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.
Preface and Acknowledgments
Part I: Preparation Chapter 1. Learning a Theology of Preaching from Luther and Barth: Berlin 1925–1927 Chapter 2. Reconciling Pastoral Ministry with Preaching: Barcelona 1928–1929 Chapter 3. The Discovery of a Black Jesus: New York 1929–1931
Part II: Preaching Chapter 4. Preaching as Theology: Berlin 1931–1932 Chapter 5. Preaching as Politics: London 1932–1935 Chapter 6. Preaching as Public Confession: Finkenwalde 1935–1937
Part III: Consequences Chapter 7. A Forced Itinerary: 1937–1939 Chapter 8. Preaching without Words: 1940–1945
Michael Pasquarello III is the Methodist Chair of Divinity and director of the Robert Smith Jr. Preaching Institutue at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School.
Michael Pasquarello has captured what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the ‘strange glory’ of preaching. In the process he has produced the best book in English on the relation of Bonhoeffer’s preaching to his theology. From his early encounters with Barth and Luther to the mysterious silences of the concentration camps, Bonhoeffer still helps us see what preaching was meant to be. Serious preachers will be thankful for Pasquarello’s book.
~Richard Lischer, author of Reading the Parables
In his Large Catechism, Luther spoke of the Holy Spirit’s work as bringing people into the community of Christ where the gospel is proclaimed to them to evoke and sustain faith and obedience. Dietrich Bonhoeffer recovered this forgotten ecclesiology of Luther, as Michael Pasquarello amply documents in this rich account of Bonhoeffer’s preaching through the troubled years of his too brief life. Seeing Bonhoeffer afresh as a homiletical theologian provides the contemporary reader with a vision of the church as the Spirit’s necessary condition for proclaiming and hearing the gospel in circumstances in which Christianity is no longer privileged.
~Paul R. Hinlicky, Tise Professor of Lutheran Studies, Roanoke College
This study of Bonhoeffer’s sermons in the larger context of his theological work is long overdue. Michael Pasquarello makes a convincing case that Bonhoeffer’s sermons should be included in any study and interpretation of his theology. By exploring Bonhoeffer’s development as a preacher in that larger theological context, Dietrich offers insights that can enrich our understanding of Bonhoeffer’s thought.
~Victoria J. Barnett, General Editor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English Edition
Pasquarello’s engagement with Bonhoeffer’s post-university preaching life from 1931-1937 not only provides excellent theological analysis of Bonhoeffer’s sermons, but unearths the ways Bonhoeffer’s historical context informed both his homiletics and hermeneutics
~Matthew K. Jones, Reading Religion
Pasquarello strikes a commendable balance between breadth—providing the bigger picture of Bonhoeffer’s career as a preacher—and depth, carefully analyzing his homiletical theology and individual sermons. The writing style is engaging in both allowing Bonhoeffer’s voice to take centre stage and in offering connections, commentary, and conclusions that demonstrate clear authorial grasp of the subject matter.
~Javier A. Garcia, The Journal of Theological Studies
This book provides important insights and correctives to Bonhoeffer studies and an accessible introduction to Bonhoeffer through his sermons. Especially noteworthy in our own perilous, political times are Bonhoeffer’s insights on preaching during his two extended stays in the United States as well as his scathing critique of the German church and its willingness to subjugate the radical claims of the gospel to the political agenda of his day.
~Paul Galbreath, Interpretation: Journal of Bible and Theology
Preachers and homileticians willing to engage this serious text will find both insight and inspiration to persist in preaching, especially in challenging times.
~Alex Kato, Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society