Bonhoeffer in Harlem

| November 27, 2011 | 4 Comments

112611-BonhoefferDuring this Thanksgiving holiday, I am reading a revelatory biography on one of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (d. April 9, 1945), who, like millions of his fellow German citizens, would become an involuntary victim of Hitler’s fascist government and Nazi genocide literally weeks before the death of Hitler, the fall of Berlin and the triumph of the Allied Powers on V-E Day (May 8). The book is titled, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (2010) by Eric Metaxas.

When Bonhoeffer came to America to do post-graduate studies in theology on a teaching fellowship at New York’s Union Theological Seminary from 1930-31, little did he realize that he was at Ground Zero of an epic war between liberals and fundamentalists, progressives and conservative Christians. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Riverside Church – mere blocks from Union and built specially for him by John D. Rockefeller – was the most famous liberal preacher in America. On the other side, representing traditional faith and described as a fundamentalist, stood Dr. Walter Duncan Buchanan, pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church, six blocks south of Union and built without this existential Faustian bargain with the devil (or Mr. Rockefeller’s money), thank you.

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Category: WND Commentary

About the Author (Author Profile)

Ellis Washington is former editor of the Michigan Law Review and law clerk at The Rutherford Institute. He hosts a radio program Thursdays at 11 a.m. Eastern on 1620 AM in Atlanta. It can be heard online at the Radio Sandy Springs website. His weekly podcasts are available Mondays at The Conservative Beacon. Washington is a graduate of John Marshall Law School and a lecturer and freelance writer on constitutional law, legal history and critical race theory. He has written over a dozen law review articles and several books, including “The Inseparability of Law and Morality: The Constitution, Natural Law and the Rule of Law” (2002). Washington’s latest book is “The Nuremberg Trials: Last Tragedy of the Holocaust.”

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Comments (4)

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  1. Andrew Kishman says:

    Mr Washington,

    I am a student at Union and I really enjoyed reading your article. I actually agree with the criticism you and Bonhoeffer share of liberal Christianity–that we too often prioritize secular knowledge over the saving grace of Christ.

    You seem to assume though that Democratic Socialists, Occupiers, and New Deal Democrats cannot be true Christians. Is it not possible to be primarily guided by the Gospel and conclude, from the teachings of Christ, that you want to devote your life to the furthering of equality in our political system? Why are liberal social causes inherently un-Christian? In the same way that liberal Christians are intolerant when they deny the Christian motives of conservatives, I suspect that you are intolerant of liberal Christians in implicitly denying our Christian motives. Most of us would recoil at the notion of prioritizing Marx over Mathew. That’s not to say, though, that Marx’s insights can’t further Christian causes.

    You would benefit from seeing liberal Christians with as much generosity as you wish liberal Christians would grant fundamentalists.

    I did enjoy your article though. We’d all do well to heed Bonhoeffer’s advice a little more closely.

  2. Thank you Andrew for your reply. You have more courage than the faculty at Princeton and Union who have yet to acknowledge my essay, “Bonhoeffer in Harlem.” Why do they ignore me? Because Veritas (truth) puts to shame every lie. However, Bonhoeffer did more than give “advice” to the faculty and students at Union during his time in New York (1930-31). Like the Old Testament prophets of old who preached the word of God in Sprit and Truth to the skeptical Jews, Bonhoeffer was a prophet in our time who essentially exposed and condemed Marxist, liberal, humanistic and progressive theology as anti-theology… a false, heretical doctrine.

    Most of what you write I did not mentioned in my essay so I will leave you to carefully re-read my words and take them on their own merits without any psychological projection on your part.

    Andrew, I hope you will send my essay to others and solicit others to comment on my blog. I am very interested in witnessing what the young people are thinking in the 21st century.

  3. [...] that man of God the prophet Ezekiel would say, “stood in the gap.” For example, Bonhoeffer in Harlem rejected the cold, dead, social-justice theology of liberalism and progressivism (e.g., [...]

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