Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer Wrong to Plot Against Hitler's Life?
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrong to plot against Hitler's life?
Let me begin by distinguishing private citizen activity and military activity.
The state, according to Romans 13, is given the sword to reward the good and to punish the evil. That would include, I think, punishing the evil of aggressors who attempt to destroy your land, your town, or your culture. Insofar as you're a policeman or a soldier, it is not a sin to shoot and kill, as long as the cause of the war is just.
I know that's a huge issue, but I think the Just War theory is an appropriate biblical reflection on which wars are warranted and which aren't. Almost everybody agrees that in World War II it was right for the Allies to engage in violence against the aggressors, Germany and Japan.
If you're in a war and an aggressor is destroying thousands of lives and taking lands and states that were not his by law, and militaries are mounted to resist that aggressor, probably there are going to be some ambiguous issues. For example, if you are part of the Delta Force or the Navy Seals and there are ten of you, and you are commissioned to go in and take somebody out, is that military or is it personal?
I want to be open to the fact that there may be a Christian in that band of people who does right if he is persuaded that his involvement is helping save thousands of lives.
Now Bonhoeffer was not a military actor, I suppose. I don't know the story exactly. But he was somehow working towards this assassination plot and was discovered. So the question is, Is there enough connection between the role of a band of citizens functioning as a military here—because of the horrendous nature of the evil—that it could have been warranted?
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.