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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Berlin 19321933: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 12: Edited by Larry L. Rasmussen: Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009. 680 pp. $55.00
Stephen J. Plant Theology Today 2010 67: 363 DOI: 10.1177/004057361006700315 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Theology Today

Book Reviews


Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Berlin 19321933 Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 12

Edited by Larry L. Rasmussen
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009. 680 pp. $55.00.

On January 12, 1933, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his brother Karl-Friedrich to tell him a little about what I am doing. Dietrich faced a momentous decision, whether to undertake a parish ministry ... in East Berlin or to proceed with an academic career at the University of Berlin. Strange how difficult it is to make a choice.... Every effort to decide what my own abilities are, whether they lie in this direction or that, simply breaks down. Bonhoeffers quandary was less a choice between two career paths than whether it might be possible to serve both church and academic theology. Throughout 1932 and 1933, Bonhoeffers correspondence shows him juggling competing demands. Like Tolkeins Bilbo Baggins, he finds himself stretched thin. Like butter, spread over too much bread. He writes to a supporter of the youth club he founded in Charlottenburg, requesting more money. He reports to the Berlin Consistory on his slow progress in student chaplaincy at the Technical College in Charlottenburg. He is drawn into ecumenical work, advising officers of developing ecumenical agencies and acting as a German delegate to several ecumenical bodies and conferences. He is active from the outset in the Young Reformation Movement and the Pastors Emergency League, from which the Confessing Church would later arise. He cowrites the first drafts of the Bethel Confession, writes on the Jewish question, and broadcasts on the principle of the Fhrer (later apologizing to colleagues because he overran his allotted time and was cut off). He is equally busy in the academy. He campaigns, unsuccessfully, to have Karl Barth elected to a chair in systematic theology at Berlin. He teaches (this volume includes a splendid new version of Bonhoeffers christology lectures). He engages in extracurricular work with students, including putting on a carol service. There can be little wonder that the period covered by volume 12 ends with Bonhoeffer opting to take up a pastorate in London, while keeping options at the university open by agreeing only temporarily to suspend his status as a teacher. Like all of the eight biographical volumes in this sixteen-volume scholarly English translation from the German critical edition of Bonhoeffers writings, volume 12 is divided into three parts: letters and documents, essays

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Theology Today

Book Reviews


There are equally clearly intimations of what is to come in the Ethics and the prison letters. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is fully present here in nuce in all the messy contingency of lifes frustrating detail and complexity, struggling always to see the wood amid the trees. Yet in spite of the fact that Bonhoeffer gets things right more often than notimpressive beyond his tender years (the volume ends with him at age 27)the note of uncertainty about whether he would be able to hold together the worlds of academic theology and of the church is what strikes me. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, when centrifugal forces push church and academic theology apart in the English-speaking world, a German theologian from the last century still has insights that can heal the wounds.
Stephen J. Plant Wesley House and St. Edmunds College Cambridge, United Kingdom

God and the Philosophers

Keith Ward
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009. 153 pp. $20.

Of late, there has been a little flood of books with a title similar to this one. Two of the more prominentPhilosophers without Gods and Philosophers and Godare collections of essays by contemporary philosophers, the first articulating a rejection of religion, the second a sympathetic treatment of some traditional religious concepts and ideas. Keith Wards volume is different not just in being the work of a single author but in its historical focus. Its purpose is to draw attention to the fact that the hostility to religion associated with contemporary philosophy is something of a historical aberration. This hostility arises from a materialist or physicalist conception of reality, but the majority of the greatest figures in the Western philosophical tradition, according to Ward, have been friends of religion, at least to the extent that they have endorsed a nonmaterialist conception of reality. Even Hume and Nietzsche, Christianitys greatest philosophical critics, rejected the crude materialism that is thought to have made intelligent subscription to religion impossible. In defense of this thesis, Ward has short chapters on Plato, Aquinas, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, and then concludes with a general resume of the arguments against materialism. In his final paragraph, he writes, I think the God conclusion holds firm, and that it is
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