Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Bonhoeffer Today

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Bonhoeffer Today

Article excerpt

The Nazi doctrine of Lebensunwertes Leben (life that is not worthy of life) had the widest possible applications, from euthanasia to the elimination of the handicapped to the mass killings at Auschwitz. While the Third Reich opposed the abortion of the "genetically superior," Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood that the logic of abortion was integral to a regime that presumed to exercise total power over life and death. Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the regime in April of 1945, spoke of four divine "mandates" in the ordering of human life: family, labor, government, and Church. The following passage from his Ethics occurs in a discussion of the family:

Marriage involves acknowledgment of the right of life that is to come into being, a right which is not subject to the disposal of the married couple. Unless this right is acknowledged as a matter of principle, marriage ceases to be marriage and becomes a mere liaison. Acknowledgment of this right means making way for the free creative power of God which can cause new life to proceed from this marriage according to His will. …

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