I recently read about a theologian who lived during the horrific period of Nazi power in Europe. It was not Bonhoeffer. It was not Barth or Kaesemann. It was J. Christiaan Beker of Princeton Theological Seminary. He is Dutch and was taken from his home to serve as a labor slave in Berlin for the Nazis. He got very ill (like deathbed sick) and through the compassion of a few people was clandestinely able to return to Holland. He had to go into hiding (literally in his attic) to avoid further problems and was starved out for many months.
He did see the war end, but his experience was very traumatic. He did not tell his story, even to his own siblings, until decades later. But Ben C. Ollenburger does tell Beker’s story in the forward to Beker’s book Suffering & Hope. It is amazing how you can gain a new sense of respect and admiration for a theologian (or anyone) when you hear their story of suffering. Beker has long been one of my favorite NT theologians and very formative for my own thought. His apocalyptic perspective has taken on a whole new meaning now I have come to learn about his struggles in his youth.
Suffering and Hope is a short book (about 100 pages), published in 1987, that carries this subtitle: The Biblical Vision and the Human Predicament. I have read the foreward, but I have just started the book. The book itself does not engage in Beker’s experience – it is a theological work. I will try and offer some reflections as I work through it. Thanks for being a survivor, Chris! And a great theologian! (Beker passed away in 1999. Loren Stuckenbruck currently holds his chair at Princeton.)