Lutheran Theology and the Environment: Bonhoeffer, the Church, and the Climate Question

Copyright 2013, Lutheran University Press, reprinted by permission. This essay is one of the papers presented at the 2012 Convocation of Teaching Theologians. All papers are available in the Lutheran University Press book, Eco-Lutheranism.

[1] The Lutheran tradition contains a host of theological perspectives that can and should form the foundation of a robust environmental ethic.[1]

[2] For example, Lutheran perspectives on the doctrine of creation emphasize God as the Creator of all. This theocentric perspective is a much needed antidote to the rampant anthropocentrism among those of us in the global north. While human beings are created in the image of God (imago dei), Luther emphasized that we are not substantially like God because we possess consciousness or reason, but rather because we have the capacity to relate to all of creation with the care and affection of God.[2] The Lutheran theocentric perspective emphasizes that human beings are not set above other creatures but rather are set apart to serve the flourishing of all that God has made. The dominus (Jesus) is the model of dominion. Our call is to care for our kin.

[3] The doctrine of the incarnation similarly challenges the rampant dualism of our era. It insists on the unity of body and soul and cherishes the presence of God in all of earthly reality. Here, laid in a manger, and surrounded by animals, the finite bears the infinite. Bodies are affirmed, protected, and valued. All bodies. All that God has made has value. We are not fundamentally individuals but rather social and ecological creatures who share in common the goodness of bodily life. We cannot live without each other. We are Earth creatures. We were formed from the dust, and to the dust we will return. “[T]he Word became flesh and lived among us, … full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

[4] One of the hallmarks of the Lutheran tradition, however, is a robust doctrine of sin. Despite being created in the image of God and being saved through Christ’s death on the cross, Luther believed that all human beings remained in bondage to the powers of sin, death, and the devil. This notion that human beings are both saints and sinners (simul iustus et pecator) yields a realistic view of human nature that forges a middle way between naive idealism and cynical pessimism. Even in Luther’s day this awareness of sinful behavior extended well beyond the individual into the systems, powers, and structures that shape human behavior and thus influence all of life. This Lutheran emphasis on the pervasiveness of sin enables and requires us to look carefully at the laws and policies that wreak havoc on ecological systems and jeopardize the welfare of all who are poor and vulnerable.

[5] While the notion of being both a saint and sinner has the potential to yield a paralytic ethic, the Lutheran doctrine of justification by grace through faith empowers Christians to live out their vocation. We are not justified by our works to “save the planet.” Instead, our justification by grace through faith empowers us to make our faith active in love through the care and redemption of all that God has made.

[6] My goal with this brief overview is to demonstrate that the Lutheran theological tradition provides a solid foundation for an environmental ethic. As an ethicist, however, the question is whether this tradition shapes what we do and who we are. We have inherited these Lutheran insights from those who have gone before us, but what have we done with this inheritance? Are these Lutheran theological traditions reflected in our communities and are we applying them to the most pressing issues of our time? What might it mean to do so?

[7] The rest of this paper focuses on the subtitle: “The Church and the Climate Question.” I have chosen intentionally to mirror Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s provocative essay on “The Church and the Jewish Question,” which was published in June 1933.[3] The essay grew out of a controversial talk Bonhoeffer delivered in April of that year to a group of pastors as the Nazi regime dictated a series of new laws that dispossessed many of their rights, especially those deemed to be Jews.[4] Bonhoeffer drew provocatively on Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms as he addressed what he and others called “the Jewish question.” I want to draw upon the same two kingdoms tradition to reflect on the climate question, which I believe is the most pressing issue we face today.

[8] Before I begin, however, I need to say a bit more about this doctrine of the two kingdoms. Luther was not a modern person. While he was a key hinge between the medieval and modern eras, Luther had an apocalyptic worldview that tends to be off-putting to those of us schooled by the Enlightenment. When Luther looked out his window he saw God at war with Satan. Luther believed that God fought Satan in two ways—as the Creator and as the Redeemer of the world.[5] Luther believed God as Creator established the institution of government in God’s Kingdom of Temporal Authority to enforce laws that would preserve a modicum of peace with justice in the world. It was precisely because human beings remain subject to the forces of sin, death, and the devil that their sinfulness needed to be restrained by the coercive power of the sword. At the same time, Luther believed that God as the Redeemer of the world established the institution of the church in the Kingdom of Spiritual Authority to use the Word of God to preach the gospel of love and mercy. In a world subject to the powers of Satan, Luther believed that God protected human beings through both the work of government and the church; God was at work in both but it was vital to distinguish between the two and not collapse the one into the other.

