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Dietrich: Bonhoeffer and the Theology of a Preaching Life
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Dietrich: Bonhoeffer and the Theology of a Preaching Life

Author: Michael Pasquarello, III
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) remains one of the most enigmatic figures of the twentieth century. His life evokes fascination, eliciting attention from a wide and diverse audience. Bonhoeffer is rightly remembered as theologian and philosopher, ethicist and political thinker, wartime activist and resister, church leader and pastor, martyr and saint. These many sides to Bonhoeffer do not give due prominence to the aspect of his life that wove all the disparate parts into a coherent whole: Bonhoeffer as preacher. 

In Dietrich: Bonhoeffer and the Theology of a Preaching Life Michael Pasquarello traces the arc of Bonhoeffer’s public career, demonstrating how, at every stage, Bonhoeffer focused upon preaching, both in terms of its ecclesial practice and the theology that gave it life. Pasquarello chronicles a period of preparation—Bonhoeffer’s study of Luther and Barth, his struggle to reconcile practical ministry with preaching, and his discovery of preaching’s ethic of resistance. Next Pasquarello describes Bonhoeffer’s maturation as a preacher—his crafting a homiletic theology, as well as preaching’s relationship to politics and public confession. Pasquarello follows Bonhoeffer’s forced itinerancy until he became, ultimately, a preacher without any congregation at all. In the end, Bonhoeffer’s life was his best sermon. 

Dietrich presents Bonhoeffer as an exemplar in the preaching tradition of the church. His exercise of theological and homiletical wisdom in particular times, places, and circumstances—Berlin, Barcelona, Harlem, London, Finkenwalde—reveals the particular kind of intellectual, spiritual, and moral formation required for faithful, concrete witness to the gospel in the practice of proclamation, both then and now. Bonhoeffer’s story as a pastor and teacher of preachers provides a historical example of how the integration of theology and ministry is the fruit of wisdom cultivated through a life of discipleship with others in prayer, study, scriptural meditation, and mutual service.


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