Quick Book Review: Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937 (DBW 14)

bonhoefferTitle: Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937

Series: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 14

Author: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Editors: H. Gaylon Barker and Mark Brocker

Bibliographic info: 1258 pp.

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2013.

Buy the book at Amazon.

With thanks to Fortress Press for the review copy.

This volume is part of the wonderful English translation of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works collection (originally published in German as Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke). This collection is the definitive point of reference for all things Bonhoeffer.

This volume is number 14 in the DBW set (out of 17 volumes total) and it covers the time Bonhoeffer spent teaching and training others at the underground seminary of Finkenwalde for the Confessing Church during the years 1935-37 (it was closed by the Gestapo after two years due to it being an illegal one). These two years at Finkenwalde was also the same period during which Bonhoeffer produced Discipleship and Life Together (both also available in the DBW series).

Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937 is divided into three sections containing correspondence, lectures, essays, sermons, and meditations from Bonhoeffer. Part 1 contains 154 letters and documents containing letters to and from Bonhoeffer, Part 2 contains Bonhoeffer’s lectures and essays, and Part 3 contains his sermons and meditations written during the 1935-37 time period. There is also a useful introduction to this volume which situates Bonhoeffer and Finkenwalde in the appropriate context, cutting through some of the chaff one finds in the hagiography that has built up around him.

From what I have read of this volume so far, there is a lot of insight to be found here into how Bonhoeffer thought theology can be applied in the church under difficult political and social situations. Bonhoeffer’s pastoral-theological emphasis in Finkenwalde is interesting, particularly his understanding of sermons and their purpose. Other issues that Bonhoeffer discusses are church discipline, confirmation, theological education, and pastoral care.

At one point Bonhoeffer says that “the best sign of a good pastor is that the congregation reads the Bible.” And from the letters and sermons I’ve read in this volume, I’m sure he had no problem in getting people interested in reading the Bible, particularly the New Testament. In fact, something quite characteristic to Bonhoeffer’s teaching at Finkenwalde is his constant exegesis of the New Testament.

Some of the lectures are accompanied (in the footnotes) with the notes of some students who heard the lectures, with student Eberhard Bethge (unsurprisingly) contributing the majority of them. And as with every other volume I have read in the DBW series (so far I have 8 of the 17 volumes on my Kindle), there are a ton of footnotes that cross-reference the text with other writings by Bonhoeffer, thus providing some excellent insights into Bonhoeffer’s thoughts.

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