My post on Dietrich Bonhoeffer generated some interesting comments, mostly outside of my blog comment section. One was a link to something John Piper wrote back in 2008, before the Bonhoeffer mania was in full swing, asking the question: Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer Wrong to Plot Against Hitler's Life? After a quick trip into the idea of "just war" he concludes his brief notes with these thoughts...
I want to just step back and say that I'm going to be real slow to condemn Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I couldn't see myself, at this point, in any situation that I can think of where I want to be involved in an assassination plot. That's because of the things that are governing my life biblically, from "Thou shalt not kill," to "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," to "demonstrate the Lord's rule in your life through all meekness and patience in taking whatever suffering comes your way."
I'm going to just try and be real slow to condemn Bonhoeffer here. In general I would say we do better in witnessing to Christ by being willing to suffer and not kill than if we go the other route.
I think that strikes the right tone. "Just war" theory doesn't apply here (nor does it ever truly apply to a follower of Christ in my opinion) but Piper is not interested in condemnatioon. Like Piper, I don’t condemn Bonhoeffer either. In those circumstances what would I have done? I don’t know so this is all speculation.
My intent is not to slander Bonhoeffer or sit in judgment of him but to study him as an example of how we should react when faced with difficult circumstances. So while I can’t second guess Bonhoeffer, what I can do is look back with the benefit of hindsight and the safety of living in a country where our greatest danger is apathy rather than Nazis. For me the lesson of Bonhoeffer is not that when push comes to shove we should be willing to put down a mad dog but that we are often most tested when our most cherished values are under assault. For Bonhoeffer, from what I am reading, Hitler was not just a madman persecuting Jews but also someone who was sullying the very concept of what it means to be German. He had to be stopped for the sake of Germany.What do we do when we are faced with threats to our cherished American values? What are we wiling to do to "defend" them? Do we submit and trust God, as Paul said we should under the reign of Caesar, or do we take matters into our own hands?
I think Piper has the right of it in his cautious but firm approach. Our witness as Christians is better suited to a willingness to suffer and die for the sake of the Gospel than to kill for the sake of anything else. As much as we cherish freedom and liberty and even our lives, those are not the Gospel and they often must be set aside for the sake of the one thing that truly matters.