being very consequential, but which I hadn’t known about, and which adds some shades of grey into that period of history
  • Hitler wanting all churches to swear personal allegiance to me got me thinking – was he just that desperate to have allegiance from everybody, or did he see them as genuinely important political players? And what are the parallels that play out in India, if any?
  • Hearing about theologians talking about the ‘death of god’ or man growing past god, and about a world without god made me impressed that you could have theology without god, made we wish I read more theology, and also reminded me of that Saki quote about belief in god not being important in the Church of England any more. (Or was it Wilde?). I also wonder if Indian theology also gets into such fine grained thought, and ended up mentally grumbling about how much of Indian thought ends up being half baked because of people’s obsession with their own ideas and not wanting to see what other people have done around that.

Listen Date: 2018-10-02

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