Today we conclude our review of the chapter on Diectrich Bonhoeffer in John Stackhouse's Making the Best of It.
Religionless Christianity. Here Bonhoeffer is thinking of religion in the sense of trying to find timeless universal truths in Christianity just as we might in other religions – it is an exercise in getting answers to our . Stackhouse sums up Bonhoeffer’s views in this way:
We are responsible to act in an ambiguous and paradoxical world. But Stackhouse notes we live in a troubled world that defies easy answers. Then he offers this quote from Ethics:
Jesus is hardly ever involved in solving worldly problems. … Since Jesus brings the redemption of human beings, rather than the solution to problems, he indeed brings the solution to all human problems. …
Who actually says that all worldly problems should and can be solved? Perhaps to God the unsolved condition of these problems may be more important than their solution, namely, as a pointer to the human fall and to God’s redemption. Human problems are perhaps so entangled, so wrongly posed, that they are in fact really impossible to solve. (145)
Relating Bonhoeffer’s views, Stackhouse writes:
Bonhoeffer was suspicious of leaning on “unmediated inspirations” as they to easily lead us into self-deception. We do have a responsibility act, however. We discern as best we can and make decision with the confidence that God accomplishes his will through such acts ... even if we choose poorly. Stackhouse writes, “All we can do, therefore, and what we must do, therefore, is to discern our responsibility as best we can and then fulfill it.” (147) This is not situational ethics but rather listening for Christ’s direction and then following.
Stackhouse makes more interesting observations along these lines. One critical issue is the complete absence of the Holy Spirit from the discussion, typical of his theological tradition. Doesn’t the Spirit play a critical role in such discernment? While I might share some of Bonhoeffer’s concern about “unmediated inspirations” this glaring omission is a major weakness in his theology.
Eschatological hope. Stackhouse writes this about the story that Bonhoeffer saw in scripture:
Direct action. In Conspiracy and Imprisonment, Bonhoeffer writes:
He concludes the latter, as Stackhouse says, with some anguish, since he had taken a more Anabaptist view of conquering evil through nonresistance. Stackhouse says that Bonhoeffer did not naturally think in terms institutional politics like someone like Niebuhr might have, so he had few suggestions to offer along these lines. It was clear that at least late in life he felt Christians have a responsibility to act but he was deeply conflicted about appropriate action, as evidenced by his conviction of pacifism and yet feeling compelled to participate in attempts to murder Hitler.
This completes the review of the chapter on Bonhoeffer. What do you think?