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Center for Advanced Theological Studies School of Theology Fuller Theological Seminary

THE CHURCH COME OF AGE


AN ANALYSIS OF BONHOEFFERS NON-RELIGIOUS INTERPRETATION1 FOR THE RELIGOUSLY PLURALISTIC WORLD

A dissertation submitted to the faculty o f the School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree o f Doctor o f Philosophy

written by Sung Mo Kang

May, 2001

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UMI Number: 3003172

Copyright 2001 by Kang, Sung Mo

All rights reserved.

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Copyright 2001 by Sung Mo Kang

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Center for Advanced Theological Studies School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary Dissertation Approval Sheet
This dissertation entitled

The Church 'Come O f Age': An Analysis Of Bonhoeffer's 'Non-Religious Interpretation' For The Religiously Pluralistic World

written by Sung Mo Kang and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor o f Philosophy has been awarded by the Faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary upon the recommendation of the following readers:

Kay S a n d e rs o n Robert K. Johr^on urton Nelson

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I express my grateful thanks to my primary mentor, Dr. Ray S. Anderson, who inspired me with his theological insights and personal warmth. His consistent confidence in me helped me throughout this effort. Dr. Andersons understanding and guidance helped me especially through the last stages of this effort. I appreciate the time and effort that he invested in me, and I am truly grateful to God that I had the opportunity to meet such a mentor. His presence as a mentor did not end as a professor, but was seen in his consistent support, encouragement, and, o f course, critical comments! My second mentor, Dr. Robert K. Johnston, gave me his criticism which helped me shape my work in a more scholarly format. Also, he was more than generous in lending me his valuable Bonhoeffer literatures. Before he shared his resources with me, I had never known how many literary works there were on Bonhoeffer. I also acknowledge that my external reader, Dr. F. Burton Nelson, was a very detailed, informative reader. He pointed out many places where I had generalized my ideas and made me reflect on certain points that were ambiguous in definition. He also provided a list o f additional secondary Bonhoeffer literatures to strengthen the quality o f my dissertation. Most of all, I thank my family who supported me in this project with their love, understanding and patience. The constant and torturous clicking sound o f the keyboard at night became a household norm. To my two daughters, Hyunjoo and Hyunsook, who went through their teenage adolescent years without much o f my guidance, I thank from my heart. Also, to my loving wife, I thank for her prayer, patience and sacrifice of

having a virtual husband during all these years o f study at Fuller. I dedicate this work to my precious wife and lifetime companion, Tae II, for her love and support.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS........................................................................................................... iii TABLE OF CONTENTS............................................................................................................... iv ABBREVIATIONS.......................................................................................................................vii INTRODUCTION..........................................................................................................................viii

PART I

BONHOEFFERS THEOLOGY FOR THE WORLD COME OF AGE An Overview of Bonhoeffers Theology...................................................... 2 Bonhoeffers Theological Concern......................................................... 3 The Interpretations o f Bonhoeffers Theology...................................... 8 The Church for Others.................................................................................21 Christ, the Center......................................................................................... 32

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

The World Come of Age................................................................................. 40 The Development o f the Concept............................................................ 40 Bonhoeffers Worldview............................................................................ 47 The Human Autonomy and the Decay o f Religion..................................52 Christs Forsakeness and the World Come o f Age.................................. 62 A Wholly New Way o f Life....................................................................... 66 The Freedom for Others.............................................................................. 69

CHAPTER 3

A Non-religious Interpretation o f the Gospel..................................................73 Bonhoeffers Understanding o f Religion .............................................. 74 The Problem o f A Religionless World...................................................... 90 The Development o f the Non-religious Interpretation .........................94 Religionless Christianity.......................................................................... 99

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PART n

OUR RELIGIOUSLY PLURALISTIC WORLD


A World in Transition........................................................................................114 The Meaning o f Postmodemity................................................................ 116 A Brief History of Postmodemity...............................................................122 The Transition from Modernity to Postmodemity.................................... 127 A Challenge o f the Transition for Christianity........................................ 132

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

The Nature of Our Contemporary World....................................................... 136 Rejecting Universal Truth..........................................................................136 The World Without God: God is Dead.................................................... 142 Relativism and the Problem o f Hermeneutics......................................... 143 Individualism and Communalism............................................................... 147 Toleration...................................................................................................... 155 Pluralism...................................................................................................... 158 Challenges for the Church......................................................................... 160 The Maturity o f the World.......................................................................... 164

CHAPTER 6

The Religiously Pluralistic World.................................................................. 169 The Challenge of Religious Plurality......................................................... 170 The Meaning of the Religiously Pluralistic World ............................. 172 Popular Attitudes Toward Religious Plurality.......................................... 176 Christian Attitudes Toward Other Religious........................................... 182 Religious Pluralism.......................................................................................187

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PART m

A NON-RELIGIOUS INTERPRETATION FOR THE RELIGIOUSLY PLURALISTIC WORLD A Non-Religious Interpretation f o r ..................................................................195 the Religiously Pluralistic World A Critique o f Bonhoeffers the Religionless World .......................... 197 Challenges of a Religiously Pluralistic W o rld ........................................ 203 The Relevance o f Non-religious Interpretation.................................... 213 Religionless Christianity for the Religiously Pluralistic World............. 219 The Church for the Religious O th e rs........................................................222

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

The Church in Adolescence...............................................................................228 The Meaning o f Adulthood, Miindigkeit...................................................228 Self-centeredness o f an Adolescent Church..............................................247 Pharisaism o f an Adolescent Church......................................................... 250 Territorialism of an Adolescent Church.................................................. 253 An Adolescent Church as a Religious Inistitutution.............................. 258 An Adolescent Church in a Religiously Pluralistic W orld..................... 268

CHAPTER 9

The Church Come of Age................................................................................ 272 What Should the Church Do to Become Mature?....................................273 The Form of the Church Come o f Age......................................................282 The Praxis of the Church Come o f Age.................................................... 293 Christianity for the Religious Others......................................................... 308 Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life...................................... 311

BIBLIOGRAPHY

325

ABSTRACT ....................................................................................................................................331

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ABBREVIATIONS

The following abbreviations have been used. Full publication details are given in the Bibliography.

AB CC CF D NRS WF DBW

Act and Being. DBWE 2, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1996 Christ the Center. San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1960 Creation and Fall. DBWE 3, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1997 Discipleship. DBWE 4, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2001 Mo Rusty Sword. New York, Harper & Row, 1965 The Way to Freedom. New York, Harper & Row, 1967 Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke, the critical edition of Bonhoeffers works. 1986-1999

DBWE Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English Edition, 1996 E LPP Ethics. New York, Touchstone, 1955 Letters and Papers from Prison. The Enlarged Edition, New York: Macmillan, 1972; Simon & Schuster, 1997 Life Together. DBWE 5, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1996 Sanctorum Communio. DBWE 1, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1998

LT SC

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INTRODUCTION

Background About half a century ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw the world coming of age. According to him, in the Enlightenment and subsequent modernity, humanity had become confident enough to rule over nature and manage its own life without God. He characterized the mature world as a religionless world where God as a stop-gap and religion are no longer needed by humanity. In order for the gospel to be preached to a people who can reason and who feel they are capable of making their own decisions, a Christian interpretation o f biblical terms must be made which makes sense to their reason. As a response to this secularization o f the world, he called for the non-religious interpretation o f biblical concepts 1 for the religionless world.2 The purpose o f Bonhoeffers commitment to a non-religious interpretation of biblical concepts was to rescue Christianity from being a religion or a religious system that had become irrelevant to the religionless world. Bonhoeffer criticized religion for its exploitation of human weakness and religiosity. In his view, religion seems to push Christ to the margins o f real life. Furthermore, with regard to the essential character of the gospel o f Jesus, Bonhoeffer questions whether Christianity is a genuine religion of redemption in which the main emphasis is on the far side of the boundary drawn by

1 LPP 344, 8 July 1944. 2 LPP 280ff 30 April 1944; 285ff 5 May 1944; 339, 27 June 1944.

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death. He asserts, But it seems to me that this is just where the mistake and the danger lie. Redemption now means redemption from cares, distress, fears, and longings, from sin and death, in a better world beyond the grave.3 Then, Bonhoeffer asks the key question, But is this really the essential character o f the proclamation of Christ in the gospels and by Paul?4 He answers that it is not.5 Rather, he says, The difference between the Christian hope of resurrection and the mythological hope is that the former sends a man back to his life on earth in a wholly new way which is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament.6 Redemption myths or religion arise from human boundary-experiences, but Christ, as the Lord o f this world, takes hold of humanity at the center o f this-worldly life.7 Therefore, the non-religious interpretation was essential for Bonhoeffer to restore the essential meaning of the gospel of Jesus fo r the world. In order to

communicate with and preach to the world which, from his perspective, had become religionless, it was necessary to present the truth o f the gospel in non-religious ways. According to Bonhoeffer, Christianity was losing the battle to the secularization o f the world. In his incamational Christology, Bonhoeffer found a way for a non-religious interpretation within such a religionless world; authentic humanity can only be found in Christ who was bom in human flesh in order to humanize humanity.

3 LPP 336, 27 June 1944. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid.. 336-7. 1 1bid., 337.

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A New Situation However, in anticipating the dawn o f a new millennium, it is clear that a new understanding of the world, which is different from Bonhoeffers is called for. Contrary to his prediction of a religionless world, the world that we experience today still seems to be predominantly religious. Why did he fail to see this historical phenomenon of a religious world? It might be said that Bonhoeffers failure in this regard came from the fact that, though he was influenced by Gandhis pacifism, his world-view was quite limited to the intellectual world of Germany and o f the West, which he had mostly experienced personally throughout his life. If he were to see our contemporary world and what really takes place in most parts o f the globe, he would realize that his idea of a religionless world has been realized only for a small part of the whole humanity. Even in the Western world, which is technologically advanced, religion still maintains its stronghold today. Surely, God (or the gods) has been hovering over the human spirit. Death is an unavoidable destiny for all human beings, and two of the fundamental questions o f religion are about the unknown world beyond death and any supernatural being who is beyond human knowledge. Unless human beings can avoid death by some means or the question of after-death can be answered with the clarity o f a simple mathematical formula, it is clear that the myth o f god will continue through to the end o f human history.

The Relevance of Bonhoeffers Thesis Although Bonhoeffer failed to foresee this present globalized world because his worldview itself was too narrow from our current perspective, his thesis o f a non-

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religious interpretation for the world come o f age is still commendable for several reasons: First, regardless o f historical contexts, his non-religious understanding of Christianity is valid in view o f the original meaning o f the gospel as intended by Jesus Christ. Many interpreters o f Bonhoeffers theology have stumbled over the fact that he established the religionless world as the condition o f the non-religious interpretation. It seems that the contemporary world at large is religious rather than religionless. Thus, the thesis of the non-religious interpretation appears to lose its meaning because its condition, the religionless world, is not satisfied. However, Bonhoeffers non religious interpretation should not be viewed as a mere contextualization o f the gospel. Rather, it should be understood as his effort to restore the original meaning o f the gospel for the world come of age. From his observation, the religious interpretation o f the gospel, which used to be meaningful to the religious world, became irrelevant to the religionless world. Therefore, Bonhoeffer responded to the situation by restoring the original meaning o f the gospel as intended by Jesus Christ. In doing so, he projected that the world had come o f age by becoming religionless, which, in reality, did not seem to have happened. Nonetheless, the non-religious nature o f the gospel makes the non religious interpretation still meaningful for the world with many religions. Second, it is evident that a new interpretation o f the gospel for the changing world is not only necessary but also demanded by the gospel. The good news o f Jesus is engraved not on tablets o f stone but on the tablets o f human hearts (2 Co. 3:3), as Paul understood it. The fact that the gospel is engraved on the tablets o f human hearts signifies the dynamic nature o f the gospel o f Christ. From an historical perspective, God

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has provided each human generation with a different environment for life and a different level of understanding o f the created world. For each generation and for people with different cultural backgrounds, God speaks in a language that can be understood by each one of them. Clearly, the gospel as the living truth o f Christ must be continually reinterpreted in such a way that the contemporary heart and mind can understand it. Third, even though Bonhoeffer was mistaken in projecting that the world would come of age as the religionless world, the fact that world has come of age is still valid for different reasons. Contrary to Bonhoeffers assessment, it seems that human beings are still dependent on God. However, it can be said that the mind o f human beings has become mature in postmodemity by being more tolerant and open to differences. Diversity is no longer viewed as a problem but as merit. We are living in the postmodern context where openness and relativism have established a firm place of their own in the human mind. Humanity has learnt to tolerate differences and to live in harmony with others of different cultural, racial and religious backgrounds. From a spiritual or religious perspective, the maturity of the world was attained not through its freedom from God or religion but through its tolerance for different religions and its mutual respect for other religions. In contrast with Bonhoeffers problem o f the religionless world, todays open world has become a breeding ground of religious plurality, which is the problem with which the contemporary Church must deal. Lastly, the problem of todays church is that it is still in its adolescence while the world that it serves has moved into its adulthood. It is clear that this adolescent Christianity cannot be in full service for the mature world. The Church cannot properly communicate with the world unless it transforms itself and grows into its own adulthood.

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The adolescence o f Christianity can be depicted as a child who is still fighting for its religious space with other religions in the spiritual playground. The object o f the game is to get a control over this world and other religions. But from the perspective o f other religions, Christian conversion may be viewed as synonymous to a religious invasion against them.

The Opportunity of Non-religious Interpretation Although Bonhoeffers thesis of a non-religious interpretation o f the biblical terms and concepts for the religionless world can be applied to the present world of many religions, the non-religiousness o f interpretation should not be understood as secular or humanistic. As Bonhoeffer saw, the interpretation must be Christ-centered. The gospel must be interpreted by Jesus Christ himself as he is revealed in this world as the Son of God and the Son o f Man through the life o f the Church and the life o f his disciples empowered and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The shortcoming o f Bonhoeffer is that he focused only on the world that was becoming religionless from a humanistic standpoint, and didnt pay enough attention to the world, which needs to be freed from the grips of religions. His primary concern was that Christ is no longer in the center of the Western world which became autonomous. He was concerned about the secularism that was wide-spreading and the Churchs inability to provide its service to the world. However, in todays world, the non-religious interpretation o f the gospel o f Jesus Christ provides the Church with an opportunity to free all human beings from the grips o f many religions. Clearly, the commonality of human beings encompassing different parts o f the world is the lack o f knowledge about the true God, which is called religiosity.

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Therefore, the purpose o f the non-religious interpretation o f the gospel is to bring the knowledge about the true God to the people who are religious in many different ways.

The Nature of the Non-religious Interpretation The present reality of the incarnate Son o f God should be the way in which we interpret his gospel. The historical event o f the Incarnation already includes the divine nature o f the one who came into this world in human flesh. The incarnation o f the Son of God must be preached to the religious world with power and authority. How should we understand the power that the Son o f God received from the Father and passed to the Church through the Holy Spirit? How should we interpret the miracles performed by the apostles? Bonhoeffer understood the power of God as the power of self-sacrifice and humility. God performed the miracles out o f His love toward humankind for their salvation. The conversions, which took place in the biblical accounts, were not a conversion from one religion to another, but a conversion from the Jewish religion to the non-religious truth o f God as revealed in Jesus. Therefore, in the subsequent discussion, it will be argued that Christianity should not be at war with other religions, but should be in Gods service to awaken the world from the slumber o f religion (including Christianity!). According to Bonhoeffer, Barth shared this view on religion, but didnt go far enough to restore the biblical meaning o f the Christian faith by leaving Christianity in the religious category as the true religion.8 The nature o f the non-religious interpretation o f the gospel can be explained from several aspects. First, the non-religious or incamational interpretation o f the gospel must

8 LPP 328, 8 June 1944.

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be based in the Word, because apart from the Word we cannot speak o f the Incarnation: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (Jn. 1:14). The Scripture as the spoken Word is not the object o f a non-religious interpretation but its point of departure. Second, the non-religious or incamational interpretation is practical, because it is based on who Jesus really is for this world today. He is the way (Jn. 14:6). The

gospel, therefore, must be practical in every possible way. It is not simply an ethical statement because it does not remain as a moral value, which tells us what we should do and how we should live in this world. With transforming power, the gospel instead leads and transforms humanity into the kingdom. It teaches and empowers us in how to love, not just in how to live. Third, the non-religious or incamational interpretation is liberating. Its power is to free the human spirit. The gospel as the truth frees humanity from every bondage. Jesus is the truth over against the falsehood and oppression of all religions and philosophies. He is the truth. Fourth, the non-religious or incamational interpretation brings back life to the spiritually dead. It overcomes the power of death and removes the needs o f religiosity for human beings. Everlasting life was given to humanity as a reality. He is the life. The non-religious interpretation o f the gospel is actualized through the life of the Church. The Church in its adulthood is the Church that knows itself as the resurrected Christ and ministers to the world on behalf o f Christ who is constantly at work to build the kingdom, the final resting-place for all humanity. The incarnation is the continuing praxis o f Christ. The power and authority o f the resurrected Lord penetrates and

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transforms this hopelessly religious world into the kingdom o f God, and it is precisely the act of new Creation. The ultimate goal o f the praxis of the Spirit o f God is the kingdom. What is ultimate is also original from Gods perspective because God is the Alpha and Omega. The kingdom is continually being shaped by Gods mature people who are finally freed from the captivity o f the religious world and led into the eternal kingdom by the truth o f the gospel. The gospel o f the resurrected Jesus Christ is the gospel for the oppressed people in every comer o f this world. It creates the light that provides vision for the world, which is lost in the chaos o f relativism. From this chaos, a new creation, the kingdom is coming forth. The gospel o f Jesus is the gospel o f the new creation out of the vast void of human invention and confusion. This incamational interpretation seeks to find the will of God in this contemporary world. We are not to seek a new external form o f church. There have been countless superfluous forms o f the Church, whether under the guise o f orthodoxy, denomination, sect, home church, and so on and so forth. These have stemmed largely from different ways of interpreting the gospel based on differing human perspectives. In many cases, the characterization of the different form o f churches is solely based on how its leaders or founders interpreted the gospel and the Christian faith from their own interpretive key. The division within religious Christianity is, therefore, an inevitable consequence of such cultural myopia. However, by restoring the vision o f Christ, the incamational interpretation sees that the Church as one body of Christ must be united in one Spirit. Also, Christian worship has too often become a self-serving spiritual ritual. Our task at hand is to rediscover the meaning and purpose o f the Church as willed by God for

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this world. What needs to be set forth is neither a new form o f church nor a new method of its religious rituals, but the will o f God in Christ revealed through the life o f the authentic and mature Church. This does not mean that the structure of the Church is unimportant. Like a tree which takes its form as it grows, it is clear that the Church will take its shape when the Church lives its life in obedience to the will o f God. Throughout church history, the will of God for the Church, which is to become one as the Spirit is one (1 Co. 12:13, Eph. 4:4, Php. 2:2), has been denied by the Church leaders for the sake of their human religious doctrines. For the Church to become mature, it needs to undress the religious robes of adolescence and be clothed with the resurrected Jesus himself. The true meaning of church will be rediscovered and a new form of church will emerge not as a human invention, but as the result of obedient acts o f individual Christians who accept the will of the Father and unite under the lordship o f the Son who works through his body, the Church, which is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Methodology In order to set forth the discussion on the concept o f a non-religious interpretation o f the Gospel for a world come of age, first, Bonhoeffers understanding of both religion and the world come of age needs to be clarified. Religion is an ambiguous term with various meanings. His theological thesis o f non-religious interpretation is anchored on his critique o f religion. By understanding how he has viewed religion, it will be possible to comprehend his concept o f the religionless world from the perspective o f the world come of age, as well as his concern for the

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relationship between the Church and his then-contemporary world. For the religionless world come o f age, Bonhoeffer prescribed a non-religious interpretation. What he meant by non-religious interpretation and how he developed his thesis as a solution to the problem o f secularization in his world will be discussed. He observed that the religionless world seeks concrete answers for the human problems it faces. Bonhoeffer believed that the only concrete answer the Church can give to the secularized world is in the authentic humanity o f Christ who broke into the world through his incarnation, death and resurrection. Thus Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is based on his Christology of Incarnation and Resurrection. In addition to those historical events, the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost are important for Bonhoeffer. His early thought of Christ existing as community9 remained at the center o f his theology which, in Bonhoeffers later view, must focus on the secular world where Jesus is. Second, our contemporary situation will be analyzed in light o f the pluralistic and diverse nature of the present world, especially in the realm o f religion. Based on the outcome o f this analysis, the validity o f Bonhoeffers claim for the religionless world as a world come of age will be critiqued. In this section o f the discussion, we will find that his prediction o f a religionless world has not been fully materialized in the present world. Quite contrary to his projection, even Bonhoeffers western world has come under the shadow of many different religions and has continued for the most part to be filled with religious people. Thus, the adulthood o f the world which Bonhoeffer posits might better be reinterpreted in terms o f its openness and tolerance towards differences instead o f in its secularization as Bonhoeffer assessed in his time. Moreover, for any

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living creatures, maturity also means the beginning o f decline. It is not clear how Bonhoeffer has wrestled with this issue. Therefore, it will be argued that the nature of the world come of age must be redefined in order for his thesis o f the non-religious interpretation to remain helpful for the present world. Third, my view on the adolescence o f the Church as the problem o f todays Christianity will be explained. In the midst o f religious struggles against other religions, Christianity has marginalized itself as a religion among many others. The truth o f Christ has been put on the shelves of the spiritual marketplace along with other religious ideas. As a direct result of the openhandedness o f the world, some Christian circles are even suggesting that Christianity should respect other religions and tolerate their belief system on the basis of an equality o f religion and the importance o f human freedom o f choice. A Buddhist monk will soon deliver the teachings o f Buddha as a guest speaker during a Christian worship service, and one will ask, Whats wrong with that? Arent we supposed to have an open mind after all? What was once quite clear has now become unclear and muddy. Mature humanity is being asked to make its own choice just as the Israelites were challenged in the desert by Moses and Joshua (Ex. 32:26, Deut. 29-30, Jos. 24:15). A mature theology will impose the question o f choice upon the people of Christ. Without a working practical theology to guard the Church from becoming a religious child cornered by other religions, Christianity will only suffer further marginalization. A new theology should be developed to not only guide Christianity through the myriad of this strange world o f many religions, but also help the Church to carry out its mission for this peculiarly religious world.

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The adulthood o f the Church for the world come o f age in its openness will be presented as the solution for the question o f what should the Church do for this world? The concrete meaning o f the adulthood o f the Church is based on the humility o f Jesus Christ. The love o f Christ must be practiced first within the body of Christ with openness as the obedient acts of the disciples. Bonhoeffer found his theological answer for the Church in his Christology of Incarnation and Resurrection. Similarly, it will be argued that the fully mature church is the eschatological community o f Christ empowered and enlivened by the Holy Spirit and united together in the Lord who will hand his kingdom over to the Father at the victorious eschaton, which is not only a future event but the historical process which began with the ministry o f Jesus Christ on earth. In Christ, the adulthood o f the Church is not the point o f beginning o f decay, but the beginning of a new life attained through its marriage with Him, which is the meaning of the biblical account o f the first marriage in Genesis 2:24. Christianity as a religion per se has to be abolished in order for the Church to be transformed into the body o f the risen Christ. Immanuel will be presented as a ground for the demolition of Christianity as a religion. The Church as Immanuel for the world can be built based on the eschatological criteria. In conclusion, a non-religious interpretation o f the Gospel calls for the praxis o f the Church come o f age, which is led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Church should become mature in order to embrace the world come of age. Those who are called to participate in the renewal of the Church come o f its age should ask the following question: how can we tell the Gospel o f the risen Christ to this religiously pluralistic and open world by becoming a part o f the good news? The meaning and the purpose of

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the Church need to be reinterpreted. By becoming the true body o f Christ through its praxis of the love of Christ, the Church should be able to transform the world into the kingdom of God. By understanding the true purpose and the true goal o f the Church for Gods kingdom , we can finally have a plan for our action, not for speculation. It is the mission of the Church come of age to be the praxis of the triune God for a world come of age. The Church come of age is meant to be the source of life for the world which claims its own adulthood.

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PARTI BONHOEFFERS THEOLOGY FOR THE WORLD COME OF AGE

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CHAPTER 1 AN OVERVIEW OF BONHOEFFERS THEOLOGY


Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian who paid a great deal of attention to the world from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His theology was a reflection of the life and faith he lived during a time of political and ideological turmoil, the mass destruction of war, and the human suffering of the holocaust. Unlike most o f his contemporary theologians, whose primary interest was in the formulation o f a systematic for the Church, Bonhoeffers primary concern was to establish a Christian agenda for the world he felt responsible for as a disciple o f Christ. In short, his theology was not simply to understand God and his will but also to act upon it obediently. From that sense, his theology must be understood from the perspective o f a practical theology rather than a systematic theology. Because o f the lack of its systematization, some Bonhoeffer interpreters find his theology somewhat fragmented. However, I would say Bonhoeffers theology can be described as dynamic rather than fragmented. He had a clear vision and direction for his theology, even while he was changing his focus as a reaction to the different situations he had to confront. I will argue later that the main thrust of Bonhoeffers theology throughout its development was the presence and praxis o f Christ in this world as the Lord of the Church and the world. In order to find the relevance o f Bonhoeffers theology in todays religiously pluralistic world, which is our present goal, we need first to understand his theology in much more detail. Throughout this dissertation, then, I will attempt to use his theology

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to solve todays problem of religious plurality within the context o f postmodemity. Therefore, understanding Bonhoeffers theology is not an end but a starting point o f the thesis, the beginning point for a non-religious interpretation o f Christianity for the religiously pluralistic world. The main goal o f this present endeavor is not to give another interpretation of Bonhoeffers theology, but to find out its applicability as a theological agenda for the contemporary which finds itself confronted by postmodemity. To accomplish this, however, some interpretation and a brief overview o f Bonhoeffers theology will be necessary for the further discussion.

Bonhoeffers Theological Concern


The theological loci o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer can be summarized in three central themes: the Church, Christ, and the world. The theological point o f departure for Bonhoeffer, whom Andre Dumas rightly called a theologian o f reality1 , was the Church as the concrete reality o f Christ, which Bonhoeffer described with the famous phrase the Church [Kirche] is Christ existing as G e m e in d e Clifford J. Green explains: This [phrase] does not mean that an institution calling itself church defines where Christ is communally present. On the contrary, it is not a church organization that defines Christ, but Christ who defines the Church. In other words, it is precisely where, and only where, Christexists-as-Ge/we/rtc/e that we find the church {Kirche). This point is crucial for understanding Bonhoeffers action in the Church Struggle against National Socialism. That there was a German church organization, with its clergy, its traditions, its congregations, its laws yes, even its scripture and its appeals to Martin Luther - does not guarantee that it is church. Only Christ present in communal word and sacrament, that is, the Gemeinde Christi, constitutes the Church.2

1 Andre Dumas, Theologian o f Reality (Bristol: SCM Press, 1971). In this book. Dumas characterizes Bonhoeffer as the theologian of reality. 2 Clifford J. Green, Editor "s Introduction in the English edition of Sanctorum Communio (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 14.

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Bonhoeffers initial effort through his doctoral dissertation o f 1927, Sanctorum Communio, was to define the relationship between Christ and the Church. In the book, he dealt with the social characteristic o f the Church and its relationship with Christ. From the very onset o f his theological development to the end o f his life, the question of What is the Church? and What should the Church do? occupied his mind. Along with the question of the Church, the Christological question o f Who is Christ for us today?3 was central to his theology. He understood the reality of Christ in terms o f his lordship o f the Church and of the world. It is important to remember that Christology was always at the center o f Bonhoeffers theology. Misinterpretations and misapplications o f Bonhoeffers theology are due to the lack of understanding of its Christocentric characteristic.4 Ralf K. Wtistenberg observes that some interpreters like Harvey Cox have called Bonhoeffer an atheist, others a secularist (A. Loen), Bemd Jaspert and John Macquarrie believed that Bonhoeffer himself had a religious nature, while for William Hamilton and others,

3 LPP 279. 30 April 1944. A For instance, Hanfried Mullers interpretation of Bonhoeffer, which views religionless Christianity close to the atheism of Marxism, ignores the fact that Bonhoeffers worldview is not simply social and political as Muller seems to understand, but is rather theological in which Christ is understood as a God who is actively involved in human history. (See Hanfried Muller, Concerning the Reception and Interpretation o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Ronald Gregor Smith, World Come o f Age (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 182-214, and for Mullers Marxist interpretation of Bonhoeffer). The subsequent interpretations by John A. T. Robinson in his Honest to God (1963), Paul van Buren in his The Secular Meaning o f the Gospel (1963), Harvey Cox in his The Secular City (1965), Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton in their Radical Theology and the Death o f God (1966) seem to have either misinterpreted or misused Bohoeffers incamational Christology and the meaning of the terms such as "religionless Christianity. worldly Christianity, and "etsi deus non daretur." They do not seem to have fully appreciated the meaning of Bonhoeffers statement Before God and with God we live without God (LPP 360).

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Bonhoeffer was the father of the God-is-dead theology.5 Wiistenberg adds, Such interpretations clearly reflect the religious or the secular perspectives of the interpreters rather than the assumptions o f Bonhoeffer himself. . . Many o f the misinterpretations o f Bonhoeffer in the 1960s owed to the failure to take into account how profoundly his theology was informed by his Christology.6 The presence o f Christ in concrete human situations was an ever-present theological condition underlying Bonhoeffers theology. If this aspect is not taken into consideration, one would easily end up misinterpreting Bonhoeffer. For Bonhoeffer, the centrality and actuality o f Christ in this world was the master key to answer all theological questions. The relationship between Christ and the Church should be understood on the same premise. For instance, it is not the Church, which invokes the Spirit of Christ to receive worship. On the contrary, Christ is the one who is present at the center of the congregation inviting the people to the fellowship through his community called the Church. In all places and in all situations, Christ is the Lord. While Bonhoeffer paid much attention to the Church as the reality o f Christ, his ultimate theological concern was the problem o f this world in relationship with the incarnate Christ and the Church, which Dumas summarizes in the following paragraph: The reality of which Bonhoeffer speaks consists o f a world already inhabited by the incarnate Christ. As he sees it positivism and idealism are only abstract understandings of that specific reality. From the standpoint of his realism, Bonhoeffer works out a christological analysis o f the concrete, which is neither superimposing Gods work on mans failure, nor letting man take over once God retires, but rather the way in which God as man in Jesus Christ takes the world upon himself, and the way in
5 See Ralf K. Wiistenberg, Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Tegel Theology in John W. de Gruchy ed., Bonhoeffer fo r a New Day (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 58. 6 Ibid.

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which man yields to that responsibility in such a way that it is an act of submission but not surrender.7 It can be said that Bonhoeffer viewed the reality o f the Church, Christ, and the world as interwoven together. He understood the interrelationship between the Church and Christ, Christ and the world, and the Church and the world through: 1) the sociality of the Church in relationship with Christ and with the world8, 2) the centrality of Christ in the Church and in the world, 3) the maturity o f the world in Christ, which necessitates the Churchs renewal as the Church for others. Although these interrelations were addressed throughout the different developmental stages o f Bonhoeffers theology, he summarized his theological concern in the form o f an Outline fo r a Book that was enclosed in the letter o f 3 August 1944. In it he divided the content o f the book, which he was planning to write, into three chapters: 1) A Stocktaking o f Christianity, 2) The Real Meaning o f Christian Faith, 3) Conclusions.9 The first chapter o f his book was going to deal with the then-current situation of the world come o f age in which, based on his judgment, Christianity, as a religion, became irrelevant. In the second chapter, he was going to answer his self-imposed question of Who is Christ for us today?1 0 Hoping that it may be o f some help for the Churchs future, the conclusion of the book would have provided his blueprint of the new Church that shares in the secular problems o f ordinary human life, not

7 Andrd Dumas, Theologian o f Reality, 17. 8 Clifford J. Green, Bonhoeffer, A Theology o f Sociality (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 10. 9 LPP 380, 3 August 1944. 10 LPP 279, 30 April 1944.

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dominating, but helping and serving.1 1 No matter how briefly he expressed his thoughts in the Outline , those are the theological issues he wanted to deal with in earnest. Though he was not able to develop the Outline into a theological treatise, many o f his thoughts still stimulate other theologians and church leaders who are genuinely concerned about the current situation and problem o f the Church in a world that is much different from Bonhoeffers. Perhaps that is because in our contemporary world his prophetic statement o f the world come o f age finally has been realized in the form of postmodemity. O f course, what he meant by the world come o f age remains to be discussed. However, as we live in the postmodern era, we can share with Bonhoeffer some sense that humanity as a whole has become much more enlightened and capable than ever before. The world, for example, has been transformed into a cyber-village through the internet. Technology no longer remains as Sci-fi, and it has become the reality in which we now live. The future generations will experience much faster acceleration of technological advancement than we can currently imagine, which will bring them a worldview totally different from ours. With rapid changes taking place in the world, one has to wonder what is the place for Christianity and what is the task o f theology for the present and the future. It is precisely the same concern that Bonhoeffer had five decades ago. Therefore, the present effort in this thesis can be viewed as an effort to continue his theological formulation that was planted in his Outline fo r a Book for our contemporary situation. Edwin H. Robertson made a similar endeavor to do what Bonhoeffer intended with his Outline and to take Bonhoeffers theological insights into Robertsons contemporary generation and

1 1 LPP 382-83, 3 August 1944.

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explore their relevance within the context o f Bonhoeffers O u tlin e12 Although, in general, his effort is commendable, it does not seem to seriously consider the post modern situation of religious pluralism as the context in which the Outline should be developed further. In order to develop Bonhoeffers Outline into a theology relevant to our contemporary context, it will be necessary to understand Bonhoeffers theological insights. As a beginning, it will be helpful to conduct a brief survey on how others have appraised Bonhoeffers theology.

The Interpretations of Bonhoeffers Theology


Ernst Feil correctly observes that interpreting Bonhoeffer is difficult because: 1) Bonhoeffers work is so varied as far as the genre o f texts is concerned, 2) the variety of the texts raises the question for interpreters as to what extent the writings together form the basis for a scholarly analysis, 3) there are different views as to how one should interpret Bonhoeffers life: as a co-requisite of the interpretation o f his work, primarily as a uniform development, or as a development in which far-reaching changes took place.1 3 Despite the difficulty in interpreting Bonhoeffer, there have been various interpretations of Bonhoeffers theology, which will be briefly surveyed here. David H. Hopper questions Bonhoeffers stature as a systematic theologian and particularly the continuity o f his theological thought. It can be said that, although Hoppers effort to prove his points o f dissent can be deemed as not that successful14, his

12 See Edwin H. Robertson, Bonhoeffer's Heritage: The Christian Way in a World without Religion (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1989), 12. 1 3 Ernst Feil, The Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 3-4. I4David H. Hopper, A Dissent on Bonhoeffer (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975). For

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extensive survey of the various interpretations of Bonhoeffers theology in support of the points o f his dissent serve as an excellent source for the various interpretations of Bonhoeffer. According to Hopper, Karl Barth and others had already made an appraisal of Bonhoeffer in the 1950s. Hopper suggests that Barth, in 1952, a year after publication of the original German edition o f Letters and Papers fro m Prison, described Bonhoeffers theological stature as an impulsive visionary thinker who was suddenly seized by an idea to which he gave a lively form, and then after a time he called a halt.1 5 Barth also complained about the lack o f continuity and consistency in Bonhoeffers theology, and he maintained such an assessment in his 1967 letter to Bethge following the publication of the latters biography o f Bonhoeffer.1 6 Against the earlier assessment by Barth and others, in 1955, Gerhard Ebeling, a student of Bonhoeffer, asserted in defense o f Bonhoeffer that the concept of a nonreligious interpretation of biblical concepts was rooted, with consistency and continuity,

instance, Hopper argues, The matter of BonhoefFers personal quest, his longing for an answer to the question Who am I?, the pull of his family and his own liberal heritage, the synthetic impulse, his fascination with the heroic; these uniquely personal, existential concerns make Bonhoeffers theology something less than system atical34). It is my opinion, based on Bonhoeffers own criticism against the positivistic revelation, and on the dynamism and fluidity of his theological thought for the concrete reality, we can deduce that he never wanted to be identified as a systematic theologian." Therefore, it is a moot point to say that the non-systematic nature of his theology is problematic even if that is the case. Of course we cannot equate systematic theology with the positivistic revelation. However, there is no evidence that he wanted to formulate a systematic theology in the traditional sense. The influence of his theology is not from the systematic nature of his theology, but from the creative and prophetic nature of its content. Hopper also argues that the inconsistency between Christ for others and Christ for me at points be interpreted as suggesting a certain noblesse oblige (135) without considering that me is also included in others from Gods perspective; thus a uniformity does exists in his christology of a suffering God. 15 John A. Phillips, Christ for Us in the Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 251. from a letter of Karl Barth to Landessuperintendent P. W. HerrenbrQck, 21 December 1952, pp. 121-22, quoted in ibid., 154. 16Ibid.

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in certain long-standing theological presuppositions which were more than mere personal whim.17 In 1959, Jurgen Moltmann made a point in The Lordship o f Christ and Human Society that there was a pattern of continuous development in BonhoefFers thought. He asserted that Bonhoeffer, in his early writings, was preoccupied with the sociology o f the Church, with the consequences of faith in the presence of Christ in his church, with Christ existing as Christian community, and with the distinctive nature o f the community in discipleship. In Ethics , however, Bonhoeffers horizon is broadened to include the Lordship of Christ not only in the Church, but also in the world. About this, Moltmann says: In noting this change we do not mean to imply a breach in Bonhoeffers work as a whole. Nor will it be possible to quote his latest thinking against his earlier theological essays. Rather, we should draw the conclusion that it was the theology o f earlier writings, the ethical social transcendence of God, the entering o f God into reality and the vicarious action of Christ, which now prove their worth when applied to other themes.1 8 I agree with Moltmann in his view that what has changed in the development of Bonhoeffers theology was not its underlying principles but the horizon for its application and his theological focus. Hopper finds that the following two points came to represent the common ground of the assessment o f Bonhoeffer in the decade o f the 1960s. First, Bonhoeffer was profoundly Christological in his theological concern

' Gerhard Ebeling, Word and Faith, tr. by James W. Leitch (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 103126. especially p. 105. Cf. also Die miindig Welt, vol. II, pp. 12-73, quoted in ibid.: Ebelings analysis was presented as a paper to one of the conferences of friends and pupils of Bonhoeffer that were held periodically beginning in 1954. Some of the proceedings of these conferences were subsequently published at intervals in several volumes under the title Die miindig Welt. This series of conferences, terminating in the year 1962, had much to do with establishing the new estimates of Bonhoeffers stature, despite occasional dissenting opinions expressed in these meetings. 1 8 Jurgen Moltmann and Jurgen Weissbach, Two Studies in the Theology o f Bonhoeffer, trans. Reginald H. Fuller and Use Fuller (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1959), 56.