[9] Dietrich Bonhoeffer brought Luther’s two kingdoms tradition to bear on the rapidly rising anti-Semitism in Germany after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor on January 30, 1933. When the German parliament building, the Reichstag, was destroyed by fire on February 27, Hitler issued an emergency decree “For the Protection of People and State” that abolished virtually all constitutional rights. On March 22, the first concentration camp was opened in Dachau to incarcerate those who protested the loss of their civil rights and others who were viewed as threats to the Nazi regime. On April 17, Hitler announced the “Law for the Reconstitution of the Civil Service,” which precluded any non-Aryans from functioning as civil servants. Because university professors and protestant pastors were regarded as civil servants, this law had a direct impact on Bonhoeffer’s brother-in-law, a professor of constitutional law, and Bonhoeffer’s best friend, who wanted to become an ordained Protestant pastor. Both were baptized Jews but nevertheless were deemed non-Aryans under this new Nazi law.

Bonhoeffer on “The Church and the Jewish Question”

[10] Bonhoeffer’s talk and subsequent essay on “The Church and the Jewish Question” was divided into two parts. The first focused on how and whether the church can judge the actions of the state. The second focused on how the church should regard the status of baptized Jews in the church. This paper focuses on the first part of Bonhoeffer’s comments regarding the relation of the church to the state. Bonhoeffer identified two concerns regarding the state’s responsibility for promoting law and order, and he identified three possible responses to these concerns.

[11] Bonhoeffer began by emphasizing that the church “has to affirm the state as God’s order of preservation,”[6] but he chose his words carefully here. He refused to refer to government as one of God’s “orders of creation” because many conservative Lutheran theologians had used such rhetoric to promote uncritical obedience to the governing authorities that had presumably been “instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1) Bonhoeffer emphasized that governments exist to preserve what God has made from the evil forces of Satan that still abound, and that they are accountable to God for that task. This doesn’t mean, however, that the church is indifferent about the actions of the state. Bonhoeffer writes:

Instead, [the church] can and must, precisely because it does not moralize about individual cases, keep asking the government whether its actions can be justified as legitimate state actions, that is, actions that create law and order, not lack of rights and disorder…. In doing so the church will, of course, see the state limited in two ways. Either too little law and order or too much law and order compels the church to speak.[7]

[12] Bonhoeffer was very clear about what constituted “too little law and order.” It comes about “wherever a group of people is deprived of its rights.”[8] Any state that deprives people of their legal rights is acting in a lawless manner and thus loses its legitimacy and divinely appointed authority. Bonhoeffer was referring here to all whose constitutional rights had been vitiated by Hitler’s emergency decree, not only the Jews.

[13] Bonhoeffer was also clear about what constituted “too much law and order.” This comes about when the state interferes in the affairs of the Church and uses its force “to rob the Christian faith of its right to proclaim its message.”[9] Here Bonhoeffer was referring to Jewish Christians who had been singled out for discrimination in the “Law for the Reconstitution of the Civil Service,” and to rising cries among Nazi German Christian sympathizers that demanded Jewish Christians be excluded from Protestant congregations. As noted earlier, the law prevented baptized Jews from ever serving as Protestant pastors since pastors were civil servants. The German Christians wanted to extend this racial discrimination further to affect all lay people who were baptized Jews or had Jewish heritage. Bonhoeffer drew a bold line in the sand and emphasized that such unlawful and unchristian acts of discrimination not only violated the integrity of the Christian gospel but also violated the obligations of the state to preserve law and order.

[14] Bonhoeffer argued that the church had three actions it could take in situations like these in which the state was preserving too little law and order in society, or was wielding too much law and order by interfering in the affairs of the church. Each action was radical in its own way for Bonhoeffer’s principally Lutheran audience and community of accountability.

[15] The first action was for the church to question the state “as to the legitimate state character of its actions; that is making the state responsible for what it does.”[10] This confrontation of the state by the church was largely inconceivable among Lutherans in Bonhoeffer’s day because most had radically and incorrectly separated Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms.

