No example reveals the challenges of the question, "What does it mean to tell the truth?" more than the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his life-and-death struggle as a German theologian who came of age at just the time Adolph Hitler was rising to power. Dr. Bobby Kelly, Oklahoma Baptist University's Ruth Dickinson professor of religion, tackled that question during a weekly chapel service on Bison Hill Wednesday, Oct. 7.
Kelly's message, titled "Truthfulness," was based on Bonhoeffer's book, "The Cost of Discipleship." The book is the foundation of the year's chapel theme, "Costly Illumination: Counting Everything Loss in Light of the Surpassing Worth of Knowing Christ."
"I have become convinced that learning to live a fully honest life is one of the most difficult moral challenges I face, and yet it is rarely talked about or, certainly, preached about," Kelly said.
Kelly posed the question about truthfulness against the biography of Bonhoeffer himself. Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Germany, on Feb. 4, 1906. Considered a "theological miracle," he earned his doctorate in theology from the University of Berlin at age 21.
He spent a post-graduate year studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he saw firsthand the plight of real-life victims of racism. He taught Sunday School at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem where he gained a personal affection for African-American spirituals. His experience in Harlem opened his eyes to the racism against Jews in his own country.
He returned to Germany in 1931 as a professor at the University of Berlin. A strong opponent of Nazism, he was involved in establishing the Confessing Church, which stated there was no F