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throughout his theological work, and second, the scope o f his vision was ever more broadened over the years. At the time o f his writing A Dissent on Bonhoeffer , Hopper observed, It now was commonly argued that to understand properly the nature and content o f the Letters and Papers from Prison one had to interpret them in the context o f Bonhoeffers earlier writings and be cognizant o f his developing and increasingly perceptive grasp o f reality as he became more and more involved in the life of the world.19 On this same plane o f understanding, Eberhard Bethges biography is entitled Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian, Christian, Contemporary suggesting the progressive stages in Bonhoeffers life with continuity in his theological thinking.20 In the English-speaking world, John Godsey, in 1960, published his study The Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer with an understanding that Bonhoeffers theology was essentially Christology. He marked off three stages in the development o f Bonhoeffers thought: During the first period his thought centered on Jesus Christ as the revelational reality o f the Church. During the second period his emphasis was upon Jesus Christ as the Lord over the Church. In the third period Bonhoeffer concentrated his attention upon Jesus Christ as the Lord over the world."2 1 Godsey also found that Bonhoeffers theological concern for the Church was a continuing theme of his theology throughout, and that he anticipated the presence o f the Church and its function even in a religionless world.22

19 Hopper. A Dissent on Bonhoeffer, 29. :o Ibid., 29-30. 3 1 John Godsey, The Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 266, quoted in ibid., 31. ~ John Godsey, 271, quoted in ibid.

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In From the Church to the World (1961), Hanfried Muller made an interesting observation about Bonhoeffers theological development in terms o f a changing awareness of the social and political situation.23 Despite his Marxist interpretation of Bonhoeffer which provokes challenges from other interpreters, his interpretation, as primarily based on Christology, was generally accepted.24 However, it seems that Muller made a wrongful conclusion by viewing that Bonhoeffer had dropped the doctrine of church from his later theological agenda. As can be seen from the Outline fo r a Book , Bonhoeffers major interest still lay in the matters o f the Church to the end, and with such evidence, Mullers conclusion o f Bonhoeffers abandonment o f ecclesiology seems to be premature. It is clear that the underlying essence o f Bonhoeffers question, Who is Christ for us today, is his consistent inquiry as the theologian o f the concrete reality of Christ. This point will be discussed in more detail later in the section in which a critique o f Bonhoeffer will be made. Quite unfortunately but perhaps unavoidably, given the obscure and at times confusing nature of Bonhoeffers language, the next wave o f sensational reaction to Bonhoeffers theology or theological questions appeared in the form o f a secular theology by John A. T. Robinson - the Bishop o f Woolwich in England - and Paul van Buren in America. According to Hopper, Robinson, in his Honest to God published in 1963, expressed the authors disaffection with and doubt about traditional theological formulations, based on the thought of Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Rudolf

23 Hopper, A Dissent on Bonhoeffer, 30; 155: Muller, Von der Kirche zur Welt. See ed. Ronald Gregor Smith, World Come o f Age (Fortress Press, 1967), 182-214. Muller essentially argues for the abandonment of ecclesiology by the later Bonhoeffer. Also, see Chapter 3 of Hoppers A Dissent on Bonhoeffer. 24 Ibid.

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Bultmann.25 In the same year Paul van Buren published The Secular Meaning o f the Gospel in which he came to the task o f theologizing out o f the philosophical school of linguistic analysis based on the statement o f a non-religious interpretation o f biblical concepts.26 In 1965, Harvey Cox came out with The Secular City in which he defined his major task as a restatement o f Christian faith that would free faith from religion and metaphysics and make common cause with a profane and pragmatic humanism.27 Since the so-called secular theology is not the focus o f the present discussion, these interpretations of Bonhoeffer will not be analyzed at length. However, it might be worthwhile to make a brief observation on some interpretations by these secular theologians. Robinson was first influenced by Paul Tillichs sermon The Depth o f Existence in 1949 in which Tillich transposed the religious symbolism o f God from the heights to the depths. In other words, God is not an Other Being out there or up there but the depth and ground o f our very being.28 Second, he was impressed by Bonhoeffers Letters and Papers from Prison, from which he understood Bonhoeffer as saying that, in Robinsons words, God is deliberately calling us in the twentieth century to a form of Christianity that did not depend on the premise of religion.29 Third, he was influenced by Rudolf Bultmanns analysis and program o f demythologizing the Christianity which was introduced in his 1941 publication of New Testament and Mythology .

25 Ibid., 16-17. 26 Ibid.. 17. 21 Ibid., 18. 28 John A. T. Robinson, Honest to God (SCM Press, 1963). 21-22. See also Paul Tillichs The Shaking o f the Foundations, 1949, 63-64. 29 Ibid.. 23.

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By juxtaposing Tillichs concept o f God as the ground and depth o f our being against Bonhoeffers definition o f God as dens ex m a c h i n a l Robinson tried to put an end to theism, which treats God as a supernatural being external to human beings, and to derive his own understanding of God as Love that, to him, is the very ground o f our being.31 He asserts: The only way in which Christ can be met, whether in acceptance or rejection, is through the least of his brethren. The Son o f Man can be known only in unconditional relationship to the son o f man, to the one whose sole claim upon us is his common humanity. Whether one has known God is tested by one question only, How deeply have you loved? - for He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.32 Robinson considered the conception o f God as Love as linking up with Bonhoeffers non-religious understanding o f God, for such an ultimate question has nothing to do with religion. In denying a theistic understanding o f God, Robinson seems to have asked What is Christ for us today? instead of Bonhoeffers original question Who is Christ for us today? Following the lead of Bultmann, he had to demythologize the Incarnation, which is the most important element o f Bonhoeffers christology. Thus, it can be said that his question o f what in place of who regarding Jesus Christ seems to be a major point of departure from Bonhoeffers theology. Although his effort to answer Bonhoeffers questions from the perspective of the world come o f age was remarkable, Robinson simply took Bonhoeffers theological concern and ran his own course. Robinson rode on

30 Ibid., 47. God of gap. 3 1 Ibid., 49-53: To assert that God is love (1 John. 4:8) is to believe that in love one comes to touch with the most fundamental reality in the universe, that Being itself ultimately has this character. 3- Ibid., 61.

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Bultmanns demythologization while at the same time attempting to hybridize Tillichs philosophical theology - which understood God as the ultimate concern and the ground o f being - with Bonhoeffers non-religious Christianity for the world come o f age. In his review of Robinsons book, Daniel Jenkins raised a series o f questions. First, he challenged Robinson for accepting the ground o f being as the object o f our faith. Second, he questioned whether Robinson did justice to the biblical idea o f God by pointing out that the Bibles concern is to make clear the Lordship o f God over the world and humanity, not simply to picture the God up there. Third, he suggested that much more work needs to be done about religion and the world come o f age. Jenkins argued that it is not fair to think o f religion in purely negative terms as Robinson did. He asked, Can we write off the whole vast history o f mans religion, in all its variety, quite as easily as that?33 He also understood the world come o f age as such that humanity has come of age in Jesus Christ: Humanity has entered into its heritage o f freedom as the child o f God through Christ and, . . . the gifts and graces o f the Spirit have now been poured over humankind so that together we can grow to full-grown humanhood in Gods image. . . . The great power over themselves and their environment . . . has not been achieved by a combination o f purely secular historical forces, any more than it has been achieved by the efforts o f institutions bearing a Christian label. . . . But it is an insight which is misunderstood if we fail to see that it is in the light o f Christ that we discover maturity.3 4 Based on Jenkins definition o f religion, Robinsons new non-religious program can indeed be viewed as another religious program devised by our human effort of

33 Ibid., 210-11. 34 Ibid., 212-3.

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seeking the ground of being As we shall see later, however, Bonhoeffers religionless Christianity has a different source. It lies on none other than Christ himself as its ground. From Bonhoeffers perspective, any human effort to define God, such as Robinsons the ground of being, is another form o f religion or metaphysics. What Bonhoeffer intended was to interpret Christianity non-religiously rather than to create another religious program. In The Secular City, Harvey Cox made an affirmative evaluation o f the modem megalopolis and the secularization of the world. He used Bonhoeffers thought in a different way. He tried to answer Bonhoeffers question How do we speak o f God without God? How do we speak in a secular fashion o f God? Based on the Creation account of Genesis and the idea of Friedrich Gogarten, Cox argued that secularization represents an authentic consequence o f biblical faith.3 5 Cox described three biblical elements that had given rise to secularization: the disenchantment o f nature begins with the Creation, the desacralization o f politics with Exodus, the deconsecration o f values with the Sinai Covenant, especially with its prohibition o f idols.36 In much the same way as postmodemity is distinguished from postmodernism, he distinguished secularization, as a historical process, from secularism which is the name for an ideology, very much like a religion.37 The disenchantment of nature is an absolute precondition for the development o f natural science, which is in turn the precondition for securalization and urbanization.38 Likewise,

35 Harvey Cox, The Secular City, Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective (New York: The Macmillan Company. 1965), 15. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid., 18. 38 Ibid., 19.

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the desacralization o f politics and the deconsecration o f values are critical elements of the process of secularization. And, according to Cox, the biblical antecedent of those three processes supports the idea that secularization is intended by God, not by humans. Bernard Murchland maintained, Cox manages rather well in blessing his secular city and all its works with appropriate biblical texts. But he does so at the cost of suppressing equally relevant biblical data. The same Genesis narrative that establishes humans responsibility for the created order also speaks o f its fall, of humans perennial tendency to slip away from the desirable ideal. 9 Certainly, the most unfortunate outcome o f a secular interpretation of Bonhoeffers theology came out in the form o f the so-called death o f God theology, which is chiefly identified with William Hamilton and Thomas J. J. Altizer. Hopper explains: The death o f God theology represented a repudiation o f the traditional conception o f God and pressed the point that Gods presence was no longer a reality in the lives of most contemporary Christians, that if there ever was a God he had now withdrawn from the human scene and that the duty o f Christians was to seek enrichment o f life in interpersonal relations.40 While Altizers brand of the death o f God theology was inclined more toward metaphysics and mysticism, Hamilton formulated a death o f God theology from his own understanding of Dostoevsky and Bonhoeffer. To him, a movement away from God and religion, which is the language of Bonhoeffer, means the movement into, or toward the world, worldly life, and the neighbor as the bearer o f the worldly Jesus. Eberhard

39 Ed. Daniel Callahan, The Secular City Debate (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1966), 18-19. 40 Hopper, A Dissent on Bonhoeffer, 18.

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Bethge and Paul Lehmann, two close friends o f Bonhoeffer, both rejected Hamiltons view as a distortion and a careless dissemination o f a half-truth.4 1 It seems that Hamilton dropped the transcendent nature of God in its entirety, whereas Bonhoeffer saw that the transcendence has come into the world within our reach through our neighbor. Bonhoeffer said, The transcendental is not infinite and unattainable tasks, but the neighbor who is within reach in any given situation.42 In 1967, John A. Phillips, in Christ fo r Us in the Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer , while concurring with Muller and Godsey on the point o f Bonhoeffers Christological focus, viewed Bonhoeffer as abandoning an early ecclesiological Christology in favor of a new Christology reaching out to both the individual and the world. According to Phillips, the new Christology appears in Bonhoeffers 1933 Berlin lectures on Christology. On the side o f Muller, Phillips criticized Godseys linking of Christology and ecclesiology, and said, Whatever Bonhoeffer was concerned with in the Ethics and the prison letters, it was not primarily ecclesiology.43 But contrary to the assessments of Muller and Phillips, it is clear that Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation has the essential character o f eccelsiology and serves as its foundation. Godsey was correct. In 1966, Heinrich Ott, who succeeded Karl Barth in the chair o f theology at Basel, published Reality and Faith. It asserted the theme o f continuity in Bonhoeffers thought. Ott argues that Christology and ecclesiology are present in Bonhoeffers

4 1 Ibid.. 19. 42 LPP 381, Outline fo r a Book. 43 John A. Phillips, Christ fo r Us in the Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 27.

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theology with constancy throughout his thought. He further argues that Bonhoeffers theology has two unifying themes: namely, Christology and reality as the title o f his book suggests.44 Andre Dumas, in 1968, interpreted Bonhoeffer along the lines o f Ott from the perspective o f Bonhoeffers emphasis on reality, but sought, in addition, to establish the fundamentally Hegelian character o f Bonhoeffers thinking.45 Dumas argues that the influence of Hegel on Bonhoeffer can be discerned from the fact that the categories o f space, logic, physics and geography are more basic to Bonhoeffers thought than time, events, personality, and history.46 Ernst Feil published yet another important interpretative work, Die Theologie Dietrich Bonhoeffers, in 1971. He suggests that Bonhoeffers theology should be understood in terms o f the interrelationship between his christology and simultaneous awareness and understanding of the world. Feil argues that Bonhoeffer believed that theology could never state the content o f faith once for all but was itself grounded in discipleship and arose out of concrete historical situations.47 From this perspective, according to Feil, Bonhoeffer never set aside or lost sight o f the empirical church even in the prison letters. Hopper makes an assessment on Feils interpretation by saying, A concluding aspect of Feils treatment is his effort to show the systematic coherence of the fragmentary themes of the prison letters and to argue their continuity with Bonhoeffers earlier (1932) theological concerns.48

44 Hopper, A Dissent on Bonhoeffer, 33-36. 45 Ibid.. 36. 46 Andre Dumas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian o f Reality (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1968), 30-31. 4' Hopper. A Dissent on Bonhoeffer, 37. Quote from Ernst Feil, Die Theologie Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Munich, 1971). 71-72. 48 Ibid., 38.

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In summary, most interpreters o f Bonhoeffers theology agree on one point: that there is a continuing theme of Christology throughout its developmental stages. Secondly, except Muller and Phillips, most o f them also agree on the continuity of ecclesiology in his theology in a certain form. Thirdly, while Ott and Dumas find that the reality o f Christ and the reality of humanity are central to Bonhoeffers theology, Feil finds the concrete situations of the world and its relation to Christ to be central. For all, there is in Bonhoeffer a recognition that theology must be made concrete. Clifford J. Green adds a fourth dimension to his analysis, observing that sociality [church], Christology, anthropology [the concrete], and soteriology were the recurring themes in Bonhoeffers theology.49 Surely soteriology is an important theme as well, but it seems that the central themes in Bonhoeffers theology can be summarized in the following terms: 1) the Church as the form o f Christ in this world or the Church for others, 2) Christ as the Lord of the Church and the world, 3) the world God has forsaken. Although Bonhoeffer started from the concept o f the Church in his theological formulation, it is clear that Christology, the concrete reality o f Christ in this world, was the foundation upon which he developed his theology. Moreover, it is Christ in the midst o f life and discovered. With this basis, those three central themes will be treated next for further understanding o f Bonhoeffers theology.

49 Clifford J. Green, Bonhoeffer, A Theology o f Sociality, 10. Green summarizes Bonhoeffers view of the sociality of Christ and humanity, which is actualized through the Church; (1) the ecclesiology is set within the more comprehensive context of Bonhoeffers theology of sociality, (2) sociality informs Bonhoeffers discussion of all the basic Christian concepts: person, creation, sin, and revelation, (3) already in Sanctorum Communio Bonhoeffer demonstrated that anthropology is inseparable from his Christology and has a fundamental role in his theology, (4) sociality is linked with soteriology.

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The Church for Others


In 1927, when he was only twenty-one years old, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his doctoral dissertation Sanctorum Communio under the supervision o f Reinhold Seeberg, which was presented to and accepted by the Faculty of Theology at Berlin University. It was not published immediately after acceptance due to lack o f interest from publishers, but, after some revision,50 it was finally published in July 1930. Although it did not gain as much popularity as his later writings, perhaps due to its academic format, it contains his early thoughts, which demonstrate a starting point and foundation o f his theology, important for the proper understanding o f the whole o f Bonhoeffers theology. It was in Sanctorum Communio where Bonhoeffer began formulating the Christology of the concrete reality of Christ in the community o f saints. In short, his theological agenda was based on his understanding o f Christ as the Lord of the Church and o f the world. What Bonhoeffer wanted to do in service for the German church was encourage renewal based on his understanding of the Church as the actuality and reality o f Christ His early endeavor made in Sanctorum Communio was to establish a theological method. Bonhoeffer made a self-evaluation o f the book in its preface, The value o f the book was the basic approach adopted in dealing with the problem of systematic understanding of the Christian church as a community.5 1 In summary, Bonhoeffers basic approach to deal with the problem o f the Church in Sanctorum Communio was

50 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio: A Dogmatic Inquiry into the Sociology o f the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 10. Bonhoeffer edited . . . and estimated that he cut 20 to 25 percent of the text prior to publishing. 5 1 Ibid.

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two-fold: (1) He chose ecclesiology as the starting point and the main locus o f his theology. It is observed that the problem of the Church continued to occupy his mind throughout his career as a theologian and practitioner of theology. (2) He saw the need for placing social philosophy and sociology in the service o f theology in order to explain the concrete nature of the Christian church in a systematic manner. The employment of those disciplines allowed him to be a critical yet practical thinker. Feil finds: The community of saints, or the reality o f the Church (SC, 87) was the subject matter of Bonhoeffers doctoral dissertation. Such a reality was to be comprehended theologically, but Bonhoeffer found the available conceptual tools of the metaphysical scheme (SC, 26) unsuitable for his perception o f the Church as an empirically real community o f believers . . . The initial step was to overcome the prevalence o f epistemology and its necessarily concomitant individualism. Due to the premise o f its metaphysics of cognition, idealism includes individualism because it cannot comprehend the other person; that is to say, it can only comprehend the other person as something other (SC 28).52 The reality of the Church was to be dealt with sociologically not metaphysically. As its subtitle A dogmatic inquiry into the sociology o f the Church suggests, Sanctorum Communio was Bonhoeffers effort to formulate an ecclesiology based on the sociality or social-reality of the Church rather than the abstract concepts produced by the epistemology of metaphysics. Bonhoeffers approach was contrary to that o f German idealism. Although Bonhoeffer was influenced by Barth in theological content, Bonhoeffers methodological point of departure differed from Barth. From Bonhoeffers standpoint, Barth took the revelation o f God as the starting point, which left his theology in the realm o f epistemology.

52 Ernst Feil. The Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 6.

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Bonhoeffer clearly stated the aim o f the book in his own words, We wish to understand the structure, from the standpoint o f social philosophy and sociology, o f the reality o f the Church o f Christ which is given in the revelation in Christ 53 It is certain that the understanding of the structure o f the Church given in the revelation in Christ was not only the aim o f Sanctorum Communio but also the persistent aim o f his theology throughout What is remarkable about Bonhoeffers work in Santorum Communio was that he chose an approach which viewed the Church as a social phenomenon subjected to the study o f sociology. It was this empirical community of saints, whose structure he attempted to understand. This was due to his tendency o f being an empiricist, which primarily emerged from his family background. Despite the fact that he was bom and educated in a country where the giants o f idealism - such as Kant and Hegel - sprang up and dominated the world o f philosophy and theology, from the beginning o f his theological journey, Bonhoeffer knew that he must avoid the poison of idealism in order to solve the problem o f the Church. He viewed the world from an empirical perspective rather than an ideological perspective. According to Renate Wind, Bonhoeffer was deeply influenced by his father, Karl Bonhoeffer, who was a rationalist and at the same time an empiricist.54 Wind says, Karl was indisputably the model for his younger son55 [Dietrich], who even more than the

53 SC 20. 5'1 Renate Wind, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Spoke In The Wheel, trans. John Bowden (Grand Rapids. MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 2-3: Karl Bonhoeffer was a typical fin de siecle academic. He was convinced that the world could be investigated and understood. He had no time for speculation, whether religious or speculation.. . . For him, science was empirical research and rational explanation of demonstrable phenomena. 55 Ibid., 2: Dietrich was the youngest of four sons. He was the sixth of eight children which include his older brothers Karl-Friedrich, Walter, Klaus, and older sisters Ursula, Christine, his twin sister Sabine.

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others had to fight for his fathers recognition.56 There is no need to pursue the psychology o f young Dietrich any deeper in this discussion. However, Bonhoeffer maintained his tendency o f being an empiricist, which came from his upbringing in a family where the empirical method was emphasized, throughout his theological career. In addition to his family background, a historical figure who influenced him deeply on the empirical nature of his theology was Martin Luther. For Luther, the Church must be a reality where Christ is revealed. Bonhoeffers understanding o f the Church as a reality, which is the concrete form of revelation of Christ as his body, can be viewed as a more developed concept from the Lutheran doctrine o f consubstantiation.57 Furthermore, from his diary written during his trip to Rome, which he made with his brother Klaus, it can be deduced that Catholicism also influenced him in understanding the concept o f the Church from the transubstantiation58 point of view. The revelation o f Christ in reality was what he experienced in Rome. Wind quotes from Bonhoeffers diary: On Sunday afternoon to Trinita dei Monti. It was almost indescribable. About 6 oclock around forty young girls who wanted to become nuns were brought in a solemn procession. The organ began and they sang their vespers with great seriousness, with incredible simplicity and grace. The whole thing was so fresh, and made an unprecedented impression o f the deepest piety. When the door was opened again after the brief halfhour, one had the most splendid view over the cupolas o f Rome in the
and younger sister Susanne. 56 Ibid., 23: Under his fathers influence, as he described it, he turned from the phraseological to the real. He sent his parents a letter from holiday: Our director has once again set us quite stupid tasks.. . . What the trees tell me. O f course he wants dreadful phraseology. But Im having Christel write the article, a very academic one about the anatomy and physiology of trees. That was very much along with his fathers line. As an adolescent, he learned to suppress imagination and emotion in himself under the influence of his father. 57 Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Michigan: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1941), 646: Luther insisted on the literal interpretation of the words of the institution and on the bodily presence of Christ in the Lords supper. However, he substituted for the doctrine of transubstantiation that of consubstantiation ... according to which Christ is in, with, and under the elements. 58 Ibid., 645: (The essence of the doctrine of transubstantiation is) Jesus Christ is truly, really, and substantially present in the holy sacrament.

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setting sun. Now Im going to take a walk on the Pincio. It was a splendid day, the first day on which I gained real understanding of Catholicism.. . . I believe I am beginning to understand the concept o f the church.59 Wind adds her remark to what Bonhoeffer recorded in his diary, In Rome, church and faith, doctrine and life, which had previously been separate, came together for Dietrich. He experienced a piety which did not exclude or reject senses. And he came to know a church which was universal and at the same time gave a binding order and a visible form to personal faith.60 Bonhoeffers experience in Rome helped him to have a perspective on the question o f the Church.61 Surely, the unprecedented impression o f the deepest piety opened a new door for this young seminarian, Bonhoeffer, who came from a world where human ideology prevailed and the real presence o f Christ in the Church couldnt be felt. He saw and felt Gods grace from a simple religious ceremony, and such pious impression was deeply engraved in his heart. Having experienced what a living church is, his remaining task was to formulate an answer to the problem o f the Church in a systematic way, and Sanctorum Communio was his first attempt to explain the Church as a reality given by God to this world. From the perspective of theology, Bonhoeffers theorem, Christ existing as Church-community, was a refutation against a rational and ideological view on revelation. It was his attempt to break down the theology built upon the foundation of

59 Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Jugend und Studium, 88-89 (Italian diary), quoted in Renate Wind, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Spoke In The Wheel, 28. 60 Ibid., 29. 61 Ibid., 31.

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idealism and metaphysics, and to rebuild it on the concrete reality o f Christ in the Church and the world. For BonhoefFer, the Church was the most obvious and concrete object of theology as an empirical study. In order to satisfy his particular tendency o f favoring the empirical method of study, BonhoefFer chose sociology as his tool for the construction o f his theology. Reinhold Seeberg, his mentor at the University o f Berlin, was an important figure for BonhoefFer who gave him sociology as a tool to be used in shaping his theology. BonhoefFers method o f viewing the church from the perspective o f sociology, a term borrowed from Comte, and of social philosophy was innovative at the time that he wrote his dissertation. From the historical development o f sociology developed by Simmel, Troeltsch, Vierkandt, and Tonnies, BonhofFer found the real object of sociology to be society as the bearer o f relation between its individual members.62 Social forces as defined by Simmel - which include such concepts as love, subordination, mystery, and conflict, as well as kinds o f relation, as found in the distinction made by Tonnies between community and society - are the object o f basic sociological questions.63 In order to clarify his method o f investigating the concept o f the Church, BonhoefFer said: So our problem has to be attacked from two, or even from three, sides: that o f dogmatics, o f social philosophy, and sociology. In the next chapter we shall show that the Christian concept of the person is real only in sociality. Then we shall show, in a social-philosophical section, how man's spiritual being is likewise possible and real only in sociality. Then in a purely sociological section we shall consider the structures o f empirical communities, being by that time in a position to refute the atomist view o f society. Only then, through the insight we have acquired into the nature
62 SC 16: From his judgment, Troeltschs analytic and formal group of sociological work settled in the universities as scientific sociology over against historical-philosophical-encyclopedic group. 63 Ibid. The basic category of sociological thought must therefore be relation. And questions must be asked concerning social forces as well as kinds of relation.

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o f community, shall we able to come near to a conceptual understanding of Christian community, of the sanctorum com m unio64 In Sanctorum Communio , Bonhoeffer can be understood as explaining the concept o f church mainly in terms o f church-community and its relation with Christ. In his early period, Bonhoeffer described his Christology in terms o f the Christ existing as church-community: The community o f saints as the community o f penitent sinners is held together by the unity of the body of Christ. In the Church, as in any other community, people repent both for their own sin and for that o f the collective person of the community. Now, is this collective person perhaps Christ existing as church community, the body o f Christ? . . . The very fact that as a sinful community the Church is nevertheless still holy, or rather that in this world it is never holy without also being sinful - this is what Christs presence in it means. It is precisely as such a community that is holy in its sinfulness that the Church is Christ existing as church-community.65 Bonhoeffer also viewed the Church as the place where salvation occurs. Sin is overcome by the love o f Christ and peccatorum communio (community o f sinners) is transformed into sanctorum communio (community o f saints).66 Regarding sin and how it relates to the sanctorum communio in Bonhoeffers theology, Clifford J. Green asserts: His [Bonhoeffers] account o f sin is specific, not vague; this specificity involves clearly delineated anthropological dynamics: power, egocentric self seeking, domination and exploitation, and individual isolation and corporate fragmentation. This is the syndrome which stands in contrast to the love and mutual self-giving of the primal community. This is the syndrome which the love o f Christ the Stellvertreter [the initiator and reality o f new humanity]67 overcomes, thereby inaugurating the new
WSC 20-21. 65 SC 214. 66 Clifford J. Green. Bonhoeffer, A Theology o f Sociality, 63-65. 67 Ibid.. 56.

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humanity and talking up the peccatonim communio into the transforming life of the sanctorum communio.6* Bonhoeffer reaffirmed his Christocentric ecclesiology o f Christ existing as church-community in Act and Being (1930) from the perspective o f the present revelation o f Christ: Christian revelation must occur in the present precisely because it is, in the qualified once-and-for-all occurrence of the cross and resurrection of Christ, always something o f the future. It must, in other words, be thought in the Church, for the Church is the present Christ, Christ existing as community. In the proclamation o f the community o f faith for the community of faith, Christ is the subject common to the proclamation (word and sacrament) and the community o f faith alike. The proclamation and the community o f faith are linked in such a way that each, when considered on its own, loses its meaning altogether. Christ is the corporate person [Gesamtperson] of the Christian community of faith.69 In Discipleship (1937),70 he emphasized the Church as the visible community of the disciples of Christ.7 1 Discipleship was understood in the sense o f community of faith. He said: The first disciples lived in the bodily presence and communion o f Jesus . . . We are made members of the Body o f Christ through baptism . . . It means that although Jesus has died and risen again, the baptized can still live in his bodily presence and enjoy communion with him . . . The disciples enjoyed exactly the same bodily communion as is available for us to-day, nay rather, our communion with him is richer and more assured than it was for them, for the communion and presence which we have is that of the glorified Lord. Our faith must be aware o f the greatness o f this gift. The Body of Christ is the ground and assurance o f that faith. It is the one and perfect gift whereby we become partakers of salvation. It is
68 Ibid.. 65. 9 AB 111. 0 At the time of this writing, the more popular title of the English translation of the book. Nachfolge (1937). is The Cost o f Discipleship (1959). 7 1 See D 114-20.

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indeed the newness o f life. In the Body o f Christ we are caught up into eternity by the act of God.72 It is through the two sacraments o f baptism and the Lords supper that we come to participate in the Body o f Christ.73 Here he argued that the Church is the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is the immeasurable grace and privilege of the Church to suffer for Christ. Suffering as the vicarious activity of the members o f the Body is the very life of Christ, who wills to be formed in his members (Gal. 4 :19).74 His concept of the Church for others can be seen in this line of thought. In Life Together (1938), Bonhoeffer described Christian community as the community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ from the perspective o f our life together. He said: We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ. It means, first, that a Christian needs others for the sake o f Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that from eternity we have been chosen in Jesus Christ, accepted in time, and united for eternity.75 For Bonhoeffer, Christian community is not an ideal that we have to realize with our own effort, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.76 It is not our own product, but a grace and gift o f God. It is different from all other communities in that it is a spiritual [pneumatische] and not a psychic [psychische] reality. The Holy Spirit, who puts Jesus Christ into our hearts, creates the spiritual community o f faith.77 In Ethics, however, the further development of his view of the Church can be seen in terms of its relation with the world. He said:

:: Ibid.. 236. ' 3 Ibid.. 239. 74 Ibid., 245. 75 LT 31. 76 Ibid..38. 7 7 Ibid.

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It is essential to the revelation o f God in Jesus Christ that it occupies space within the world. But, o f course, it would be entirely wrong to interpret this space in a purely empirical sense. If God in Jesus Christ claims space in the world, even though it be only a stable because there was no room in the inn (Luke 2.7), then in this narrow space He comprises together the whole reality o f the world at once and reveals the ultimate basis o f this reality. And so, too, the Church o f Jesus Christ is the place, in other words the space in the world, at which the reign o f Jesus Christ over the whole world is evidenced and proclaimed . . . The place of the Church is not there in order to try to deprive the world o f a piece of its territory, but precisely in order to prove to the world that it is still the world, the world which is loved by God and reconciled with Him.78 Bonhoeffer described the Church as a divine mandate that fulfills the concrete divine commission, which has its foundation in the revelation o f Christ and is evidenced by Scripture.79 In respect to the office o f the Church, Bonhoeffer asserted that it is instituted directly by Jesus Christ Himself, not by the congregation. He said, It does not derive its legitimization from the will of the congregation but from the will of Jesus Christ. It is established in the congregation and not by the congregation, and at the same time it is with the congregation.8 0 The trail o f Bonhoeffers theological development o f ecclesiology can be followed starting from his sociological and socio-philosophical investigation o f the structure o f the Church based on the sociality o f the Church, continuing with his emphasis on the presence o f Christ in the Church. Through those developmental stages, Bonhoeffer finally formulated the ecclesiology of the Church that suffers for others. Bonhoeffer saw that in order to answer the ecclesiological question What is the Church? we should first answer the more fundamental theological question Who is

78 E 109-200. 79 Ibid., 282. Bonhoeffer listed the Church, marriage, and the family, culture and government as the divine mandates. 80 Ibid.. 289.

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God? The answer is not in an abstract concept o f God such as omnipotence. He argued that the encounter with Jesus Christ as a genuine experience o f God is an experience that a transformation o f all human life is given in the fact that Jesus is there only for others 81 Bonhoeffer argued: His [Jesus Christs] being there for others is the experience o f transcendence. It is only this being there for others, maintained till death, that is the ground of his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Faith is participation in this being o f Jesus (incarnation, cross, and resurrection). Our relation to God is not a religious relationship to the highest, most powerful, and best Being imaginable that is not authentic transcendence - but our relation to God is a new life in existence for others, through participation in the being o f Jesus. The transcendental is not infinite and unattainable tasks, but the neighbor who is within our reach in any given situation.82 Bonhoeffer redefined the meaning o f transcendence as the transcendence over our self for the sake o f others who are within our reach. As Jesus was the man for others on the cross, the Church is the community o f faith that lives the life of Christ by partaking of his suffering for the others in this world, which Bonhoeffer called the messianic sufferings o f God in Jesus Christ.83 As the conclusion o f the book that he was planning to write, and in a sense as the conclusion o f his ecclesiology, he stated in July/August 1944: The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems o f ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men o f every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others.84

8 1 LPP381. 8: Ibid. 83 Ibid., 362. 84 Ibid., 382-83.

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This is a rather bold challenge to the Church that has accumulated its wealth through the ownership o f properties through which it has been maintaining its influence in the world. His call for the independence o f the Church from the state was expressed in terms of the wages that clergy have been receiving from the state. In essence, he called for the Church for others within the historical context o f the oppression by the Nazis and the silence o f the Church in the midst o f the sufferings of others; especially the Jews and other groups o f people who were being victimized by the extreme inhumane prejudice. Thus far, we have seen how Bonhoeffer understood the Church in terms of its relation with Christ and the world. Since Bonhoeffers ecclesiology is based on his Christology, which is active in all aspects of his theology as a whole, how he viewed Christ will be discussed next.

Christ, the Center


Having examined Bonhoeffers ecclesiology in the previous discussion, it can be seen how important it is to understand his Christology in order to interpret his theology correctly. Regarding the paradox o f Bonhoeffers catchphrases such as religionless Christianity or worldly holiness, Edwin H. Robertson rightly said that it can only be resolved by the study of Bonhoeffers Christology.8 5 In the Introduction o f his Christology lecture in 1933, Bonhoeffer claimed that Christology is the center o f all disciplines o f study based on the fact that Jesus Christ is the Logos:

85 Edwin H. Robertson, Translator's Preface of Christ the Center (English translation) which is the reconstruction of Dietrich Bonhoeffers 1933 Christology lectures from the students note (San Francisco: Harper, 1960), 20.

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Christology as the study of Christ is a peculiar discipline because it is concerned with Christ who is himself the Word or Logos, from which we also derive the term for study. So that christology is really Logo-logy, the study of study, the word of the Word o f God . . . Only a discipline which understands itself in the sphere of the Church is able to grasp the fact that christology is the center of all disciplines. It is the unknown and hidden center of the university of learning.86 The centrality of Christology in Bonhoeffers theology is one o f its main characteristics. Christology is the discipline par excellence and the center o f its own space. Bonhoeffers Christology lectures were divided into three parts. Part I dealt with the present Christ - the pro me (for me). In this section o f the lectures, Bonhoeffer discussed the form and the place of the present Christ. Part II dealt with the historical Christ. From this portion of the lectures, Bonhoeffer presented an important concept of Christ as the Incarnate One, the Humiliated One, and the Exalted One. Part III dealt with the eternal Christ, but it was never delivered and no manuscript has been preserved. Robertson summarizes the nature o f the Christological questions Bonhoeffer raised in the lecture: In these lectures on Christology, Bonhoeffer is not prepared to find a category for Christ. His questions are not, How is it possible for Christ to be both man and God? His question about Christ is never, How? but always, Who? He will not even have a disguised What? or How? in the form o f a Who? Every avenue of his thinking leads him to confront Christ and ask, Who art thou, Lord? or to be confronted by Christ and hear his question, Whom do you say that I am?87 With regard to the questions o f How? and Who?, Bonhoeffer gave a rather sophisticated explanation in the lecture. The question How? is the question about immanence. How are you possible? is the godless question and the question o f the

86 CC 28. 1933 Christology lectures from the students note. 87 Edwin H. Robertson, Translator's Preface o f Christ the Center, 15.

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serpent.88 In other words, the How? question is the question o f the human logos. Bonhoeffer said, The human logos repeats its old question: How is such a claim possible? How can it be contained within its structure? It continues to ask about the How?89 Throughout the history of Christianity, the How? questions have been asked about Jesus Christ: How is the incarnation possible? How can God die on the cross? How is the resurrection possible? Bonhoeffer considered those questions inadequate for Jesus because he is the Son o f God who transcends the questions of human logos, which is limited to understand only the immanent matters. On the contrary, about the question o f Who? Bonhoeffer said: The question, Who? expresses the strangeness and the otherness o f the one encountered and at the same time it is shown to be the question concerning the very existence of the questioner. He is asking about the being which is strange to his being, about the boundaries o f his own existence. Transcendence places his own being in question. With the answer that his logos has reached its boundary he faces the boundary of his own existence . . . In theological terms: it is only from God that man knows who he is.90 Here Bonhoeffer seems to have given a hint that Christology is possible only through our encounter with Jesus Christ, and that we can answer the question, Who am I? by knowing Who God is first. Therefore, Bonhoeffer concludes that the testimony of Jesus to himself stands by itself, self-authenticating, and that it is the backbone of every theology. He continued to assert boldly, The truth o f the revelation o f God in Christ cannot be scientifically established or disputed.91 Perhaps, any postmodern thinker would consider this kind o f attitude o f Bonhoeffer close-minded. Nonetheless, it

88 CC 30. 89 Ibid.. 29. 90 Ibid.. 30. 9 1 Ibid.. 32.

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is clear that his differentiation between the Logos and the human logos is important, not only to understand the characteristic o f his theology, but also to set the correct relationship between science and theology in todays world. In other words, the scientific questions can be asked and answered by the human logos without a human encounter with God, but the theological questions are impossible for a human logos to ask because it cannot escape its boundary. Theological questions are possible only in and through Christ. Jesus told the Pharisees, You are from below; I am from above. You are o f this world; I am not o f this world.92 Therefore, as Bonhoeffer understood, it can be said that theology must be the knowledge from above not from below. It can also be argued that Bonhoeffers criticism about the traditional form o f theology based on his understanding of Christology still applies to the present theological world. Bonhoeffer criticized the fact that Christology had been asking the question how as opposed to who in regard to the truth o f the revelation through the Incarnation. For Bonhoeffer, the how question would mean a human effort to find an answer for Gods truth. He further argued that, in that way, the human logos would be claiming to be the beginning and the father o f Jesus Christ.93 This was Bonhoeffers indirect way o f criticizing liberal theology and all other theologies based on Idealism. This way o f thinking was also applied to his criticism o f religion, which he viewed as coming from below. Thus, as we shall see later, revelation and religion are viewed as two opposing concepts; one from above and one from below. He said that human reason has reached its limits with the question, Who? He explained:

92 Jn. 8:23. All biblical quotations are from NIV. 93 Ibid.

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Pilate asks, Who are you?, and Jesus is silent. Man cannot wait for the answer, because it is too dangerous. The logos cannot endure the Counter-Logos. It knows that one o f them must die and it therefore kills the one whom it asks . . . The incarnate Logos o f God must be crucified by mans logos.94 In that way, Bonhoeffer explains the nature of crucifixion. Extending his thought toward the event o f the resurrection of Christ, Bonhoeffer asked: But what happens if this Counter-Word, which was killed, rises alive and victorious as the final Word of God? . . . If the crucified One shows himself as the risen one? Then the question is sharpened to an extreme point. Then it remains a living question for ever, over, around and in man, as also does the answer.95 Thus the question How? can no longer be asked, so that Who are you? remains as the only question that humans can ask. The inherent nature o f this question of Who? is that one must come face to face with Christ. Bonhoeffer pointed out that one cannot avoid encounter with the person of Jesus because he is alive.96 He stated that there are only two possible ways of encountering Jesus: we must die or we must put Jesus to death.97 Seemingly, the danger of this way o f thinking appears to be that it overlooks the human tendency of being indifferent with regard to the spiritual matters as well as with regard to the encounter with others. Such a statement of Bonhoeffers was solely based on a Christian view of human encounter with Jesus. However, in reality we find that the major part of the world neither loves nor hates Jesus Christ. They simply ignore their encounter with Jesus, and surely, this indifference o f the world is the biggest theological challenge in todays world.