[16] Regardless of whether the state responded to the church’s questions and changed its actions, Bonhoeffer argued the second action the church should take was to engage in “service to the victims of the state’s actions” because “[t]he church has an unconditional obligation toward the victims of any societal order, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.”[11] Here Bonhoeffer was making it clear that Christians needed to come to the aid of Jews and all others who had become the victims of the Nazi state. He was not confining his concern to Jewish Christian victims of Nazi discrimination, and thus he was not allowing Christian communities to be concerned only about themselves and their followers. Bonhoeffer argued that the followers of Jesus have an obligation to all who suffer whether they confess Christ’s name or not.

[17] Bonhoeffer saved his most radical contention for last, however. “The third possibility is not just to bind up the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel but to seize the wheel itself. Such an action would be direct political action on the part of the church.”[12] At this point some of the pastors left the room.[13] What Bonhoeffer was proposing was scandalous to their ears. Not only did it violate their false understanding about the separation of church and state, what Bonhoeffer was proposing was treasonous—the penalty for which was death. His remarks were not idle, fuzzy, or insignificant. To take them seriously would be to risk one’s life, which is precisely what Bonhoeffer did.

The Church and the Climate Question

[18] I think Bonhoeffer’s views on “The Church and the Jewish Question” offer a template with which to think about the church’s response to global warming and climate change. Almost ten years before the “Final Solution” was adopted at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, I doubt most of the pastors who attended Bonhoeffer’s talk in April 1933 thought “the Jewish question” was the most important issue facing their nation. They probably were more concerned about Germany’s poor economy, high unemployment, and diminished stature in global politics. This is certainly true in the United States today. According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of the U.S. public thinks the economy should be the top priority of the Obama administration. Only 25 percent think global warming should be a top priority. It ranked last in a list of 21 issue areas and fell from 38 percent in an identical poll conducted five years earlier.[14]

[19] If only reality conformed to public perception. Over the last three decades the average winter temperature in the Midwest and northern Great Plains has increased more than 7º Fahrenheit.[15] Nationally the average temperature has increased more than 2ºF. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first six months of 2012 were the hottest ever recorded in the lower 48 states.[16] Ten days into this summer 113 million Americans were under an extreme heat advisory. An unprecedented 3,215 high temperature records were set in June.[17] Recently the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report projecting that more than 80 percent of the world’s energy in 2050 will still come from burning fossil fuels. The OECD warned that related greenhouse gas emissions could increase the global average temperature by up to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100—far exceeding the internationally agreed limit of about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 2.0 degrees Celsius.[18] This rapid rate of global warming is raising sea levels, endangering millions living in low-lying areas, despoiling freshwater resources, widening the range of infectious diseases like malaria, reducing agricultural production, and increasing the risk of extinction for 25-30 percent of all surveyed species.[19] This warming and the consequences of climate change will only accelerate in the years ahead. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program claims “[w]e are very likely to experience a faster rate of climate change in the next 100 years than has been seen over the past 10,000 years.”[20] This rate of climate change is unprecedented in human history.

[20] It is for these reasons that I think the “climate question” is the most important issue facing us today. A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) summarizes the situation this way:

Climate change demands urgent action now to address a threat to two constituencies with little or no political voice: the world’s poor and future generations. It raises profoundly important questions about social justice, equity and human rights across countries and generations…. Dangerous climate change is the avoidable catastrophe of the 21st Century and beyond. Future generations will pass a harsh judgment on a generation that looked at the evidence on climate change, understood the consequences, and then continued on a path that consigned millions of the world’s most vulnerable people to poverty and exposed future generations to the risk of ecological disaster.[21]

[21] I am convinced Dietrich Bonhoeffer would share UNDP’s grave concerns about the welfare of the poor and future generations. Climate change poses great threats to social justice and human rights for present and future generations. Bonhoeffer thought the church should confront the state when its actions resulted in too little or too much law and order. The facts are that the U.S. Senate has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Congress has not passed any laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and U.S. emissions per capita remain higher than any other nation in the world except Australia. All of these facts reflect a situation of too little law and order.[22] The only mitigating factor is the recent federal appeals court decision that upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.[23] Predictably, however, the fossil fuel industry and its defenders have decried the EPA’s proposed rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Ironically, they are claiming EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions would constitute too much governmental intervention in economic life, too much law and order.

[22] So has the church confronted the state? To be fair, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and many of its ecumenical partners have been quite assertive through their public policy advocacy ministries with respect to global warming and climate change. By supporting EPA regulations and legislation like the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the ELCA has joined others in pointing the way to a world with more law and order regarding global warming and climate change. The question is whether that is enough. It is easy to talk the talk, but it is harder to walk the talk. To what extent are the various expressions of the ELCA attempting to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions? While there is no substitute for the force of law and the need for structural and systemic change, there is a place for moral witness and social responsibility.

[23] I am pleased many of the ELCA colleges and universities are concerned about global warming and climate change. I coordinate a page on the Lutherans Restoring Creation website that provides links to things our colleges and universities are doing all over the nation.[24] I am proud my own institution is one of six ELCA schools that has joined the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.[25] Our Board of Regents recently approved goals to reduce Luther College’s campus carbon footprint 50 percent by the end of 2015, 70 percent by 2020, and to become carbon neutral by the year 2030.[26]

[24] It is also encouraging that eleven of the ELCA’s sixty-five synods have passed resolutions to address climate change or to engage in better energy stewardship. A few more have passed resolutions regarding care for creation and becoming green synods.[27] Some congregations in these synods are piloting a new Energy Stewards Initiative developed by Lutherans Restoring Creation.[28] At the end of the day, however, less than one third of the ELCA’s synods have taken such steps. It is harder to know what is happening locally within more than 10,000 ELCA congregations. I know of some congregations that have made major investments in energy efficiency and others that have hosted workshops to help members reduce emissions produced by their households and daily activities.

[25] In my opinion lay and ordained leadership regarding climate change is critical within our synods and congregations. In some places it is strong, but in other places it is weak. For example, I recently invited all three ELCA bishops in Iowa to sign on to a statement by faith leaders about climate change that was drafted by Iowa Interfaith Power & Light.[29] Two of the bishops quickly agreed to sign, but the third declined saying he would not do anything that might cause more congregations to leave his synod. I reminded the bishop that the ELCA’s “Vision and Expectations” document expects ordained leaders “to speak on behalf of this earth, its environment and natural resources, and its inhabitants.” This made no impact on the bishop. He told me it was up to me if I wanted to take this matter further. We would certainly have a different church if our Presiding Bishop disciplined pastors and bishops for failing to live up to the ELCA’s vision and expectations regarding peacemaking, justice, and stewardship of the earth.[30]

[26] I think there is no question that Bonhoeffer would urge the church in the United States to compel the state to live up to its obligations to protect present and future generations from the perils of climate change. I find myself thinking, however, that Bonhoeffer might supplement his counsel by asking the church whether it is preaching too much or too little love and mercy. If the work of the state is to preserve law and order, the work of the church is to preach the gospel of love and mercy. Drawing upon his critique of cheap grace, Bonhoeffer might claim that the church’s reluctance to grapple with global warming and climate change is due to the church too often peddling a gospel of cheap grace that expects too little in terms of Christian discipleship in an era of rapid global climate change.

[27] Regardless, Bonhoeffer insists that Christian communities have an obligation to tend the victims of injustice whose wounds are inflicted by a state’s actions or inactions. A quick check of the ELCA’s website for disaster response reveals a long list of places within the United States and around the world where the ELCA is reaching out via its congregations, social ministry organizations, Lutheran World Relief, and ecumenical partners to bind up the wounds of those harmed by natural disasters.[31] Over 60 percent of these locations are places where people have been the victims of severe droughts, huge floods, and devastating tornadoes. Meteorologists and climate scientists emphasize that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more violent as global warming increases. Are we ready as a church to provide the increasingly large financial resources that will be needed as the consequences of climate change become more severe? Will we be tempted to focus our aid on our Lutheran brothers and sisters, or will we maintain our “unconditional obligation toward the victims of any societal order, even if they do not belong to the Christian community”?[32]

[28] This brings me to the third and most radical action Bonhoeffer said the church can take in relation to the state. If the church’s questions fall on deaf ears, and if the victims of the state’s actions or inactions continue to increase, then Bonhoeffer said the church should seize the wheel of the state itself to prevent further injustice. It is no wonder some of those present left the room at this point. Such an action would be extreme in any age. Perhaps we should just dismiss Bonhoeffer on this point because his context was so different from our own. After all, in a few short months he had just witnessed the loss of constitutional rights and the rise of the Hitler dictatorship. Our context is different. We live in a democratic society. Our constitutional rights are still intact. The state is not muzzling the churches. All of us have the franchise and can vote in the next election. The ELCA’s public advocacy officers are still able to do their work in Congress and in several of the nation’s state capitals.

[29] That said, the U.S. Congress has still not passed any legislation designed to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas provisions. In the meantime, horizontal drilling technology and hydraulic fracturing have produced a boom in U.S. oil and natural gas reserves. When combined with the ocean of oil trapped in Canadian tar sands, these new fossil fuel resources are leading some to dream of the day when the United States can once again be energy independent. The problem, of course, is that the combustion of these fossil fuels releases even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Scientists around the world are telling us we cannot continue business as usual. In fact, many are claiming it is necessary for the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.

[30] On the basis of these scientific findings and claims, some have resorted to civil disobedience to stop further emissions. Bill McKibben and his grassroots organization,, recently conducted a sit-in at the White House.[33] They were protesting the Keystone XL pipeline that would ferry oil derived from Alberta tar sands through the United States to the Gulf Coast where it can be refined and exported to the world. They claim tar sands oil is twice as carbon intensive as conventional oil because so much fossil fuel has to be used to mine the sand and heat the oil to remove it from the sand. In addition, vast swaths of boreal forest are being cut down to gain access to the oil which lies sequestered in the tar sands beneath.

[31] The last time many Lutherans in the United States participated in organized civil disobedience was during the Civil Rights era. Have we arrived at a similar time when civil disobedience should be practiced to protest the state’s inaction regarding the impact of climate change on the poor and vulnerable in both present and future generations? Might it be better to try as hard as we can to get our own house in order by reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the ELCA? Yes, we should do this. Might it be better to focus on less controversial and more constructive approaches to changing public policy? Probably, but isn’t that what we have been doing? Are things changing for the better? To borrow a phrase from Martin Luther King, Jr., the climate scientists are urging us to face “the fierce urgency of Now.”[34] I have tended to view civil disobedience with regard to climate change as self-righteous, but I find myself thinking increasingly that it may be justified. At what point does one draw the line and say that things must stop? At what point does one look up and say, “I can go this far but no farther?”

[32] Bonhoeffer asked himself these questions from 1933 through his death in 1945. At first he focused on the imposition of the Aryan Clause upon the life of the church. Along with other leaders of the confessing church movement who issued the Barmen Declaration in 1934, Bonhoeffer believed anti-Semitism within the church violated the integrity of the gospel and thus required a stand of confession. Later, he joined a conspiracy that worked to depose Hitler and ultimately tried to assassinate Hitler three times. His goal was to restore the rule of law, to secure human rights, and to bring peace to a war-torn world. He gave his life for present and future generations who were the victims of some of the worst injustice our world has ever seen. The Nazi era is a stark blight on the past, but the virulence of the climate change we face in the near future may well match it in terms of horror and destructiveness. How will we respond as Christian disciples to the most pressing issue of our day? How will the church respond to “the climate question”?

[33] There were two questions that drove Bonhoeffer’s theological and ethical reflection: “Who is Jesus Christ for us today?” and “What is the responsibility of Christians in the modern world?” I find it very interesting that Bonhoeffer told his brother in 1933 that he thought Christianity was “approaching its end in the West—at least in its present form and its previous interpretation.”[35] This is one reason why he was attracted to Mahatma Gandhi. Bonhoeffer thought this Hindu took Jesus more seriously than most Christians. He wanted to visit Gandhi and learn more about his nonviolent resistance movement because, in my view, he thought Gandhi and his movement for non-violent social change may be the form Christ was taking in the world in his day. Later, in Ethics, he asserts that values like justice, truth, peace, and human rights, all spring forth from Christ who is the center of all reality.[36] As the confessing church gradually receded in significance, Bonhoeffer found himself working with many people who had not darkened the door of a church in a very long while, if ever. What united them was their common desire for a state that preserved justice through the rule of law and the protection of human rights. Bonhoeffer believed those who suffered for these values were blessed by Christ because they suffered for a just cause.[37]

[34] I find these views of Bonhoeffer to be inspiring and hopeful because they remind me that God is at work in the world outside the church. God is at work in the world among all who strive on a daily basis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help those who are harmed by climate change. God is at work among all those people and organizations who are concerned about the welfare of present and future generations imperiled by climate change. I think this is one way Christ is taking form in the world today.


[1] I do not like the conventional distinction between social and environmental ethics because I think it perpetuates a dualistic way of thinking that separates nature from culture and denies the integrated nature of all reality. I prefer to talk about an ethic of ecological justice which seeks to integrate the fields of social and environmental ethics. See James B. Martin-Schramm, Climate Justice: Ethics, Energy, and Public Policy (Fortress Press, 2010), 23-44.

