Charles Marsh’s New Bonhoeffer Essay

“Are We Still of Any Use?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian Witness in a Perilous Age

Christmas 1942 would find Dietrich Bonhoeffer with his family and with his best friend Eberhard Bethge. It would be their last one together. Shortly before New Year’s Day, Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to his closest comrades in the Berlin conspiracy to overthrow the Hitler regime. The letter would come to be known by a name suggesting casual self-reflection: “After Ten Years: A Reckoning Made at New Years 1943”, though there is nothing casual in its intent to survey the ruins of the German nation and its apostate churches.

Reading “After Ten Years”, we meet Bonhoeffer in his last days of freedom and at the height of his intellectual powers. Promising that the future will be uncertain and that personal goals will remain unfulfilled, everything in the essay – and let’s call it that, since there is no salutation, complimentary close or other elements of a letter – rushes toward the one inescapable question: “Are we still of any use?”

Read Charles Marsh’s new essay on this essential late work.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.