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Life Together Study Questions | Discussion Week 1

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Discussion Week 1

Chapter 1: Community 


BACKGROUND to Life Together

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Feb 4, 1906 – Apr 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran theologian and pastor. He was raised in Berlin and studied theology under Adolf Von Harnack and Karl Barth, both of whom served as mentors to the young Bonhoeffer. Met with the rising of the Third Reich in Germany, Bonhoeffer received a call to oversee an illegal, underground seminary which trained young pastors for the Pomeranian region. It was here, in the common life of emergency-built houses among nearly thirty vicars, that his 1939 work Gemeinsames Leben (Life Together) came to be. The seminary was soon shut down by the Gestapo. Bonhoeffer, along with others, began to hatch a plot to overthrow the fuehrer Adolf Hitler, but the plan was discovered. On April 5, 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested and incarcerated in a military prison, where he remained until being transferred to a Gestapo prison camp on July 20. Two years after his initial incarceration, on April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging—just two weeks before soldiers from the United States liberated the camp.

[All quotations taken from: Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community. New York: Harper and Row, 1954. Reprint 2009.]



Icebreaker question: While Bonhoeffer was affected greatly by a number of spiritual mentors, Karl Barth served to be the most influential. Who has served as your most influential spiritual mentor?

1. What is community?

2 .What is the difference between a particularly Christian community (e.g., a church) and a non-Christian community (e.g., a fraternal organization, a neighborhood group, etc.)?

3. How does a believer's physical presence play a role in a spiritual community?

    a. What is the biblical and/or theological basis for this physical presence?

4. Bonhoeffer writes, “God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him” (23). How is this different/similar to your experience of Christian community?

5. Expectations can be both helpful and hurtful. Bonhoeffer states, “Christian brotherhood is threatened most often…[by] confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship. … He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter” (26-27). What dreams of community may be the most inclined to destroy that same community?

6. Discuss the following: “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize [i.e., help come to fruition]; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate” (30).