[2] ”If these powers are the image of God, it will also follow that Satan was created according to the image of God, since he surely has these natural endowments, such as memory and a very superior intellect and a most determined will, to a far higher degree that we have them.” See Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 1, Genesis 1-5, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, trans. George V. Schlink (Saint Louis, Missouri: Concordia, 1958). Cited in Douglas John Hall, Imaging God: Dominion as Stewardship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/New York: Friendship Press, 1986), 101.

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” in Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 12, Larry L. Rasmussen, ed., (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009), 361-70.

[4] One reason this essay has been controversial is because it begins with two anti-Jewish quotes from Luther. It also contains a section which assumes Jews “must endure the curse” for rejecting Christ and asserts “[t]he conversion of Israel is to be the end of its people’s sufferings.” These sentiments and Luther’s views are deeply offensive to Jews. Recent scholarship has revealed, however, that none of this material was contained in any of Bonhoeffer’s three drafts of this essay. Larry Rasmussen was the editor for this volume of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. He suggests that these materials may have been added by the editor of the journal, Der Vormasch, which published Bonhoeffer’s essay in vol. 3, no. 6 (June 1933). See Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 12, Larry L. Rasmussen, ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009), 361-370, footnotes #1 and #15.

[5] Martin Luther, “On Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed,” 1523, Luther’s Works, vol. 45, Helmut T. Lehman and James Atkinson, eds., (Saint Louis, Missouri: Concordia, 1958), 81-129.

[6] Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” 362.

[7] Ibid, 363-364. Emphasis original.

[8] Ibid, 364.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid, 365.

[11] Ibid. Emphasis added.

[12] Ibid, 365-367.

[13] Eberhard Bethge reports that “Leonhard Fendt, one of the most influential members of the [pastors] group and a man whose sermons Bonhoeffer admired, decided to leave as a result of the discussion.” See Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 272. Elizabeth Raum writes, “some pastors got so upset that they left the room.” See Elizabeth Raum, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Called by God, (New York: Continuum Publishing Group, 2002), 65. Eric Metaxas says “some ministers walked out.” See Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Books, 2010), 153.

[14] Pew Research Center, “Public Priorities: Deficit Rising, Terrorism Slipping,” January 23, 2012. See:

[15] U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, Thomas R. Karl, Jerry M. Melillo, and Thomas C. Peterson, eds., (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 9. See:

[16] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, State of the Climate, June 2012. See

[17] Timothy Egan, “The Fires This Time,” The New York Times, July 6, 2012. See:

[18] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction, March 15, 2012. See:

[19]Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Summary for Policymakers (Geneva: IPCC Secretariat, April 2007), 8. See:

[20] U.S. Climate Change Science Program, The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity (September 2007 public review draft), 7. See:

[21] United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2007/2008, Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World, Human Development Report 07/08, (New York: United Nations, 2008), Summary/Overview, 2. See: EN_Overview.pdf.

[22] National Energy Policy Institute, Energy Forum, “World Greenhouse Gas Emissions Per Capita By Country,” February 24, 2012. See:

[23] Matthew Wald, “Court Backs EPA Over Emissions Limits Intended to Reduce Global Warming,” The New York Times, June 26, 2012. See:

[24] Lutherans Restoring Creation, “Colleges and Universities.” See:

[25] The six ELCA schools that are signatories of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment are: Augsburg College, Gettysburg College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Luther College, Pacific Lutheran University, and Wittenberg University.

[26] Luther College Public Information, “Luther College Sets Goals for Achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2030.” See:

[27] Lutherans Restoring Creation, “ELCA Resolutions.” See:

[28] Lutherans Restoring Creation, “Energy Stewards Initiative.” See:

[29] Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, “A Statement by Religious Leaders in Iowa on Global Climate Change,” April 2012. See:

[30] Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, “Vision and Expectations.” See:

[31] Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, “ELCA Disaster Response: Our Work.” See:

[32] Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” 365.

[33] The Wall Street Journal, “Dozens Arrested at Protest of Oil Pipeline,” August 20, 2011. See More recently Bill McKibben has encouraged college students to urge their institutions to divest their endowment investments in the fossil fuel industry. See “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012. See

[34] Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream,” August 28, 1963. See:

[35] Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography, 406.

[36] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1955), 57-65.

[37] Ibid.

Jim Martin-Schramm

Jim Martin-Schramm is a professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.