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Learning Event Explores Bonhoeffer’s Life, Sacrifice

March 17, 2022
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Dr. Richard Burnett, author, teacher, executive director, and managing editor of Theology Matters lectured and facilitated a discussion that wrapped up a four-part learning event offered by Anderson University Professional and Lifelong Learning.

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“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession… Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Those are the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, and theologian best remembered for his participation in the Confessing Church and opposition to National Socialism during World War II. His involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime and kill German dictator Adolf Hitler ultimately led to his execution by the failing Nazi regime just days before the end of the war.

Dr. Richard Burnett, author, teacher, executive director, and managing editor of Theology Matters lectured and facilitated a discussion that wrapped up a four-part learning event offered by Anderson University Professional and Lifelong Learning. The first three sessions reviewed author Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

The event was a collaboration between Anderson University and Anderson Sister Cities German Fest that drew course participants from across the Upstate.

According to Andria Carpenter, director of Professional and Lifelong Learning, “Metaxas’ book informs readers of the life and writings of an important voice in our understanding of theology and provides a glimpse into the very human experience of a man caught in the crosshairs of his love for God, his family, and his country.”

Class participants discussed Bonhoeffer’s challenges to government intervention and church practices through the lens of their own experience, applying his understanding of God’s redemptive work for all of humanity within a social, spiritual, and historical context. 

Dr. Burnett believes Bonhoeffer would have probably been unknown if he had not died. However, he adds that Bonhoeffer’s life is remarkable. He was born into a prominent German family yet had a generous spirit and was willing to put his life on the line for Christian principles and to save others from persecution and extermination.

“I cannot think of what would have happened to Christendom, what would have been left of Christianity in Europe, apart from the witness of Bonhoeffer. He said he would not have had the right to speak to his people afterward if he did not go through the suffering with them,” Dr. Burnett said.

Dr. Burnett’s lecture also explored the relationship of the church to the Nazi regime and those in the Christian church courageous enough to stand for biblical truth.

Dr. Burnett is a graduate of King College (A.B.), Yale University Divinity School (S.T.M.), and Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div., Ph.D.). He is the author of Karl Barth’s Theological Exegesis (Eerdmans 2004) and editor of A Cry of Need and of Joy: Confessing the Faith in a New Millennium (Reformation, 2002) and The Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth (2013).

Dr. Burnett studied at the University of Tübingen, Germany, from 1988-1989, and married Martha Kirsch, the daughter of a German Lutheran minister. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Richard has served churches in Tennessee, New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Having served as Professor of Systematic Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary for 14 years, he became in 2016 the executive director and managing editor of Theology Matters.

Lifelong Learning Courses at Anderson University

Professional and Lifelong Learning at Anderson University offers multiple opportunities to discover and reflect on new ideas. Also offered are targeted professional development events in the areas of business, education, healthcare, and more—helping professionals stay on the cutting edge in their field. Where applicable, CEU/PDUs or recertification credits are awarded based on the profession.

See a listing of learning opportunities in the Anderson University Professional and Lifelong Learning schedule.

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