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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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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God(s): A User’s Guide

The recent exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization [December 2, 2011 – September 3, 2012] rightly conveys that religion takes practice, not merely observation.  But does it “use” God towards other ends–human sociality, the aesthetics of ritual, inexhaustible discourse?  This article, co-authored with Stuart Miles, originally appeared on December 21, 2011 in Comment Magazine Online, a publication of Cardus:

Four calm, dignified faces at prayer introduce the recent exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, ambitiously titled God(s): A User’s Guide. In the hallway approaching the show, the striking black and white portraits morph on the screen from one practitioner to another—Muslim to Christian woman, Orthodox Jew to Buddhist monk.

The portraits communicate that religion is not merely about objects and texts behind glass; faith, they would suggest, takes practice. And such practice, as we are increasingly aware, takes place amidst a plurality of others. The figures at prayer are peacefully intent, heads slightly bowed and eyes shut. Although their inner lives might seem thus enclosed, the show nevertheless boldly bills itself as an “insider’s view” of the faiths.…
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© David Robinson, 2018