A Vital Network of Theologians

A review of Michael Mawson and Philip Ziegler (eds), Christ, Church and World: New Studies in Bonhoeffer’s Theology and Ethics (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), featured in The Expository Times 129, 4 (January 2018).

The University of Aberdeen hosted several leading voices in Bonhoeffer studies over the course of 2014-15. The series of presentations, which took place under the editors’ direction with the support of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, provided the material for this rich collection of essays oriented around four main themes: Christology, hamartiology, ecclesiology, and Christian-Jewish relations.

Philip Ziegler’s eloquent essay shows that Bonhoeffer’s Ethics is largely meta-ethical insofar as it seeks to ‘map the moral terrain’ within which reflection, decision, and action take place. He traces Bonhoeffer’s refusal of appeals to mere humanity or ‘the creature as such’ in favour of theologically locating human beings as either ‘in Adam’ or ‘in Christ’ (pp.101-4). Such ‘cartography’ is complemented by essays that deploy Bonhoeffer’s thought for areas of contemporary interest: Michael Mawson deftly recovers Bonhoeffer’s account of embodied creatureliness as a promising resource for disability theology, while Christiane Tietz skillfully employs Bonhoeffer’s Christology to challenge dominant assumptions about a common ‘religious’ consciousness or a predictable ‘natural’ order on which ethics are based.…
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‘Religion Unbound’: Jeffrey Stout on Emersonian Democracy

This post is written in response to Jeffrey Stout’s fifth Gifford lecture for 2017, entitled ‘Slavishness, Democracy, and the Death of God.’ It is part of his larger series, Religion Unbound: Powers and Ideals from Cicero to King that has just been delivered at the University of Edinburgh (May 1-11, 2017). My colleague Andrew Johnson is hosting the Giffords blog, where he has posted summaries of the lectures as well as links to the lecture videos. 

Professor Jeffrey Stout has offered a compelling account of Emerson’s importance for the pursuit of ‘ethical religion’. Emerson’s worthy provocations include an incisive critique, later adopted by Nietzsche, of slavishness and the herd mentality. He therefore seeks to evoke others’ ‘self-reliance’, characterised by the expression of ‘unauthorised thoughts’. In Stout’s convincing portrayal, Emerson is not thereby calling for atomised self-assertion; rather, non-conformity is the necessary condition for a ‘sociality of reason’ (in Terry Pinkard’s phrase) that can alone support democracy.…
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Confessing Race: Toward a Global Ecclesiology after Bonhoeffer & Du Bois

The fact that today the “black Christ” of a young Negro poet is pitted against the “white Christ” reveals a destructive rift within the church of Jesus Christ.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Protestantism Without Reformation”

Writing as a refugee in New York in the Summer of 1939, Dietrich Bonhoeffer uses W.E.B. Du Bois’s image of the “color line” to critique racial lines drawn between churches. The broader purview of Bonhoeffer’s essay, “Protestantism without Reformation,” places sociopolitical observations about the black church among American denominations into dialogue with German philosophical assumptions and ecclesial memory. His comments reveal that although a great deal of his deliberation during those two months is focused on an imminent return to Germany, he remains compelled by the witness of the Harlem community that had accepted him during his research fellowship at Union Seminary in 1930–31.…
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© David Robinson, 2018