94 Ibid., 33. 95 Ibid. 96 Ibid.. 34. 97 Ibid., 35.

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In answering the Christological question o f Who are you, Lord? Bonhoeffer laid out two statements: 1) Jesus is the Christ present as the Crucified and as the risen one, 2) Christ, as person, is present in the Church. The first statement means that Jesus Christ is present here and now in space and time. Through the second statement Bonhoeffer meant that his presence in this world is the presupposition for the unfolding of the Christological question, and that Jesus Christ is present in the Church through the proclaimed Word and sacraments.98 Again, it is not the question o f How the risen Christ can be here and now?, rather, the Christological question that should be asked is Who is Christ present here and now? . Such ontological questions can be answered only in terms o f the structure o f his person. Bonhoeffer explained: The structure o f his person must be outlined more clearly and unfolded as the pro me structure (that is, the structure I can relate to) of the Godman, Jesus Christ. Christ is Christ, not just for himself, but in relation to me. His being Christ is his being for me, pro me. This being pro me . . . is to be understood as the essence, the being o f the person himself . . . what is decisive about the pro me structure is that being and act o f Christ are maintained together in it.99 This unity o f act and being o f Christ in his Christology provided the basis for his ecclesiology o f the Church for others as the community o f disciples o f Jesus Christ who exists pro me. Bonhoeffer concluded that this one and complete person, the Godman, Jesus Christ, is in the Church in his pro me structure as Word, as Sacrament and as Community.1 00

98 Ibid., 43. 99 Ibid.. 47. 100 Ibid., 48. The further discussion of the form of Christ as Word, Sacrament, and as Community can be found in the subsequent pages 49-59.

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Bonhoeffers next Christological question was Where? is Christ within the structure o f the Who? 1 0 1 As Christ is here and now both spatially and temporally pro me, Bonhoeffer found that Christ stands on the boundary o f my existence as the mediator or the center between I and Thou, and between I and God Christ is the center of human existence, o f history and of nature.102 Therefore, the centrality o f Christ in Bonhoeffer was not because of its importance as a theological doctrine, but because of the very nature o f the person of Christ to be in the center o f all theological problems at hand here and now. Another important aspect of Bonhoeffers Christology is the weakness o f Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer claimed that if we are to deal with the deity o f Jesus, we must speak o f the weakness o f Jesus. He said: If we speak o f Jesus Christ as God, we may not say o f him that he is the representative of an idea of God, which possesses the characteristics of omniscience and omnipotence . . . rather, we must speak o f his weakness, his manger, his cross. This man is no abstract G od.1 0 3 One needs to be careful to understand that with weakness o f Christ Bonhoeffer did not mean human weakness such as stupidity, lack o f independence, forgetfulness, cowardice, vanity, corruptibility, or temptability.104 Rather, what he meant with weakness was Gods humility revealed through the manger and the cross o f Jesus Christ within the structure o f pro me as the suffering Christ. Also, it is the contingency of God who freely takes on humility in the form o f sinful flesh.

1 0 1 Ibid., 59. 102 Ibid. 103 Ibid., 104. 104 LPP 392.

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In this chapter, we have glanced at Bonhoeffers theological concern, which can be summarized in terms o f the Church, Christ, and the world. It was pointed out that there are various interpretations of Bonhoeffers theology. Some interpreters of Bonhoeffer view that his theology is fragmented and inconsistent. However, it is evident that those main loci o f his theology remained central throughout his theological development. An overview o f Bonhoeffers understanding o f the Church as the community of faith that exists for others was provided. His Christology views Jesus Christ as the incarnate Christ in Word, sacrament and community as the center o f human existence, history, and between God and nature. One of the most controversial themes o f Bonhoeffers theology has been his understanding o f the world as the world come o f age. Since it is a crucial point of his theology for non-religious interpretation, it will be discussed in the next chapter.

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CHAPTER 2 THE WORLD COME OF AGE


In the previous chapter, Bonhoeffers understanding o f the Church and Christ was reviewed briefly. Considering his view o f the Church as the Church existing for others based on his Christology of pro me , which means Christ for others, it can be deduced that his main theological concern was What should the Church do for others? It can be said that the latter part o f his theological development was based on his understanding o f the world come of age. Undoubtedly, his worldview affected the development o f his thesis the non-religious interpretation o f the gospel for the world come of age. Therefore, as a part o f an effort to understand his theology, the meaning o f the controversial concept of Bonhoeffer - the world come o f age - will be analyzed next.

The Formulation of the Concept


Wustenberg finds that the concept o f maturity or coming o f age already appears in his lectures and writings in 1933, 1935, and 1940.1 In those early years,

1 Ralf K. Wustenberg, A Theology o f Life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Religionless Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 76-77: In his lecture on The Leader and the Individual, Bonhoeffer insists that a leader should guide the individual to real maturity (GS 2.36). Here he applies the concept of maturity untheologically to the current historical situation in which it is precisely immaturity - of the individual over against the leader - that has become the program of the day. The idea of coming of age occurs repeatedly in Bonhoeffers Finkenwalde homiletics, The Protestant should come of age in dealing with the Bible (GS 4.255). He advises his candidates not to read any other sermons for their own homiletical studies, since this makes one dependent and makes the path to maturity more difficult' (Ibid. 260). Sermons should guide a congregation toward coming of age in scripture (Ibid. 268). It is not doctrine that the congregation should remember, rather, after the sermon congregation members should themselves open scripture and read the text (Ibid.). Bonhoeffers demands in his outline Theology and Congregation from 1940 tend in the same direction. Here he struggles to come to a clear understanding of the relationship between the congregation and theology (GS 3.422), and charges the congregation to come of age in knowledge (Ibid.). Hence Bonhoeffer again applies the notion of

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Bonhoeffer applies the notion o f coming o f age to the individual or the congregation rather than to the world. He does not yet observe any world come of age, prompting him to pose the question o f Christ and the world come o f age. Wustenberg observes clearly that: Although the Letters and Papers from Prison do not retract this demand for a congregation come o f age, it is clear that the concept o f maturity acquires new accentuation in Tegel under the influence o f historicism.2 Based on the findings o f Wustenberg, it can be concluded that the concept of maturity attracted Bonhoeffer from the early stage o f his theological development. Bonhoeffer was very much concerned about the immaturity o f the individual Christians, the congregation and the Church of Germany. They were not able to discern the evil leadership o f Germany nor able to keep their independence from the state. He witnessed the German church kneeling down completely before the political power of this world and become collaborator with the evil regime against what he had learned as Gods will. There have been various interpretations on his judgment o f the world come of age. For example, in a 1968 study, Andre Dumas concluded that Hegels influence on Bonhoeffers theology seems undeniable3 from the perspective o f Hegels emphasis on reality and on the triumph of human autonomy and of the autonomy of the spirit.4

coming of age to the congregation rather than to the world, as is the case in the Letters and Papers from Prison." 2 Ibid., 77. 3 Andrd Dumas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian o f Reality (New York: The Macmillan Company), 1968, 30f: The analysis of creaturely-existence (Dasein) aims at demonstrating its reality by grasping its hidden and active structure, rather than by opening it to a message that would transform it from beyond itself. Hegels influence in this seems undeniable (an influence continually present in Communion o f Saints, Act and Being and Christ the Center) Also, see David H. Hoppers A Disssent on Bonhoeffer (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 36f, for Hoppers understanding of Dumas study on Bonhoeffer. 4 Ibid,31.

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Despite his observation on the overall influence o f Hegel on Bonhoeffers theology, Dumas, referencing the letter o f 30 June 1944,5 argues that Bonhoeffer chose the same term come of age (miindig ) used by Kant in his brief essay o f 1784, What is Enlightenment? In that essay, Kant described the Enlightenment as the emergence of humanity from a state of immaturity for which humans themselves are responsible (aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmiindigkeit)6 Dumas believes that this Kantian source provides the correct interpretive key for the term come of age Dumas says: To have come of age in Bonhoeffers thought as well as in Kants does not mean to be better or happier. It is simply a descriptive term that presupposes nothing about the optimism or the progressivism o f its author. Nor does the term come o f age stand for secularism - a word, as Bethge pointed out, Bonhoeffer never used after 1939, since it implied a certain contempt for the new-found reality o f the world, or, a positive evaluation o f it.7 However, Phillips partially disagrees with Dumas on this point o f observation. Based on his study on Ethics , Phillips asserts that Bonhoeffer was wrestling with the problem of what valuation one can place upon a secularism that one has described as godless. Phillips says, In most instances in the Ethics , secularism has a pejorative sense. Secularism leads to the abyss and means the ultimate destruction o f history, if its relentless march is not halted. But Bonhoeffer can also recognize a better secularism.8 Phillips evaluation o f better secularism will be examined later in this discussion.

5 LPP 341,8 June 1944. 6 Ibid., 184f. 7 Ibid, 185. 8 Phillips, Christ fo r Us in The Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 149.

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Nonetheless, Dumas asserts that Bonhoeffer, by using the term, simply stated a phenomenon observed in his time without being interested in developing an interpretation of history, or hailing the rise o f the Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century, as Kant had done.9 According to Dumas, Bonhoeffers only concern was that, in every realm o f life, the notion o f God as the stopgap at the breakdown of what we can conceive, or the notion o f God as the working hypothesis at the limits of what we can do, has withered away. Dumas continues to discuss the decline o f religion: According to Bonhoeffer this withering away means the death o f religion, which always lived off the unexplored areas of human experience. God continues to be reduced to just the degree that human knowledge is expanded. Religion decreases as scientific knowledge increases. What Bonhoeffer tells us here has become a commonplace in many quarters.1 0 As knowledge increases humans discover that the world can manage its affairs quite well without interference of God or religion. In fact, we can trace Bonhoeffers dialectical understanding o f the antithetical relation between god/religion and

human/scientific knowledge through many fragments o f his thought in the letters,1 1 one o f which reads: [Weizsackers book The Worldview o f Physics ] has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stopgap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers o f knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat.1 2

9 Ibid 10 Ibid, 185-86. 1 1 LPP 279-78, 281-82, 30 April 1944; 311-12, 29 May 1944; 325-26, 8 June 1944; 341-42, 30 June 1944; 359-60, 16 July 1944. 12 LPP 311,29 May 1944.

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In short, Dumas interprets Bonhoeffers understanding of coming o f age from the perspective of the freedom of humanity from God and religion, and o f its own responsibility. Dumas says, The world come of age signifies the emancipation o f the human enterprise with respect to what remains unknown o f either sky or soul. It is the presupposition of human responsibility. 1 3 The human emancipation from God and religion was gained through our maturity on the plain o f epistemology. From this point of view, Dumas concludes, no matter how chaotic and suffering and de-structured the world was for Bonhoeffer in 1944 (and as it likewise is for us today), it is a mature world, a world come of age. 1 4 On the other hand, another observation is made by Wustenberg. He suggests that, in Bonhoeffers letter of 16 July 1944, we can see clearly how he expands Diltheys historical reflection concerning the world come of age in view o f modem physics motivated by C. F. von Weizsackers Weltbild der Physik (The Worldview o f Physics), from which he derived the expression working hypothesis God. 1 5 According to Wustenberg, Bonhoeffer was hoping to learn a great deal from Weizsackers book for his own work,1 6 and apparently Bonhoeffer did learn much from it. As referenced earlier in this chapter, the book gave Bonhoeffer a clear understanding o f how wrong it is to use God as a stopgap for the incompleteness o f our knowledge. 1 7 Bonhoeffer defined the characteristic of religiosity, and in so doing provided an important clue as to how he

13 Dumas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian o f Reality, 187. u Ibid 1 5 Wustenberg, < 4 Theology o f Life, 71. 16 LPP 308, 24 May 1944. 1 7 LPP 311, 29 May 1944.

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viewed religion from the perspective o f the world come o f age: Humans religiosity makes them look in their distress to the power o f God in the world: God is the dens ex m achina"1 * Dumas and Wustenberg both agree that Bonhoeffer was influenced by Diltheys historicism. As our scientific knowledge increases, God as a stopgap is being pushed further and further back in retreat. It is the same for the other human problems of death, suffering, and guilt. Bonhoeffer claimed that it is now possible to find, even for these questions, human answers that take no account whatever o f God.1 9 It is true that, from the perspective o f Christianity, it is impossible to answer these questions without God. The nature o f sinful human beings is precisely the reason for the necessity of Gods incarnation. What Bonhoeffer saw, however, was the fact that people deal with these questions without God, and that it has always been so. Christianity is not the only way to answer those questions and Christian answers are just as unconvincing - or convincing - as any others.20 His observation that those questions are being answered without a Christian God is quite plausible, especially in an age when the world is wide open and people live happily with their own religion, getting their own answers for those questions which Christianity once believed that only its God could provide. Here we can see that he is already concerned about the advent o f relativism in the postmodern world.

18 LPP 361, 16 July 1944. 19 LPP 311, 29 May 1944. 20 LPP 312, 29 May 1944.

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Nonetheless, it is Wustenbergs opinion that Bonhoeffer is apparently transferring Weizsackers argument about God as a stopgap and God as a working hypothesis into Diltheys historicism.21 In other words, Bonhoeffer viewed the maturation o f humanity as a historical process in which God as a stopgap is being abolished and humanity no longer needs God as a hypothesis for the problems o f the world. Bonhoeffer stated: God as a working hypothesis in morals, politics, or science, has been surmounted and abolished; and the same thing has happened in philosophy and religion (Feuerbach!). For the sake o f intellectual honesty, that working hypothesis should be dropped, or as far as possible eliminated.22 According to Bonhoeffer, there had been great advancement toward a religionless hypothesis from the side o f humankind. Many historical figures had contributed to this historical development in such areas as theology, ethics, politics, natural science, law and philosophy.23 Based on the observation of Wustenberg, Feil and Gremmels both observe the clear influence o f Dilthey on Bonhoeffers Tegel theology expressed in the letters from the first half o f 1944.24 Both Feil and Gremmels agree on the influence o f Dilthey on Bonhoeffer with respect to the key terms o f historicism.2 5

:1 Wustenberg, A Theology o f Life, 71. " LPP 361, 16 July 1944. 23 LPP 359-60, 16 July 1944: Bonhoeffer briefly summarized the intellectual development of the West in various disciplines: In theology one sees it first in Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who maintains that reason is sufficient for religious knowledge. In ethics it appears in Montaigne and Bodin with their substitution of rules of life for the commandments. In politics Machiavelli detaches politics from morality in general and founds the doctrine of reasons of state. Later, and very differently from Machiavelli, but tending like him towards the autonomy of human society, comes Grotius, setting up his natural law as international law, which is valid etti deus non daretur, even if there were no God. The philosophers provide the finishing touches: on the one hand we have the deism of Descartes, who holds that the world is a mechanism, running by itself with no interference from God; and on the other hand the pantheism of Spinoza, who says that God is nature. In the last resort, Kant is a deist, and Fichte and Hegel are pantheists. Everywhere the thinking is directed towards the autonomy of human and the world. 2 A Wustenberg, A Theology o f Life, 71. Citation from Feil, The Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pp. 178ff, 179, 180, 183f.: According to Ernst Feil, the Lessing citation in the letter of January 23, 1944 ,

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In summary, although Diltheys historicism opened a new dimension for Bonhoeffers theology from the perspective o f the world which came to a different stage of its development, the God o f stopgap is not sought by human beings. The world is mature enough to understand the true relationship between God and humanity. Bonhoeffer is no longer focused on the Church by itself. Through the lens o f historicism, he began to see more clearly than ever that the Church is situated within the world that has come of age.

Bonhoeffers Worldview
In order to answer Bonhoeffers central question, Who is Christ for us today?, we need to come to an understanding o f his view on the then-contemporary world. In his essay of 1981, Ernst Feil summarized his interpretation o f Bonhoeffers worldview in the following four aspects: a) the rejection o f thinking in two spheres, b) the concept of worldliness, c) the concept o f ultimate and penultimate, d) the world come o f age.26 According to Feil, Bonhoeffer rejected any division into two spheres, especially in his Ethics. In his student days, he was already preoccupied with Schleiermachers On Religion and Naumanns Briefe iiber Religion (Letters about Religion) in negative

comes from Wilhelm Dilthey, Das Erlebnis und die Dichtung (Poetry and Experience). The term worldliness in the letter of March 9, 1944, derives from Bonhoeffers reading of Von Deutscher Dichtung und Musik (cf. the letter of February 5, 1944), which he received for his birthday. The terms metaphysics and inwardness, which acquire significance beginning in April 1944, similarly derive from this reading, and in Bonhoeffers usage comes to designate religion. The concept of maturity, coming of age, as well as the historical reflections associated with autonomy in the letters of June 8 and July 16, 1944, derive from Weltanschauung und Analyse des Menschen seti Renaissance und Reformation." Ibid., 72. 26 Ernst Feil, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Understanding o f the World' in A Bonhoeffer Legacy: Essays in Understanding, ed. A. J. Klassen, (Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans, 1981), 237-255.

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terms.27 Bonhoeffer regarded both authors as proponents o f a form o f Christianity that one would have to call religious. Feil continues: This religious form o f Christian faith consisted o f what Bonhoeffer had come to view as a false determination o f the relationship between God and the world, namely, a precocious separation o f God and the world, a separation that corresponds with a fallacious amalgamation o f both that had occurred largely in the background and had therefore remained unrecognized. The result o f this separation is that God is safely settled beyond the boundaries o f our world and our reason. . . . The separation corresponds with a restriction o f Gods relationship to inwardness. . . . as a result, God has no place in the world, and faith is compartmentalized as religion.2 8 Bonhoeffer took the division into two spheres as a ground for religious Christianity. According to him, a division such as secular and Christian, natural and super-natural, profane and sacred, and rational and revelational, as if they were ultimate static antitheses, makes the mistake o f limiting Christ to one sphere, whereas in fact the whole world belongs to Christ.29 For Bonhoeffer, the rejection o f two spheres is inevitable for anyone who claims that Jesus is the Lord o f the whole world. The world has to be viewed as one in Jesus Christ. The seed o f his thought on the unity o f two spheres can be seen as early as the time of his writing o f Sanctorum Communio. Bonhoeffer claimed that the sanctorum communio [community o f saints or church-community] does not make peccatorum communio [community o f sinners] irrelevant. He explained, the life o f those who have been justified, that is the new life, is hidden in God. I do what I do not want to do, and

2 7 Ibid., 239-240. 28 Ibid., 240. 29E 197-205.

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what I do want I do not do. . .. The reality o f sin and the communio peccatorum remain even in G ods church-community [sanctorum communio]."30 The reality of sin co-exists within the reality o f Gods community. With his later thought o f religionless Christianity, Bonhoeffer endeavored to establish a ground for the Church in a world that was becoming religionless. He told Bethge, As in the scientific field, so in human affairs generally, God is being pushed more and more out o f life, losing more and more ground.31 In the world where God as an abstract concept loses its ground, Bonhoeffer tried to overcome the separation of two spheres by redefining Christianity non-religiously. John Phillips pointed out that Bethge already had raised the question to Bonhoeffer whether any ground is left for the Church based on Bonhoeffers view o f the religionless world.32 In regards to Bethges question, Phillips concludes that Bonhoeffer did not give a satisfactory answer.33 However, it appears that Phillips is too hasty to make such a conclusion because Bonhoeffer surely gave Bethge an answer to the question in the following terms: Now I will try to go on with the theological reflections that I broke off not long since. I had been saying that God is being increasingly pushed out o f a world that has come o f age, out o f the spheres o f our knowledge and life, and that since Kant he has been relegated to a realm beyond the world of experience.34

30 SC 123-24. C f p.213: Among human beings there is no such thing as a pure, organic community life. The peccatorum communio [community of sinners] continues to coexist within the sanctorum communio. The Adamic humanity is still present in actuality even though it has already been overcome in reality. 3 1 LPP 326, 8 June 1944. 3: LPP 329, 8 June 1944. 33 John A. Phillips, Christ fo r Us in The Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 25. 34 LPP 341, 30 June 1944.

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Here, Bonhoeffer put the blame on German idealism for relegating God to a realm unreachable by human beings, and for the separation o f two spheres. He then continued to argue that God was made dens ex machina [God o f the gaps]: Theology has on the one hand resisted this development with apologetics, and has taken up arms - in vain - against Darwinism, etc. On the other hand, it has accommodated itself to the development [the relegation of God beyond the world o f experience] by restricting God to the so-called ultimate questions as a dens ex machina, that means that he becomes the answer to lifes problems, and the solution o f its needs and conflicts. So if anyone has no such difficulties, or if he refuses to go into these things, to allow others to pity him, then either he cannot open to God; or else he must be shown that he is, in fact, deeply involved in such problems, needs, and conflicts, without admitting or knowing it. If that can be done - and existentialist philosophy and psychotherapy have worked out some quite ingenious methods in that direction - then this man can now be claimed for God, and methodism can celebrate its triumph.35 The methodism o f existentialist philosophy and psychotherapy pushed God to the edge o f human life. Bonhoeffer was contending against such methodism, which makes people guilty first in order to force them to repentance, and then to faith. Bonhoeffer said: When Jesus blessed sinners, they were real sinners, but Jesus did not make everyone a sinner first. He called them away from their sin, not into their sin. . . . Jesus claims for himself and the Kingdom o f God the whole o f human life in all its manifestations.36 Bonhoeffer rejected existential philosophy and psychotherapy for their

manipulative methods to promote Christianity as a religion by turning people into sinners. Christ is not at the edge o f human life, but at the center and the whole of human life. Christ is the Lord o f the Church and the world at the same time.

Ibid. LPP 341, 30 June 1944.

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The second point o f Bonhoeffers worldview, according to Feil, is the concept of worldliness, which is the central concept in the last section o f Ethics. Feil says that Bonhoeffer understood worldliness as freedom from the self-deification of the world rather than as the profanity of the world. The cross sets one free for life before God in the midst o f a godless world, and the crucified Reconciler protects the world from every vain attempt to deify the world.37 In other words, Bonhoeffer never spoke of worldliness without thinking the qualifying phrase before God. One must remember that he used the term worldliness not ordinarily, but theologically. In other words, the ordinary use o f worldliness means the nature o f the secular world that is separate from the realm of God. Contrary to the ordinary use o f the term, Bonhoeffer used it theologically to mean the world which stands before God, being wholly responsible for its own actions. It can be suggested that, if one misses this point, he or she would misinterpret the meaning o f Bonhoeffers concept o f worldly Christianity. The third point of Bonhoeffers worldview, is the concept o f ultimate and penultimate. According to Feil, Bonhoeffer attempted to replace two-sphere thinking with a positive proposal, namely, the historical concept o f the ultimate [the last things] and penultimate [the things before the last] in an earlier section o f Ethics. Bonhoeffer thought that ultimate and penultimate are connected in Jesus Christ, and the tension between ultimate and penultimate can only be resolved in Christ. Feil explains, Because

37 Feil, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Understanding o f the World, 248.

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the ultimate came to the world in Jesus Christ, the penultimate is really pen-ultimate: the world that is preserved for Christ and his coming.3* The last point o f Bonhoeffers worldview is the concept o f the world come of age. In Jesus Christ, the world is really the world accepted by God. Bonhoeffer was influenced by Diltheys Weltanschauung und Alayse des Menschen seit Renaissance und Reformation. From Diltheys historical analysis, Bonhoeffer came to see the completion of the movement toward human autonomy. In comparison with F. Gogarten, who also was influenced by Diltheys book, Bonhoeffer guards against Dilthey and his followers ultimately idealistic acosmicism and a corresponding inwardness - religiousness.39 In my opinion, Bonhoeffers awareness o f the world come o f age triggered his theological quest of finding out Who Jesus really is for this world. He came to realize that the world had become much more different, and that Christianity cannot communicate to the world in the traditional fashion o f positivism o f revelation.40 Thus, as a logical outcome of his renewed worldview, a new interpretation o f non-religious nature became necessary for the sake o f the world that became mature and religionless.

The Human Autonomy and the Decay of Religion


According to his letter o f 8 June 1944, Bonhoeffer was convinced that the world come of age and the autonomy o f humanity reached an undoubted completion in his time.41 Rasmussen, in his study on Ethics, interprets Bonhoeffers question Who is

38 Ibid, 249. 39 Ibid, 251. 40 LPP 280, 286, 329. 30 April, 8 May, 9 June 1944 respectively. 4 1 LPP 325, 8 June 1944.

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Christ for us todayV 42 along the same line of Dumas dialectical interpretation of Bonhoeffers the world come o f age. According to Rasmussen, today as the time of the world come o f age is a double movement for Bonhoeffer. On the one hand there is the increase o f human autonomy through the maturation o f reason, and on the other hand there is the decay o f religion.43 Bonhoeffer understood human autonomy from the perspective of our relationship with God and religion. To him, human autonomy and religionlessness are the two sides of a coin: namely, the world come o f age. In addition to his dialectical analysis o f the concept, Rasmussen follows Bethges suggestion that the character o f the people with whom Bonhoeffer grew up and with whom he worked in the Resistance had influenced Bonhoeffer to have this view o f the world come o f age. Rasmussen says, He [Bonhoeffer] was privileged to grow up among people who were deeply conscious o f human autonomy and who were convincing representatives o f autonomous reason in many disciplines and occupations. They certainly did not require of us God as a working hypothesis.44 Rasmussens point of view needs further examination. It is true that the influence o f highly educated people with whom Bonhoeffer grew up and was associated with might have affected his theological thinking. In addition, his idea o f the world come o f age would not have come from a cultural vacuum. In fact, as Dumas observes, the concept o f coming o f age was an

42 LPP 278, 30 April 1944. 43 Larry L. Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reality and Resistance Studies in Christian Ethics Series, (New York: Abingdon Press, New York), 1972, 80-81. 44 Ibid., 84.

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interpretation based on the culture o f his time and age.45 However, we do not have clear evidence as to how his biographical background has influenced his assessment o f the worlds maturity itself Moreover, such an interpretation has two negative implications for our understanding o f BonhoefFers the world come o f age. First, it characterizes the concept as such that it is merely based on his personal experience with highly educated people who influenced his thought, and that it does not have much relevance to the common people o f the Western world in general. Second, Rasmussens biographical interpretation ignores Bonhoeffers worldview that is deeply rooted in Christology, which finds Christ as the concrete reality in this world. The first implication o f Rasmussens biographical interpretation lacks the understanding o f the fact that a historical analysis is the basis o f Bonhoeffers assessment o f the world come o f age. In the letter of 30 April 1944, Bonhoeffer said: Our whole nineteen-hundred-year-old Christian preaching and theology rest on the religious a priori o f mankind. Christianity has always been a form - perhaps the true form - o f religion . But if one day it becomes clear that this a priori does not exist at all, but was a historically conditioned and transient form of human self-expression, and if therefore man becomes radically religionless - and I think that is already more or less the case (else how is it, for example, that this war, in contrast to all previous ones, is not calling forth any religious reaction?). . . 46 One can argue that history shows us that there are enough evidences for the religious reaction to the war during this period, and Bonhoeffer simply did not know about it. However, it can be suggested that his observation was based on his experience with the indifference or subordination of the state church o f Germany to the situation,

45 Dumas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian o f Reality, 184. 46 LPP 280, 30 April 1944.

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and the failure o f the Confessing Church to react to tyranny and war rather than on those individual religious reactions which did not significantly influence the course o f history. The German church as well as the Christian church as a whole, which include Protestant as well as Catholic, was not at the center o f human history at that moment. From this it can be deduced that his personal experience based on a much larger scale, which includes the horrible war he personally experienced, was a more influencing factor for his conclusion of the religionless world than his limited experience with the intellectual people that did not need God or religion. Nonetheless, his understanding o f the religionlessness o f the world was in turn translated into the picture o f a mature world in reference to the relationship between the world and God/religion. The nonexistence of religiosity in the world come of age signals the decay o f religion. Even though Bonhoeffer was influenced by the highly intellectual environment in which he grew up,47 contrary to Rasmussens observation, his idea o f the world come of age was derived rather from his own historical, cultural, and theological analysis on a much deeper level. To Bonhoeffer, the human autonomy from God was a movement deeply rooted in the history of the Western world. Humanity had gone through the historical process o f self-awakening in which it came to realize that it can deal with all kinds of problems of this world without help from God, and that the Bible doesnt give answers to all questions o f the natural laws, social and political problems. Bonhoeffer concluded that, from a historical perspective, the movement o f human autonomy finally came to its completion:

47 Adolf von Hamack is one of those neighbors who influenced Bonhoeffers theological thoughts.

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The movement that began about the thirteenth century (Im not going to get involved in any argument about the exact date) towards the autonomy of humanity (in which I should include the discovery o f the laws by which the world lives and deals with itself in science, social and political matters, art, ethics, and religion) has in our time reached an undoubted completion. People have learnt to deal with themselves in all questions of importance without recourse to the working hypothesis called God. In questions o f science, art, and ethics this has become an understood thing at which one now hardly dares to tilt. But for the last hundred years or so it has also become increasingly true o f religious questions; it is becoming evident that everything gets along without God - and, in fact, just as well as before. As in the scientific field, so in human affairs generally, God is being pushed more and more out o f life, losing more and more ground.4 8 When we read this statement, the question about the validity o f his claim for human autonomy immediately arises: did the autonomy o f humanity truly reach an undoubted completion in his time? How was he able to come to the conclusion about the autonomous status of humanity with such a high degree o f confidence, especially when he was confined in a jail cell witnessing his contemporary world that was going through the most terrible war humankind had ever experienced? These questions have been dealt with by many who took the theology o f Bonhoeffer seriously. Peter Selby is among those who criticize the problem o f oversimplification in Bonhoeffers definitive claim that in his time the worlds maturity reached an undoubted completion. Selby thinks that the reality o f this world is much more complicated especially when we take seriously the fact that Western nations, which was the boundary of Bonhoeffers claim, constitute only a small part o f the world49. Selby says:

48 LPP 325-26, 8 Junel944. 49 Peter Selby, A World Come o f Age (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1984), 29.

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Clearly it is possible to question much here as a matter o f historical judgement, and it is easy enough to brand it as an oversimplification. As we have already noted, there is in fact a resurgent interest in all kinds of religion and religious experience. It is certainly hard to agree that the movement of which Bonhoeffer speaks has in our time reached an undoubted completion.5 0 As an attempt to rescue Bonhoeffer from such criticism, Selby claims, along the same line of Rasmussen, that Bonhoeffers perception of the world come o f age was deeply rooted in his own life experience and in the history through which he lived. Selby interprets Bonhoeffers perception o f the world come of age from the viewpoint of his life story of academic formation, becoming a pastor, moving into his position o f leadership in the Confessing Church, becoming a conspirator against Hitler and finally becoming his victim. Selby claims: It is as though each movement in that life story and each new turn o f his thought were the unwitting preparation for ideas that were to bring him into final conflict with authority and in the process bring to birth ideas which we still have not sufficiently assimilated.5 1 According to Selby, Bonhoeffers life was deeply intertwined with the tragedy o f the Nazi period. Bonhoeffer began to find that the principle o f the leader whom the German people had chosen was contrary to the understanding o f the constitutional order in which he had been brought up, and, as time went on, he found it to be contrary to Gods redemptive purpose as revealed in the gospel. Finally he came to the decision o f taking part in the plot to assassinate Hitler. From this unfolding vocation, Selby sees its

50 Ibid. 5 1 Ibid., 27.

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remarkable resemblance to the way in which Bonhoeffer described the coming o f age of humankind in his Letter and Papers from P rison52 Selby understands coming o f age53 as a simple fact that at a certain point people come o f age and have to be responsible for their decision and action. In Selbys own expression, You sign your own cheques and incur your own debts, you answer for your own crimes and have to keep your own promises because there is nobody else who can be asked to keep them for you. You are responsible, accountable and without excuses to plead.54 For Selby, what Bonhoeffer claimed was that humanity had now reached a stage in its development where humans had to be responsible for themselves whether they liked their new stage or not and whether they deserved it or not.55 Selby rightly criticizes the secularizing theologies o f the 1960s for their abuse o f Bonhoeffers theology by interpreting him as having made some very optimistic claims about the capacity o f human beings to handle the world in which they live in a mature way without recourse of religion or God, and for their understanding o f Bonhoeffers view o f the world come of age as grounded in the maturity of human race as their achievement.56 Selby says that they are not the kind o f achievements as a result o f which humankind might be said to deserve to manage by itself. Rather, the achievement o f knowledge and o f science makes

5: Ibid. 53 Ibid., 28-29, M&ndigkeit. 54 Ibid. 55 Ibid., 28. 56 Ibid.

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it increasingly necessary for us to live without recourse to God. In other words, it is a necessity rather than a privilege or a reward for human beings to be autonomous from God. Selby took seriously this model o f coming o f age, which is based on a persons life and experience of historical development, and came to the conclusion that coming of age for Bonhoeffer is not a once-for-all development. He takes maturation as the process o f taking responsibility and o f finding ourselves in charge, which it repeats as the years pass and new experiences come to us. The new times demand new forms of coming o f age. He finds its similarity with the movement o f civilization. Selby says: Knowledge advances and new ideas explored and in the process new responsibilities dawn upon us and alibis disappear. Yet the process is a continuing one and is never complete. Responsibilities burden humanity for a time and then disappear to be replaced by new demands.5 7 However, it seems that Selbys interpretation o f Bonhoeffer is problematic because there is no indication that Bonhoeffer viewed the maturation of human beings as a revolving process that is continuing towards different stages and is never complete. Selby utilizes the model o f a humans life cycle to explain Bonhoeffers claim that the maturation o f the world came to its completion. However, in doing so, Selby is simply avoiding but not facing the criticism o f Bonhoeffers claim that the autonomy of humanity has in our time reached an undoubted completion .58 For Selby, what is central to Bonhoeffers claim is not the question whether human autonomy came to its final completion or not, but the fact that humanity happened to grow up to be at that stage.

57 Ibid., 29. 58 LPP 325-26, 8 June 1944. Italics for emphasis.

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Selbys observation does not satisfy our curiosity about Bonhoeffers original intent because it appears that Bonhoeffer undoubtedly believed that the Western civilization attained the goal o f the movement o f human autonomy from God in his time. In fact, Selby appears to contradict himself by acknowledging that Bonhoeffer regards any attempt to compromise the adult status o f human beings as in the first place pointless, in the second place ignoble, and in the third place unchristian.59 Bonhoeffer claims the irreversibility of the adulthood o f the world and this is central to his thought. To Bonhoeffer, understanding the world come o f age as the final state of the movement is important because it provides an opening for the non-religious interpretation: The question is: Christ and the world that has come o f age. The weakness of liberal theology was that it conceded to the world the right to determine Christs place in the world; in the conflict between the Church and the world it accepted the comparatively easy terms o f peace that the world dictated. Its strength was that it did not try to put the clock back, and that it genuinely accepted the battle (Troeltsch), even though this ended with its defeat.6 0 Bonhoeffer claimed that we cannot and should not try to undo the maturity o f the world. It is as pointless as an attempt to put a grown-up person back into adolescence. He did not view human history as something that repeats itself in cyclic fashion through different stages. Simply, we cannot erase our history and start it all over again. Humanity has arrived in its adulthood on a track where there is not a turn-about. We have to accept humankinds maturity as a historical fact whether we like it or not. Any attempt

59 LPP 327. Quoted in Selbv, A World Come o f Age, 31. 60 LPP 327, 8 June 1944.

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to deny our human autonomy from God is ignoble because it amounts to an attempt to exploit the weakness o f humanity for religious purposes that are alien to it. It must be pointed out that the scope o f his worldview was limited to the West for the most part of his theological thoughts. Whether his theology is relevant to our contemporary world situation or not is another issue that will be discussed later. Bonhoeffer acknowledged that the phenomenon o f the maturation o f human reason and the decay of religion as its result are unique to the West: Technology became an end itself. It has soul o f its own. Its symbol is the machine, the embodiment of the violation and exploitation o f nature. . . It cannot be overlooked that technology has arisen only in the west, that is to say, in the world which has been shaped by Christianity and more particularly by the Reformation. When it penetrates to oriental countries it acquires a totally different significance in that it ceases to be an end in itself. Technical development in the Islamic world, for example, continues to stand entirely in the service o f belief in God and o f the constructive furtherance of Islamic history.6 1 From this, it can be observed that his idea of the world come o f age is based on the historical understanding of the Western world that has been shaped by Christianity. The maturity o f the world, from Bonhoeffers standpoint, is the result of historical development o f the Western civilization under the influence o f Christianity. O f course it would be logical to conclude that the limited scope o f his worldview unfortunately reduces its applicability to our contemporary world that is open and globalized. However, considering the proliferation o f the Western civilization into different parts of the world leveraging its advanced technology, which has been the main source of

6i E

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human confidence, Bonhoeffers worldview and his theology seem to be gaining more relevance for the rest o f the world than in his own time.

Christs Forsakenness and the World Come of Age


Returning to the second implication o f Rasmussens biographical interpretation, which ignores the Christological aspect o f the world come o f age, it can be argued that, along the line o f Dumas, Bonhoeffers worldview was derived from his theology firmly based on the Christology o f Christ as the concrete reality in this world. Dumas points out an important role o f Christology in the formulation o f Bonhoeffers concept o f the world come of age: But what happens when God enters into the reality o f this world? After the cultural and biblical levels o f interpretation we come to the christological level, which is by far the most compressed and enigmatic. Gods encounter-in-tension with reality in Jesus Christ is neither a victory nor an abolition, but the humiliation and annihilation o f the cross. This is the opposite o f Feuerbachs religious position, where Gods enrichment represents humans impoverishment, but it closely resembles Hegels analysis of Christ as the historical embodiment o f negation.62 After quoting the letter o f 16 July 1944, where Bonhoeffer talked about the forsakenness ( Verlassenheit) o f the world, Dumas continues to assert that, from a Christological perspective, the godlessness o f responsible resistance overlaps with the before God o f believing submission. Because God is willing to alienate himself on the cross, humanity needs no longer to be alienated from God. Dumas argues: Theology becomes christology because in Christ God himself is present. And because God is present, christology is more than a matter o f

62 Dumas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian o f Reality, 190.

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example, more than providing a model to imitate. It becomes concrete. It effects reconciliation63 Although Bonhoeffer viewed responsibility64 as an important aspect of maturity, it is clear that he did not consider maturation as a revolving process of human growth apart from God. Rather, it can be said that Bonhoeffers model for maturation is based on the concept o f ultimate and penultimate. Through the presence o f Christ, humanity came to the last point of penultimate. Human beings finally realized that God forsook the world when Jesus cried out on the cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?65 However, the paradox of this event is that the world was forsaken by God along with Jesus Christ, who is God. Therefore, Bonhoeffers concept of maturity is not individualistic separatism in which God and humanity are separated, but the restoration o f correct relationship between God and humanity similar to a parentschildren relationship that was once realized in the Garden o f Eden prior to the Fall. Furthermore, Bonhoeflfers model for such relation between God and humanity is from his eschatology o f the ultimate. Evidently, Bonhoeffer was convinced that human beings have enough capability to understand the ultimate relationship between God and humanity. Thus, he concluded the world come o f age. Another point o f observation was made by Ralf K. Wiistenberg who observes that C. Gremmels has found that Bonhoeffer appropriated reflections on the idea of the

63 Ibid. 190-91. 64 LPP 298. Thoughts on the Day o f the Baptism o f Dietrich Wilhelm Radiger Bethge. Bonhoeffer talks about responsibility relates to action. In the world come of age, he envisions, human beings will take actions out of responsibility rather than thoughts. 65 Mt. 27:46.

