Chapter Four “Assistant Lecturer in Berlin: 1929-1930” pg. 125-145.
This chapter covers the changing political climate in Berlin, new post-doctoral work, Act and Being, getting Sanctorum Communio published, and the opened opportunity of visiting America. In 1929, Bethge notes, “he took little interest in either right-or left-wing politics, but devoted himself solely to theology.” (pg. 128) This lack of interest was bound to change after his trip to America. Even so something was developing here at this time: a relentless earnestness for his subject that he sought to wed with action and involvement. The theology itself related to praxis.
Bethge talks about how Bonhoeffer went about paying over one thousand marks to have SC published and subsequently lost interest in it for his work on Act and Being. It took three years for SC to be published from the time Dietrich first wrote it. Copies arrived to him just as he was departing by boat for America so he couldn’t even give gratis copies to his friends and family. The book was all but ignored in its’ field at the time and Bonhoeffer was himself quite frankly not interested in suggesting review possibilities to the publisher. As a publishing manager I sympathize with Trowitzsch in their frustration with having a writer lose interest in their work. Bethge indicates that this dispassion for his writings followed Bonhoeffer throughout his life. Even with Discipleship, his most well received book, Bonhoeffer showed little interest in revising it or dialogging on it. Contrast this with Karl Barth whose work it seems suffered from too much revision and dialogue! Could he maybe have finished Church Dogmatics if he hadn’t spent so much time analyzing and conversing? I don’t know.
Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Franz Hildebrandt is highlighted here. I did some web digging and found that after the war Hildebrandt became a Methodist and headed a University in America until his death. Together Franz and Dietrich were envoys to Archbishop George Bell. They shared a feisty theological friendship in which they knew each other’s way of thinking implicitly though they disagreed vehemently. In his book, Daring, Trusting Spirit: Bonhoeffer’s friend Eberhard Bethge, (2006) John deGruchy notes that Hildebrandt was the closest friend to Bonhoeffer capable of doing a biography on him. But when queried Hildebrandt felt incapable of the necessary speculation involved or the connections needed.