Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, a founding member of the Confessing Church. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, shortly before the war's end. His view of Christianity's role in the secular world has become very influential.

Academic Training

Bonhoeffer attended Tübingen University for a year and visited Rome, where he became conscious of the universality of the church, before he matriculated at the University of Berlin in 1924, then a centre of liberal theology under theologians such as Adolf von Harnack. Around this time, he discovered the writings of Karl Barth, an eminent Swiss theologian whose pioneering work in neo-orthodoxy was a reaction against liberal theology. Barth believed that "liberal theology" (understood as emphasizing personal experience and societal development) minimized scripture, reducing it to a mere textbook of metaphysics while sanctioning the deification of human culture. Harnack cautioned Bonhoeffer against dangers posed by Barth's "contempt for scientific theology", but young Bonhoeffer, becoming increasingly critical of liberal theology as too constraining and responsible for the lack of relevance in the church, was won over to Barth's dialectical theology. Bonhoeffer was nevertheless not beyond criticizing Barth, and the confluence of Barth's Christocentrism and Harnack's concern to show the relevance of Christianity to the modern world had indelible effect on Bonhoeffer's approach to theology.





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