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world coming of age and human autonomy from passages o f Wilhelm Diltheys work.66 There is verbatim agreement between some o f Bonhoeffer citations and Diltheys.67 According to Gremmels, this-worldliness is the key interpretive term applicable to Bonhoeffer as well as Dilthey, and it signifies a focus on the here and now.68 Gremmels says that the issue is no longer the poorly posed alternative between immanence and transcendence, earth or heaven, but rather a mediation of the intentions attached to these categories. Bonhoeffer finds this mediation with a Christological formulation: God is beyond even in the midst of our lives.69 Gremmels observes that Bonhoeffer developed his coming of age by bracketing Diltheys intellectual-historical element with a Christological element. Gremmels says: The concept o f the world come o f age interprets the end o f specific world-historical development; it is to be understood historically; or intellectually-historically. . . . The concept o f the world come o f age interprets the beginning of the salvific-historical development; it is to be understood Christologically.70 Gremmels Christological interpretation o f Bonhoeffers concept, the world come o f age, seems to deserve further review in the light o f the religionless Christianity. Bonhoeffer said: The concepts [of the New Testament] must be interpreted in such a way as not to make religion a precondition o f faith (cf. Paul and circumcision). . .. Thus the worlds coming of age is no longer an occasion for polemics

66 Ralf K. Wiistenberg, A Theology o f Life, Dietrich Bonhoffer's Religionless Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 70. Quotation from C. Gremmels Mandig Welt, pp. 13f. 67 Ibid.: C. Gremmels has juxtaposed Bonhoeffer citations from Widerstand und Ergebung. Neuausgabe with statements from Diltheys Weltanschauung und Analyse des Menschen seit Renaissance und Reformation, revealing verbatim agreement in statements concerning . . . See the text for more detail. 68 Ibid. 69 LPP 282, 30 April 1944. 70 Wiistenberg, A Theology o f Life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Religionless Christianity, 70. Quotation from C. Gremmels Mandig Welt, p. 22.

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and apologetics, but is now really better understood than it understands itself, namely on the basis of the gospel and in the light o f Christ.7 1 Therefore, Bonhoeffer understood the world come o f age as a stage for religionless Christianity rather than as the beginning o f the salvific-historical development as Gremmels asserts. It is in the world come o f age that we recognize that we have to live in the world etsi deus non daretur (even if there were no g o d ). . . God would have us know that we must live as human who manage our lives without him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15:34).72 As a result o f the historicalintellectual development o f humanity, we can recognize the forsakenness of the world that has been concealed under religion, and the reality o f Christ in the midst o f our lives. An important point one should note here is that Bonhoeffer, from his christocentric viewpoint, placed Christ at the center o f the historical development which led humanity to its maturity. The world forsaken by God can only be understood through Christ. In this regard, Bonhoeffer said thathe wasconcerned about- theclaimof a

world that has come of age by Jesus Christ 73 Asmentionedearlier, the maturityo f the world does not mean that we are alienated from God. Rather, from a christocentric viewpoint, Christ alienated himself from God into the world. Thus, when Bonhoeffer said that our coming o f age leads us to a true recognition o f our situation before God,74 he had this christocentric view in mind where humanity comes to the true recognition of the world being united with God through the reality o f Christ in this world. Bonhoeffers

7 1 LPP 7- LPP 73 LPP 74 LPP

329, 8 June 1944. 360, 16 July 1944. 342, 30 June 1944. Italic is for emphasis. 360-61, 16 July 1944.

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idea o f the world corne o f age was mainly based on his Christology. It cannot be simply equated with a developmental process o f human beings as perceived by Selby and others.

A Wholly New Way of Life


Another aspect of the world come o f age is related to how Christianity is understood by the world. Bonhoeffer argued that to view Christianity as a religion of redemption is unchristian, because it confuses Christ with one particular stage in humankinds religiousness.75 Bonhoeffer criticized Christianity as a religion of redemption based on his understanding o f the Old Testament: Now for some further thoughts about the Old Testament. Unlike the other oriental religions, the faith o f the Old Testament isnt a religion of redemption. Its true that Christianity has always been regarded as a religion of redemption. But isnt this a cardinal error, which separates Christ from the Old Testament and interprets him on the lines o f the myths about redemption?76 From the fact that the Old Testament does not pay attention to salvation nor redemption o f human beings, Bonhoeffer found that Israelites in the Old Testament lived this earthly life with God. Rather than hoping for the things o f afterlife, the Israelites hoped for the restoration o f their kingdom through a Messiah here on earth. Bonhoeffer saw that their focus on this worldly kingdom was important for the concept o f the world come o f age because the maturity o f the world meant a holistic life o f human beings in this world in a wholly new way. Bonhoeffer continued:

75 Ibid. 76 LPP 336, 27 June 1944.

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The decisive factor is said to be that in Christianity the hope of resurrection is proclaimed, and that that means the emergence o f a genuine religion of redemption, the main emphasis now being on the far side o f the boundary drawn by death. But it seems to me that this is just where the mistake and the danger lie. Redemption now means redemption from cares, distress, fears, and longings, from sin and death, in a better world beyond the grave. But is this really the essential character o f the proclamation o f Christ in the gospels and by Paul? I should say it is not. The difference between the Christian hope o f resurrection and the mythological hope is that the former sends a man back to his life on earth in a wholly new way which is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament.77 In a wholly new way we are sent back to our life on earth by the Christian hope of resurrection in our adulthood. This redemption is not simply pointing to the direction of beyond death but it points to the reality o f this world as well. Israel is delivered out o f Egypt so that it may live before God as Gods people on earth.78 The mature world is the ground where Christianity should stand before God. Bonhoeffers main concern was to find out Who is Christ for us today in the world come o f age? Christianity is more than redemption from sin and death beyond this world. The hope for eternal life in a world beyond this, which was what Christianity had been preaching for the past nineteen hundred years, was not adequate for the world come o f age. The time when people would accept unconditionally or blindly the words that are proclaimed was over, and the maturity o f this world cannot be undone. The Church may wish to turn the clock back to the Middle Ages when it enjoyed its privilege and dominion over this world where its authority was not challenged. However, the world come o f age is the

77 Ibid.

7 8 Ibid. 67

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reality within which the Church must live its life in a wholly new way to preach the gospel to the world. What, then, was Bonhoeffers attitude toward the historical phenomenon o f the world come o f age? Selby applies the idea o f the world come o f age to our own world and finds that there is no Someone who will solve the real problems o f life other than ourselves. The problems of war, poverty, and economics must be dealt with by ourselves: There is nowhere to look for the answers to the hard questions, no book of life with the correct solutions provided by an omniscient God.79 Agreeing with Bonhoeffer, Selby claims that the seeds o f our religious faith have been planted in the soil o f human sinfulness and morality. Religion meets us at the points o f our vulnerability and weakness.80 The steady growth of human knowledge and power has pushed humanity in the direction of having to make endless decisions for all the matters o f this world on our own. From this sense o f responsibility imposed upon human beings, Selby views the adulthood o f humanity as a stage humanity has reached unwillingly. We have to accept it whether we like it or not. However, Selbys somewhat negative view o f human autonomy and of responsibility as a burden must be rejected in the light o f Bonhoeffers positive evaluation o f the situation. For example, Bonhoeffer said: To that extent we may say that the development towards the worlds coming o f age outlined above, which has done away with a false conception o f God, opens up a way o f seeing the God o f the Bible, who

9 Selby, A World Come o f Age, 30. 80 Ibid., 32.

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wins power and space in the world by his weakness. This will probably be the starting-point for our secular interpretation.8 1 Contrary to Selbys view, Bonhoeffer understood human autonomy from the historical side. Human autonomy from God was not a biological development o f a life that naturally occurs and goes away when a new life appears. (See Diltheys influence on the historical view of Bonhoeffer.) Rather, it was the great historical development o f the West, which led humanity to its current mature state. Human thinking had been directed towards a state o f the autonomy from God, both with regard to humanity and with reference to the world. It can be said that Bonhoeffer was positive about the world come o f age from the perspective that it opened the door for the non-religious interpretation, which was not possible in the previous stages o f human maturation.

The Freedom for Others


Rasmussen views Bonhoeffers coming of age from two aspects: moral accountability and rational maturity. For moral accountability, he explains that Bonhoeffer designates the increase o f human autonomy by various forms o f the German miindig (maturity). The person who is miindig is one who speaks for oneself.82 The term mtindig references to the passage from adolescence to adulthood. One is no longer a minor but is on their own; that one has come o f age means that the person is fully responsible for his or her own actions. Based on this understanding o f the German term miindig Rasmussen warns the English readers o f Bonhoeffer to be careful to note that

8' LPP 361, 16 July 1944. 82 Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reality and Resistance, p. 81. X Ia n d ig k e it means adulthood ; mandigwerden means coming of age; mandigwordene means having come of age or come of age. Quoted from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Widerstand und Ergebung, ed. Eberhard Bethge, 11th ed.

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miindig is thus a reference to moral accountability and not moral maturity. He explains his understanding o f miindig further: That is, Bonhoeffer is saying that humanity is fully responsible for their actions whether they act childishly, immaturely, irresponsibly, or whatever. The worlds adulthood is in part, then, Bonhoeffers designation of humanitys irrevocable responsibility for their answers to lifes questions, together with all the consequences. One can no longer return to an adolescent dependence upon their parents to whom final responsibility falls.8 3 For another aspect of coming o f age as rational maturity, Rasmussen believes that Bonhoeffers appropriation of come o f age is drawn from Kants description of the Enlightenment as the emergence o f humankind from immaturity that they are responsible for themselves. Immaturity is the incapacity to use ones own intelligence without the guidance of another person. Rasmussen summarizes his view of Bonhoeffers understanding of come o f age based on the literary meaning o f miindig and the influence from Kants emphasis on the human reason: Humankind, using their autonomous reason, can and do answer the questions o f life; humankind and can and do interpret natural and social processes, all without the tutelage o f a divinity, without God as a working hypothesis. Further, humankind is accountable for the use o f their reason and its behavioral expression. World come o f age, then, designates rational maturity and moral accountability. Especially the former is clear in a summary of Bonhoeffers.84 Even though to Bonhoeffer rational maturity is certainly one o f the characteristics o f the world come o f age, were rational maturity and moral responsibility the only things

Munich, Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1951, pp.217, 236, 241, 218, 331 respectively. 83 Ibid. 84 Ibid.

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he had in mind when he said, People are now capable of taking in hand the direction of their own internal and external history?85 From his view, we must live as men or women who manage our lives without God. It means that we have our freedom to decide what to do without being dictated to by God or by religion. In a poem Stations on the Road to Freedom , Bonhoeffer expressed his thought on freedom: If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things to govern your soul and your senses, for fear that that your passions and longing may lead you away from the path you should follow, . . . Chaste your mind and your body, and both in subjection, obediently, steadfastly seeking the aim set before them; only through discipline may a man learn to be free.8 6 It can be stated that the concept o f freedom is where Bonhoeffer was heading as the destiny of a mature human being. It is a freedom with responsibility that is allowed to us as mature beings. Based on this, one should be careful in understanding Bonhoeffers concept of freedom in that it is not the self-centered freedom as a right of individual but the freedom for others, the freedom to suffer for the sake o f the world, the freedom from sin, and the freedom to die for others, which was exemplified by the life of Jesus. In summary, Bonhoeffers understanding o f the world come o f age can be interpreted based on historical and Christological perspectives. It is not the question of whether humanity became self-justifiable or not without God. From the perspective of historical development, it is a movement toward human autonomy that came to its completion. However, the autonomy o f the world cannot be explained without the reality

85 E 101. 86 LPP 370.

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of Christ. As suggested earlier, the place o f christocentricity in the concept o f the world come age has been missed by many interpreters o f Bonhoeffer, and such

misunderstanding led them to misuse or abuse his theology o f the world come o f age and the religionless world. Based on the christocentricity o f his worldview, it can be concluded that Christology, which is based on his concept o f Incarnation, was at the core of his understanding o f the world come of age. God was being pushed out and from the world more and more on the cross. However, it was Christ, the Son o f God, who was forsaken from the Father in order to remain in the midst o f the world with us and for us. As we have seen in Chapter 1, another aspect o f his Christology is the concept of Christ for others. It is clear that the freedom for others is precisely the outcome of the maturity of the world. As Bonhoeffer pointed out, the world come o f age is not the end of itself. Rather it directs humankind to the correct recognition o f the human situation before God. With his understanding of Christ forsaken by God on behalf o f the world, and of the world come o f age in Christ, Bonhoeffer established a theological agenda o f a non religious interpretation of biblical concepts and Christianity. Therefore, in the next chapter, his critique o f religion as it relates to his concept o f non-religious interpretation will be discussed. In addition to that the meaning o f his non-religious interpretation of the biblical concepts and Christianity will be discussed in more detail.

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CHAPTER 3 A NON-RELIGIOUS INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPEL

In the previous two chapters, the major themes o f Bonhoeffers theology - the Church, Christ, and the world - were reviewed. In short, Christ is the center of the Church and the world from the perspective that he is the Lord o f both. At the same time, Christ is the center between God and humanity, between human beings in the midst o f the world, from the perspective that he is the mediator. Bonhoeffer understood the Church as the body o f Christ who exists for others. From his Christocentric theological foundation laid out in the very early stage of his theological development, Bonhoeffer concluded in his letters from prison that we should reinterpret the Gospel in a non-religious way for the world come o f age, which was becoming religionless. In a nutshell, Bonhoeffers theology can be viewed as a reaction to the situation of the Church where it was losing its ground - religion - in the world that had become increasingly 1 religionless. He observed that the Church was not only irrelevant to the changing world but also indifferent to the suffering o f the world and fellow human beings. Since this thesis is an application o f Bonhoeffers theological concept o f non religious interpretation to our contemporary situation, the meaning o f the concept needs to be discussed further. Because Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is obviously

1 LPP 326, 8 June 1944. We can deduce that Bonhoeffer had some sense of urgency regarding the changes that were taking place in the world. He said, But for the last hundred years or so it has also become [increasingly] true of religious questions; it is becoming evident that everything gets along without God .

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anchored to the term religion, I will first discuss how Bonhoeffer understood religion in order to explain the meaning o f non-religious interpretation later.

Bonhoeffers Understanding of Religion


Religion is a term that cannot be clearly defined because its meaning and usage can be so diverse depending on the context in which it is used. Because Bonhoeffer himself used the term with different meanings from time to time, there has been some confusion in understanding how his theological ideas developed around the concept of religion. Bonhoeffer scholars have been asking the question, What was Bonhoeffers understanding of religion? in order to grasp a more clear meaning o f his controversial ideas such as religionless Christianity and a non-religious interpretation o f the gospel and the biblical concepts. After an exhaustive study on how Bonhoeffer understood religion, Wiistenberg concluded that Bonhoeffer neither defined religion conceptually, nor developed any closed theory of religion.2 Previous Bonhoeffer scholarship presupposed that Bonhoeffers fixed concept of religion enabled one to draw conclusions regarding the statement about religionlessness and non-religious interpretation.3 However, Wiistenberg rightly says, The continuing paraphrastic renderings o f the religious thematic material o f the Letters and Papers from Prison clearly demonstrate that scholars are still searching for an interpretive key or a sustaining explanatory model for this book.4 Therefore, with regard to Bonhoeffers

2 Wiistenberg, A Theology o f Life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Religionless Christianity, 29. 3 Ibid., 30. The Bonhoeffer scholars are listed in the authors German edition, Glauben als Leben, Dietrich Bonhoeffer und die nichtrligiOse Interpretation biblischer Begriffe (Frankfurt am Main:Perter Lang, 1996), 255-345. See the note on p. 172. 4 Ibid.

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critique o f religion, Wiistenberg suggests an evaluation o f the various influences on Bonhoeffer such as Karl Barth and Wilhelm Dilthey during the period when the critique would have been formulated. Wiistenberg finds that a survey o f Bonhoeffers references to religion prior to 1927, the year of his dissertation Sanctorum Communio, reveals that there is hardly a single statement of Bonhoeffer which aims directly at any critique o f religion.5 Rather, Bonhoeffers positive and appreciative attitude toward religion can be found in the letter to his parents in 1924 and several lecture notes from the period o f 1925 - 1926.6 On the other hand, Bonhoeflfers first reference o f his critique o f religion is found in a note on Luthers lectures on Romans in 1925: The intention o f theological logic is to free itself from psychologizing.7 Already, a glimpse o f Bonhoeffers negative perception of religion as psychotherapy can be seen. Wiistenberg views this as a critique of E. Troeltschs doctrine of the religious a priori, which will acquire significance in Bonhoeffers later critique of religion.8 Nonetheless, we can deduce from those materials that Bonhoeffer was still formulating his critique of religion with mixed attitude in his student days. In 1927, when his dissertation Sanctorum Communio was finished, Bonhoeffer made a decisive turn against religion. In his dissertation, Bonhoeffer argued that the Church is misunderstood, There are basically two ways to misunderstand the Church,

5 Ibid., I. 6 DBW 9, 124, 271-305. 410-30. 7 DBW 9. 324. 8 RalfK. Wiistenberg, A Theology o f Life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Religionless Christianity, 1.

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one historicizing and the other religious; the former confuses the Church with the religious community, the latter with the Realm o f God. 9 According to him, Both are dangerous, since both can be nourished by religious pathos and seriousness.10 Neither o f them, however, understands the reality o f the Church, which is simultaneously a historical community and one established by God. 1 1 With the first point, in making a clear distinction between the Church and the religious community, he viewed the religious community as a human product established by the religious motives or religious impulse of human beings, whereas the Church is established by God. Continuing from the previous paragraph, Bonhoeffer said: The former overlooks the fact that the new basic-relations established by God actually are real, and points instead to the religious motives that in fact lead to empirical community (the missionary impulse, the need to communicate, etc.). This view, however, plainly is condemned by the saying in Johns Gospel that You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16).12 Bonhoeffer makes a subtle but important distinction between religious community and the Church. How many Christians come to the Church every Sunday with a sincere belief that it is the Church established by God and the same God is present in the midst of people who are gathered to worship him? The truth o f the matter is that most Christians think that the Church is there to satisfy their religious impulse or spiritual needs. From that sense, Bonhoeffers critique o f the Church as the religious

9 SC 125. 10 SC 126. Seriousness is a theological term used by Karl Barth. In his early articles Barth spoke quite frequently about seriousness.

1 1 Ibid. l- Ibid. 76

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community can still be applied to our contemporary churches. Bonhoeffers Godcentered theology was taking its shape in Sanctorum Communio. On the second point o f his critique o f the Church, Bonhoeffer said: But then what does it mean to believe in the Church? We do not believe in an invisible church, nor in the Realm o f God within the Church as coetus electorum [company or assembly o f the elect]. Instead we believe that God has made the concrete, empirical church [Kirche] in which the word is preached and the sacraments are celebrated to be Gods own churchcommunity [Gemeinde]. We believe that it is the body o f Christ, Christs presence in the world, and that according to the promise Gods Spirit is at work in it.1 3 The understanding o f the Church as coetus electorumi [company or assembly o f the elect], which became popular through Lutheran theology, was viewed negatively by Bonhoeffer because o f its lack o f concreteness and its conceptual view o f the Church. In other words, the Realm seems to remove God from the concrete and empirical Church in which God is present as the builder o f community. I conclude that Bonhoeffers criticism o f the Church as a religious community or the Realm o f God was based on his understanding o f the Church as the concrete and empirical body o f Christ and o f the presence of God as the center of the Church-community. In Sanctorum Communio , Bonhoeffer defined religion as the impulse of the community toward deity. He said, Religion is defined as the touching o f the human will by the divine will, and as the overcoming o f the former by the latter to enable free action. 14 Bonhoeffer first understood religion as a social phenomenon. Although it may not be certain whether religion begins in the individual soul as a slow dawning of an

1 3 SC 280. 1 4 SC 131.

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other in the most primitive feelings such as horror, fear, and terror, or whether the biological communal forms such as the family and the clan are primarily seen as the subject o f religion. What was certain to Bonhoeffer was that worship is carried out by a community expecting the protection o f its communal life.15 Religion, from its origin, is closely tied to social life - community. He defined four different modes o f relationship between religion and community16: 1) A radical rejection o f outward and inward community. An example o f this is mysticism. The mystical fusion o f I-You relationship between God and human beings rejects the concept o f community;1 7 2) Free religious communities that are held together purely on the basis o f and in order to achieve a purpose, and solely through a common religious practice as a means o f accomplishing a purpose. Its internal structure is individualistic. They are cultic societies, and have a voluntary association; 3) The religious formation o f community that is based on physical communities. The family or the clan is firmly regarded as the subject of religion. The individual is active in religious practice only as a part o f a whole, thus constituting a pronounced collectivism. The historically conditioned religious communities, such as the children o f Israel, belong to this category; 4) The free communities that are held together by meetings for worship, without which each individual would wither religiously; these consider the communal element in particular as constituting an aspect o f the meaning of religion. Bonhoeffer, then, defined three types o f communities: 1) the charismatic community characterized by the sorcerer; 2) the regulated, uncharismatic community

1 5 SC 131-32. 1 6 SC 132. 1 7 SC 84.

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characterized by the priest; 3) the religious community characterized by the prophet. However, according to him, these types o f community do not lead us to the concept of the Church, which can be reached only where Christian revelation is believed. The commonality of those three types o f community is the fact that human beings rather than the revelation o f God characterize them all. Bonhoeffer claimed, Only the concept o f revelation can lead to the Christian concept o f the Church. 1 8 In other words, unlike other religions that have been formed historically , the Christian church has been established through Gods revelation. More importantly, Bonhoeffer already determined that the Church is not a religious community, and Christianity should not be identified with religion: Now the relationship of Christ to the Church can be stated by saying that in essence Jesus Christ was no more the founder of the Christian religious community than the founder o f religion. The credit for both o f these belongs to the earliest church, i.e., to the apostles. This is why the question whether Jesus founded a church is so ambiguous. He brought, established, and proclaimed the reality o f the new humanity . . . It is not a new religion recruiting followers - this is the picture o f a later time. Rather, God established the reality of the Church, o f humanity pardoned in Jesus Christ - not religion, but revelation, not religious community, but church. This is what the reality o f Jesus Christ means.1 9 Thus, Bonhoeffer made a clear distinction between religion and revelation, and religious community and the Church. What differentiates revelation from religion is the resurrected Christ who is present in the Church as revelation, as the Spirit. Historically speaking, the ascension of Christ draws the line between the disciple-community o f the followers of Jesus and the Church actualized at the Pentecost.20 Bonhoeffer said,

18 SC 133. 19 SC 152-3. :o SC 152.

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Formerly the disciple-community represented Christ; now it possesses him as revelation, as Spirit.21 As we shall see later, this differentiation made by Bonhoeffer characterizes todays church as a disciple-community, which represents Christ rather than possessing him as the Lord in the Spirit. As Wustenberg points out, Bonhoeffer also identified religion as mysticism in Sanctorum Communio. Bonhoeffer defined mysticism as a fusion o f our being into Gods. He said: Whatever kind o f unity of will exists, one must never conclude any kind of unity o f the willing persons in the sense o f fusion; this is impossible considering all that has been said. Community o f will and unity o f will only build upon the inner separateness o f I and You . . . The Christian notion of community with God can be realized only on the basis o f this interpretation o f community. Otherwise, community with God becomes unification in the sense o f transgressing the boundary o f the I-You-relation - th a t is, mystical fusion.22 The separateness between God and the community with God is necessary for the correct I-You-relation in which the true obedience to Gods command as the basis of community o f saints is possible. I observe that Bonhoeffer reiterated his critique of religion as mystical fusion in Creation and Fall in the following terms; Nevertheless it is clear that if between the creature and the Creator the boundary were to be transgressed, then this would coincide with the transgression o f the boundary within creation. Every transgression of the boundary at the same time injures the creatureliness o f the other person. Violating the tree of life would at the same time violate the other person.23

:1 SC 152. ~ SC84. 23 CF 118.

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Bonhoeffer understood mysticism as the mystical fusion into God, which humanity desires by its nature, and it is the transgression o f the boundary drawn between God and human, and between the Creator and the creature. According to Bethge, Bonhoeffer, while an assistant pastor in Barcelona, delivered lectures for a series o f three evenings, the first on the Old Testament, the second on the New, and the last on the ethical questions. On the second evening, 11 December 1928, his subject for the lecture was Jesus Christ and the Essence of Christianity. The lecture began with a concept o f provincialism, which Bonhoeffer may have received from Friedrich Naumann: . . . that Christ in practice [has been] eliminated from our lives . . . Christ, instead of being the center of our lives, has become a thing o f the Church, or of the religiosity o f a group o f people. To the nineteenth- and twentiethcentury mind, religion plays the part o f the so-called Sunday room . . . We do not understand it if we make room for it in merely one province o f our spiritual life. . . . The religion o f Christ is not the tidbit that follows the bread, but is the bread itself, or it is nothing.24 This observation o f Bonhoeffer as a young pastor still applies to the Christian religion o f today. It seems that the quiet time or the small group Bible study appear to constitute a major part o f Christianity in todays church. He criticized the partiality of Christianity as a religion, which occupies only a small part o f the life o f Christians. In 1928, Bonhoeffer criticized religion as related to happiness. Happiness and religion belong together like glitter and gold; religion that does not make a person happy is not religion. But this means we are conceiving religion from the perspective o f human beings themselves, and evaluating it only with respect to human beings as the center of

Z A Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer A Biography (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 116. DB W 10, 302-3.

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the world.25 Religion is viewed as human-centered service that brings happiness and comfort to human beings. Bonhoeffer also criticized religion for placing God in the service o f human beings to promote their happiness and peace. In a sermon on Thanksgiving 1931, Bonhoeffer pointed out, We often hear and say that religion makes a person happy and harmonious and peaceful and satisfied. That may well be correct for religion. But for God, the living God, it is not correct; it is fundamentally false.26 In 1931, at Union Theological Seminary in New York, as a scholar abroad, Bonhoeffer insisted that Barths theology shows how all human attempts to come to God must fail, and condemns all morality and religion.27 Having read William James, and observed pragmatism in America, Bonhoeffer criticized the American churches. Wvistenberg comments, Bonhoeffer observes critically that this pragmatism in its most extreme form (Growing God) also led to a creative coupling o f religion and faith in progress, with religion becoming social ethics. American ecclesiology allegedly confuses the Church with a religions association, a criticism recalling Sanctorum Communio.2* Bonhoeffer criticized the American churches based on the fact that instead of the priesthood of believers, we have the right o f membership in the association, and instead o f the rite vocatus we have the pastor as the association chairman.29 Almost

25 Wustenberg, A Theology o f Life, 4. Also, see Sermon on 2 Cor. 12:9 (Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 9, 1928) DBW 10, 505-11. 26 Ibid., 10. DBW 11, p.378. 21 Ibid.. 5. See The Theology of Crisis and Its Attitude toward Philosophy and Science, DBW 10, 43449,435. 28 Ibid., 6 DBW 10, 269. 29 Ibid., DBW 10. 277.

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seventy years later, I find Bonhoeffers harsh criticism on the American churches still convincing. Bonhoeffer also made his criticism on the process o f religious individualization through the lectures that he offered in the winter semester o f 1931/32 on the subject of History o f Systematic Theology in the 20th Century. He said: Individualism has destroyed the Protestantism o f the Reformation. In the post-Copemican age, the word religio appears in the place o f faith (the English Deists), and refers to the ultimate, most delicate human possibilities. The human being is discovered as being related to God.30 Wustenberg summarizes Bonhoeffers criticism o f religion in this period, Bonhoeffer believes that theology is absolutely not to be confused with philosophy of religion or with a doctrine of faith.31 In the lectures on Systematic Theology in the 20th Century, Bonhoeffer concludes that for the relationship between religion and individualism, individualism is the basic error o f Protestant theology,32 a criticism referring essentially to Schleiermacher: His [Schleiermachers] church is a voluntary assembly o f Christian devotees. This refers the Church back to the piety o f individuals. The Church is not the ultimate presupposition. He puts individual religiosity before the brackets.33

30 Ibid., DBW 11, 145. 3 1 Ibid. DBW 11, 199. Wustenberg continues his summation (p.7): The lecture series The Essence of the Church from the summer semester of 1932 seeks the Locus of the Church (Part L DBW 11. 23 Iff.) In the World (Part I.A, 23 If.) and In Christendom (Part I.B, 233f.), and then concludes with respect to Catholicism and cultural Protestantism that neither the state church nor the middle class is the locus of the Church (232). The Church does not take up residence at privileged places (233), nor is it found on the periphery of life (233). The implied critique of religion here is ecclesiastically directed and will reappear in the Tegel prison cell in the notions of religiously privileged persons and partiality. 3: Ibid. DBW 11,238. 33 Ibid.,7. DBW 11.253.

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A sermon on Mark 9 in 1932 also demonstrates Bonhoeffers negative understanding o f religion as human product, which is an important precursor for his formulation o f a non-religious interpretation: We have grown accustomed to finding in religion something that comes from a need within the human soul and then satisfies that need. . . . But we forget here one decisive question, namely, whether religion itself is something true; whether it is the truth; for it may be that although it is all a beautiful illusion, it is nonetheless still just an illusion.34 Here Bonhoeffer criticized religion by juxtaposing religion and truth. He argued that religion is an illusion and has nothing to do with the truth o f God, and that the Church had drifted into the category o f religion. He found the precedence or prototype of the Church as religious community from Exodus 32, on which he preached in 1933, God has abandoned us, but we need gods! Religions! If you cannot coerce the living God, then make gods for us yourself! .. . Keep religion for the people, give them worship service.35 In 1936, Bonhoeffer spoke to Swedish and Danish congregations on the subject The Visible Church in The New Testament. He expounded on Acts 2, 42-7 under the title The New Community: The coming o f the Spirit is a new creation, simply because it leads the community into fellowship with Christ. Kaine ktisis (2 Cor. 5.17, Gal. 6.15), the second creation after the old, corrupt creation, is man/woman in the community, the community itself (Eph.2.15). Part o f the world is made afresh after the image o f God (Col. 3.10). Thus no new religion has been founded; a part o f the world has been made anew. That is the founding o f the C hurch.6

34 Ibid.. 12. G S 4, 142. 35 Ibid.. 12. G S 4, 126. 36 GS m , pp. 325-34. Tr. and Ed. Edwin H. Robertson, The Way to Freedom (London: Collins, 1966), 47-8.

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Here again it can be seen that Bonhoeffer was making a clear distinction between the Church and religion. He made a further distinction between the Church and the religious community: The event o f Whitsuntide[Pentecost] thus does not consist primarily in a new religiousness, but in the proclamation o f a new creative act o f God. And that means that the whole o f life is requisitioned. It is not for a moment a matter of putting the religious before the profane, but o f putting Gods act before both religious and profane. Here is the essential difference between the Church and a religious fellowship [religious community], A religious fellowship is concerned to put the religions above profane, to divide life into the religious and the profane; it is concerned with an ordering o f value and status. A religious fellowship has its end in itself in the religious as the highest - one might go on to say God-given - value. The Church, as a part o f the world and o f mankind created afresh by Gods Spirit, demands total obedience to the Spirit which creates anew both the religious and the profane. Because the Church is concerned with God, the Holy Spirit, and his Word, it is therefore not specially concerned with religion, but with obedience to the Word, with the work of the Father, i.e. with the completion o f the new creation in the Spirit. It is not the religious question or religious concern of any form which constitutes the Church - from a human point o f view - but obedience to the Word of the new creation o f grace.37 Bonhoeffer emphasized the Churchs obedience to the will o f God, and the doing o f Gods work, over against the Churchs concern with religion. This, in my opinion, is another precursor o f his concept of non-religious interpretation. Bonhoeffer continued to define the true nature o f the Church: In other words, the Church is constituted not by religious formulae, by dogma, but by the practical doing o f what is commanded. The pure teaching o f the Gospel is not a religious concern, but a desire to execute the will o f God for a new creation. In the Church, the Holy Spirit and obedience take the place o f the religious.38

38

3' Ibid. Ibid.

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The religious has been taken over by the non-religious at the event of Pentecost. Religion of human origin was replaced by the Church, which was founded by the will o f God manifested through the work o f the Holy Spirit. Thus, Bonhoeffer was able to say: The second creation of God by Christ in the Holy Spirit is as little a religious matter as was the first creation. It is a reality o f God. The total claim of the Church, which is not content with the priority o f the religious, is grounded in the claim o f the Holy Spirit to be creator in the Church.39 At the same time, Bonhoeffer criticized the Church that became nothing more than a religious institution: Where the Word and the Action o f God are tom apart to the extent that they are in the Orthodox churches, the Church must become a religious institution and there is no longer any protection against the pietistic, total dissolution o f the concept of the Church in which piety constitutes the Church - and the action of God is identified with human, pious work.40 In [The Cost of\ Discipleship , Bonhoeffer found Monasticism religious from the perspective that it was represented as an individual achievement, which the mass of laity could not be expected to emulate. He said: But the decisive mistake of monasticism was not that it followed the grace-laden path o f strict discipleship, even with all o f monasticisms misunderstandings o f the contents o f the will o f Jesus. Rather, the mistake was that monasticism essentially distanced itself from what is Christian by permitting its way to become the extraordinary achievement o f a few, thereby claiming a special meritoriousness for its e lf. . The humble work o f discipleship had become in monasticism the meritorious work o f the holy ones.41 He also spoke of religion as a spiritual tyranny by asking:

Ibid '" Ibid 4 1 D 47. 86

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Should the church be trying to erect a spiritual reign o f terror over people by threatening earthly and eternal punishment on its own authority and commanding everything a person must believe and do to be saves? Should the churchs word bring new tyranny and violent abuse to human souls? It may be that some people yearn for such servitude. But could the church ever serve such a longing?42 In a sense, one could view [The Cost of] Discipleship as Bonhoeffers renunciation o f the Church as a religion. He opens the book by saying, Cheap grace is the deadly enemy o f our church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace. Then he states: Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cur-rate forgiveness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacrament; grace as the churchs inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit . . . Cheap grace means grace as doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness o f sins as a general truth, it means Gods love as merely a Christian idea o f God . . . The world finds in this church a cheap cover-up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to be set free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial o f Gods living word, denial o f the incarnation o f the word o f God.43 Here he identifies religion with cheap grace. He further asserts, The Christian better not rage against grace or defile that glorious cheap grace by proclaiming anew a servitude to the letter of the Bible in an attempt to live an obedient life under the commandments o f Jesus Christ!44 The Church as a new religion o f the letter is built on a doctrine, a dogma, a principle, a system, rather than on Jesus Christ. On June 18, 1939, during his second stay in America, Bonhoeffer was once again dissatisfied with the state o f the American church. After attending a Sunday worship service, he wrote: Simply unbearable. . . The whole thing was a decent, luxuriant, selfsatisfied religious celebration. Such idolization o f religion prompts a

42 D 38-9. 43 D 43. 44 D 44.

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revivification o f the flesh which is accustomed to being held in check by Gods word. Such preaching makes one libertinistic, egoistic, indifferent. Do these people really not know that one can get along just fine and even better without religion - if only God himself and his word did not exist?45 Again, he formulated his critique of religion and ethics based on his observation of the American church: American theology and the American church as a whole have never been able to understand what critique through Gods word means in its entire scope. That Gods critique is directed also at religion, and even at the Christianity o f its churches and at the sanctification o f Christians, and that God has established his church beyond religion and ethics - ultimately none o f this is understood. One indication o f this is the general clinging to natural theology. In American theology, Christianity is still essentially religion and ethics.46 In Ethics , Bonhoeffer declares religion as shame-based. Expounding on Gen. 3:7 and 2:24, he argued that shame is humankinds ineffaceable recollection o f his/her estrangement from the origin, and the powerless longing to return to unity with the origin.47 And he continued to argue: Whenever his longing forces its way towards fulfillment, in the partnership o f sex when two human beings become one flesh (Gen. 2.24), and in religion, when a human being seeks for his union with God, whenever, that is to say, the covering is broken through, then, more than ever, shame creates for itself the very deepest secrecy.4 Bonhoeffers prison letters show that he thought o f religion as the way in which human beings seek answers from God for the difficult questions and problems o f life. In his letter on 30 April 1944 he wrote:

45 Wustenberg, 16. GS I 300. 46 Ibid, G S l 354. 47 E 24.

^EIS.

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Religious people speak of God when human knowledge (perhaps simply because they are too lazy to think) has come to an end, or when human resources fail - in fact it is always the deus ex machinei49 that they bring on to the scene, either for the apparent solution o f insoluble problems, or as strength in human failure - always, that is to say, exploiting human weakness or human boundaries.5 0 Here he understood religion as a solution to the insoluble problems o f life such as natural disasters, accidents, blows of fate, death, or guilt.5 1 People come to religion as a rescue from the problems that they face, for the comfort of their soul, for the blessings on their life that come from supernatural being. It is a belief in anything supernatural which is expressed in some superstitious practice. The religious a priori o f humankind leads

them to believe in a supernatural power that is capable to provide solutions for their difficult problems. To Bonhoeffer, from the perspective o f the world come o f age, religion is a system that has been exploiting human weakness or human limitations. Furthermore, he defined Christianity as having rested on the religious a priori o f humankind for the whole nineteen centuries as a form of religion. Therefore, it is important to note that he used the term religion as the way in which human beings express their dependence on God, a supernatural being, for their insolvable problems o f life. One needs to be careful in understanding this particular point o f Bonhoeffer. He did not deny the reality o f human weakness that leads us to depend on God for our

49 God of the gaps. 50 LPP 281-282, 30 April 1944. 5 1 LPP, 3 August 1944. Outline for a Book, pp.380: The safeguarding of life against accidents and blows of fate; even if these cannot be eliminated, the danger can be reduced. Insurance (which, although it lives on accidents, seeks to mitigate their effects) is a Western phenomenon. The aim; to be independent of nature. Nature was formerly conquered by spiritual means, with us by technical organization of all kinds. 52 LPP 231,9 March 1944.

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problems. However, he opposed the Churchs exploitation o f peoples dependency on God and its preaching o f cheap grace rather than the concrete presence o f Christ. Bonhoeffer viewed the Church or Christianity as an institution as a form of religion. Putting it in a different way, Christianity has been wearing the religious garment throughout its history.53 Because the Western world has been shaped primarily under the influence o f Christianity, it is critical to understand the religious nature o f Christianity in relationship with the world.

The Problem of A Religionless World


Bonhoeffers critique of religion anticipated a new theological thesis, and he met such anticipation with concepts such as religionless Christianity, worldly

Christianity, or a non-religious interpretation. Clifford J. Green makes two observations: First, while statistically Bonhoeffer spoke more often o f interpretation of biblical concepts, he is clearly after something more than conceptual alteration: he is, as stated before, trying to describe a new psychic posture which affects a persons whole life, and this obviously involves more than concepts; for this reason I highlight the phrase religionless Christianity, instead of non-religious interpretation. Second, Bonhoeffers several phrases clearly fall into two groups: the negative, polemical formulations which use the adjectives religionless and non religious, and positive descriptions which speak o f worldly [weltliche] Christians or worldly interpretation.54 It seems that Green made wrong judgments in both observations. In his Tegel theology, Bonhoeffers main concern was to find the meaning o f Christ and Christianity

53 LPP 280, 30 April 1944: If religion is only a garment of Christianity - and even this garment has looked very different at different times -then what is religionless Christianity? 5 A Clifford J. Green, Bonhoeffer, A Theology o f Sociality, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids. MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 269.

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for the world come o f age. In a letter o f 30 April 1944, Bonhoeffer was raising a question of theological importance: What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means o f words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience - and that means the time o f religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more.55 Based on his remarks, the most important theological concern for Bonhoeffer seems to be how to answer the question Who Christ really is, for us today? In other words, the meaning o f Christ and the Church for the religionless world must be defined in concrete terms. Therefore, the interpretation o f biblical concepts should not be understood on a conceptual level as Green understands it. Rather, it should be understood on a practical level where the interpretation isunderstood as an effort to formulate a

practical plan for the renewal o f the Church. In terms o f relationship between the religionless Christianity and a non-religious interpretation, it can be seen that the religionless Christianity is an outcome o f a non-religious interpretation of the gospel. Going back to Greens second observation, it seems that he is mistaken when he categorizes Bonhoeffers use of the adjectives religionless or non-religious for the negative, polemical formulation, and worldly Christians or worldly interpretations for the positive descriptions. As discussed earlier, Bonhoeffer did not view the religionlessness o f the world negatively. On the contrary, based on Bonhoeffers critique o f religion, he viewed religionlessness as a characteristic o f the world come of

55 LPP 279.

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age. What he was concerned about was the religiousness o f the Church, not the religionlessness of the world. In that sense, it can be suggested that Bonhoeffers term non-religious carries a positive and hopeful, not a negative connotation. What are the challenges the world come o f age imposes upon Christianity? First, the foundation o f Christianity, the religious a prior f is taken away. Bonhoeffer wrote: Our whole nineteen-hundred-year-old Christian preaching and theology rest on the religious a priori of mankind. Christianity has always been a form - perhaps the true form - o f religion. But if one day it becomes clear that this a priori does not exist at all, but was a historically conditioned and transient form o f human self-expression, and if therefore man becomes radically religionless . . . what does that mean for Christianity? It means that the foundation is taken away from the whole o f what has up to now been our Christianity, . . . 56 Whether it was correct or not, Bonhoeffer made an assumption that human beings will find that the religious a p r io r f o f humankind does not truly exist. When people come to know that the religious a p r io r f was only historically conditioned and transient, they cannot simply be religious anymore. He asked, What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world?57 If the foundation o f Christianity is taken away, those questions must be answered to redefine Christianity and the Church, and Bonhoeffer answered those questions with the concept o f religionless Christianity. Second, the concept o f religionless Christianity as the solution for the religionless world brings up the question, How do we speak o f God - without religion?58 God has been the object o f religion. If religion suddenly disappears from this

56 LPP 279-80. 57 LPP 280. 58 Ibid.

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world, how can we speak of God? Bonhoeffer answered, Christ is no longer an object o f religion, but something quite different, really the Lord o f the world.59 His answer is a polemic against Nietzsches claim that God is dead. Christ is not only still alive but also finally freed from the religious Christianity as the boundary o f religion is removed. Third, Bonhoeffer asked, What is the place o f worship and prayer in a religionless situation? If religious Christianity no longer exists, and religionless Christianity takes its place, what will happen to the Church? Bonhoeffer was truly anticipating some radical changes in the Church. In a sense, his prophetic anticipation has been realized in the European and American churches. For instance, many urban churches have lost their congregation and the Church buildings are empty. Yet, statistically, the Christian population didnt decline substantially. What does it mean? It can be suggested that it is an indication that the Church as the religious community, in Bonhoeffers term, has been losing its ground. The Church is losing its influence not because o f the religionlessness o f people, but because o f its religious and institutional nature. There are many Christians, especially in the younger generation, who do not participate in the life o f the Church, yet confess their faith in Christ. Facing those challenges o f the religionless world, Bonhoeffer responded with the concept of non-religious interpretation to answer the question What is a religionless Christianity? the next discussion will focus on the meaning o f his non-religious interpretation of the gospel and the biblical concepts.

59

LPP 281.

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The Development of the Non-religious Interpretation"


It can be observed that Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is not a thought developed just in Tegel prison. Rather, it can be traced back to his student days to find the embryo o f his thoughts that led him to start formulating the thesis, a non religious interpretation of biblical concepts. To be more specific, on 7 August 1928, in his letter to one o f his contemporaries, Helmut Rossler, Bonhoeffer, serving as an assistant minister to the German-speaking church in Barcelona, Spain, expressed his dissatisfaction with the Christian world by writing: Im getting to know new people every day; here one meets people as they are, away from the masquerade of the Christian world, people with passions, criminal types, little people with little ambitions, little desires and little sins, all in all people who feel homeless in both senses o f the word, who loosen up if one talks to them in a friendly way, real people; I can only say that I have gained the impression that it is just these people who are much more under grace than under wrath, and that it is the Christian world which is more under wrath than under grace.60 One can glimpse his ideas of worldly Christianity or worldliness from his expression for the real people he was getting to know everyday in a different world. In thesame letter, Bonhoeffer stressed his view o f the centrality o f Christ in preaching, point [Christ] but can only be

First,preaching can never apprehend this central

apprehended by it, by Christ.61 In other words, preaching should not be a human effort to apprehend Christ, but on the contrary, through preaching Christ becomes flesh that liberates and unites individuals who hear it.

60 NRS 37. 6 1 NRS 38.

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More importantly, in an address given to his congregation on 25 January 1929, Bonhoeffer spoke o f the relationship between Christianity and ethics under the title What is a Christian Ethic? He believed the Christian message has nothing to do with ethics. He declared: Christianity was basically amoral, i.e. that Christianity and ethics were in fact divergent entities. And why? Because Christianity speaks o f the single way of God to man, from the merciful love o f God for unrighteous men and sinners, and because ethics speaks o f the way o f man to God, o f the encounter of the holy God with unholy man; because the Christian message speaks of grace and ethics speaks o f righteousness . . . Christianity and ethics do indeed have nothing to do with one another; there is no Christian ethics and there can be no transition from the idea o f Christianity to that of ethics.62 However, Bonhoeffer was aware o f a logical problem that can arise from his statement. Thus he raised the self-imposed questions, Why then are the Gospels full of evidently ethical directions? What business does the Sermon on the Mount have in the New Testament? . .. What is the significance o f the so-called New Testament ethic?63 In answering those questions, Bonhoeffer found that, first, the commandment o f love, which had been viewed by the New Testament ethics as the center o f the Christian message, was not exclusively Christian, but was generally recognized and widespread at the time of Jesus.64 He asked, What now remains o f a Christian ethic? He claimed that there is nothing new in the sense of a new commandment in the Sermon on the Mount. Rather, Bonhoeffer viewed that:

62 NRS 41. 63 Ibid. M NRS 42. Bonhoeffer was utilizing the historic investigation of the Rabbinic literature of the time of Jesus to conclude that the commandment of love was not new or unique to Christianity. Rabbi Hillel, for instance, was asked what is the greatest commandment and he replied, Love your neighbor as yourself. That is the greatest commandment Bonhoeffer listed an example of Roman philosopher Seneca who said, Let us not become weary of exerting ourselves for the general good, of helping individuals, of bringing aid

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The significance o f all Jesus ethical commandments is rather to say to men: You stand before the face of God, Gods grace rules over you; you are at the disposal o f someone else in the world and for him you must act and work . . For the Christian there are no ethical principles by means o f which he could perhaps civilize himself. N or can yesterday ever be decisive for my moral action today. Rather must a direct relationship to Gods will be ever sought afresh. I do not do something again today because it seemed to me to be good yesterday, but because the will o f God points out this way to me today.65 He argued that Gods grace and the surrender o f the will o f human beings is the ground for the Christians ethical action. This argument o f the uniqueness of Christs message is followed by an important concept o f freedom. Bonhoeffer asserted: If there was a generally valid moral law, then there would be a way from man to God - I would have my principles, so I would believe myself assured sub specie aetemitatis. So, to some extent, I would have control over my relationship to God, so there would be a moral action without immediate relationship with God. And, most important o f all, in that case I would once again become a slave to my principles, I would sacrifice mans most precious gi ft, freedom.66 In Bonhoeffers language, freedom is always understood within the relationship between God and human beings. He explained the meaning o f freedom by writing: When Jesus places men immediately under God, new and afresh at each moment, he restores to mankind the immense gift which it had lost, freedom. Christian ethical action is action from freedom, action from the freedom o f a man who has nothing o f himself and everything o f his God, who ever and again lets his action be confirmed and endorsed by eternity. . . . The Christian stands free, without any protection, before God and before the world, and he alone is wholly responsible for what he does with the gift o f freedom.67

even to our enemies. 65 NRS 42-43. 66 NRS 43-44. 67 Ibid.

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Bonhoeffers concept o f freedom is an important clue to decipher his non religious interpretation of the gospel, because his interpretation can be in essence equated with action that comes from ones freedom before God. Acting from freedom is creative, he said. The Christian creates a new standard for his or her action based on the will o f God. No moral laws, not even the Moses Decalogue, can become the standard for the Christian. The commandments o f the Sermon on the mount should not be made into laws: There are no ethical directions in the New Testament which we should have, or even could have, taken over literally. The letter kills, the spirit gives life, says Paul; . . . The Holy Spirit is only in the present, in ethical decision, and not in fixed moral precepts, in ethical principles. For this reason, the new commandments o f Jesus can never be regarded merely as ethical principles; they are to be understood in their spirit, not literally.68 Bonhoeffer already emphasized the reality o f Christ in this world and in the life of the Church-community in Sanctorum Communio. Here he was reinforcing his understanding of the presence of Christ in this world from the perspective o f Christian ethics. Ones freedom to make ethical decision comes from the dynamic reality o f God69 in ones daily life. A more evident clue to the non-religious interpretation is found in a letter from Rossler to Bonhoeffer on 22 February, 1931. In it, Rossler expressed his frustration over the situation o f the German Church. His concern was that a new paganism or neo-pagan religion was being formed under the National Socialism that demanded the unity o f the Christian religion and the Aryan race by putting the gospel at the service of a racial

68 NRS 45. 09 NRS 65.

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movement. Rossler pointed out to Bonhoeffer, And the tragic thing about our epoch is the encounter o f two most deeply related fronts: consistent secularism o f a consciously this-worldly nature and secularism with a religious flavor which can only reach a pragmatic understanding o f religion. And the Church o f Christ is out in the thick of this.70 Rossler, although being pessimistic about the whole situation,71 presented Bonhoeffer with his idea regarding preaching: But, that [we are saved] is the great thing about Christ: there is certainty of salvation. Or in other words: preach Christ; because this old mankind has used up all hopes and expectations, but in Christ hope lives and remains . . . Preaching must be about this. This change is due and absolutely necessary. The popular pattern will not do, i.e. the pattern in which man is brought to fear and trembling over his sins, then Christ is preached to him as the savior, and in this way (after repentance) faith comes. No, the new pattern must run like this: to this hopeless, suffering mankind, Jesus Christ, the great hope, is preached! O f course it may never be forgotten that this Christ of hope is precisely the crucified one. But today we need no longer threaten men with hell, because reality today is complete hell. (Dostoievsky says: Hell is when one can no longer love!) Therefore today Christ must be shown and be preached as the absolute relief o f all faith, as the great sosachtheia. All else is cruelty or deceiving the people.72 Rosslers proposal can be considered as a precursor to Bonhoeffers non religious interpretation. The idea behind Rosslers juxtaposition o f the popular pattern and the new pattern o f preaching is similar to Bonhoeffers criticism o f the clerical sniffing-around-after-peoples-sins 73 and proposal o f a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming - as was Jesus language.74

70 NRS 74. 7 1 NRS 74-75: I often fancy that the extent and intensity of the Churchs lostness in the midst of a hopeless world has never been so great in the course of history. Come, children, let us go, the evening closes in - 1 still believe in a heightening of the idea of Antichrist (against Althaus eschatology o f the perpendicular!) and that we are also standing on the eve of a last era of the world historv,. . . 72 NRS 75. 7 3 LPP 345. 8 July 1944 1 ALPP 300. May 1944. Thoughts on the Day o f the Baptism o f Dietrich Wilhelm Rudiger Bethge.

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Based on the previous survey, I conclude that Bonhoeffers theological proposal, a non-religious interpretation o f the biblical concepts and the gospel, was formulated since the very early stage of his theological development. I will discuss next the non religious interpretation in more detail.

Religionless Christianity
It is important to remember that Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is not a proposal for a new method of biblical analysis or exposition o f the biblical concepts. Rather, it should be understood as a theological thesis or proposal for the renewal o f the Church. The form o f the renewed Church was, in Bonhoeffers term, religionless

Christianity. Bonhoeffer himself said, Im only gradually working my way to the non religious interpretation of biblical concepts; the job is too big for me to finish just yet.75 What did Bonhoeffer have in mind when he coined the phrase? Based on my understanding that the phrase truly represents the whole structure o f Bonhoeffers theology, I suggest the non-religious interpretation can be understood from several perspectives: 1) the world come of age, 2) Christology o f Incarnation, 3) the religionless Christianity, 4) the Church for others.

1) The world come of age Bonhoeffers foremost concern was the fact that the world has come o f age. Although he, in general, maintained a positive attitude towards the changes o f the world,

75 LPP 359. 16 July 1944.

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he was also concerned about the meaninglessness o f the culture o f the younger generations: Unfortunately the generation o f Maria and Renate76 has grown up with a very bad kind o f contemporary literature and finds it much harder than we did to take up earlier writings. . . . Can you think o f a book from the belles-letters of, say, the last fifteen years which you think has lasting value? I cant. It is partly just talk, partly striking attitudes,. .. non insight, no ideas, no clarity, no substance and almost always bad, unfree writing.77 He was also concerned about the hostility o f the changing world o f the West against Christianity. He said, The West is becoming hostile towards Christ. This is the peculiar situation o f our time, and it is genuine decay.
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Nonetheless, his general attitude

towards the maturity of the world was a positive and open one. Then, what are the implications of the world come o f age from the perspective o f a non-religious interpretation? First, Bonhoeffer was convinced that humanity had learned to deal with their own problems without the working hypothesis called God.79 The world come o f age became capable of managing its own affairs.80 The new scientific discoveries and technological advancement pushed God out to the edge o f human life. The only unanswerable question seems to be the question o f death and afterlife. Bonhoeffer was asking what would happen to Christianity as religion if someday even those questions were answered. Since Christianity was losing its ground, the Church had to come up with

76 Maria is Bonhoeffers nineteen-vear-old fiancd, and Renate is Bonhoeffers niece who married Bethge. 77 LPP 148,27 November 1943. 78 E 109. 79LPP 326, 8 June 1944: Man has leamt to deal with himself in all questions of importance without recourse to the working hypothesis called God. . . . As in the scientific field, so in human affairs generally, God is being pushed more and more out of life, losing more and more ground. E 101, Remaking the Nation: The people deemed that they had now come o f age, that they were now capable of taking in hand the direction of their own internal and external history. They asserted their right to freedom and development as a people, the right to a government which should rest on the will of the

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a solution for its survival. Bonhoeffer singled out existentialist philosophy and psychotherapy as the Churchs methodism for its survival as a religion in the world come o f age. However, Bonhoeffer saw that methodism was not going to be able to solve the problem o f the Church in the religionless world because such methodism was still based on the human effort, religion. Second, the ordinary people do not pay much attention to those existential problems and psychoanalysis. Most o f them are detached from religion, and the religious matters became irrelevant to their daily life. Bonhoeffer wrote: The ordinary man, who spends his everyday life at work and with his family, and o f course with all kinds o f diversions, is not affected [by the secularized offshoots of Christian theology, namely existentialist philosophy and the psychotherapists]81 Third, the world come of age demands Christianity to become mature following its lead. From its inception until modernity, Christianity has influenced and shaped the Western world. However, starting from modernity, Christianity was losing its influence over the world. As the Church was witnessing the fall o f Christendom, it began to realize that it had to adapt itself to the changing world. Thus the relationship between Christianity and the world had changed; the world became the mentor of the Church. Bonhoeffer saw that whiie the world finally became mature and religionless, the Church still remained immature and religious. Therefore, he argued that the Church and its congregations need to become mature by being able to conduct their own daily affairs responsibly without God and before God.

nation. 81 LPP 326-27,8 June 1944.

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Fourth, Christianity must liberate itself from religion. The Church needs to take off its millennia-old garb o f religious institution. It should abandon its rusty dogmas and laws to be free from the bondage o f religion. It must renounce the superficial religious ceremonies and renew the meaning o f baptism, communion, worship, and preaching. A radical change from religion to religionless Christianity should take place in the Church. The clergy need to be re-formed by the person o f Jesus Christ in order to serve him faithfully. Liturgies and the Apostles Creed need to be revised to reflect the maturity o f the Church. Fifth, the world come o f age should be viewed as a positive force for the maturation of Christianity and the Church. The maturity of the world means that it

finally became capable to know who Christ is truly is. The world come o f age abandoned God as an abstract idea. Bonhoeffers concept o f the world come o f age does not suggest secularism o f profanity. Rather, the world come o f age means that it is mature enough to know who God truly is for us today. Bonhoeffer wrote, Thus the worlds coming o f age is no longer an occasion for polemics and apologetics, but is now really better understood that it understands itself, namely on the basis o f the gospel and in the light o f Christ.82 Sixth, the Church should recognize that the world and people have come o f age.83 Thus, it should not impose on human beings its dogmas or codified ethics. Instead of exploiting the weakness o f human beings, the Church should confront them at their

83 LPP 329, 8 June 1944. 83 LPP 346, 8 July 1944: "I therefore want to start from the premise that God shouldnt be smuggled into some last secret place , but that we should frankly recognize that the world, and people, have come of age, that we shouldnt run man down in his worldliness, but confront him with God at his strongest point,. . . The Word of God is far removed from this revolt of mistrust, this revolt from below. On the contrary, it reigns.

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strongest point. In other words, Christ should be proclaimed as the truth who is wholly present in their life. Christians should not be ashamed o f the gospel. Bonhoeffer stated: When we speak o f God in a non-religious way, we must speak o f him in such a way that the godlessness o f the world is not in some way concealed, but rather revealed, and thus exposed to an unexpected light.84 Anxious souls will ask what room there is left for God now; . . . And we cannot be honest unless we recognize that we have to live in the world etsi deus non daretur [even if God does not exist]. And this is just what we do recognize - before God! God himself compels us to recognize it. So our coming o f age leads us to a true recognition of our situation before God.85

2) Christology of Incarnation The theological foundation o f the non-religious interpretation is Bonhoeffers Christology o f Incarnation. How does the presence and centrality o f Christ relate to the non-religious interpretation? First, Bonhoeffer wanted to bring Christ back to the center stage o f the world, the Church, and the life o f Christians. He understood the partiality of religion from the fact that people seek God only when they face problems such as death, sickness, failures, suffering, and despair. In religion, God is pushed out to the edge o f the life o f human beings. The non-religious interpretation is an effort to re-enthrone Christ at the center o f life: This world must not be prematurely written off; in this the Old and New Testaments are at one. Redemption myths arise from human boundaryexperiences, but Christ takes hold of a man at the center o f his life.86 Today is Ascension Day, and that means that it is a day o f great joy for all who can believe that Christ rules the world and our lives.87

w LPP 362, 18 July 1944. 85 LPP 360, 16 July 1944. 86 LPP 337. 27 June 1944. 87 LPP 49,4 June 1943.

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Here again, God is no stop-gap; he must be recognized at the center of life, not when we are at the end o f our resources; it is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes; in health and vigor and not only in suffering; in our activities, and not only in sin. The ground for this lies in the revelation o f God in Jesus Christ. He is the center o f life, and he certainly didnt come to answer out unsolved problems.88 Second, the non-religious interpretation is an attempt to restore the original meaning o f the gospel as intended by Jesus Christ. I have already said that the non religious interpretation is not simply a contextualization o f the gospel for the religionless world. Rather, it was Bonhoeffers effort to restore the original meaning of the gospel and Christianity within the context of the world come o f age. To Bonhoeffer, the non religious interpretation was necessary to renew Christianity and the Church, which lost its influence over the world because of its religionless nature. Then, how did he understand the gospel of Christ? Bonhoeffer claimed that Jesus Christ is not a founder o f a new religion called Christianity. On the contrary, he came to liberate humanity from the bondage o f religion, which is the humans way to God. I argue that in Bonhoeffer liberation means to be liberated from religion. Bonhoeffer said: When holy scripture speaks o f following Jesus, it proclaims that people are free from all human rules, from everything which pressures, burdens, or cases worry and torment o f conscience.89 Third, Bonhoeffer did not suggest social programs or political revolution as a mean for liberation. Liberation Theology seems to have interpreted Bonhoeffers concept o f liberation in a wrong way. In fact, Bonhoeffers somewhat negative attitude towards the Churchs social justice movement can be seen in his sharp criticism o f the social

88 LPP 312, 29 May 1944. 89 D 39.

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gospel and pragmatism that were prevalent in the American churches at the time o f his visit to America. Bonhoeffers critique was that, in the theology o f the social gospel, Christianity is made an ethical religion, and the Decalogue and its interpretation in the Sermon on the Mount occupy the central position.90 Regarding this point, Bonhoeffer asserted: What matters in the Church is not religion but the form o f Christ, and its taking form amidst a band o f men. If we allow ourselves to lose sight of this, even for an instant, we inevitably relapse into that programmeplanning for the ethical or religious shaping of the world, which was where we set out from.91 Ethics as formation, then, means the bold endeavor to speak about the way in which the form o f Jesus Christ takes form in our world, in a manner which is neither abstract nor casuistic, neither programmatic nor purely speculative.92

3) The religionless Christianity Bonhoeffers critique of religion is one o f the main thrusts o f his theology as a whole. One might suggest that his discovery o f the world come o f age triggered his critique of religion and, as a reaction to his contemporary situation, led him to develop the concepts of the religionless Christianity and the non-religious interpretation of biblical concepts and the gospel. However, I argue that, on the contrary, his enthusiasm for religionless Christianity more or less influenced him to conclude that the world has finally come of age as an adequate environment for the realization o f the religionless

90 Wustenberg, A Theology o f Life, 4..6. 9 1 E 85.


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Christianity that he was hoping for. Nonetheless, the concept o f religionless Christianity can be viewed from several aspects. First, the Church is understood as the reality or form o f Christ in this world, not as the assembled worshippers o f Christ. Bonhoeffers career was devoted to sending the Church a message: Christ is not the object o f religion, but he is the Church! The renewal of the Church is not possible without this understanding. In what way are we religionless-secular Christians, in what way are we the EK-td.rjoia, those who are called forth, not regarding ourselves from a religious point o f view as specially favored, but rather as belonging wholly to the world? In that case Christ is no longer an object o f religion, but something quite different, really the Lord o f the world. What is the place o f worship and prayer in a religionless situation? Does the secret discipline, or alternatively the difference . . . between penultimate and ultimate, take on a new importance here?93 The body is the form. So the Church is not a religious community o f worshippers o f Christ but is Christ Himself who has taken form among men. 9 4 The Pauline question whether nepnopr} [circumcision] is a condition of justification seems to me in present-day terms to be whether religion is a condition o f salvation. Freedom from nepnoptj is also freedom from religion.95 Second, the place o f the Church needs to be change from the boundaries to the center o f the world. In other words, the Church should not view itself as a religious organization that only deals with spiritual matters. The two-spheres worldview has separated the Church from the reality o f this world. I should like to speak o f God not on the boundaries but at the center, not in the weakness but in strength; and therefore not in death and guilt but in mans life and goodness. . . . God is beyond in the midst o f our life. The

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Church stands, not at the boundaries where human powers give out, but in the middle o f the village.96 Third, the individualistic nature o f Christianity needs to be changed. The Churchcommunity suggested in Sanctorum should be realized as a genuine form o f the Church. The inwardness o f religious Christianity resulted in a bunch o f isolated individual Christians. The Church is the place for those individuals to gather once a week to worship and pay their dues for personal salvation. What does it mean to interpret in a religious sense? I think it means to speak on the one hand metaphysically, and on the other hand individualistically. Neither of these is relevant to the biblical message or to the man o f today.97 In the light o f community life, Bonhoeffer was envisioning a plan to restore the family life as the Kingdom in the midst o f the world.98 He was also writing a novel to tell an ideal story o f middle-class families that were building a community together. His attempt to demonstrate a blueprint o f a religionless community o f Christ and his strong desire to realize the theology o f Life Together can be seen here: I began to write the story o f a contemporary middle class family. . . in short, it was to present afresh middle-class life as we know it in our own families, and especially in the light o f Christianity. It tells o f two families on terms o f friendship living in a small town. Their children grow up, and as they gradually enter into the responsibilities o f official positions, they try to work together for the food o f the community as mayor, teacher, pastor, doctor, engineer99

96 LPP 282. 30 April 1944. 97 LPP 286, 5 May 1944. 98 LPP 44, May 1943, A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell: Most people have forgotten nowadays what a home can mean, though some of us have come to realize it as never before. It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, s stronghold amid lifes storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary, 99 LPP 130-31, 18 November 1943.

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One has to live for some time in a community to understand how Christ is formed in it (Gal. 4.19); and that is especially true o f the kind o f community that you would have.100 Fourth, religionless means that one should take Christianity for the life as a whole. Bonhoeffer always considered religion something partial: The religious act is always something partial; faith is something whole, involving the whole o f ones life. Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life. 1 01 To him, the event o f resurrection means that Christ has come into our life in its fullest meaning.102 Whether weakness or strength, in joy or sorrow, in success or failure, we should live before God. Whatever weakness,, miscalculations, and guilt there is in what precedes the facts, God is in the facts themselves. . . . To renounce a full life and its real joys in order to avoid pain is neither Christian nor human. . . . I think we honor God more if we gratefully accept the life that he gives us with all its blessings, loving it and drinking it to the full, and also grieving deeply and sincerely when we have impaired or wasted any o f the good things o f life . . . than if we are insensitive to lifes blessings and may therefore also be insensitive to pain.103 Fifth, it means that Christianity should not be practiced as a superstitious act. It also means that evangelism should not attempt to exploit the weakness o f people. The religious programs designed to manipulate people at their weakness should be abolished. The Church should not give its people a false promise that their God will solve all the problems o f their life. God as a stop-gap is no longer applicable in the religionless world. wearein a fulllife

100 LPP 359, 16 July 1944. 10 LPP 362, 18 July 1944. 102 LPP 240, 24 March 1944: Easter? Were paying more attention to dying than to death. . . . Socrates mastered the art of dying; Christ overcame death as the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). There is a real difference between the two things; the one is within the scope of human possibilities, the other means resurrectioa . . . If a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal would be changed. To live in the light of the resurrection - that is what Easter means. 103 LPP 191-92,23 January 1944.

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Bonhoeffer wrote, In my time here Ive been trying to observe how far people believe in anything supernatural. Three ideas seem to be widespread, each being partly expressed in some superstitious practice. 104 In a separate letter, he also wrote: As we were again lying on the floor last night, and someone exclaimed 0 God, 0 God (he is normally a very flippant type), I couldnt bring myself to offer him any Christian encouragement or comfort; all I did was to look at my watch and say, It wont last more than ten minutes now. There was nothing premeditated about it; it came quite automatically and perhaps I felt that it was wrong to force religion down his throat just then. (Incidentally, Jesus didnt try to convert the two thieves on the cross; one o f them turned to him!).105

4) The Church for others. Bonhoeffers decisive term for the Church is the Church for others. Therefore it might be appropriate to sum up my discussion o f the non-religious interpretation by reviewing several aspects o f the Church for others. First, Bonhoeffers idea for the Church is mainly based on his understanding of Christ as the suffering God in this world. On the cross, Christ was forsaken by the Father.106 The paradox of Christ as the one being pushed out from the world on the cross, yet being forsaken into the world by the Father can be resolved only by the Gods love for this world. To Bonhoeffer, the love o f Christ is expressed in terms o f the longing of

104 LPP 231. 9 March 1944. Those three superstitious ideas are: (1) Keep your fingers crossed, (2) Touch wood when the question is discussed whether they (air raids) will come tonight or not, (3) If its got your number on, youll get i t Bonhoeffer contrasts them with Christian interpretation (I) a recollection of intercession and community, (2) Gods wrath and grace, (3) divine guidance. The religionless Christianity, therefore, stands against those superstitious ideas. 105 LPP 199, 29 and 30 January 1944. 106 LPP 337, 27 June 1944: The Christian, unlike the devotees of the redemption myths, has no last line of escape available from earthly tasks and difficulties into the eternal, but like Christ himself ( My God, why hast thou forsaken me?), he must drink the earthly cup to the dregs and only in his doing so is the crucified and risen Lord with him, and he crucified and risen with Christ

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the Incarnate to take form in all men. 107 The Church is a small part o f the realization of for what Christ is longing. As the weak and powerless God, Christ lives for us and helps us: The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15.34). The God who lets us live in the world without the working hypothesis o f God is the God before whom we stand continually. Before God and with God we live without God. . . . He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us.108 Second, the meaning of transcendence needs to be redefined. The Church should no longer seek the God of transcendence, because the transcendence is not what is beyond our reason, but it is within our reach through our neighbor. That is the meaning of Bonhoeffers expression God who is beyond and in the midst o f the world. God is not an abstract concept o f the transcendental. The transcendence, which has been understood as the one beyond our reach and revealed only through a point o f contact, is in actuality among us and revealed to us in our daily life through our neighbor: Our relation to God is not a religious relationship to the highest, most powerful, and best Being imaginable - that is not authentic transcendence - but our relation to God is a new life in existence for others, through participation in the being of Jesus. The transcendental is not infinite and unattainable tasks, but the neighbor who is within reach in any situation.109 Third, the Church should come out from the survival mode. It has been so busy struggling with its own survival that it has forgotten its mission and purpose for this world. The Church must be renewed to preach the word of reconciliation and redemption

107 E 84. 108 LPP 360, 16 July 1944. 109 LPP 381, July/August 1944, Outline fo r a Book. 110

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to humankind and the world.110 The renewal o f the Church means that it will speak a new language o f Jesus; the liberating and redeeming language o f reconciliation for humanity: It is not for us to prophesy the day (though the day will come) when men will once more be called so to utter the word o f God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite non religious, but liberating and redeeming - as was Jesus language; it will shock people yet overcome them by its power; it will be the language o f a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming Gods peace with men and the coming o f his kingdom.1 1 1 Fourth, the Church for others means its participation in Gods suffering. Being a Christian means to partake of his cup. Drinking the cup in communion signifies our participation in Christs earthly suffering. Our encounter with Jesus is made on his cross. Being bom again in the Spirit means that our life is transformed to a being for others. Bonhoeffer said, Jesus asked in Gethsemane, Could you not watch with me one hour? That is a reversal o f what the religious man expects from God. Man is summoned to share in G ods sufferings at the hands o f a godless world. 112 He also wrote: Encounter with Jesus Christ. The experience that a transformation o f all human life is given in the fact that Jesus is there only for others. His being there for others, is the experience o f transcendence. It is only this being there for others, maintained till death, that is the ground o f his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Faith is participation in this being o f Jesus (incarnation, cross, and resurrection).113 As a conclusion, Bonhoeffer asserted boldly, The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. Then he continued:

110 LPP 300, May 1944: Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world . . . our being Christians today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among men. All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be bom anew out of this prayer and action. 1,1 Ibid. 112 LPP 361, 18 July 1944. 113 LPP 381.

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To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings o f their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems o f ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men o f every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others.114 Thus far, in Part I, the theology o f Bonhoeffer has been discussed by focusing on his main theological concern - the Church, Christ, and the world - his worldview o f the world come o f age, and the non-religious interpretation of biblical concepts and the gospel. Having discussed the theology of Bonhoeffer, it is necessary to understand the nature of our contemporary world in order to discover how Bonhoeffers theological concepts can be applied to a world that is significantly different from the time when those concepts were developed by him. The contemporary world must be understood from the perspective of modernity and postmodemity. Religious plurality and religious pluralism will next be discussed in order to lay out the foundation o f this thesis.

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PART II OUR RELIGIOUSLY PLURALISTIC WORLD

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CHAPTER 4 THE WORLD IN TRANSITION

Thus far, Bonhoeffers theology has been surveyed in light o f a non-religious interpretation o f the gospel and the Bible. Based on the previous discussion, I find that Bonhoeffers theology is mainly practical rather than systematic. As his Ethics shows, his main theological concern was not the construction o f a systematic theology as a collection o f abstract concepts, but to find Christ as the concrete reality o f this world. His christology was based not on a philosophical method but on the incarnation, which is the praxis o f Christ for the sake o f this world. Understanding that Bonhoeffers theology is Christocentric from the perspective of Christs concrete presence in this world, and that his theological question Who is Christ for us today? must be answered within the context of the present world, we need to ask the question What is the relationship between Christ and the world today? Undoubtedly, Bonhoeffers concept o f a non-religious interpretation was his response to his then-contemporary world, which, from his judgment, was increasingly becoming religionless. To some, it may sound like a contextualization o f the gospel for the culture o f his time. However, his non-religious interpretation should not be viewed as a mere contextualization o f the Gospel for the religionless world. It was not like an alteration ordered to fit ones clothing to an ever-changing waistline. Rather, as we shall see, Bonhoeffers purpose was to restore the original meaning o f the gospel by reflecting upon the religionless nature o f his contemporary world. Nonetheless, when we consider the religionless world as the contextual

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condition for Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation, this new thesis - a non religious interpretation o f the gospel for the religiously pluralistic world - raises the question: How can the term non-religious interpretation be used in the service o f the two extremely opposing characterizations religionless and religiously pluralistic? Of course, Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation for the religionless world sounds more logical than non-religious interpretation for the religiously pluralistic world In fact, the latter characterization in its context sounds almost self-contradictory. Therefore, it is necessary to explain how the concept o f a non-religious interpretation o f the Gospel can remain relevant in todays religiously pluralistic world. For the purpose o f this discussion, a clarification needs to be made. The term religiously pluralistic does not simply mean that there are many religions in this world from a phenomenological standpoint. Indeed, the plurality o f religions is not a new phenomenon. O f course, there have been countless religions in human history. The phrase religiously pluralistic includes religious plurality as well as religious pluralism which views all religions as being the same in essence. What, then, makes the religious pluralistic world a challenge for Christianity in our present time? The answer to the question lies not in the phenomenon o f religious plurality itself but in a new way o f thinking which is called postmodernism. From this new perspective, religious plurality is no longer to be conquered, but to be accepted. Before analyzing the meaning o f religious plurality to Christianity, then, we must define postmodemity.

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The Meaning of Postmodemity


Someone asked me recently, Should I consider myself a modem man or a postmodern man? My answer to him was It all depends. Unwittingly, I gave him an answer of the postmodern kind. Yes, the answer all depends on ones perception and how one defines the terms modern and postm odern It is clear that we are living in a changing world. But, toward what end is this world changing? A modem person would answer, We are moving towards postmodemity. The modern mind is seeking a definite answer. However, a postmodern person would answer, There is no predestined direction for the world. It will change in response to its present needs. The postmodern mind avoids any fixation. How can we characterize our contemporary world? There is no easy answer. In fact, the world has become more complex as it is open to cultural diversity. It has also become so dynamic technologically that it cannot be easily defined with fixed terms. Nonetheless, the world is continuing to mature. The world has its own life cycle, and we cannot put modernity to death in order to give postmodemity a full life. We are living in a time o f transition from modernity to postmodemity. In order to understand the present world, we need to understand modernity as well as postmodemity because both conditions still do exist today. Defining a term such as postmodemity has become an extremely difficult task especially in a world where every meaning is relative to an individuals perception. It might even seem to be a futile effort to attempt to define a term when everyone has his or her own ideas about it. Therefore, rather than trying to define the term in isolation, it would be advantageous to analyze postmodemity as it relates to modernity.

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In 1996, Stanley Grenz observed that we were in the midst o f a transition from the modern to the postmodern era.1 Whether modernity has already become a thing o f the past or is still in the middle o f a transition towards a postmodern age, many scholars characterize the contemporary world with the term postmodemity. According to Grenz, we can go back as far as the 193 Os for the first use o f the term postmodern in terms of a major transition in the arts. However, the term was first used to denote a new style of architecture in the 1970s, and now it represents almost every aspect o f the contemporary world at the dawn o f second millennium.2 From a phenomenological standpoint, it is clear that we have been experiencing tremendous changes in nearly every aspect of our society for the past several decades. The changes can be seen not simply in peoples lifestyles or moral values, but in peoples worldviews as a whole. The most important driving force o f the transition in todays world might be information and communication technologies. The floodgate o f information is wide-open through the proliferation o f communication media and internetworking technologies. Personal computers can be connected to each other through the internet, and information is shared globally on an instantaneous basis. Having been enlightened by the information and knowledge gained through technological advances, people have radically changed the way in which they view God, religion, truth, life, nature, relationships with others, social structures, arts, and moral values. In the midst o f such a rapid transition, the old

1 Stanley J. Grenz. A Primer On Postmodernism (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996), 3. 2 Ibid.,: The term postmodern may first have been coined in the 1930s to refer to a major historical transition already under way and as the designation for certain development in the arts. But postmodernism did not gain widespread attention until the 1970s. First it denoted a new style of architecture. Then it invaded academic circles, originally as a label for theories expounded in university English and philosophy departments. Eventually it surfaced as the description for a broader cultural phenomenon. For a discussion of the origin of the term, see Margaret Rose, Defining the Post-Modern in The Post- Modern Reader, ed. Charles Jencks (New York: S t Martins Press, 1992), 119-36 (Grenz, 175).

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traditional values are being rejected openly by the new generations o f the postmodern age. Frederick Ferre says, Giving definition to the postmodern is imagining a profoundly different future. This is at best an uncertain exercise, but one vitally needed in our present age o f felt transition.3 According to him, the most general name to become associated with the new mechanistic, progressive age was simply modern, from the late Latin modemus. Initially, the English word modem, first recorded in the sixteenth century, meant just now, contemporary. It was an expression o f temporal location denoting the current mode or manner and merely pointed to whatever was present or recent.4 Based on his understanding o f modern as a term o f temporal location from the perspective o f its original meaning, Ferre argues, As such, though the things modem itself - having no whatever is new and fresh. could not be conceived characteristics of an epoch, it indexed could quickly become outdated, the content of its own - must move on to denote In this way, the epoch following the medieval easily, by those within it, to have the that is, to be one o f many periods o f time.5

In other words, initially, the term modern was not used to denote a single period o f human history. As what is modem becomes outmoded, what is postmodern would again become modem or contemporary. In that sense, modem and contemporary come close to being synonymous. These two terms, modem and postmodern, denote in tandem what is contemporary and what is being anticipated or emerging at a certain point o f history. Ferre considers that nothing will become outmoded so surely as the name postmodern, which he sees as a stopgap for a new name for the age in which we

3 Frederick Ferre, Being and Value, Toward a Constructive Postmodern Metaphysics, SUNY, New York, 1996, p.277. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid

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live.6 In answering the question, What is Postmodernism?, Jean-Fran<;ois Lyotard says: What, then, is the postmodern? . . . It is undoubtedly a part o f the modem. All that has been received, if only yesterday (modo, modo, Petronious used to say), must be suspected . . . A work can become modem only if it is first postmodern. Postmodernism thus understood is not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this state is constant . . . Post modern would have to be understood according to the paradox o f the future (post) anterior (m odo)1 On the other hand, Charles Jencks believes the term postmodern is going to remain a historical term to denote our contemporary world just like the Dark Ages or the Enlightenment. In his work, What is Post-Modernism?, Jencks argues, A mere list o f pm titles8 would fill a thousand pages; a bibliography would become a small encyclopedia. . . . The term is now almost as ubiquitous, disliked and misunderstood as its parent, the modem.9 Supposedly, we are the right generation to determine whether or not modern or postmodern are the adequate terms to describe the present world. When the historical critical analysis o f the West had its birth, the condition o f the then-contemporary world was appropriately labeled modern to denote what was then current. Postmodern is

6 Ibid., 278. Ferrd anticipates a new name for the present age. As the people who lived in the Dark Ages could not have imagined their then-contemporary world would be called the Dark Ages, what is called modem or postmodern will have their unique names in the future. Ferrt says, This is not the first time in our history that an age, seemingly solid as rock, has turned out porous to intimations of radical change. When modernity rose and shattered centuries-strong assumptions and institutions of premodemity, some felt the early vectors with apprehension, others with exhilaration. Many, like Leomardo da Vinci or Francis Bacon, had the sense of a new day dawning - something post-medieval, something drawn by new values or at least strikingly new configurations of values, something not yet clear but portentous, something seeking a name (277). 7 Jean-Framjois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Theory and History o f Literature, Volume 10) trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 71-81. Also, Appendix (Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?) trans. Regis Durand. 8 Charles Jencks , What is Post-Modernism?(Fourth Edition) (Maryland, National Book Network, 1996), 14-15. In this book, which was first given as a paper at conference in America and Germany in 1985, Jencks lists some seventy terms that are related to postmodern. 9 Jencks, 14.

