Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision
Author: Paul R. House
Publication Date: 2015
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is best known for his role in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and his subsequent execution at the hands of the Nazis. However, most of us are less familiar with his tireless work educating seminary students for a life of pastoral ministry—a role that occupied him for most of his adult life.
Anchored in a variety of influential lectures, personal letters, and major works such as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, this book attempts to recover a largely unexamined part of Bonhoeffer’s life, exploring his philosophy and practice of theological education in his original context. It then builds on this foundation to address the drift toward increasingly impersonal educational models in our own day, affirming the value of personal, face-to-face seminary education for the health of pastors and churches.
Paul R. House (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. He has been a pastor or teacher in churches, Christian colleges, and seminaries for over thirty years. He is a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society, an active member of the Society of Biblical Literature, and a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version Bible. House is the author of numerous books, including Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision.
“This is the best book I have read on Dietrich Bonhoeffer the theological educator. Against great odds in the time of Nazi terror, Bonhoeffer forged a distinctive pattern of preparing faithful ministers of the gospel for the service of the church. Paul House argues convincingly that those engaged in the same work today have much to learn from Bonhoeffer’s model.”
Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; General Editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture
“In all the writing about Bonhoeffer, few scholars focus on his work as a seminary leader. As a result, we forget that one of his most famous works, Life Together, emerged from such a community. Paul House dares to apply this and other Bonhoeffer works to the challenges facing contemporary seminaries. Even those who ultimately disagree with House’s argument for life-on-life education will benefit from reading his countercultural critique.”
Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, the Gospel Coalition; author, Blind Spots
“While the circumstances Bonhoeffer and his students faced are very different from the challenges facing seminaries today, Paul House illustrates why Bonhoeffer’s approach to theological education and the ministry remains a model for today’s seminary leaders and their students. This is a fine, thoughtful study of Bonhoeffer’s approach to theological education and its implications for the complex, changing world of seminary education today.”
Victoria J. Barnett, General Editor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English Edition
“Paul House not only offers a primer on an often-neglected role of Bonhoeffer’s life, but also insightfully critiques much of contemporary American higher education—theological or otherwise. Reading this splendid book might not alleviate all the ills of modern higher education, but House certainly leaves educators and administrators with fewer excuses.”
Richard A. Bailey, Associate Professor of History, Canisius College; author, Race and Redemption in Puritan New England
“The church in North America just passed the sign announcing dangerous rapids ahead. We need strong pulpits. What’s more, we need faithful theological training. Paul House draws our attention to the courageous wisdom found in Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We know Bonhoeffer for his classic texts and for his resistance to Hitler. But he also directed a seminary. Listen to Bonhoeffer. He will help us navigate what lies ahead.”
Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College; Chief Academic Officer, Ligonier Ministries; author, Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought and The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World
“With clarity and verve, Paul House ably demonstrates, synthesizes, and applies Bonhoeffer’s historic insights into theological education. The result is a timely and fresh reclamation of our life together for the church and for colleges and seminaries seeking to come alongside the church in discipling future pastors. A must read for professors, pastors, administrators, and students who want to know the what, why, and how of theological education.”
Christopher W. Morgan, Dean and Professor of Theology, California Baptist University; editor, The Kingdom of God and The Glory of God; contributor, ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible
“Bonhoeffer’s prescription for seminary training should only be followed if we want to see a generation of ministers characterized by faithfulness, courage, and community. Otherwise, we can continue in the same path we’re on, where pastors learn to be entertainers, life-coaches, and pop-psychologists. Thank God that during this current revival of interest in Bonhoeffer, Paul House had the wisdom to focus on what Bonhoeffer knew best and did so very well.”
C. Ben Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee