Bonhoeffer: A Guide for the Perplexed

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-05-04
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury T&T Clark

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A concise guide to one of the most remarkably maryrs and theologians of the twentieth century.

Table of Contents

1. Approaching Bonhoeffer: The Challenges and Opportunities

This chapter would function to introduce Bonhoeffer and to describe the difficulties that are found in Bonhoeffer's work, including a brief overview of Bonhoeffer's life, an analysis of Bonhoeffer interpretations and the reasons why his theology has the character it has.

2. Beginning at the End: The Perplexing Nature of the Prison Letters

Dovetailing off of chapter 1, I would here describe in depth the nature of the prison letters, engaging specifically with the key themes that I will unpack in the following chapters. This chapter will include engagement with various interpreters of Bonhoeffer to see how the prison letters have been used in Bonhoeffer research.

3. Christocentric Lordship: The Centrality of Christ

This chapter would prove to be a foundational methodology for establishing Bonhoeffer's overall project in the prison letters, and would place the letters, not as hermeneutical keys for interpreting Bonhoeffer backward, as it were, but would demonstrate that the prison letters emerge from Bonhoeffer's earlier theology, at the heart of which is a concern for the Lordship of Christ.

4. Arcane Discipline: Ecclesiology in Bonhoeffer's Theological Development

This chapter would approach the nature of the church in Bonhoeffer's theology. Bonhoeffer began his theological career with a treatise on the church (Sanctorum Communio); his passion for the Body of Christ never waned, even in the darkness of the failure of the Confessing Church to live up to its responsibility. While many authors believe Bonhoeffer has given up on the church in the prison letters, I would argue that he is, in fact, very much interested in the church, and the theme of arcane discipline reveals this. Thus, this theme, seen in the light of Bonhoeffer's other writings, is an excellent way to explore Bonhoeffer's ecclesiology.

5. As If God Were Not Given: The Weakness of God in Bonhoeffer's Thought

One cannot understand Bonhoeffer apart from his theology of the cross. Again, this is a theme that is present throughout his writings, but it comes to its most pointed expression in the prison letters. In speaking of God on the cross in the letters, Bonhoeffer makes some of his most difficult statements. How can we act without God before God? What does it mean that God is pushed out of the world on the cross? These statements make sense when read against the backdrop of the developing theology of the cross in Bonhoeffer.

6. World Come of Age: Bonhoeffer's Understanding of Human History

Much of what Bonhoeffer is grappling with in the prison letters is the massive shift in Western culture that took place in the 200 years prior to his life. In his letters, he spends a great deal of time exploring this shift, and asking what Christianity might look like now that this shift has occurred. Specifically, Bonhoeffer uses this shift to revision Christian ethics. In this chapter I will explore Bonhoeffer's ethical thought as the context for his suggestions regarding the world come of age.

7. Religionless Christianity: Bonhoeffer's Vision

Much was made of Bonhoeffer's provocative phrase "religionless": is this an abdication of faith? Is this a rejection of Christianity? Is it a rejection of Christ? Bonhoeffer's notion of religionless can be understood only against the backdrop of neo-Orthodoxy's critique of religion, and so only in grasping the much deeper theological meaning of "religionless". This is not an abdication of fai

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