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simply a term relative to modern to describe the different condition o f the present world. Whether or not the term postmodern will remain as a permanent expression for our contemporary world is out o f the scope o f this discussion. What needs to be clarified at this point is whether what we call postmodern is a mere repetition o f historical transition from one era to another, as Ferre views it from the indexical sense, or if it is fundamentally different from any other historical transitions in the past, as Jencks claims.1 0 It seems that Ferres view over-generalizes the historical transition that is occurring in our contemporary world. It is true that each generation that has lived through a transitional period must have felt enormous pressure from the political, social, religious, and cultural changes o f their time. Based on this view, the transition from modernity to postmodemity may not be historically unique. However, a better analysis would suggest that the transition which is happening in our contemporary world can be differentiated from any other previous historical transitions in several ways. First, the postmodern transition is occurring in a globalized world. The terms that denote historical transitions such as the Enlightenment can be applied only to the West. Postmodemity is the first common cultural term that can be applied to humanity as a whole since the time o f the Tower of Babel when God confused the language and scattered human beings over the face o f the whole earth.1 1 In our current age, humanity

10 Ibid., 11: Instead of the usual cultural classification, such as the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and so on, our period might be seen in terms of more powerful forces that shape it - politics, social movements, or economics. 1 1 Ge. 11:7-8.

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has finally come to communicate with each other from all comers o f the world regardless o f race, gender, age, or belief. Although the so-called Third-world is still going through a transformation into a modem structure, it will not be long before the Third-world also feels the shock-wave of postmodemity. From a biblical standpoint, postmodemity marks a significant point in history for the Second Advent o f Christ, because the open world of postmodemity would allow the gospel to reach the ends o f the earth. Second, postmodemity is different from other transitional periods in that the world is being reconstructed upon the soil o f human self-awareness. From the perspective o f Bonhoeffers understanding of a world come o f age, postmodemity is an affair o f humanity come of age whereas the previous transitions were movements towards its maturity. From that sense, far more radical changes can be expected as the outcome of the postmodern transition. The human soul has finally been unleashed from God! The implication of human maturity upon Christianity is enormous. It can be compared to the leap o f an adolescent to the life o f an adult. When that happens, the whole perspective of a person changes. Likewise, the transition of humanity into the postmodern world is a rude-awakening for the generations bom in the modem era. Finally, postmodemity completed the individualism o f modernity by dissolving humanity into individual elements o f society which are completely free from each other. The social structures in the postmodern world are being revised to benefit individual members rather than the society or community to which they belong. One might argue that individualism is a modem phenomenon and communalism12 replaces it in the

* Communalism is my own term which denotes any ideas relate to the concept of community. It is used to distinguish individualism from those ideas which attempt to mend the problem of isolation of individuals under individualism. It is distinguished from communism.

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postmodern world. However, it seems that communalism is in essence a disguise of individualism. This point will be presently discussed in more detail. Individualization is also a critical shift in relationships of human with God and with other human beings. The human effort o f the West prior to postmodemity was focused on independence from God. Having achieved freedom from God, humanity shifted it effort to the mutual relationships between human beings and to on the inner self.

A Brief History of Postmodemity


Keeping in mind that the transition to postmodemity is unique, I will briefly review the history of postmodemity. Although it is disputable whether our contemporary world should be called modem or postmodern, the most commonly used expression that describes today j world, at least in academic circles, is the term postmodern. Therefore, our discussion will be primarily focused on postmodemity. However, we have to keep in mind that modernity still plays a major role in the shaping of society, thus we cannot completely ignore it in our discussion. As the first step for our understanding of postmodemity, a brief survey of the use of the term, postmodern, would be helpful. Charles Jencks lists the names o f several scholars for their extensive scholarly works on the postmodern.1 3 He analyzes postmodemity from a cultural perspective and provides a brief history on the use of the term postmodern 14 By using Seventy Posts15, which is an expression by Jencks to list

1 3 Jencks, 13. Jencks lists three most scholarly studies of the term, post-modern, which include Margaret Rose, The Post-Modern and The Post-Industrial, A Critical Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 1991), Wolfgang Welsch, Unsere postmodeme Moderne (Weinheim: VCH, 1988), and Hans Bertens, The Idea o f the Postmodern, Routledge (London, 1995). 1 4 Ibid., 17-19. According to Wolfgang Welsch the first inconsequential use of the term was as early as the 1870s, by the British artist John Watkins Chapman, but it was really the social concept post-industrial which was first theorised by Arthur J Pentry and others, from I914-22.14. . . The first tentative, written use of Post-Modernism was apparently that of the Spanish writer Federico de Onis. In his Antologia de la

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seventy terms that begin with the prefix post, Jencks divides the development of postmodemity into three phases: (1) Prehistory - 1870-1950 Post-modern as the modem period in decline (or rarely) ultra modem. (2) 1950-80 Post-modern defined positively as counter-culture, double-coding, POSTS, and Pluralism. (3) 1980 to present Post modern condition attacked, Post-modern culture anthologized, Post-modern global morality defined.1 6 In its first phase o f development, postmodemity was bom as a reaction to the decline of modernity. The use of the term was referred to as a new period that was anticipated as the modem world lost its hope for a utopia. In the second phase, the concept of postmodemity is positively defined in terms o f pluralism, de-centering, and

poesia espandla e hispanoamericana, 1934, he used it to describe a reaction from within Modernism, not a critical overcoming of the paradigm. Subsequently, Arnold Toynbee, in his ^4 Study o f History, 1947, used the term as an encompassing category to describe a new historical cycle starting in 1875. . . . Irving Howe and (Harold) Levines usage in 1959 and 1960. was malevolent enough to sting, but potent enough to catch on and become positive. . . . Virtually the first positive use of the prefix 'post was by the writer Leslie Fiedler in 1965, when he repeated it like an incantation and tied it to current radical trends which made up the counter-culture: 'post-humanist, post-male, post-white, post-heroic. . . post-Jewish. . . . A positive defense of the growing tradition had to wait until the 1970s and the writings of Ihab Hassan, by which time the radical movements which Fiedler celebrated were, ironically, out of fashion, reactionary, or dead. By the mid-seventies, Ihab Hassan had become the self-proclaimed spokesman for the postmodern and he tied this label to the ideas of experimentaism in the arts and ultra-technology in architecture. His list of exemplars includes William Burroughs and Buckminster Fuller, and such key terms as 'Anarchy, Exhaustion/Silence . . . Decreation/Deconstruction/Antithesis. . . Inter-text.. . These are the trends which I, with others, would later characterize as late-modem, because they took modernist impulses to an extreme. In literature and then in philosophy, because of the writings of Jean-Fram;ois Lyotard in 1979 and a tendency to elide Deconstruction with the post-modern, the term has often kept association with what Hassan calls 'discontinuity, indeterminacy, immanence. Mark C Taylors curiously titled EHRING, A Postmodern A/Theology is a characteristic of this genre, which springs from Derrida and Deconstruction. My own The Language o f Post-Modern Architecture, 1977, was the first book to thematise a post modem movement and use the phrase in the title. . . . What I did was to summarize the various responses to the architectural failures of modernity and tie them polemically to a wide agenda of double-coding. The success (and failure) of this polemical act will be apparent shortly, but it also had the effect of amplifying nascent movements in philosophy and the arts which were seen as related. Because of this, and the writings o f Hassan and then Lyotard, the movement quickly became self-fulfilling prophecy and moved right off exploding in the 1980s to become a series of deconstructive and post-structuralist schools or, by contrast, movements that were self-styled 'contextual, constructive, ecological, grounded and restructive post-modernism. Ibid., 14-15. Seventy Post is Jencks compilation of terms that have the prefix post and are related to postmodern Ibid.

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counter-cultures. In the third phase, the negative postmodern condition and the various postmodern movements are analyzed. While Jencks analysis is mainly based on the observation o f a cultural shift, Margaret A. Rose emphasizes the social condition as the breeding ground for the post modern. Rose gives an extensive treatment on Arnold J. Toynbees A Study o f History of 1939 and 1954, and says: Further to being used in the post-war volumes o f Toynbees A Study o f History to describe the period from the end o f the nineteenth century, the term post-modern (now written post-Modem) had been used by Toynbee in those volumes to describe the rise o f an industrial urban working class, and after the term M odem had been used by him to describe the middle classes o f Western civilization.17 Toynbees use of the term was to describe not only the rise o f an industrial working class, but also the rise o f other nations and their proletariats and the rise of a variety o f post-Christian religious cults as well as sciences.1 8 Stanley Grenz says, In Toynbees analysis, the postmodern era is marked by the end of Western dominance and the decline o f individualism, capitalism, and Christianity. He argues that the transition occurred as Western civilization drifted into irrationality and relativism. When this occurred, according to Toynbee, power shifted from the West to non-Westem cultures and a new pluralist world culture.19 We will discuss later the decline o f individualism, which was based on a form o f rationalism in which individuals became the center of epistemology. Toynbees observation, however, is widely accepted as the first analysis o f its kind, which convincingly characterizes the nature o f the shift that was occurring in the West in the early twentieth century. Chronologically, Toynbee was not the first scholar to coin the

1' Margaret A. Rose, The Post-modern and the Post-industrial (Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 9. 1 8 Ibid, 10. 19 Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, 16.

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term post-modern. Rose, beyond quoting from the post-modern works listed in the Oxford English Dictionary's (OED) Supplement o f 198220, refers to Michael Koehler who listed other early users of the term not listed by the OED in his article entitled Postmodemismus: Ein begrijfsgeschichtlicher Ueberblick, which was published in 1977.21 Among other names, Koehler drew attention to Federico de Onis for his use of the terms postmodemismo for the period o f 1905-1914 to describe a reaction to the excesses o f modernism that sometimes resulted in more prosaic or ironic works, and ultramodemismo of 1914-1932 to describe an attempt to extend the modernist search for poetic innovation and freedom.22 This early observation o f Onis is rather significant for our understanding of postmodemity because it acknowledges the overlapping characteristics o f modernity and postmodemity. In summary, postmodemity was bom as a reaction to the social, political, religious and cultural changes which happened in the modem world. First, as Toynbee rightly observed, the rise o f a post-industrial urban working class demanded a new worldview. The elitism o f modernity could no longer satisfy a society with new social classes. Second, modernity was collapsing due to the failure o f its philosophical

20 Rose. 11-12. Further examples of the use of the term post-modem given by OED include C. Wright Millss use of it in his The Sociological Imagination of 1959 to describe a new Forth Epoch after the Modem Age; Leslie Fiedlers 1965 reference to postmodernist literature . . . Frank Kermodes 1966 remarks that Pop Fiction demonstrates a growing sense of the irrelevance of the past, and that *postModemists are catching on; Nikolaus Pevsners reference in The Listener of 29 December 1966, to a new style, a successor to his International Modem of the nineteen-thirties which he was tempted to call. . . a post-modem style; a reference in the New York Review o f Books of 28 April 1977 to the post-modernist demand for the abolition of art and its assimilation to reality, two somewhat different remarks in the Journal o f the Royal Society o f Arts of November 1979 to Post-Modern architects [who] use motifs . . . in questionable taste, and to Post-Modernists who have substituted the body metaphor for the machine metaphor; a reference in Time of January 1979 to Phillip Johnson as the nearest Post-Modernism has to a senior partner; and another, finally, to The Times Higher Education Supplement of 7 March 1980 in which Postmodernism, structuralism, and neo-data are all said to represent a reaction against modernism. 2 1 Ibid., 12. 22 Ibid., 13.

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foundation, namely, German idealism. Toynbee mentioned the decline o f individualism in the early twentieth century. Third, as Toynbee observed, the decline o f Christianity in the West left a spiritual vacuum, which was subsequently filled by other religions, religious cults and the New Age philosophies. Therefore, post-modernity can also be characterized as post-Christianity. Fourth, the cultural transition from modernity to a new era was anticipated as a result o f the decline o f Christianity and the rise o f the urban working class o f Western society. On the one hand, postmodemity is a response to the changes in the world, for which modernity was not prepared. On the other hand, postmodemity itself was an active agent which promoted the radical changes forced upon modernity. Since postmodemity has grown out o f modernity, in order to understand postmodemity correctly, it is necessary to understand how postmodemity relates to modernity. Postmodemity can be properly understood only in relationship with modernity, as Rose says: Here the modernism of which [Dudley] Fitts speaks is not the modernism to which Joseph Hudnut will refer in his articles on the post-modern house o f the 1940s but the decorative Symbolism o f the end o f the nineteenth century. Despite this, both Hudnuts post-modernism and the postmodernism spoken by de Onis and Fitts/Hays may be said to share the common element of a lack o f sentimentality and decorativeness because the post-modernism o f which de Onis and Fitts/Hays have spoken was conceived of as a reaction to a late nineteenth-century decorative modernism, while Hudnuts post-modern house may be understood as an extension o f the abstract and decoration-free (less is more) modernism of the International Style and its offshoots. Here we may again note that the term post-modernism will always need to be read alongside the authors understanding o f both modernism and the prefix post.23 Based upon such an understanding, several ways to describe the relationship

23 Ibid.. 14-15.

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between modernity and postmodemity will be described, first o f which is to understand postmodemity as a double-coded response to modernity.

The Transition from Modernity to Postmodemity


The significance o f Oniss observation is that he saw the double-coded nature of the modem-postmodern relationship. The double-coded characteristics o f postmodemity, which Onis described with the terms postmodemismo and ultramodernismo, is similar to what Jencks called a double-coding. Jencks says: [Post-modern] has, as its essential definition, what I have called a double coding. For me the post-modem is the continuation o f modernity and its transcendence. In this sense it is critical. It is very important to stress this subtle relationship to Modernism because so many misunderstand it. PostModernism is not Anti-Modernism; it is neither traditionalism nor the reactionary rejection o f its parent. It does not, as philosophers Jurgen Habermas and Jean-Fran?ois Lyotard contend, reject the Enlightenment project; that is, the social emancipation o f humanity, increasing freedom and human rights. Rather, it rejects the totalising arguments with which universal rights are often imposed by an elite on a subservient minority.24 Jencks defines his double-coding o f postmodemity in terms o f the continuation and transcendence o f modernity. To prove his point, Jencks continues his assertion, Modem liberalism fought for the universal rights which the First World now partly enjoys; post-modern liberalism argues that the agenda o f multiculturalism, and the rights of minorities should be asserted where they do not diminish the rights o f other minorities. In this sense it is the direct heir o f its parent and could not have occurred previously.25 Another example of the continuation and transcendence o f modernity can be found in humanism and individualism. Humanism in the modem era rose against a Christian worldview in which God is solely responsible for setting the course o f human history.

24 Jencks. 15. 25 Ibid.

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However, modernitys realization o f humanism was primarily limited to white male intellectuals. Postmodernism, while fundamentally maintaining humanisms objection against the God-centric worldview, expanded its scope by applying humanism to the whole of humanity, including different races, genders, and social classes. To think that postmodemity rejected what modernity achieved would be much too naive. For example, postmodemity never intended to relinquish humanitys freedom from God that was achieved by modernity. On the other hand, along the lines of the thought o f Jurgen Habermas and JeanFran$ois Lyotard, Grenz argues that postmodemity signifies the quest to move beyond modernism, as the name suggests. According to Grenz, postmodemity specifically involves a rejection o f the modem mindset, but is launched under the conditions of modernity.26 Grenz suggests that the accomplishment o f modernity was rejected categorically by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) from the perspective of: 1) the demise o f the modem concept o f truth, 2) the rejection of the modem concept o f values, 3) the rejection of the modem philosophers o f the West.27 Although Nietzsche seems to be correct regarding postmodern rejection o f a modem epistemology o f universal truths, he seems to have gone too far by thinking that postmodemity rejects what modernity has achieved. It is clear that postmodemity has many faces in its relationship with modernity. Therefore, it is not possible to reduce the complex relationship between modernity and postmodemity into a single term. However, several points o f observation can be made.

26 Grenz.A Primer On Postmodernism, 3. :7 Ibid., 88-97.

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First, postmodemity rejects the universal truths, for which modernity was striving. It seems that what postmodemity rejects is not the achievements o f modernity but the underlying goal o f modernity, namely the discovery o f the universal truths. By negating absolute truth, postmodemity shifted its epistemological course to relativism. Second, postmodemity represents a continuation o f the underlying principles o f humanism and individualism inherent in modernity. Postmodemity is not much different from modernity in terms o f human-centric values and individual-oriented pragmatism. In fact, postmodernism goes far beyond what modernism had in mind with regard to humanism and individualism. Postmodemity undoubtedly seeks something beyond modernity, but it is not standing totally against modernity. While Nietzsche was anti modern from his philosophical standpoint and succeeded in convincing the world that modernity was chasing after an illusion o f universal truth, Onis, Toynbee, Rose and Jencks later observed that postmodemity does not stand against but follows after modernity in reference to humanism and individualism. Therefore, it can be concluded that postmodemity tries to correct and adjust the course o f modernity rather than overthrowing modernity to start over again on completely new philosophical ground. In that sense, a more accurate term for postmodemity might be ultramodemity signifying its attempt to go beyond modernity without compromising the modem principles of humanism and individualism. Third, postmodernism expands its horizon to include the whole universe in its own curiosity. It does not set a boundary for human imagination. With a sincere hope, new generations are seeking signs o f alien life trying to establish communication with other intelligent beings in outer space. For instance, it is no secret that the U.S.

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government

has

been

making

substantial

investment

in

efforts

to

establish

communication with extra-terrestrial beings. Scientists are sending electronic signals to outer space, hoping to receive a response. Science-fiction movies have gained enormous popularity and financial success in recent years. Such a success reflects the quest o f the human mind to constantly go beyond its boundaries. Grenz offered a convincing

illustration of this point by contrasting the new Star Trek series, The Next Generation , with the original series o f the popular show: The crew o f the Enterprise symbolizes the new ecology of humankind in partnership with the universe. Their mission is no longer to boldly go where no man has gone before but where no one has gone before. In The Next Generation , Spock is replaced by Data, an android. In a sense, Data is a more fully realized version o f the rational thinker than Spock, capable o f superhuman intellectual feats. . . The new voyages o f the Enterprise lead its variegated crew into a postmodern universe. In this new world, time is no longer simply linear, appearance is not necessarily reality, and the rational is not always to be trusted.28 In conclusion, one can argue that different voices need to be heard concerning how postmodemity relates to modernity. It seems that all those positions mentioned previously make valid, but incomplete, observations. Our task, then, is to learn from those various points of view to come to our own understanding o f postmodemity. In line with Frederick Ferres opinion about the term postmodern, the term post-modemity conveys the idea that it only comes after modernity. It seems that there is no clear line between modernity and postmodemity, so that it can be divided chronologically. Both conditions co-exist in todays world, like automobiles with manual transmission still co-exist with automatics. Historians might have expected that the manual transmission was doomed when the automatic transmission was first introduced.

28

Ibid.,9.

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However, history has proved otherwise. Likewise, the life span of modernity appears to be much longer than what postmodernists anticipate. Drawing a line between modernity and postmodemity would almost be like trying to cut a flowing river with a fishnet. In a sense, the world is replacing its clothes o f modernity with those of postmodemity while it is on the run. I observe that a complete transition from modernity to postmodemity has not occurred at least for now. Humanity has been sailing down the river o f modernity and has entered the gulf o f postmodemity. Until it abandons all the baggage o f modernity, the world will still be called either modern or postmodern. It seems that modernity will be running alongside its heir, postmodemity, for a while. With regard to postmodern theology, Wolfgang Huber rightly observes: Postmodern theology is nothing else than a new variant o f modem theology; it accepts the criterion o f plurality as a central criterion for Christs presence in the world . . . For the majority o f people life is still determined by the processes o f modernization, rationalization and economization. For the majority o f people the project o f modernity freedom from need and oppression - is not at all fulfilled simply because a class analysis rightly applies to a theoretical construct that is true for many variants of postmodernism Postmodernism is a meaningful ideology for those who profit from the affluence o f affluent societies. For all the others a critical theology o f modernity still is needed.29 As concluded earlier, we cannot characterize the present world with a single term modernity or postmodemity. Rather, we need to understand our contemporary world as being in transition from modernity to postmodemity. The transitory nature o f the contemporary world makes it difficult to draw a clear demarcation point between modernity and postmodemity. Regardless o f terminology, it is certain that there is a

:9 Wolfgang Huber, Bonhoeffer and Modernity in Wayne Whitson Floyd Jr. and Charles Marsh, eds. Theology and the Practice o f Responsibility: Essays on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1994), 11.

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transition occurring, What, however, does this transition mean to Christianity?

A Challenge of the Transition for Christianity


Some theologians embrace postmodemity as a positive development for Christianity, viewing postmodemity as a force which rose against modernity which was an enemy o f Christianity. It is true to a large extent that postmodemity rejects modernity. However, does that automatically warrant a friendly relationship between postmodemity and Christianity? O f course not! It can be suggested that Christianity, modernity and postmodemity are not in a love triangle but engaged in a spiritual war in which both modernity and postmodemity team up against Christianity in many aspects. Indeed, Christianitys condition in the battle has gotten worse since postmodemity joined in the war between Christianity and modernity. By analogy, if modernity was a rebellious child running away from Christianity, postmodemity is a grownup child who wants to send Christianity to a nursing home. Postmodemity says to Christianity, Your idea of salvation is too old. It does not work for the new generation. Perhaps the church where the gray-headed people is where you belong. O f course, it does not mean that postmodemity is completely against Christianity. Some postmodern aspects have helped Christianity to reshape itself. For instance, denominationalism is fading away under the influence o f postmodernism. The postmodern way o f thinking taught Christians that there is no denomination which can claim to possess an absolute truth. Consequently, more inter-denominational conversation is being made. However, our focus is on how Christianity can claim universal truth in the postmodern era, which is the challenge for todays Church. How should we view the current situation and deal with it from the perspective of

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Christianity? Most Christians would share the concern which Grenz expressed in the following way: The transition from the modem era to the postmodern era poses a grave challenge to the church in its mission to its own next generation. Confronted by this new context, we dare not fall into the trap o f wistfully longing for return to the early modernity that gave evangelicalism its birth, for we are called to minister not to the past but to the contemporary context, and our contemporary context is influenced by postmodern ideas.30 What postmodemity preaches becomes the norm for the contemporary world in many respects. Because o f the horrendous force o f postmodemity in the West, the church sadly lost its focus and in many cases gave in to postmodern principles that are often counter-biblical and counter-Christian. The churchs view on homosexuality is a typical example. Even if the Bible tells us the story o f Sodom and Gomorrah as biblical precedence of Gods absolute disapproval o f homosexuality, some Christian leaders consider this matter with a relativistic attitude and interpret the biblical account as applicable only to the ancient social context. Although the Church has learnt tolerance for homosexuality, its tolerance should be from its compassion for those who are in such a condition, rather than from its approval o f such behavior as deemed against Gods will. Another example can be found in various forms o f religious pluralism that are being preached by Christian theologians and pastors. To respect all other religions as a part o f the spiritual world taints the meaning o f ecumenism, and claims that all religions should be united. This particular example shows the conflict between the biblical message o f one God whose name is Yahweh and the postmodern message o f gods with many names. How can Christians spiritually reconcile with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists,

30

Ibid., 10.

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Confucians, and Taoists, without compromising their faith in Christ as God incarnate? How much room is left for evangelism if we accept ecumenism o f world religions as the norm of the postmodern world? It seems that the world has lost its spiritual direction in the wilderness of postmodemity. Peter C. Hodgson describes the contemporary world as a new paradigm in which five signs o f cultural crisis can be observed: the cognitive crisis from the perspective o f logocentrism and the death o f God; the historical crisis in terms o f the collapse o f salvation history; the political crisis from the standpoint o f world politics; the socioeconomic crisis from the perspective that both free-enterprise capitalism and state-socialism have become increasingly dysfunctional and oppressive; the religious crisis based on the decline of Christianity in the West, its apparent rebirth in Latin America and Africa, and on the present close encounter with other religions.31 For many, postmodernism might mean a triumph o f the human mind. Because of such an achievement from the part o f human mind, the West became suspicious about every aspect o f Christianity and cast the shadow o f skepticism over Christian values. Christian ethics lost its place in todays world and no longer influences peoples daily lives. The church is facing theological, structural, and practical challenges from within and without. In order for the church to be able to respond to those internal and external challenges, understanding what postmodemity means to Christianity is an urgent task. Grenz says, To reach people in the new postmodern context, we must set ourselves to the task o f deciphering the implications o f postmodernism for the gospel.32

3 1 Peter C. Hodgson, Revisioning the Church, Ecclesial Freedom in the New Paradigm (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 13-16. 33 Grenz, A Primer On Postmodernism , 10.

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Postmodemity is a condition o f todays world in which humanity must live. Therefore, we should develop a theology out o f Gods compassion for this postmodern world, in which we are breathing air polluted by many /s/ns o f human philosophy: relativism, nihilism, atheism, pantheism, humanism, individualism, and pragmatism. The mission o f calling humanity into salvation requires an understanding o f how far humanity has drifted into the jungle of postmodernism where everyone declares himself or herself a master o f the truth. In this chapter, the nature of our contemporary world was discussed. The world is in transition from modernity to postmodemity. Therefore, the world has the

characteristics o f both modernity and postmodemity. With this historical background of postmodemity and its transition from modernity, an analysis of the mixed characteristics o f our contemporary world in more detail will be helpful for our discussion. What can we observe in todays world, and what kind o f challenge does the Church face in the complex world in transit? Those are the topics for the next chapter.

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CHAPTER 5 THE NATURE OF OUR CONTEMPORARY WORLD

In the previous discussion, we observed that the present world is in transition from modernity to postmodemity. The next section will highlight the specific characteristics o f our present world. In this section, an attempt will be made to explain that the present world in transition presents formidable challenges as well as opportunities for Christianity. Among those challenges, this chapter will deal with the ones related to the issues of universal truth, individualism, relativism, toleration, and pluralism.

Rejecting Universal Truth


As the intellectual foundation o f modernity, Grenz suggests that epistemological assumptions were adopted holding that knowledge is certain, objective, and good, and that knowledge is accessible to the human mind.1 The modem mind believed that there are absolute truths that can be understood by human reason. Therefore the quest of modern study was to discover the absolute truths about the whole universe, including those about humanity itself. The discovered truths must be the ones that can be verified through empirical methods to insure its objectivity. It was also assumed by modem people that knowledge is inherently good, as increased knowledge would help human beings manage world affairs more intelligently and effectively. Therefore, modernity understood truth as absolute, universal, objective, and good.

1 Grenz, 4.

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Grenz observes that the assumption o f the inherent goodness o f knowledge renders the modem outlook optimistic. He says that the modem mind envisioned that such optimism leads to the belief that progress is inevitable, that science, coupled with the power o f education, will eventually free us from our vulnerability to nature as well as from all social bondage.2 Grenz also says: Enlightenment optimism, together with the focus on reason, elevates human freedom. Suspects are all beliefs that seem to curtail autonomy or to be based on some external authority rather than reason (and experience). The Enlightenment project understands freedom largely in individual terms. In fact, the modem ideal champions the autonomous self, the self-determining subject who exists outside any tradition or community.3 Such optimism was shattered by the catastrophic events o f two World Wars, and by the development of atomic and nuclear weapons. Instead o f achieving a utopia, humanity created a monstrous machine capable o f destroying the whole world with the push o f a button. The capability of human beings has grown exponentially over the past several decades through the development o f science and technology. However, it seems that from a biblical standpoint humanity is still under the spell o f the fruit of the knowledge o f good and evil. When the human capability o f doing good increases, so does its capability for doing evil. The mass destruction and genocide that occurred during the past century is an historical and empirical evidence for my argument. The modem mind reached its zenith at Hegel. Following the logic o f modernity, which seeks a universal truth, Hegel concluded that all difference, particularity, and individuality had been, or soon would be, overcome or at least thoroughly de-legitimized.

2 Ibid 3 Ibid

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Hegel determined that only universally applicable principles derived from Reason should be valid.4 However, in direct opposition to such modem philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche questioned the validity o f universal truth late in the nineteenth century. Grenz says, Lying at the foundation o f Nietzsches attack on modernism is his rejection o f the Enlightenment concept of truth.5 Nietzsches great concern was the discovery o f the reality o f the multiplicity o f truths and the original richness and vitality o f human experience. Nietzsche asserted that we not only construct individual concepts, which is only a falsification of the reality o f individual objects, but also combine them in a great edifice of ideas or structure in our efforts to comprehend the world, which is actually an illusion.6 Nietzsche viewed our world as a work o f art that is continually being created and recreated. According to him, there is no such thing as universally applicable principles behind or beyond this web o f illusion.7 The world is in a sense self-creating and recreating itself.8 Grenz says, Nietzsches assertion that the world is aesthetically self-creating was a far reaching innovation. Nietzsche has been hailed as the founder of what developed into the aesthetic metacritique o f that understanding o f truth which views the the work o f art, the text, or language as providing the grounds for truths

4 Gregory Bruce Smith, Nietzsche, Heidegger and the Transition to Postmodemity (Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago Press, 1996), 58. 5 Ibid.p.89.Grenz says, In Nietzsches view, the world is made up of fragments that are totally different from one another. In constructing concepts, however, we overlook the fact that no two things or occurrences are exactly the same. Consequently, rather than mediating genuine knowledge, our conceptualizing robs reality of its multiplicity and destroys the original richness and vitality of human experience. 6 Ibid.. 7 Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense (1873), What, then, is truth? A mobile army o f metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms - in short, a sum of human relations,...: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors. Quoted in The Portable Nitzsche, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 46-47. 8 Ibid.

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own possibility.9 Nietzsches polemic against the modern idea o f universal truth went on to criticize Christian faith. In his On the Genealogy o f Morals , Nietzsche found in Christian faith the root of modem faith in science: It is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science - and we men o f knowledge of today, we godless men and anti-metaphysicians, we, too, still derive our flame from the fire ignited by a faith millennia old, the Christian faith, which was also Platos that God is truth, that truth is divine. - But what if this belief is becoming more and more unbelievable, if nothing turns out to be divine any longer unless it be error, blindness, lies - if God himself turns out to be our longest lie?1 0 According to this passage, Nietzsches suspicion o f science was based on his understanding that all elements of Western culture can find their roots in Christianitys monotheistic and universal faith. Furthermore, Nietzsche considered Christian faith to be the product o f priests. He asserted: The chief trick the ascetic priest permitted himself for making the human soul resound with heart-rending, ecstatic music o f all kinds was, as everyone knows, the exploitation o f the sense o f g u ilt . . . It was only in the hands of the priest, that artist in guilt feelings, that it achieved form oh, what a form! Sin - for this is the priestly name for the animals bad conscience .. ,n Here Nietzsche influenced Bonhoeffers views on the type o f priestly Christianity which promotes a religion o f guilt. Bonhoeffer spoke o f the problem o f the Church: There is also a parallel isolation among the clergy, in what one might call the clerical sniffing-around-after-peoples-sins in order to catch them out. . . . we should give up all our clerical tricks, and not regard psychotherapy and existentialist philosophy as Gods pioneers.12

9 Ibid.,92. 10 Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy o f Morals (1887), [III. 24], In Basic Writings o f Nietzsche trans. and ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: The Modern Library, 1992), 588. 1 1 Ibid., 576. [III. 20], 12 LPP 345-46,8 July 1944.

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However, while Nietzsche saw a problem in the Church and equated it with the essence o f Christianity, Bonhoeffer was able to differentiate between one aspect and the essence o f Christianity. In other words, while Nietzsche intended to destroy Christianity to build something new based on his observation o f a problem in the Church, Bonhoeffer wanted to correct the problem in order to restore Christianity as intended by Christ. In this regard, Bonhoeffer said: He[God] is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8.17 make it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue o f his omnipotence, but by virtue o f his weakness and suffering. Here is the decisive difference between Christianity and all religions. 3 For Nietzsche, God is the product o f human imagination and abstraction.14 He viewed Christianity as the foundation o f modem epistemology, culture, science and history o f the West, and argued that it is a lie that abuses the psyches o f the weak. Therefore, Nietzsche completely rejected modem ideas o f a universal truth based on his condemnation of Christianity. Similar to the concept o f universal truth, Jean-Franco is Lyotard more recently used the concept of metanarratives to define postmodernism. Lyotard says in his The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge : The object o f this study is the condition o f knowledge in the most highly developed societies. I have decided to use the word postmodern to describe that condition . . . I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives . .. Our working hypothesis is that the status o f knowledge is altered as societies enter what is known as the post-industrial age and

13 LPP 360-61: 16 July 1944. 14 Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense, Notes(l875: III 195): For the highest images in every religion there is an analogue in a state of the soul. The God of Mohammed - the solitude of the desert, the distant roar of a lion, the vision of a terrible fighter. The God of the Christians - everything that men and women associate with the word love. The God of the Greeks - a beautiful dream image. Quoted in The Portable Nitzsche, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 49.

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cultures enter what is known as the postmodern age.1 5 Jencks interprets Lyotards metanarratives o f our scientific age as the liberation of humanity, progress, the emancipation o f the proletariat, and increased economic power16. According to Jencks, these master narratives have gone the way o f previous ones such as religion, the nation-state and the belief in the destiny o f the West. Those previous metanarratives have become non-credible in a scientific age.17 Whichever form of metanarrative is rejected by postmodernism, most scholars agree on this characteristic o f postmodernism. For example, Grenz says: According to postmodems such as Lyotard, the decline o f modernity was not the result o f a failure of nerve, o f an inability to sustain faith in rational postulates rather than myths. Rather, it occurred because the grand narratives that legitimated modem society have been losing their power.1 8 In postmodemity, local narratives that are within the context o f a particular society filled the void left by metanarratives. 19 In other words, in postmodemity, narrative or truth should be interpreted contextually, and the idea o f metanarratives no longer has its credibility. What is true to the people o f the West is not necessarily true to the ones o f the East. More narrowly, what American people believe to be the truth doesnt have to be the truth to Korean people. By the same token, Peter L Berger and Thomas Luckmann said in The Social Construction o f Reality: Sociological interest in questions o f reality and knowledge is thus initially justified by the fact o f their social relativity. What is real to a Tibetan monk may not be real to an American businessman. The

15 Jean-Fran?ois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Theory and History of Literature, Volume 10) trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,, 1984), pp. xxiii, xxiv, 3. Quoted in Jencks, 48. 16 Jencks, 48. 1 7 Ibid.. 18 Grenz, 45. 19 Ibid., 47.

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knowledge o f the criminal differs from the knowledge o f the criminologist. It follows that specific agglomerations o f reality and knowledge pertain to specific social contexts, and that these relationships will have to be included in an adequate sociological analysis o f these contexts.20

The World without God: God is Dead


Nietzsche influenced the formation o f the postmodern world by his attack on modernism. With his famous assertion o f the death o f God,
)

Nietzsche asserted that

Western civilization was no longer influenced by the Christian tradition as it once had been. Belief in God, in the Christian story, and especially in divine reward and punishment for human behavior had lost the power it had once exercised.22 Grenz summarizes, In short, Nietzsche announced that Western culture had separated itself from the transcendent.23 Although it is unclear how Bonhoeffer was influenced by Nietzsche, we can find some signs o f Nietzsches influence on Bonhoeffers thought from Bonhoeffers assessment o f a world come of age, especially concerning Western cultures separation from God. From a phenomenological standpoint, both o f them shared the same view o f a deteriorating relationship between God and human beings. However, Bonhoeffer clearly

:o Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction o f Reality, A Treatise in the Sociology o f Knowledge (New York: Anchor Books, 1966), 3. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882), [108], After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave - a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead: but given the way men are, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. - And we - we still have to vanquish his shadow, too. Quoted in Basic Writings o f Nietzsche trans. and ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: The Modem Library, 1992), 171. Also see [125] of The Gay Science in The Portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 95, for Nietzsches further assertion of God is dead under the title The Madman. "Ib id . 23 Grenz, .4 Primer on Postmodernism, 92.

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had a negative view o f Nietzsches furious attack against Christianity.24 While Nietzsche replaced God with self will, Bonhoeffer affirmed God as the one who is in the midst o f this world allowing human beings to be responsible for their own affairs. While Bonhoeffer, like many other o f his contemporaries, might have taken a clue from Nietzsche that the world was making a departure from God, Bonhoeffers concept of the world come o f age was a polemic against Nietzsches claim o f the death of God. Bonhoeffers message to the German church was that God is not an abstract concept, but a reality through Christ. Nietzsche would never have understood God in the manner Bonhoeffer did. Bonhoeffer would have said that Nietzsche was still an idealist as far as his understanding of God was concerned, because Nietzsche stopped where he abandoned God as an abstract concept. Nietzsche never understood Christ as a concrete reality in this world.

Relativism and the Problem of Hermeneutics


The shift of epistemology and the rejection o f a monotheistic God resulted in a condition of relativism, in contrast with the absolutism o f modernity. Relativism was in part a product of the modem hermeneutics that were inaugurated by Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834).

24 Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 92: From Wickelmann to Nietzsche there was in Germany a consciously antiChristian conjuring up of the Greek heritage. The reason why Germanys attitude to the heritage of antiquity differs so profoundly from that of the West European nations is undoubtedly to be found in the form assumed in Germany by the gospel as a result of the Reformation. It was only from the soil of the German Reformation that there could spring a Nietzsche. The revolt of the natural against grace contrasts sharply here with that reconciliation of nature with grace which is found in the Roman heritage. It was for this reason that, in a way which for the West European nations was quite incomprehensible, Nietzsche could win the positive approval of one school of German Protestant theology. Bonhoeffer goes on to say, It is only in relation to Christ that there is a genuine inheritance from classical antiquity in the west. Once it is detached from this relationship antiquity is and must be timeless, a matter fit only for the museum. It is only through Christ that antiquity becomes a historical heritage in the proper sense of the term.

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The modem discussion of hermeneutics began with Schleiermachers assertion that biblical texts are the products o f creative minds responding to particular circumstances. Therefore, Schleiermacher argued that in order to understand a text, an interpreter must get behind the printed words to the mind o f the author. To complete the hermeneutical task, the interpreter must not only understand the world of the author but must in a sense transform himself or herself into the author.25 Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) extended Schleiermachers concern for

hermeneutics to encompass all texts and all human activities.26 Dilthey, the primary figure o f historicism, argued that our understanding is limited to our own horizon of history. According to him, we inevitably interpret the past through the concepts and concerns o f the present. Diltheys historicism led him to the study o f what he called the systematic interpretation o f human experience through the hermeneutics o f historical texts.27 His hermeneutical method was the inductive exegetical process in which one can obtain a preliminary sense o f the whole from the parts, then use this sense to determine more precisely the significance of the parts.28 Hans-Georg Gadamer, who revived the term hermeneutics in 1960 in his Truth and M ethod (Wahrheit und Methode), attempted to develop a new understanding o f knowledge and truth by placing himself between the objectivism o f modernity and the relativism or the perspectivism o f the Nietzschean school o f thought. Grenz explains:

25 Grenz, 99. See Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. and ed. Garrett Barden and John Cumming (New York: Crossroad, 1984), 166-67. 26 Grenz, 103 27 Ibid., 101. 28 Ibid., 103. See Wilhelm Dilthey, The Development o f Hermeneutics in Dilthey: Selected Writings, ed. H.P. Rickman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 259.

