I once heard a Reformed theologian critique Dietrich Bonhoeffer for his Christology, but it failed to stick with me because I have not (yet) read any Bonhoeffer and am not very familiar with recent German theology in general.

What did Bonhoeffer teach about Christ? Was this related to Karl Barth's Christology? What other theologians hold to a similar position?

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    You might like Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I'll see what I can find from it on his Christology when I get some time. – Thomas Shields Apr 18 '12 at 20:09
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    Thumbnail answer: Yes, he was influenced by Barth. He also wrote a Christological treatise called Christ the Center, which is excellent and orthodox as far as I can tell. Bonhoeffer's theology has come under attack in some circles because of personal letters written in prison that were published minus some relevant context. (When I dig out my copy of the book, I may attempt a real answer.) – Jon Ericson Apr 18 '12 at 20:16
  • @ThomasShields Excellent—a friend just gave it to me, which is what got me thinking about Bonhoeffer again; but it will be several months at least before a get a chance to read it (wouldn't start a book that thick unless I was confident I could finish it). – Kazark Apr 18 '12 at 20:21

Christ as community (ecclesiocentric)

In his dissertation "Sanctorum Communio" (1927), christology and ecclesiology do basically conincide. Christ is "existing as community" ("Christus als Gemeinde existierend").

The mediator and center0: christocentric alteration

Christ and the world. In Bonhoeffer theology since his "christology" lecture (1933), the question of Christ is always connected with the question of the world (Welt).1 In his late writings, his prison letters, this is expressed as the question of "Christ and the world come of age".2 Earlier in his Ethics he states: "In Jesus Christ the reality of the good has entered into the world".3

Christ as the mediator ("Mittler"). Based on this question, Christ is defined as the "mediator" between humans and God and the humans,4 since there are no direct relations anymore. As such, Christ is the center ("Mitte"). Bonhoeffers already clarified that in his christology lecture (1933): Christ is …5

  1. the center of human existence ("menschliche Existenz")
  2. the center of history ("Geschichte")
  3. the center of nature ("Natur")

or, as he later says: He's "the center of life".6 Hence the christology is the middle and fundament of Bonhoeffers theology.

Relation to Karl Barth

Both, Barth and Bonhoeffer, were accused of a "christological narrowing"7 – a "christomonism"8.

Jürgen Moltmann claims a difference: While Barths christology is Trinitarian, Bonhoeffer's christology is theocentric9 (since it's fixed on the doctrine of incarnation).

0) This description is based on Ernst Feil: Die Theologie Dietrich Bonhoeffers. Hermeneutik – Christologie - Weltverständnis. Münster 20065.
1) "Wer Christus heute für uns eigentlich ist", Wiederstand und Ergebung (WE), p. 178.
2) "Christus und die mündig gewordene Welt", WE, p. 218.
3) "In Jesus Christus ist die Wirklichkeit des Guten in die Welt eingegangen", Ethik, p. 207.
4)"Nothing can be known about God nor about the humans until God became a human in Christ" ("Es kann […] weder von Gott noch vom Menschen etwas gewusst werden, bevor Gott in Jesus Christus Mensch geworden ist."), GS III, p. 230.
5) GS III, p. 199 f.
6) WE, p. 211
7) Cf. Gerhard Ebeling: Die nicht-religiöse Interpretation. In: MW II 19
8) This accusation was first done by Paul Althaus. According to Gerhard Ebeling: Wort und Glaube. Tübingen 1960, p. 99. it would also apply to Bonhoeffer. Cf. also Ernst-Heinz Amberg: Christologie und Dogmatik. Untersuchung ihres Verhältnisses in der evangelischen Theologie der Gegenwart. Göttingen 1966, p. 125
9) J. Moltmann: Herrschaft Christi und soziale Wirklichkeit nach D. Bonhoeffer in: Theologische Existenz heute, NF 71. München 1959, p. 29

  • Thank you so much for digging up all these references. I believe the 1933 Christology lectures are what have been reproduced from student notes and published as Christ the Center. – Jon Ericson May 31 '12 at 22:54
  • @JonEricson Exactly. According to his close friend Eberhard Bethge, it's Bonhoeffers "accademical highlight". Bonhoeffer himself considered the Christology lecture as the most difficult task at all, since everything, which was previously thought and experimented, had here to be checked for its ultimate ground (DB 265). – Karl von Moor Jun 1 '12 at 9:59

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