Posts Tagged ‘thoughts and actions’

A few months ago I posted a few selections from the baptismal letter Bonhoeffer wrote to his great-nephew.  Those selections dealt mainly with reflections on how life in the country would change in the future.  The letter also included some significant theological thoughts, a few selections of which will be posted now. The prior posts included the following brief introduction:

May, 1944 to Eberhard Bethge on the baptism of Dietrich W.R. Bethge

Eberhard Bethge had married Bonhoeffer’s niece Renate, and their first child was born while the father was stationed in Italy and the great-uncle was in prison. Dietrich was deeply moved that Eberhard and Renate had chosen to name the boy after his great-uncle, who had greatly wished and hoped to be released and be able to baptize the child. The two men exchanged a few letters on the topic; Bonhoeffer did not wish the event to be delayed on his account. This letter is addressed to the infant Bethge.

This selection introduces the concept of Verantwortung, a very important theme in Bonhoeffer’s Ethics.

Wir haben zu stark in Gedanken gelebt und gemeint, es sei möglich, jede Tat vorher durch das Bedenken der Möglichkeiten so zu sichern, daß sie dann ganz von selbst geschieht.  Etwas zu spät haben wir gelernt, daß nicht der Gedanke, sondern die Verantwortungsbereitschaft der Ursprung der Tat sei. . . .


das Bedenken (infinitive as noun) consideration, weighing
die Bereitschaft preparedness, readiness, disposition
der Gedanke thought, idea
die Möglichkeit possibility, alternative
die Tat deed, action
die Verantwortung responsibility
die Verantwortungsbereitschaft readiness for responsibility (being prepared to act responsibly or accept responsibility)
der Ursprung origin


geschehen happen
leben, gelebt live
lernern, gelernt learn
meinen, gemeint think
sichern secure, ensure, safeguard

Andere Wörter

jeder/e/es every
vorher before
möglich possible
nicht . . . sondern not . . . but
stark strong/ly


sei subjunctive of sein in indirect discourse.  Translate ‘is’ or ‘was’ as appropriate according to context.  “. . . we thought it was possible . . . we learned that . . . readiness for responsibility is

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