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To accomplish the seemingly impossible feat o f trading a path between these two alternatives [objectivism and relativism], Gadamer draws on Heideggers concept o f being-in-the-world. He credits Heidegger for pointing out that human existence is thoroughly in the world or historical context. Because we stand within the world, we can never escape our historical context. But because we stand in different places in the world, we naturally develop different perspectives on the world and different interpretations of the world . . . But Gadamer denies that this necessarily leads to relativism. Lying behind the Babel o f competing interpretations is a shared reality - a world, a tradition, a language. Because of this common dimension, we can anticipate experiencing a fusion of horizons. This occurs, says Gadamer, through a kind of conversation which we compare and contrast our various interpretations. The conversation creates a common language and fosters a communion in which we no longer remain what we were.29 In Gadamers thinking, meaning is not merely waiting to be unlocked by the effort o f an interpreter. Rather, meaning emerges as the text and interpreter engage in a hermeneutical dialog where an intersection o f the horizon o f the author and the horizon of the interpreter30 take place. Furthermore, such hermeneutical dialog is an on-going process, which gives rise to many experiences o f the fusion o f horizons between the interpreter and the world. Gadamers theory is based on the assumption that the dialog will always create a common language and foster a communion. He is also optimistic that all interpreters would be willing to compromise with anothers interpretation. On the surface, it appears that Gadamer escaped from relativism] However, unless his expectations are proven correct, the basis o f his hermeneutics is still relativistic, and his concept o f a fusion of horizons will have to remain mainly academic.

29 Grenz, 110. 30 Gadamers concept.

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According to Gadamer, truth must be understood collectively through a communion o f different interpretations. Whats lacking in his theory is that there is no point of reconciliation for sharply opposing interpretations. The issue o f homosexuality is a good example to illustrate this point. Utilizing Gadamers approach, the biblical text, can be interpreted in many different ways depending on who interprets it. For example, Paul says in Romans 1:18-28: The wrath o f God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness o f men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation o f the world Gods invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse . . . Because o f this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.3 1 Gods truth that the text itself claims to be plain to them32 does not seem to be plain any longer. Rather, postmodern interpretations can create many different meanings for the interpreters o f different historical contexts. On one hand, advocates of homosexuality find no meaning from the text because the passage was written within the context o f ancient culture that does not have any bearing on the contemporary world, and argue that the biblical judgement against homosexuality is meaningful only to those who lived in the ancient society where there was not much tolerance for such things because of a lack o f scientific and medical understanding o f the origin o f homosexual drives. On the other hand, some interpreters will find that the text is still relevant to our

3 1 Ro. 1:18-28 deals with sexual impurity, primarily homosexuality. 32 Ro. 1:19.

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contemporary world because a majority o f people still consider homosexuality unnatural and immoral, thus the judgement against homosexuality is still effective. How can we break the deadlock between those two opposing interpretations? One can argue that discussion/interaction can help resolve the differences o f opinion. However, such a view seems to be too optimistic considering, for example, those persistent conflicts between Israel and Arab nations, and Northern and Southern Ireland. The problem o f interpretation in the postmodern world deserves more discussion because it directly relates to our effort to re-interpret the Gospel for todays world.

Individualism and Communalism


Along with rationality, objectivity, scientific inquiry and universalilty,

individualism is among the pillars o f modernism.33 Joseph Chuman describes modern individualism as, The idea of the individual standing apart from his or her religious community or clan and possessing dignity and rights is a distinctively modem concept.34 As far as its root is concerned, individualism goes back as far as Greek atomism. Nancey Murphy explains: The atomism that for the Greeks was pure metaphysics has become embodied in a variety of scientific research programs. . . Modem thought, not only in the sciences but also in ethics, political theory, epistemology, philosophy o f language, has tended to be atomistic - that is, to assume the value o f analysis, of finding the atoms, whether they be the human atoms

33 Joseph Chuman, Postmodernism and the Problem o f the Modern Age (in Humanism and Postmodernism: The Journal o f the North American Committee fo r Humanism, ed. Deborah J. Shepherd and Khoren Arisian), (New York: The Humanist Institute, 1994), 9. M Chuman, 9: Some historians have seen the seventeenth-century philosopher, Spinoza, as the first significant individual. Why so? Having left the Jewish community, Spinoza refused to join the Christian one. He thus stood alone outside of a community to work out his own thoughts and confront the world on his own terms. It is no accident that among the first novels of the modem period was Defoes Robinson Crusoe which deals with a man in isolation from community and society. Such a novel simply could not have been written at an earlier time.

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making up social groups, atomic facts, or atomic propositions.35 For reductionists, the common good is a summation o f the goods o f individuals. Individual entities o f society determine the character and behavior o f the whole, and individuals are logically prior to the commonwealth.36 It was the product of the rationalistic Cartesian epistemology, which places the individual at the center o f the world. The isolation and alienation o f the individual was a predictable consequence of individualism. Until the Renaissance that began in the fourteenth century in Italy and quickly spread throughout the rest o f Europe, the Christian God was at the center o f human life in the West. Human identity was derived from human relationship with God as Creator. However, the rise of the humanism o f the Renaissance, based on a movement to restore ancient humanist philosophies, literature and art, moved a general worldview from the biblical to one that is individualistic and humanistic. As David W. Henderson says in his Culture Shift (1998), God began to recede from the cultural foreground and the individual began to ease to the front and center. Henderson asserts: The Renaissance gave birth in the years following to a new view of humanity: not humanity connected and collected but individual women and men, good in and o f themselves, dignified, independent o f the one who had made them. Since the Renaissance, it is the individual, more than God, more than the community, that matters most.37 Individualism has been shaping all aspects o f life. The modem political, social and economic movements are all based on an individualistic worldview. In politics, democracy took shape across the West based on humanistic understanding that human

35 Nancey Murphy, Anglo-American Postmodemity, Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethic (Colorado: Westview Press, 1997), 14. 36 Murphy, 14-5. 37 David W. Henderson, Culture Shifi, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998,98-9.

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beings would not be destructive or antagonistic toward each other when left to themselves. Sociologically, the individual human rights he advocated were engraved into the Constitution o f the United States, and in recent years the equal rights movement has been sweeping the West. Along with human rights, individual freedom has been one o f the most important sociopolitical agenda items. For instance, burning the national flag was inconceivable in the past, but now the First Amendment o f the U.S. Constitution is being interpreted as protecting an individuals right to bum the flag as a form o f individual expression. Based on an optimistic view of human capability to discern what is good or bad, right or wrong, one can display any form o f pornography in public, leaving judgement to each individual, even children. Wherever one goes, he or she can find some form o f nudity on billboards, TV, movies, magazines, and newspapers. The implicit and explicit message about sexual freedom is widespread. Sexual immorality has become a private matter that should not be dealt with in public, as we have seen in the case o f President Clintons sexual behavior with a White House intern. Although this was addressed in public, the behavior o f the President, who committed adultery with a college student in the Oval Office and tried to conceal the fact, was tolerated by the American public to a certain extent because o f his job performance as president. The episode is an indication o f moral decay in a highly individualistic society. Economically, capitalism was the representative o f individualistic views. Communism, as a symbol for the collective economy, rose and fell in opposition to capitalism. On the surface, Communism appears to share the same concern with Christ for the poor and weak. However, Communism denies Christs lordship.

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Henderson also finds individualism in the rise o f the self-esteem movement in the twentieth century led by four psychologists - Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm, and Rollo May, who developed a new approach to counseling. Concerned with building up the self-esteem of the person counseled, this style o f therapy was based on four supreme values: self-understanding, getting in touch with what Im feeling; self acceptance , having a positive view of myself regardless o f what I say or do; selfexpression , being myself without regard to others; self-fulfillment, getting my needs met and being happy.38 Individualism produced isolated individuals confined to their own imaginative island. People no longer consider their lives in terms of their relationships with others. Rather, they are saying, Its my life anyway. So, dont bother. Individuals shouldnt interfere with others no matter how they conduct their life affairs. As long as ones actions dont interfere with others around him or her, it is ones own business to do anything he or she desires to do. Here is what Henderson shares with us: I once spent a Saturday morning doing a survey in our community. One o f the questions we asked was, What are the greatest needs that you and others in this neighborhood face? The responses surprised me. More than any other, the answer most often given was, I dont even know my neighbors. Researchers say that three out o f four Americans dont know the people who live next door to them, and one in seven doesnt even know the neighbors name.39 Religion and morality are not excluded from this individualization. Choosing a personal god is ones own business. Thomas Jefferson not only set the tone for American

38 Henderson, 101. 39 Henderson, 103. He also added a footnote in 232: According to James Patterson and Peter Kim, 72 percent dont have a friendship with their next door neighbors, 45 percent have never spent an evening with them, 27 percent have never been inside their homes, and 15 percent dont even know their names. The Day America Told the Truth (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1991), 172.

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politics but also general attitude toward religion when he said, it does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are twenty Gods or no God.40 In other words, ones religion should not matter to others. It is ones own choice. One should not try to influence others by any means. A consequence o f this line o f thinking is the prohibition o f prayers and religious activities at school and public offices. On the side o f morality, postmodernists, following the lead o f Nietzsche, view the morality o f the West as the hubris o f Christianity, because moral values are viewed as having been shaped by the tradition o f a certain religion. Therefore, teaching children certain moral values that are based on a specific belief system is viewed as an effort to promote a certain religion. Based on this reasoning, teaching moral values at school became taboo in American society. Since 1960s, when the Civil Rights movement promoted individual rights to the extreme, the communal sense o f society in America has been declining. The responsibility o f teaching moral values belongs to individual families, where social interaction is limited for object lessons for social values and moralities. For example, teachers do not have authority to punish the students for their wrong behavior. In a communal society, teachers are trusted to correct childrens behavior with traditional moral values. In an individualistic society, however, teachers are not trusted by individual parents, and have no authority to teach moral values. The problem in this model o f individualistic society is that parents do not have enough time to spend with their children for moral education. Consequently, children have to become

40 Rorty, 175. Quoted from Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State o f Virginia, Query XVII, in The Writings o f Thomas Jefferson, ed. AA. Lipscomb and A.E. Bergh (Washington D .C ., 1905), 2:217.

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their own teacher, and they are learning from their peers in terms o f what is right or wrong. Postmodernists see that modernism, with individualism as one o f its

characteristics, brought alienation, death of community, and a new form o f repression. As a reaction to the problem o f individualism, postmodernists propose a new concept of community. An example of such reaction can be seen in so-called communitariansm suggested by such theorists as Robert Bellah, Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, Charles Tayor, and Roberto Unger (early works).41 The postmodern mind stresses communitarian, methods.42 Did the concept o f community, then, replace individualism? Arguably, it did not. On the contrary, it is more likely that individualism is hiding behind the very concept of the community suggested by postmodernists. Derrida, a prominent deconstructionist, saw the problem o f community. In speaking o f Derridas understanding o f community, John de Caputo says: What he [Derrida] doesnt like about the word community is its connotations o f fusion and identification . . . After all, communio is a word for a military formation and a kissing cousin of the word munitions ; to have a communio is to be fortified on all sides, to build a common (com) defense (munis), as when a wall is put up around the city to keep the stranger or the foreigner out. The self-protective closure of community, then, would be just about the opposite o f what deconstruction is, since deconstruction is the preparation for the incoming other, open and porous to the other, which would o f course make one poor excuse o f a defense system. A universal community excluding no supportive behavior rather than individualistic, confrontational

Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 177. 42 Michael Wemer, Postmodernism and the Future o f Humanism in Humanism and Postmodernism : The Journal o f the North American Committee fo r Humanism, ed. Deborah J. Shepherd and Khoren Arisian ( New York: The Humanist Institute, 1994), 23.

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one is a contradiction in terms; communities always have to have an inside and outside. That is why Derridas comments on community . . . are always extremely guarded, on guard against the guard that communities station around themselves to watch out for the other.43 What concerned Derrida about the word community is its notion o f a defense that we throw up against the other. However, at the same time, the community that is too open to the other will lose its identity, says Derrida. Caputo explains Derridas problem with community using Derridas analysis o f the word hospitality : In hospitality I must welcome the other while retaining mastery o f the house; just so, the community must retain its identity while making the stranger at home. If a community is too welcoming, it loses its identity; if it keeps its identity, it becomes unwelcoming. Thus, the impossible, the paralysis o f community, is that it must limit itself, remain a community while remaining open, forbidding itself the luxury o f collecting itself into a unity.44 What Derrida saw as a problem with the word community seems to be also the problem o f todays church. It appears that the Church has been welcoming the world and trying to make a home for it to such an extent that it has almost lost its identity as the body of Christ. Institutionalized churches are often compared to a religious corporation. Senior pastors o f mega-churches are compared with CEOs. It seems that there is a notion we often hear from the Churchgoers, There is not much different in the Church from the secular world. Applying Derridas view to the Church, it is experiencing an identity crisis. The secularization o f the Church is certainly a concern because, borrowing from Derrida, it is a symptom of the fact that the Church is losing

43 ed. John D. Caputo, Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida (New York: Fordham University Press, 1997), 107-8. 44 Ibid., 113.

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mastery o f the house45 by letting the tide o f the world, whether it is modem or postmodern, decide the course of the voyage o f Christianity. Individualism is widespread in the Church. For instance, the spiritualization o f Christian faith, which is also somewhat analogous to internalization o f the gospel, individualizes Christianity. Churches are emphasizing the welfare o f individuals - such as the salvation o f the individual, a personal relationship with God, the Sabbath as rest for an individual, the spiritual growth of an individual - as the main purpose o f the Church. Bonhoeffer offers a relevant analysis o f a counter-biblical interpretation o f the Christian message: What does it mean to interpret in a religious sense? I think it means to speak on the one hand metaphysically, and on the other hand individualistically. Neither of these is relevant to the biblical message or to the man o f today. Hasnt the individualistic question about personal salvation almost completely left us all? . . . I know it sounds pretty monstrous to say that. But, fundamentally, isnt this in fact biblical? Does the question about saving ones soul appear in the Old Testament at all? Arent righteousness and the Kingdom o f God on earth the focus of everything, and isnt it true that Rom. 3.24ff. is not an individualistic doctrine of salvation, but the culmination o f the view that God alone is righteous?46 Bonhoeffer links individualism with the concept o f religion, because the primary purpose o f religion is the salvation o f individuals. His observation is valid not only for his then-contemporary German Church, but also for our contemporary churches. It seems that the main concern of many of todays churches is how to serve its members by meeting their personal needs and spiritual goals. A large part o f todays church ministry is psychotherapeutic. Mega-churches invite more members by providing a wider variety

Ibid. LPP, 8 May 1944, p.286.

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o f creative services to individual members under the label o f ministry.47 A phenomenon we observe in urban commercial areas in the late twentieth century - the appearance of mega-stores, mega shopping malls, mergers and acquisitions of large

corporations - can be observed in the Church as well. The giant churches are flourishing as the small local community churches are facing their extinction or are struggling for survival. Church members who are seeking psychotherapeutic service from the Church migrate to the large churches where they can easily obtain the wanted services. The contemporary concept o f community is fundamentally different from the biblical one. The biblical community in the New Testament was formed through the baptism o f the Holy Spirit. The members o f the biblical community are bound to the community forever unless God determines otherwise. Qualification for community is not up to the members but up to God. On the contrary, the members of the contemporary community can freely decide when they want to go in and out of the community o f their choice. It is up to each individual to decide whether he or she wants to join or exit a given community. O f course, a community can set forth its rules for qualification, but its membership is only temporal. In other words, in our contemporary world, community exists for individuals, not vice versa. In that sense, more than likely, the contemporary communalism might be in essence a collective individualism.

Toleration
The postmodern mind is tolerant. It is open to differences. The differences in race, gender, culture, philosophy, and religion are accepted. It is a byproduct o f relativism

47 Ray S. Anderson, The Soul o f Ministry (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), Preface.

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which considers there is nothing superior to others. Toleration is a positive aspect of postmodemity. It can be considered as an attribute o f a mature world. However, the problem o f toleration is that when everything is relativized one cannot argue that only his or her idea is right and all the rest are wrong. Any differences should be respected and accepted. There are several considerations we need to make concerning toleration. First, in the postmodern mind, differences are accepted. Openness is a postmodern virtue. A person may disagree with other opinions but his or her disagreement must be expressed without oppressive force. Difference o f opinion must be resolved without conflict. Second, although toleration should be distinguished from indifference, they are often understood synonymously. Indifference creates a serious social problem in a postmodern system. With the proliferation o f individualism in every part o f human life, instead of facing the opposing different opinions, individuals often opt to retreat into the closet of their self and lock their door. People seem tired enough managing their own lives in this complex world that they dont have the desire to resolve differences with others. They simply ignore the issue and become observers rather than participants. The world is becoming an invisible coliseum where most people enjoy watching the players playing the games. There is nothing to lose on the part o f watchers. Low voter participation in the American presidential election is an indication o f the American peoples indifference in political affairs. Many people seem to think, My vote does not count. Everything is perceived as a game in postmodemity. On the other hand, it is a condition for a person to be truly tolerant that he or she must have his or her own opinion with a firm conviction. Being tolerant is to allow opposing opinions and differing values

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with a positive attitude even when one has strong convictions or personal opinions on a matter. If one simply accepts whatever opinion or value that is out there, without having ones own perspective, it should, in essence, be called indifference rather than tolerance. It can be said that Christian love is not based on indifference but tolerance. However, it appears that the Church has become more indifferent for the suffering neighbors than tolerant. Third, the toleration of postmodemity has created a vast marketplace o f ideas, cultures, and religions. It is up to an individual to construct his or her own lifestyle with materials that are available in that marketplace. The market economy applies to all aspects o f human life. One gets to choose what he or she likes. Figuratively speaking, in the world marketplace there is a comer labeled Religion. It resembles the city of Athens in the Apostle Pauls time, where he encountered many religions that called on people to accept their gods. In a practical sense, the nature o f tolerance in this world is more a matter of indifference. Traditional moral values cannot supercede the new way o f life. The older generation cannot impose their moral values, ideas and lifestyle upon the younger generation. In the past, it was a duty o f the older generation to guide and correct the younger ones. However, the tolerant society o f postmodemity tells the elders to do exactly the opposite. For instance, in the past, if an adult sees a youth smoking a

cigarette, then that person would take immediate action to correct the behavior o f the youth by asking him or her to extinguish the cigarette. The particular youth, in most cases, would submit to the elder and follow his or her instructions. In the postmodern world, however, the scene has changed dramatically. In the same scenario, instead of

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complying with the instruction o f an adult, the youth resists the interference o f the elder with anger, curses, or even physical force, including murder. There have been many reported incidences where intolerant adults were beaten up or even killed by youths as they were trying to correct the immoral behaviors of the youths. Interference of any sort from anybody including their own parents is simply not acceptable to the generation of a postmodern age. The same phenomena take place in the Church. The chasm between generations has become so wide and deep that no one seems to be able to able to cross the gap. Tolerance is the keyword for the older generation to remember in order to have minimal communication. Educating them in accordance with traditional values alone became an unrealistic goal in the postmodern world. Tolerance seems to be used as a Band-Aid for the real issue of communication gap between different generations. Blind tolerance as an avoidance o f the problem will not cure the situation due to a lack of communication and understanding between generations, but will only worsen it.

Pluralism
Another distinctive postmodern characteristic is pluralism. Under the guidance of relativism, the West learned to respect the cultures and religions o f the rest o f the world. When I visited the Disney Land in California for the first time in 1979, one o f the most impressive attractions was the Small World, where the dolls from the different parts of the world were chanting Its a small world after all in their traditional costumes and in different languages. The West was learning from the rest o f the world back then, and it is still learning about the pluralistic nature o f the world. In speaking o f the postmodern worldview, Zygmunt Bauman says in Intimations o f Postmodemity-.

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Postmodemity is marked by a view o f the human world as irreducibly and irrevocably pluralistic, split into a multitude o f sovereign units and sets of authority, with no horizon or vertical order, either in actuality or in potency. To put it in a different way, the postmodern world-view entails the dissipation of objectivity. The element most conspicuously absent is a reference to the supracommunal, extraterritorial grounds o f truth and meaning. Instead, the postmodern perspective reveals the world as composed o f an indefinite number o f meaning generating agencies, all relatively self-sustained and autonomous, all subject to their own respective logics and armed with their own facilities o f truth-validation.48 Bauman continues to say that the acceptance o f a plurality o f sovereignties means to the western world the surrender o f the dominant position o f the West.49 It appears that pluralism is not a theory developed by the Western mind but a discovery of the fact that there happened to be many other cultures outside o f the West and they may not be inferior to the Western culture, as previously believed. Relativism, as the underlying epistemological principle, helped the Western mind to give up its illusion o f the superiority o f Western culture. In conclusive terms, Bauman insists: The main feature ascribed to postmodemity is thus the permanent and irreducible pluralism o f cultures, communal traditions, ideologies, forms o f life or language games (choice o f items which are plural varies with theoretical alliance); or the awareness and recognition o f such pluralism.50 Pluralism tolerates the difference o f others. In a sense, it is a result o f the postmodemitys denial o f universal truth. When there is no central point o f measurement, everything becomes relative, and the world is viewed as the web o f relations o f individual elements, including persons, families, communities, and nations.

48 Zygmunt Bauman, intimations o f Postmodernity (London: Routledge, 1991), 35. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid., 102.

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Challenges for the Church


Considering the major characteristics o f the contemporary world - the rejection of universal truth, individualism, death o f God, relativism, individualism, tolerance, and pluralism - what are the challenges for the Church? First, the rejection of a concept o f universal truth has serious implications for the gospel o f Christianity because the gospel claims that Christ is the truth for humanity as a whole.51 How can the Church tell a religiously pluralistic world that Christianity is the only religion which proclaims the truth? The dilemma for the postmodern Church is that it cannot associate with a religiously pluralistic world without compromising its belief that Christianity is the only true religion and, as a result, all the other religions are false. In the postmodern world, Christianity will be isolated in religious arena unless it accepts the truths o f other religions as valid and meaningful as its own. In a practical sense, the impact o f this dilemma can be felt in the area o f Christian mission. Geographically, it is observed that the major missionary effort is being made in the regions where there is no significant presence of other world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. A typical example can be found in the case o f Korea. In the modern era, missionaries, with the conviction that Christianity is the supreme religion, evangelized Koreans whose traditional religion was mainly Buddhism. Although Confucianism did not take the form o f an institutionalized religion, it provided underlying social structures and moral values for Korean society. At that time, the missionary effort was remarkably successful, and many Koreans converted from Buddhism and Confucianism. However, in a postmodern era where all religions are

5 1 Jn. 14:6.

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respected equally, Buddhism is regaining its ground in Korea and the Christian missionary effort appears to have hit its high watermark. Following the lead o f the Church of the West, the Korean Church appears to have moved into the maintenance or the survival mode. The new paradigm of religious plurality o f postmodemity presents a formidable challenge for the Church. The implications o f the rejection o f the metanarrative for Christianity are clear. Historically, most o f the persecutions against Christian

missionaries were triggered by a clash between the Christian metanarrative of the gospel of Christ and the local narratives o f the mission fields. In the postmodern religious marketplace, however, there would be no need for Christian martyrdom as long as the missionaries do not interfere with the local narratives and their traditions. A postmodern Church will have difficulty in accepting the gospel as the metanarrative which contradicts postmodernism. Therefore, the Church appears to be in a dilemma where it realizes its need of postmodern transformation but it cannot compromise the nature o f the gospel as universal truth and metanarrative. Another challenge for the Church in the contemporary world is individualism. As individuals gained more rights as the masters o f society, more responsibilities o f life fell upon each individual. The sense o f communal responsibility is long gone. When the people of Israel were oppressed, they cried out as a nation before God.52 They worshipped the Lord together.53 They confessed their sins together as a nation.54 Such a

52 Ex 2:23; Jos 24:7; Jdg 3:9,15,4:3,6:6; ISa 12:8, 10 53 2 Ch 7:4. 54 1 Sa 7:6; Ne 9:2.

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sense o f community no longer exists even in the Church. It is true that we have National Prayer days, but one must wonder how many Christians participate in the prayer with a sincere sense o f repentance, as the people o f Israel did. The burden o f putting bread on the dinner table is totally the responsibility o f the individual family. It is true that we have a social security system that provides relief for the poor and weak, but does the system have anything to do with a sense o f community where people care about each other with warm comfort and love? For those who were laid off from their jobs, it can be a shameful experience to stand in the line at a social security office to exercise their right as a member o f this society. The current social security system hurts peoples pride and it humiliates them. Arguably, it is not a true form o f communal care. Rather, it is just one o f the systems that replaced the genuine love and care o f a community for the sake o f efficiency. It exists because people do not care adequately for each other. Poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and social injustice are the communal issues, and the Church seems to hand off those issues to the hands of government and politicians. The Church poses itself as a religious institution where spiritual services are rendered for the sake o f individual Christians. Some preachers compare the Church with a hospital where the sick comes to be healed. Certainly, Christ is the healer. However, he not only heals individuals, but also heals communities and the world. Individualism manifests itself in the Church in the form o f the gospel o f individual salvation. It seems that there is no sense o f being saved together nor living together in Christ. The Sunday Christians are living individual lives as the dismembered body of Christ, which comes back to life on every Sunday morning for several hours. The Church became the

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spiritual gas station where individual Christians come and fill their spiritual gas tanks, pay their dues, and drive away for their own destiny. How can the Church become not just a gas station, but the destiny and the home o f Christians? The problem, which pluralism imposed upon Christianity, is that along with its culture the West took religious matters on the same path o f pluralism. As we have seen earlier, postmodemity raised doubts about whether the Christian God is the only god or whether there is such a god at all. Nietzsches bold claim God is dead marked a decisive turning point for the entrance o f religious pluralism into the spiritual world of the West. Although Nietzsche was critical about religion itself, he ironically opened the door for many gods of other religions by dethroning the Christian God from the Western mind. Leslie Newbigin makes a distinction between cultural and religious pluralism: Cultural pluralism I take to be the attitude which welcomes the variety of different cultures and life-styles within one society and believes that this is an enrichment o f human life. . . . Religious pluralism, on the other hand, is the belief that the differences between the religions are not a matter of truth and falsehood, but o f different perceptions o f the one truth; that to speak of religious beliefs as true or false is inadmissible. Religious belief is a private matter. Each of us is entitled to have - as we say - a faith of our own. This is religious pluralism, and it is a widely held opinion in contemporary British society.55 O f course, if a distinction can be made as such, our focus should remain on religious pluralism rather than cultural pluralism for the purpose o f our discussion. As Newbigin points out, the underlying principle o f religious pluralism is individualism from the perspective of personal faith. Religion has become a form o f spiritual merchandise in

55 Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel In A Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 14.

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this religiously pluralistic world, which Bonhoeffer might have not been able to foresee in his time. Religious pluralism is a reality the Church has to face, which will be discussed in the next chapter.

The Maturity of the World


From the previous discussion, it is clear that the contemporary world presents challenges for the Church. On the other hand, the present world has some positive aspects as well. Although the world at large appears to remain religious, thus immature from Bonhoeffers perspective, it can be considered mature from the standpoint o f tolerance and openness, which presents both challenges and opportunities for the Church. Tolerance and openness present a problem from the standpoint o f discernment. On the negative side, tolerance and openness can result in the acceptance o f unfiltered secular values into the Church. On the positive side, however, those characteristics make the present world mature. First, tolerance allows communication and understanding rather than conflicts between the parties o f differences. For example, when a person is immature, he or she would be more insistent than tolerant. As one becomes mature, he or she will learn how to tolerate differences. Diversity is understood as a virtue rather than as a problem, strength rather than weakness. The one o f a mature age accepts the fact that he or she is not superior to others. From that perspective, racism is an expression o f an immature and intolerant mind. A tolerant mind does not look down on other people because of differences in their skin color, culture, or language. An individual with a strange accent will be treated by a tolerant person in the same way as the one without an accent is treated. A mature person tries to understand an immature one not vice versa. The Parable

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o f the Prodigal Son shows the difference between the mature father and the immature sons. The younger son went astray following his own worldly desire. The older son did not understand the tolerant mind of his mature father. Both sons represent the humanity in adolescence which is self-centered and intolerant. The Church learned some tolerance from the world that has become more mature and tolerant. Ecumenism is a way for a church to express its tolerance toward other Christian traditions such as denominations. However, the wall o f denomination seems to be still high, and each denomination cannot easily overcome its self-justification o f being more superior than others. Second, openness of the world makes it a more mature society. The once-closed communities o f white people are being open to other ethnic groups. As a result o f the collapse o f communism, many communist countries have opened their doors to prosper together with the world of the West. Therefore, openness o f the world means to live together without boundaries. A typical example can be seen in the effort o f European countries to establish a bloc economy based on a common currency, Euro. A similar effort is being made among the countries in Asian-Pacific region. Human beings have learned that no one can survive in isolation. Openness means the cooperation and mutual support between the members o f a society. The maturity o f human beings can be seen in their ability to work together to accomplish a common goal. The immature mind of the child cannot see the importance of teamwork which produces a common good. For that reason, children often play by themselves in isolation or fight over trivial things. However, the Church often translates openness into the concept o f an open service, which reflects the common culture o f our present time. The popular music,

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visual aids, high technologies such as multimedia, casual dressing, dramas, pantomimes, and body worship are being adopted as the form o f open service. Unfortunately, the Church seems to have misunderstood the essence o f openness o f the world. Instead of working together for the sake of the kingdom o f God by overcoming the denominational differences, the Church appears to place its emphasis on the external form o f worship service to mimic the secular culture for the purpose o f assimilation. In summary, it can be concluded from the brief treatment o f this chapter that our contemporary world is still in transition from modernity to postmodemity. However, such a clear distinction between modernity and postmodemity can only be made by the analytical mind of the West. In fact, if one agrees that the world is still in transition, then how can he or she define the destiny o f such a transition? In other words, what people call postmodemity is in actuality only something transitory or temporary in nature. The world is in a chaotic transition from modernity to a new world, the nature o f which no one seems to know clearly. However, just as Bonhoeffer anticipated a new world dawning after the war in the form o f the religionless world, so a new world which is completely tolerant and open can be expected to emerge as the dust o f this postmodern chaos settles. The relationship between modernity and postmodemity can be described in terms of hate-and-love. For example, postmodemity rejects the modem idea o f universal truth, but it embraces the centrality o f the individual in modernity. I would call our contemporary world a global whirlpool where the things o f the old and new, o f the East and West, o f the modem and postmodern, are being mixed together and something new is about to come out. The problem o f postmodemity is that the term itself has too many

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connotations o f the West. It is largely based on the understanding o f the history of the West. In that sense, the term postmodemity is not entirely adequate to describe the contemporary world that is globalized to include all comers o f the world. Also, as was discussed earlier, there does not seem to be a clear demarcation point for postmodemity from a historical standpoint. As a theologian, Bonhoeffer belongs to neither modem nor postmodern modes of thought. His theology, which was based on a Christology o f the Incarnation, was a polemic against modernity, which sought a universal truth that was mainly abstract and detached from reality. In place o f the positivism o f revelation of modern theology, Bonhoeffer suggested a Christology o f reality. At the same time, from his highly Christocentric theological viewpoint, Bonhoeffer, it could be argued, would have been very intolerant o f the relativistic worldview o f postmodemity. Our contemporary situation is quite different from that which Bonhoeffer characterized with a rather simple phrase the world come o f age. While Bonhoeffer understood the maturity o f the world from the perspective o f human autonomy from God, the contemporary world recognizes the need of religion to satisfy the religiosity o f human beings. Contrary to Bonhoeffers claim, the world is largely religiously pluralistic, as shall be seen in the following chapter. The real disparity between postmodemity and Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is the fact that the world at present is largely religiously pluralistic. In order to resolve the tension between Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation and the religiously pluralistic nature o f this world, religious plurality o f this world and various attitudes toward the existence of many contemporary religions need to be understood. Therefore, in preparation for the discussion on how Bonhoeffers theology can be

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relevant to the contemporary world, the following chapter will entertain the question of other religions and various attitudes toward the religious plurality o f the present world.

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CHAPTER 6 THE RELIGIOUSLY PLURALISTIC WORLD

In the previous chapter, pluralism was identified as one o f the distinct characteristics o f the contemporary world. Diversity is no longer considered to be a problem that needs to be overcome. Rather, it is viewed as a value by which humanity can benefit. Christianity experiences pluralism within and without the church. Within the church, for example, the format o f worship has been diversified to satisfy different age groups. Many churches are providing contemporary as well as traditional worship services. In church music, there have been many changes. Today, music types and musical instruments that used to be prohibited in church have now become normal in many churches. Externally, the Church has many religions as its neighbors. When Christianity was originally formed, it knew that the world was filled with many religions. However, Christendom gave the Church an illusion that Christianity is the only true religion in the world. In the present world, however, Christianity has realized that the world is in reality religiously pluralistic, and that it is only one o f many religions. It is opposite from the way in which Bonhoeffer perceived his then-current world religionless. His non-religious interpretation was in essence a response to the religionless world as he saw it. Then, a question arises: Is non-religious interpretation still relevant to the religiously pluralistic world that we are living in today? The answer is a definitely affirmative Yes, from which the present thesis, a non-religious interpretation for the religiously pluralistic world, is derived. 169

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In

order

to

understand

the

relevance

of

Bonhoeffers

non-religious

interpretation for todays world, we need to have a better understanding of religious plurality, which has been a serious challenge for Christianity in recent decades. The following discussion will first make a brief survey o f world religion, and review various philosophical and theological attitudes towards religious plurality.

The Challenge of Religious Plurality


According to the 1997 Encyclopedia Britannica Book o f the Year, there are 5.8 billion people living in this world in 1996.1 O f these, 1.95 billion are Christians2, 1.78 billion Atheists, 1.12 billion Muslims3, 793 million Hindus4, 325 million Buddhists5, 220 million Chinese folk religionists, 106 million New-Religionists6, 19 million Sikhs, 13 million Jews, 5 million Confucians (mainly in Korea), and 2.8 million Shintoists (mainly in Japan). In comparison with 1.95 billion Christians, which includes Roman Catholics and all other non-Catholic form o f Christian churches, the total non-Christian population in 1996 was about 3.8 billion, o f which 887 million are classified as non-religious people.7 Roughly, 33.6% o f the total world population say that they are some type o f Christian. O f course, these statistics reject Bonhoeffers famous claim o f a religionless world. Even

1 The World Almanac and Book o f Facts 1998 (New Jersey: World Almanac Books, 1997), 654. 2 Ibid.: 981 million Roman Catholics, 404 million Protestants, 218 million Orthodox, 69 million Anglicans, 282 Other Christians (non-Roman Catholics, marginal Protestants, crypto-Christians, and adherents of African, Asian, black, and Latin-American indigenous churches). 3 Ibid., 83% Sunni Muslims, 16% Shia Muslims Shiites, 1% other schools. 4 Ibid., 70% Vaishnavites, 25% Shaivites, 2% neo-Hindus and reform Hindus. 5 Ibid, 56% Mahayana, 38%Theravada (Hinayana), 6% Tantrayana(Lamaism). 6 Ibid, New-Religionists - Followers of Asian 20th century New Religions, New Religious movements, radical new crisis religions, and non-Christian syncretistic mass religions, all founded since 1800 and most since 1945. 7 Ibid, Non-religious - Persons professing no religion, nonbelievers, agnostics, freethinkers, dereligionized secularists indifferent to all religioa 85% in Asia, 13% the West, 2% Other regions.

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in Europe alone, non-Christians comprise only 24% o f the 727 million total Europeans. What is the challenge of religious plurality for the Church? First, the Church must meet other religions more directly in an open world. Shubert M. Ogden points out: O f course, in some senses religious pluralism is nothing new. If the word pluralism is understood, as it often is, simply as a synonym for the word plurality, religious pluralism has always existed, since there has always been a plurality o f religions in the world in which Christians have had to bear their witness and reflect theologically on the validity o f their claims in doing so. Until quite recently, however, the many religions, like the many cultures with which they are o f a piece, lived for the most part in mutual isolation. Only with the revolutions o f the recent past, especially the technological revolution in transportation and communication, has this isolation finally been broken through, to the point where the many religions and cultures are now compelled to live with one another as nextdoor neighbors in a single global village. It is this enforced proximity o f each religion and culture to every other that is the really new thing about religious and cultural plurality in our situation today.8 When Christianity was in isolation, it did not have to pay much attention to religious plurality o f the world because it obviously had control over the western world and it did not have to defend itself against other religions. To the Church leaders, it was inconceivable that other religious truth would challenge the Churchs claim that Christianity is the only true religion. However, as Ogden points out, Christianity no longer has the control over the western world, and it must defend itself for the validity of its claim that it is the only true religion. Second, the division of the Church makes it more vulnerable in a world with many religions. Although every Christian acknowledges that there is only one Christ, it seems that each sector o f the Church has different ways o f understanding the truth of

8 Schubert M. Ogden, Is There Only One True Religion or Are There Many? (Dallas : Southern Methodist University Press, 1992), 3.

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Christianity. In other words, it can be argued that there are many different religions within what is called Christianity as a collective term. In that sense, religious plurality has been in its existence throughout Church history. Therefore, it can be said that the same challenge to which the Church could not respond with a satisfactory resolution persists in the present world. Third, Christianity as a part o f the western culture is being changed to embrace broader cultural diversities in an open world. A byproduct o f such an effort seems to be a loss of uniformity which became a hindrance for the unification o f the Church. One can argue that cultural diversity within the Church is a merit not a problem. Certainly, the diversity has two sides. On the one hand, it allows the Church to adapt itself to a different culture for the purpose o f evangelism. On the other hand, the diversity can deepen the isolation o f one ethnic church from others. This side o f the diversity can result in further fragmentation o f the Church as a whole.

The Meaning of the Religiously Pluralistic World


Before proceeding further, for the purpose o f the present discussion, it is necessary to clarify what religiously pluralistic world means. Our contemporary world is religiously pluralistic not because there are many religions but because all religions are perceived to be equal and sharing the same goal. Many religions which exist today existed long before Jesus was bom. Daniel B. Clendenin explains: If religion is not new, neither is the plurality o f divergent religions. About the same time the Old Testament prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel judged Israel, Confucius (551-479 B.C.) and Lao-Tzu, the founder o f Taoism (c.604-531 B.C.), were active in China, Zoroaster (c.628-551 B.C.) expounded his version of religious dualism in the Persian Empire, Socrates (c.470-399 B.C.) searched for wisdom in Greece, while Guatama the Buddha o f India (563-483 B.C.) forsook a life o f leisure for religious asceticism, enlightenment, and solitude, and Mahavira (c.599-527 B.C.) 172

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founded Janism. A millennium earlier while the Assyrians of Nineveh worshiped Ashur, the cruel god o f war, far away in India Brahmin priests offered sacrifices to the fire god Agni. Casting the net more broadly still, John Hick adopts the thesis o f Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) that between 800 and 200 B.C. there was a unique concentration o f parallel religious development in all o f the then-existing cultures (Greece, India, the Near East, and China). In that axial age, Jaspers suggested, many if not most o f the worlds major religious movement took shape. Despite problems with Jaspers thesis, it gives us what one wag called a brilliant glimpse of the obvious - that human religiosity and widely divergent expressions of that search for the sacred, are both ancient phenomena.9 If religious plurality is an ancient phenomenon, why does it have to become a challenge for Christianity today? For Christian missionaries in the past, religious plurality did not matter much, because their mission was to spread Christianity as the supreme religion over against religions considered nothing more than inferior folk religions. The fact that the Christian mission, in most part, piggybacked on imperialism supports my claim that the Church perceived Christianity as the supreme religion that has the right to supercede other religions through their missionary efforts. However, the relativism o f postmodemity no longer tolerates such a biased selfappraisal o f Christianity. In the contemporary world, the Church must respect other religions and their boundaries. Now, evangelism and Christian mission are in jeopardy because, if Christianity is expected to leave the territory o f other religions alone, there would be hardly any room left for the gospel o f Christ to be spread. Christianity must resolve such postmodern dilemmas: How can the Church respect other religions by acknowledging the validity o f their truth and yet spread the gospel to areas under their firm control? How can we have a personal conviction that

9 Daniel B. Clendenin, Many Gods Many Lords: Christianity Encounters World Religions (Grand Rapids, MI: Bakers Books, 1995), 14. See also Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal o f History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953); Hick, Many Names, 45-47,71,114.

