Beyers Naudé: South Africa’s Bonhoeffer? Celebrating the centenary of the birth of Beyers Naudé – 1915-2015

John De Gruchy


When Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s friend and biographer Eberhard Bethge visited South Africa in 1973, he commented that Beyers Naudé was South Africa’s Bonhoeffer. In this essay I explore what Bethge meant and whether it is a description that helps us understand Naudé’s legacy better. I do this in three parts. Firstly I offer a biographical comparison Bonhoeffer and Naudé. Secondly I suggest why Bethge’s comment was a carefully considered opinion formed over at least ten years. Thirdly I show that Bethge’s interest in Naudé and the church struggle in South Africa continued long after his visit to South Africa. I conclude that whatever their similarities and differences they became models of a new style of being Christian in the world. What unites them as human beings and Christians is their integrity in word and action, confession and resistance.


Beyers Naudé; Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Eberhard Bethge; Church struggle; Being Christian

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