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Jesus is the only way to salvation, and at the same time acknowledge Buddha as another source o f salvation? Obviously, those questions are not new, and there are many who have attempted to solve these riddles. It is also necessary to make a clear distinction between the phrase religious plurality and religious pluralism. Although those phrases can be, and often are used interchangeably, for the matter o f clarity the former should be understood to mean that there are many religions in the world, and the latter that ultimate truth can have more than one true religious explanation.1 0 Religious plurality is a new reality that Christianity must face. The West is no longer isolated behind the fortress of Christendom. In our contemporary world, we have to accept diversities in human thought, religion, culture, tradition and language. The West is learning that the superiority o f their culture over that o f other parts o f the world was only an illusion. Christians are leaning toward the spiritual richness o f the East where people have religions of much longer history than that o f Christianity. Christian missionaries are not facing barbarians anymore but people with their own religious heritages and often with much more religious seriousness and devotion. It is a fact that, in the past century or so, Christian missionaries succeeded to evangelize many parts o f the Asian region. However, with their economic growth in the recent decades, the Asian people have begun to recognize their own traditions with pride, and to find values in their

10 New World Dictionary of American Language 2nd Edition, p. 1097: pluralism n. 1. the quality or condition of being plural. . . 3. a) the existence within a nation or society of groups distinctive in ethnic origin, cultural patterns, religion, or the like. . . . 4. Philos, a) theory that reality is composed of a multiplicity of ultimate things, principles, or substances: cf. DUALISM, MONISM b) the theory that ultimate reality has more than one true explanation: plulaity a 1. the condition of being plural or numerous 2. a great number; multitude.

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own cultural heritage as a reaction to the decline o f the Western culture. In the past, Asisans admired the success o f the western industrial revolution and economic growth. The East used to learn from the West in technology, science, medicine, sociopolitical system, and so on. The tide is slowly being reversed and now the West begins to see that there is much more to be learned from the East and other parts o f the world. Other religions and the Eastern philosophies are filling the void that was created by the demise o f Christianity in the West caused by individualism, materialism, and by the rise o f the existential philosophies. Buddhist temples and Mosques are no longer a tourist attraction in America. They are recognized and respected as religious sanctuaries on somewhat the same rank as Christian churches. What then are the tasks for Christian theology in this religiously pluralistic world? Paul F. Knitter says: One o f the most pressing tasks confronting Christian theology today is that of providing an account o f the existence and the renewed vitality o f other religions - in other words, a theology o f word o f religions. If the role o f theology is to focus the light o f scripture and tradition on the unfolding history o f human experience, then the new experience o f religious pluralism demands some kind o f Christian interpretation. This must be done not merely to satisfy the abstract requirements o f theological methodology, but because many Christians, with increasing discomfort, are feeling and asking new questions about the meaning o f other religions.1 1 Knitter is right about the need for a new Christian theology that can answer the questions that arise from the awareness of the plurality o f religions in this world and o f the truths presented by other religions. He later summarizes that his purpose of No Other Name? was to say that Christians are open to the possibility that other religions may have

1 1 Paul F. Knitter. No Other Name? A Critical Survey o f Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions, (New York: Orbis Books, 1985), 17.

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their own valid views and responses to this Mystery (Theos or God); thus, they would not have to be unilaterally included in Christianity. Rather, he says, all the religions could be, perhaps need to be, included in each other as all o f them continue their efforts to discover or be faithful to the inexhaustible Mystery or Truth.12 In his survey o f various attitudes towards religious plurality, Knitter first lists the popular attitudes represented by Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923), Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), and Carl Jung (1875-1961). Then he divides Christian attitudes into the conservative evangelical model (one true religion), the mainline protestant model (salvation only in Christ), the Catholic model o f Vatican II (many ways, one norm), and the theocentric model (many ways to God as the center). In the following discussion his approach will be adopted to review various attitudes toward the plurality of religion.

Popular Attitudes Toward Religious Plurality


Several different attitudes toward religious plurality can be observed in the nonChristian realm: all religions are relative and limited based on historical progress; all religions are essentially the same; all religions have a common psychic origin.

1) All Religions are Historically Relative Ernst Troeltsch is called the father o f historical relativism because o f his understanding that all religions are relative and limited, following the nature o f historical progress. No religion can stand above relativity; no religion can claim to be the full and final realization o f the divine presence. Even though the goal of all religions is the full realization of the Absolute, this goal cannot be realized within the course o f history. The

12 Knitter, One Earth Many Religions, Multifaith Dialogue & Global Responsibility (New York: Orbis

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final, full manifestation o f the Absolute will have to take place on a post-historical, eternal age. Among many religions, Troeltsch considered Christianity as the point of convergence for all other religions are based on the criteria o f success and spirituality. However, the Christianity Troeltsch was proposing was the reformed Christianity liberated from superstition and uncritical thinking. Also, he was not sure if Christianity would always remain the final culmination point.1 3 Knitter points out that the problem o f Troeltschs historical relativism is that it contradicts the Christian doctrine of incarnation, which claims that in the historical form o f Jesus as God incarnate there is present the full, final, normative revelation of God.14 In my opinion, even though Troeltsch was biased in favor of Christianity, he should be credited for his being honest about Christianitys relativity with other religions already at the dawn o f postmodern era. 2) All Religions Are the Same Knitter presents another popular attitude toward religious plurality: all religions are essentially the same. This attitude holds a view quite similar to the one of historical relativism that claims all religions are relative. While historical relativism acknowledges the uniqueness o f every religion, this attitude focuses on ecumenism in a broader sense by seeking out the common essence and realizing the common goal o f all religions. One o f the champions of this view is Arnold Toynbee who argued for the unity of all religions and insisted that all religions must join ranks in order to improve the world. Toynbee thought that the common essence o f all religions, the spiritual essence, lies behind nonessentials such as Creed (symbols, doctrines, theology), Code (ethical systems), and Cult

Books, 1995), 8. 13 Knitter, No Other Names?, 23-36. 14 Ibid, 35.


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(ritual, liturgy). By peeling off those non-essentials we will be able to see through to the common purpose, which binds all religions together, insisted Toynbee. The common purpose is to correct self-centeredness that is one o f the intrinsic limitations and imperfections o f all forms of life on the surface o f the earth. It is interesting that Toynbee went through a transformation in his view o f religious plurality. During the 1940s, he was convinced that Christianity would emerge as the complete victor among all religions. In the 50s he wasnt sure which religion would win out in the end. By the 60s, however, Toynbee came to endorse a radical sameness or commonality o f all religions with his vision of how all religions can and must work together for a better world.1 5 The attitude which holds the view that there is a common essence and purpose of all religions seems to be problematic. First, as Knitter pointed out, it is not always possible to determine which is essential or non-essential for a religion.16 For example, Toynbees analytic method is a totally western way o f observing the objects, and it clearly is not adequate to treat all religions in the same way in order to extract its common essence. Second, Toynbee and others assume that there is a common goal o f all religions. It is a pragmatic way o f viewing religion. For instance, it sounds reasonable to say that the purpose o f religion is to promote world peace. However, a critical mind will soon question whether that assumption is valid. O f course, it is not meant to say that religion does not need to care about world peace. What is being pointed out here is that promoting world peace may not necessarily be the main purpose o f religion. It seems to

1 5 Ibid., 37-44. 16 Ibid. 51.

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be a human-centric pragmatic view o f religion. Contrary to Toynbees view, religion has been causing human conflicts throughout history o f humankind. In addition to that most world religions focus on the realm beyond this world in which we are living in.

3) All Religions Have a Common Psychic Origin The third popular attitude toward religious plurality presented by Knitter is the view represented by Carl Gustav Jung, which claims that all religions have a common psychic origin. The archetype is Jungs term that can be called the silent voice of the unconscious. We must have more than our ears to hear the silent voice. The archetypes might be called messages-in-code, which we must decode and bring to our conscious awareness. Their general contents have to do with light and darkness, death and rebirth, wholeness, sacrifice, and redemption. Jung saw such archetypes as the common seedbed o f all religions. The mechanism that can be used to decode the archetypes is symbol and myth such as savior, virgin birth, and so on. Knitter explains further: Jung felt there was enough evidence to posit a fundamental, hidden unity animating all humanity. He came to grasp an even more mysterious facet o f the unconscious: it is not only personal and individual: it is also collective. If the unconscious can be looked upon as a deeper well or source within each o f us, then all the individual wells lead down to a common underground stream. . .. The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankinds evolution, bom anew in the brain structure o f every individual.17 Within the unconscious, Jung discovered an archetype called the Self. He could not distinguish the realization of the Self from the image o f God (imago Dei). To realize

1 7 Ibid., 58.

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what we are is to realize God, our basic oneness with deity.18 Jung drew his conclusions concerning the common nature of the world religions based on his discoveries o f the human unconscious and the presence o f the imago Dei within it. Revelation is an essentially psychological event where one experiences God speaking from within, and this presence of the image of God is for all human beings. Jung was not saying something new. The Book o f Genesis clearly tells us that God created human beings in Gods image. We do not need to exegete the corresponding biblical text here. I simply want to point out that the concept of image o f God is linked with all human beings in some fashion. Certainly, Jung should be commended for his contribution o f discovering the origin o f religion. The importance o f his discovery is that it was made through an empirical study o f human psychology. He should be credited for a new understanding o f religion as originated from within the self, and as a psychological activity o f all human beings. Based on this understanding o f religion, he concluded that no religion, no symbol can claim to be absolute, the one and only.19 According to Knitter, Jung also complained that Christianity had become too externalized, formalized, institutionalized, and thus lost its bond with the God o f the unconscious. Jung thought that so much o f Christian creed, code, and cult had become something professed or performed, not something stirred by inner feelings of the divine presence within the human psyche. Jung concluded that when a religion is externalized, formalized, or institutionalized, whether it be Christianity or Buddhism, it was not a

18 Ibid 19 Ibid, 61.

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religion at all.20 The problem o f Jung is that he internalized God by considering Gods presence in human unconscious. If revelation is the activity that occurs from within human psyche, how can we explain Gods revelation through the whole life o f Jesus? He might say that the Holy Spirit is present in individual unconscious. However, Pentecost was not an event that took place in the world o f unconscious but a clearly visible event. The Christian revelation is not an experience of the inner person, but a concrete event in history. Another problem of Jung is that by internalizing religion as an activity o f the individual psyche, Jung grossly ignored the communal aspect o f religion. His internalization of Christianity furthered the individualization o f the gospel and transformed Christianity into a psychotherapeutic service for individuals and individual families. On the positive side, Jungs understanding o f religion contributes to our discussion o f non-religious interpretation with two important points. First, religion was originated from within the human unconscious. Based on Jungs discovery, it is possible to conclude that all human beings inherently possess religiosity within their unconscious selves: Human beings are inevitably religious. Jungs discovery o f religion is a serious blow to Bonhoeffers understanding o f the religionless world. While Bonhoeffer, based on a historical analysis, concluded that human beings progressed to the point where they became religionless, Jung found that religion has nothing to do with historical process o f human beings but springs out from human beings inner unconscious. Therefore, in

:o Ibid.: "So long as religion is only . . . outward form, and the religious function is not experienced in our own souls, nothing of any importance has happened. It has yet to be understood that the mysterium magnum [the great mystery] is not only an actuality but first and foremost rooted in the human psyche. Quoted from Collected Works o f Carl G. Jung, vol. 12, Psychology and Alchemy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953), 6.

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Jung, religion will not go away unless human beings become capable o f managing the world of the unconscious. Second, based on Jungs view, any religion that is fossilized by being institutionalized and formalized does not do much good for this world, if it is not in fact, positively harmful. Whether it is Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Islam, religion needs to break out from its self-imposed bondage to religious institutions to enter the promised land o f spiritual freedom. However, Jungs view of revelation is problematic. Gods revelation is manifest not only in individual life, but also in the life o f community as seen in the Old Testament. It is possible to insist that revelation is not an actuation o f divinity innate within the human unconscious, but Gods willful act o f awakening the human unconscious to be able to commune with human beings which was made capable for such communion through the image o f God. Without Gods act o f revelation, human beings can only stay religious. In other words, the image o f God itself does not have the power to invoke Gods revelation, but it enables human beings to see, hear and respond to Gods revelation in divine words and deeds. Therefore, it can be concluded that Gods true revelation shatters the shell o f unconscious - religiosity - to bring the whole o f human being to the front before God in order for it to commune with God in the fellowship o f love.

Christian Attitudes Toward Other Religions


With some understanding o f non-Christian attitudes toward the plurality o f religions, the various attitudes of the Christian Church toward other religions will be discussed next. Speaking of religion, Karl Barth (1886-1968) offered his verdict on

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religion in his Church Dogmatics: Religion is unbelief. It is a concern, indeed, we must say that it is the one great concern, o f godless man. . . . From the standpoint o f revelation religion is clearly seen to be a human attempt to anticipate what God in His revelation wills to do and does do. It is the attempted replacement of the divine work by a human manufacture. The divine reality offered and manifested to us in revelation is replaced by a concept o f God arbitrarily and willfully evolved by man.2 1 According to Barth, although the Christian religion is not any better than other religions from the perspective that it is unbelief, it is the true religion only because of Gods graceful choice. By Gods grace, Christian religion knows that it was and remains sinful but that despite such sinfulness, God, because o f the infinite satisfaction for our sin made in Christ, accepts this religion.22 Barths judgment on religion is solely based on his Christology. Knitter summarizes Barths evangelical evaluation o f other religions, No matter how good and true any other religion [than Christianity] might seem, it is false, useless - because the light o f Christ has not fallen on it.23 Knitter points out that Barths and others evangelical approach is problematic for an understanding o f world religions. Knitter says: What both the scholar o f religious history and the Christian theologian see in this form o f [Amida] Buddhism is, as Barth admits, the very same belief and practice o f salvation through faith alone. But our eyes and mind deceive us, Barth tells us. Why? Because the Bible tells us that salvation through faith is possible only in Jesus Christ. . . Any method for a theological understanding o f religions that insists on Christian tradition . . . as the only or the final criterion o f religious truth seems to blind or at least blur the Christians vision o f what the other religions are saying. It prevents a real listening, without which authentic dialogue collapses.24

2 1 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, 1/2 , 299-300. Quoted by Knitter. No Other Names?, p.84. " Ibid, 338. 2 3 Knitter, No Other Names?, p. 86. Knitter quote from p.339 of Barths Church Dogmatics. 24 Ibid, 91.

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Another criticism made by Knitter against the evangelical position is its claim that authentic revelation which enables a person to know and respond to the true God can be found only in Jesus Christ. Knitter questions the certainty o f this evangelical position on three fronts: contemporary New Testament scholarship, the profound experience of historical relativity by our culture, and our broader knowledge o f other religions.25 Knitters criticism is helpful in part in that Barth and the evangelical method are too rigid and narrow in so far that it confines Gods freedom for revelation. It seems that the concept o f a single point of contact with God in Jesus Christ to be over-apologetic and artificial on the part of Barth in response to the liberal theology o f his time. Thus Bonhoeffer criticized Barth with the term, positivism o f revelation.26 However, Knitters criticism o f Barths and evangelicals claim, which says that human response to God can be made only in Christ, appears to be non-biblical. Knitter argues: Evangelicals do not seem to realize that their commendable concern to preserve the scandal of particularity - that is, the particular importance of Christ for all human beings, is undermined for many by the Evangelical understanding of only in Christ. The problem Evangelicals ignore is that many honest persons, . . . are convinced o f the historical relativity and non-finality o f all human knowledge and truth claims.27 Knitter does not seem to understand the primary characteristic o f religion in general. What he considers as the problem o f evangelicals is not, in reality, necessarily the problem of evangelical Christians in particular, but is the inherent nature of all

25 Ibid 26 LPP 280. 27 Knitter. No Other Names?, 93.

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religions. For instance, would mainline Buddhism recognize Jesus as one o f their Buddha and accept the Bible as one o f their Treasures? It is possible to conclude that exclusivity is indeed a common and inherent nature o f religion. Knitter then criticizes the attitude o f the mainline Protestant toward religious plurality. In regard to the mainline Protestant, Knitter asks questions about the particularity of the salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Knitter argues that if one admits the fact of divine revelation apart from Jesus, one must also admit at least the possibility of salvation apart from Jesus as well. In other words, his point is that if revelation is made through other religions, salvation should be made available through them as well. He considers that the text such as Yahweh or Abba is a God o f love who wants all people to be saved and come to know the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) shows the universal salvific will o f the Christian God. Knitter asks, How can we really take seriously Gods love and desire to save all persons when that saving love is tied so exclusively to one channel?28 Knitter is not satisfied with mystery for an answer, nor with Althaus who speaks o f relative salvation which implies that salvation is available in other religions in smaller dosage.29 Knitter wants to derive a full-pledged answer from Christianity that salvation is available in other religions just as it is in Christianity. He appears to be frustrated by the mainline Protestants claim for exclusivity o f Jesus Christ as the one and only savior. In

28 Ibid.. 116-7. 29 Ibid, 117.

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order to illustrate his point, Knitter uses the last judgement scene in Matthew 25:31-4630 by interpreting it as if the text numbers among the elect those who loved their neighbor without knowing anything about Jesus. However, he is doing injustice to the text by looking at the tree, not the forest. At the beginning o f the same chapter, Jesus told the parable of ten virgins who went forth to meet their bridegroom with their lamps. The story shows the anticipation for the Advent o f Jesus and the importance o f the preparedness for salvation. Knitter might argue such preparedness means to love the neighbor without having to know Jesus. However, such an argument produces an absurd outcome because, without having to mention that most religions do not anticipate an advent, if we assume those virgins in the story to be Buddhists, then those virgins would be shocked to see Jesus, not the Buddha, appearing as their bridegroom. If we follow Knitters logic, his conclusion should be that anyone, including atheists, who loves their neighbor should be saved, therefore, there is no need for Christianity nor any religion at all. If that is the case, should not Knitter include atheism in his ecumenism? If giving things to neighbors to eat, to drink and to wear is all that is needed for ones salvation, what is the meaning of repentance o f sinners? Why Jesus had to die on the cross at all? In conclusion, it seems that Knitter and other advocates o f religious pluralism cannot avoid logical entanglement because of their mixed desires that they want to remain as Christians but, at the same

30 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and ail the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?. . . The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you

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time, they want to be freed from Christ.

Religious Pluralism
Earlier in the previous discussion, the phrase religious pluralism was defined to mean any theological theory where ultimate truth can have more than one true religious explanation. The theological attitude o f the Catholic proclamation, Vatican II, toward other religions, which is represented by Karl Rahner and Hans Kiing, clearly has the characteristic o f religious pluralism. Knitter presents another trend of theology that he labeled the theocentric model of religious pluralism, which is represented by John Hick, Raimundo Panikkar, and Stanley Samartha. According to Knitter, the Catholic model o f religious pluralism suggests that Christians not only can, but must, look on other religions as possible modes o f salvation. The Christian God is a God of universal love and grace. Different from the conservative Evangelical and mainline Protestant models, the Catholic model suggests that both revelation and salvation are available through other religions as well as Christianity. Christ is not savior as efficient cause o f saving grace, which a person must know explicitly in order to be saved. Rather, Christ is the final cause o f salvation, which clearly expresses and incarnates a divine presence given and operative not only in Christianity but in all religions.31 Karl Rahner attempted to break through Christianitys exclusivism with his theory of anonymous Christianity, which says that the believers o f other religions can be called Christians without a name. The grace o f God cannot be confined to the Christian religion. An anonymous Christian already knows the one God of love

did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. . . . (NIV). 3 1 Knitter, No Other Names?, 141.

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who is active in their midst, already bringing about the kingdom. Knitter points out that the limit o f Rahners theory is that it states not only that there is saving grace within other religions but also that this grace is Christs. The fullness o f salvation can be achieved only in Christ.32 In his criticism o f Rahners anonymous Christianity, Hans Kung developed his own christocentric theory that says Christianity is the critical catalyst o f all religions, which means that without Christs revelation, other religions cannot really understand and appropriate the salvation at work within them.33 In other words, other religions do not have to be, in fact, Christianity by some other name to function as a way to salvation. Buddhism should remain Buddhism, and Hinduism remain Hinduism. However, without Christs revelation, other religions cannot, for example, adapt their spiritualities to the modernity o f the technological age because o f their unhistoricity, circular thinking, fatalism, unworldliness, pessimism, passivity, caste spirit, social disinterestedness.34 The underlying theme o f these Catholic theologians seems to be that the Roman Catholic is more open to other religions than the Protestant, and that other religions need spiritual guidance from Christianity in order to reach the understanding o f salvation possessed by the Roman Catholic. When viewed from the standpoint o f other religions, it appears to be a religious arrogance o f Catholicism to claim itself as the more genuine and more mature faith over other religions. The anonymous Christianity and the Christianity as the critical catalyst o f other religions can be considered as the masks of the spiritually wealthy Christianity to disguise itself as a genuine friend o f the poor

32 Ibid., 128. 33 Ibid., 133. 34 Ibid., 133. Quote from Hans Kung, On Being Christian, 110. 188

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religious neighbors. Behind the mask, Christianity is looking down their neighbors with pitiful eyes. With this kind o f attitude, ecumenism with authentic dialogue that Catholic theologians advocate can never be achieved. Hence, the theocentric model for understanding other religions arose as a new form o f religious pluralism. John Hick, the most radical proponent o f a theocentric model for Christian approaches to other religions, proposes his so-called Copemican revolution in theology, which is supposedly a paradigm shift from a Christianity-centered or Jesuscentered to God-centered model of the universal faiths. Hicks new map for the universe o f faiths is described with the one Spirit, the one Divine Reality or Absolute, the one Logos behind all religions. He predicts that, as the growing world ecumenism spreads, the common commitment of faith in a higher reality will become more important than differences in doctrine and ritual.35 However, how does Hick overcome the question of Christs uniqueness as the savior? In order to answer the Christological question, Hick considers the incarnation and other concepts o f Christianity as myths developed by early Christians, and that they should not be taken literally but seriously. By understanding the incarnation as a myth, Christians can encounter God truly in Christ, but not only in Christ. Hick is a religious universalist who considers all religions are essentially the same. The different doctrines and rituals are only their clothing not the essence. Thus, Hick claims, an interreligious dialogue is possible. It seems that, by suggesting the Absolute behind all religions, Hick remained modern. The foundation o f his theological argument is shattered by the relativism of postmodemity. Without further consideration, his theory, which is based on a universal

35 Ibid., 146-152.

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God and truth, violates the core postmodern conviction o f the plurality o f truth. Another advocate o f the theocentric model is Raimundo Panikkar, who claims that unless the text and its context are continually being reheard in the ever new texture, one is really not hearing what the text means. He claims that there must be new interpretations o f the text for the changing world in order to hear what the text means. Not to understand Jesus in the new texture, not to open oneself to the possibility o f a new Christology, is to run the risk of confining the past to an idolatrous deposit o f faith.36 Panikkar is echoing the reinterpretation of the gospel Bonhoeffer suggested, and Bonhoeffers criticism of modem theology as the positivism o f revelation. Pannikar calls for an ecumenical ecumenism among world religions for unity without harming diversity. Panikkar was on the right track as far as reinterpretation o f the text is concerned, but he took a religious way to interpret the name o f Jesus as the Supemame for all religions. According to Panikkar, the name above all names - the Christ - can go by many historical names: Rama, Krishna, Isvara, Purusha, Tathagata.37 Knitter suggests that a new kairos [age] calls for a new Christology. He claims that Jesus was theocentric. In other words, according to Knitter, the core content o f Jesus original message was the kingdom o f God, not Jesus himself. Jesus was rather Godcentered. According to Knitter, after his death and resurrection, the proclaimer became the proclaimed, and the focus was shifted. 38 Knitter tries to resolve the tension o f the uniqueness and exclusiveness o f the New Testaments language about Jesus; the one mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim. 2:5); there is no other name by which

36 Ibid., 172-3. 37 Ibid., 156. 38 Ibid., 173.

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persons can be saved (Acts 4:12); Jesus is the only begotten Son o f God (John 1:14); no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6); just as all died in one man, Adam, so all will be brought to life in one man, Christ (1 Cor. 15:21-22); what took place in him was once for all (epaphax) (Heb. 9:12). Knitter acknowledges that the early Jesus-followers really meant what they were saying when they announced to the world that Jesus was one and only.39 Yet, Knitter says: If christology was and is evolutionary, if it is in enduring need of reinterpretation, it can be asked whether such one and only or final language really does belong to the main content o f what the early church experienced and believed. . . . I shall suggest that all the one and only qualifiers to the various christological titles pertain more to the medium used by the New Testament than to its core message.40 Knitters method to ease the tension of exclusivity o f Christian message cannot be accepted from several perspectives. First, his suggestion that the Christological titles were conceived as the medium can hardly be justified if we consider the historical fact of martyrdom. It is hard to imagine anyone would sacrifice his or her own life for the sake o f the medium not the message. Second, his understanding o f Christology as an evolution regards the early Christianity as something primitive in nature. The reinterpretation of the gospel must not be an evolutionary but a revelatory effort to uncover Gods will for this religiously pluralistic age. Thus far, some other world religions and the various attitudes toward them have been surveyed. Religion is a social phenomenon unique to human beings. On the individual level, every human being has religiosity o f some kind. To Jung, it is

39 Ibid, 182. 40 Ibid

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unconscious. To others like Bertrand Russell, it is the fear, the terror o f the unknown and partly the wish to feel that he or she has someone who will stand by them in their troubles and disputes.41 Thus each individual seeks his or her communion with the supernatural and mysterious Being. Depending on what kind o f faith tradition to which one belongs, the Being can be called God, Allah, Buddha, Brahman, or Tao. Therefore, religion cannot avoid being individualistic. The salvation and transformation o f self appears to be why people have faith in a certain religious tradition. On the social level, religion is an institutionalized form, which has dogma, canon, and office. Dogma defines what they believe as canon is considered sacred and has the final authority over dogma and religious practices. Religion provides moral values based on the teachings stemming from the canon. In addition, religion has been playing an important role in politics. Both religion and politics support each other for the prosperity and survival o f each. Throughout the history o f human beings, religion and politics often allied together to enjoy their prosperity, or stood against each other resulting in terrible bloodshed and conflicts. On the positive side, religion has been satisfying human needs o f consolation, hope for the future, and discovery o f the meaning o f life. It also has been one o f the sources o f culture. As an expression of the human soul, religion has been inspiring many musicians, artists, writers, and philosophers throughout human history. In summary, it is clear that religion will remain as the core o f human existence. Contrary to BonhoefFers anticipation, many religions continue to strive in this world. Facing religious plurality, different ways o f understanding the nature of religion arose: exclusive, inclusive, or pluralistic. Karl Barth and the Evangelicals are among the

" Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian, New York: Touchstone Book, 1957, p.22.

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exclusive group, which claims Jesus Christ as the only way o f salvation. Karl Rahner and Hans Kiing stand among the inclusive group, which says that salvation is possible through other religions, even though Christianity is the supreme way o f salvation. John Hicks and Paul Knitter are suggesting religious pluralism, which views all religions as equal and salvation is possible through all religions without discrimination. It can be concluded that, from a phenomenological and historical standpoint, the world has changed very little since the beginning o f human history as far as religious plurality is concerned. As we have seen, the most dominant world religions, which include Christianity, have been maintaining their strength for a long time. What really has changed is the Christian perception o f other religions, under the influence of postmodernism. The thoughts and the practices o f other religions appear to be helpful for Christianity to restore the original and timeless meaning o f the Gospel. With the term timeless a codified religious canon is not meant, but a living truth o f Christ that is true for yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The gospel is timeless not because its truth is written in the Scripture but because Christ lives forever. Having surveyed Bonhoeffers theology and the characteristics o f the present world from the perspectives o f modernism, postmodernism, and the religiously pluralistic world, the following section will attempt to explain the meaning o f a non-religious interpretation for our contemporary world.

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PART III A NON-RELIGIOUS INTERPRETATION FOR THE RELIGIOUSLY PLURALISTIC WORLD

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CHAPTER 7 A NON-RELIGIOUS INTERPRETATION FOR THE RELIGIOUSLY PLURALISTIC WORLD

In Part I, an overview o f Bonhoeffers theology has been presented mainly focusing on the concepts o f the world come o f age, non-religious interpretation of biblical concepts, the Church for others, secret discipline, worldly Christianity, holy worldliness, non-religious Christianity, religionless Christianity, deus ex machina , and etsi deus non daretur."1 In short, Bonhoeffer understood the maturity of the World in terms of the human beings autonomous relationship with God, which was summarized in his phrase Before God and with God we live without God.2 Bonhoeffer characterized the world come of age with its autonomy from God and its religionlessness. However, the world has changed in almost every aspect since Bonhoeffer made his claim o f the world come o f age. Sociological, political, economical, and cultural changes seem to have made the world completely different from what Bonhoeffer observed. Therefore, in Part II, the nature o f our contemporary world has been analyzed in order to determine the applicability o f Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation and religionless Christianity in the present context. From the discussion, it was determined that the present world is going through a transition from modernity to postmodemity. The rejection o f universal truth, death o f God, individualism, relativism, tolerance, and

1 See Geffrey B Kelly and F. Burton Nelson, A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer (San Francisco, Calif.: Harper SanFrancisco, 1995), 561-8 on the definition of these terms. Also see Chapter 3 of this dissertation for farther discussioa 2 LPP 360, 16 July 1944.

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pluralism have been suggested as distinctive characteristics of our contemporary world. Moreover, contrary to Bonhoeffers prediction, religious plurality characterizes the present world religious rather than religionless This fact presents a problem for Bonhoeffer because his concept o f the world come o f age was based on his understanding o f the world as religionless. Therefore, Bonhoeffers concept o f the world come o f age seems to have become meaningless in the present world. However, in chapter 5, it has been concluded that the world has come o f age based on different criteria: tolerance and openness. From the perspective o f religion, religious pluralism and religious ecumenism reflect tolerance and openness of this age. What does this mean to Christianity and the Church? In Part III, I will attempt to answer that question. By the same token, Bonhoeffer asked, What Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today?3 Clearly, it is a theological question that needs to be asked by generation after generation. Bonhoeffer answered the question with his concepts: non-religious interpretation o f the gospel and religionless Christianity. Are these concepts still relevant in todays world? If it is, how can it be relevant? By answering those questions, a new thesis - a non-religious interpretation of the gospel for the religiously pluralistic4 world - will be presented. The present section will be divided into three chapters. First, the relevance of non-religious interpretation in a religiously pluralistic world will be explained. Second, the adolescent nature o f the contemporary Church in light of the religiously pluralistic

3 LPP 279, 30 April 1944. 4 My concept of the religiously pluralistic world as a world with many religions and religious pluralism has been explained in the previous discussion.

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world will be scrutinized. Third, the nature o f a Church come o f age will be discussed as a conclusion o f this thesis. In this chapter, the relevance o f non-religious interpretation in a religiously pluralistic world will be discussed in the following manner: 1) A critique o f Bonhoeffers the religionless world will be made in light of the religiously pluralistic world. 2) The implication o f religious plurality imposed upon Christianity will be explained. 3) the relevance o f Bonhoeffers theology in todays religious world and how it can help Christianity deal with those problems will be discussed.

A Critique of Bonhoeffers the Religionless World


Since Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is closely tied to his worldview, which is described with phrases such as the religionless world or the world come of age, the fact that the world is still religious imposes a serious implication for Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation o f biblical concepts and the gospel. With regard to the meaning o f non-religious interpretation, Kelly and Nelson explain: The corollary to nonreligious Christianity, the phrase nonreligious interpretation is taken from Bonhoeffers question in his prison letters about how one can speak coherently o f God in a world come o f age, or, alternatively, how one can speak o f God without religion. Bonhoeffer criticizes the false images o f God conjured up by a religiosity that would make God a deus ex machina , or a God o f the gaps, a God capitalizing on human weakness and cooperating in clerical blackmail o f believers, instead o f the God made known in the sufferings o f the man Jesus, a God encouraging a faith-inspired responsibility in combating the evils o f the Third Reich.5 Bonhoeffers understanding o f the world come o f age is based on the

5 Kelly and Nelson, A Testament to Freedom, 566.

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religionlessness o f man come of age.6 As discussed in Chapter 3, Bonhoeffer was not consistent in his usage o f the terms such as religion non-religious, and religionlessness.7 However, it can be said that Bonhoeffer, in the context o f a world come o f age, means by religion a complex o f quite distinct ideas and views about God as deus ex machina , or a God o f the gaps. Therefore, in order to claim that his non-religious interpretation and the religionless Christianity are still relevant in our contemporary world, it will be necessary to overcome the problem o f the religionless world that does not seem to accurately reflect the reality o f the current world. For the purpose o f the present discussion, his understanding of the religionless world will be criticized in several points. First, contrary to Bonhoeffers claim o f the religionless world, the world is still religious. Contemporary people find themselves living in a religiously pluralistic world where many religions have their own strong foothold evangelizing their truths to an open world by competing with each other. A religious race seems to have begun. Based on Bonhoeffers assessment, the religiosity o f human beings should have diminished by our time.9 However, contrary to his anticipation, religiosity does not seem to have disappeared from the human experience. Statistically, only 887 million people out o f a

6 Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer: Exile and Martyr (London: Collins, 1975), 381. 7 After an exhaustive study on Bonhoeffers understanding and usage of the term religion, Ralf K. Wustenberg concluded that Bonhoeffer neither defined religion conceptually nor developed any closed theory of religioa See Wustenberg, A Theology o f Life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Religionless Christianity, 29. Also see Ralf K. Wtistenberg, Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer s Tegel Theology in John W. de Gruchy, ed. Bonhoeffer fo r a New Day: Theology in a Time o f Transition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 59: Bonhoeffer speaks about religion in three different ways - positively, negatively, and historically - as a phenomenon that has run its course. 8 Edwin H. Robertson, Bonhoeffer's Heritage: The Christian Way in a World Without Religion (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1989), 7. Also see Geffrey B. Kelly, Liberating Faith: Bonhoeffer's Message for Todav (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1984), 138-9 on Bonhoeffers critique of religion. 9 LPP 325-29, 8 June 1944.

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total population o f 5.8 billion in 1996 claimed to be non-religious.10 Considering this fact, it can be concluded that the world is not only religious, but also divided by many religions and faith traditions. Second, Bonhoeffer appeared to have somewhat exaggerated his understanding of the religionless world. It is peculiar why he chose such an extreme position and did not make a balanced assessment of his contemporary world. Even with the scientific advancement o f today, so many questions o f life are left unanswered. It is observed that human beings are not yet capable o f answering the ultimate questions o f life. Some might assume that we have finally solved all riddles o f how life was created and what comes after death without the help of faith. It can be further assumed that human beings, through the genome project, have found a way to extend their physical life forever. However, does that mean human beings will be able to rid religiosity from their mind? Perhaps not. Human beings do not have total control o f the universe, even o f the earth. Therefore, there would be no real guarantee that human beings can live forever unless they have total control o f the whole universe. Astronomy taught us that it is always possible that a meteorite or a comet can destroy the earth at the blink o f an eye. We are living in a world where any natural disasters can destroy a persons life, an entire village, or the whole globe, at any time. Until human beings can finally overcome death, it can be argued that religiosity cannot be removed from the human mind. Third, in addition to the previous point, Bonhoeffer appears to have made a wrong assumption that religion and human reason are related to each other from a

10 The World Almanac and Book o f Facts 1998 (Mahwah, New Jersey: World Almanac Books, 1997), 654.

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developmental standpoint. He said: The movement that began about the thirteenth century . . . has in our time reached an undoubted completion. Man has learnt to deal with himself in all questions o f importance without recourse to the working hypothesis called God. 1 1 One might disagree with him that humanity truly has learned to deal with all questions o f importance - the ultimate questions (e.g., death and afterlife) - without recourse to God. Half a century has passed since he made his claim that the Enlightenment project was finally completed in his time and the world had come of age. For the past century, the world experienced enormous changes from various aspects. Sociologically, the Equal Rights Movement brought more women to workplaces. Racial discrimination was reduced. Economically, the market economy is widespread all over the world including the communist block. Politically, democracy seems to be capable of managing the business o f this world. Technologically, the invention o f modem day computers has opened the door for the infinite possibilities o f technological advancement o f human beings. All indications direct us toward Bonhoeffers worldview that the Enlightenment project is completed. Despite such advancement o f human reason and its capabilities, human beings seem to be still religious. Bonhoeffer seems to have been too hasty in making his assumption that the enlightenment of human reason will eventually wipe out religiosity from the human mind. It is true that scientific knowledge and systematized education have enlightened human beings. However, there is no empirical evidence for his assumption that anticipates the religionless world as a result of the enlightenment o f human reason. On

1 1 LPP 325,8 June 1944.

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the contrary, the world appears to be even more religious, because humanity bears the imago Dei as Jung has claimed12. Bonhoeffer was not ignorant o f the religious a priori of humankind as the foundation of religion. However, his error was in his understanding of religiosity vis-a-vis human reason, as one-standing-against-the-other. Contrary to his understanding, it seems that religiosity and human reason are not in a tug o f war. Rather, they appear to be two different attributes of the human mind, which not necessarily contradict each other but create together the dynamics o f human life. Fourth, Bonhoeffers worldview seems to have been too narrow. Certainly, he should have known that the world has many religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Then, how was he able to conclude that the world was becoming religionless? It seems that Bonhoeffer could make such a conclusion because his theological boundary was understandably limited to Christianity. In other words, the scope o f his theological statement was much narrower than one might assume. He did not consider other religions important for his theological reflection. Therefore, in general, Bonhoeffer used the term religion synonymously with Christianity or the Church. From that perspective, it can be suggested that Bonhoeffer remained as a modem person, who believes that there is an ultimate truth, which happens to be Christianity. The centrality o f Christ occupied his life and theological thinking throughout. Hence, he was able to describe the demise of Christianity as the extinction o f religion at least in the context o f Europe or Germany. In this regard, Clifford J. Green states, Humanity come o f age is chiefly found among the people o f the contemporary West in Europe and America; the phase particularly applies to that social group to which Bonhoeffer and his

12 Knitter, No Other Names?, 58.

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own family and friends belonged.13 Moreover, from a geographical standpoint, his world appears to include only the world of the West. For instance, the Enlightenment Movement, which he used as the historical demarcation point, only belongs to the history o f the Western world. This fact means that the relevance of his theology for the rest o f the world remains questionable. Such narrowness o f his worldview can certainly reduce the meaning o f the world come o f age because the completion o f the Enlightenment Movement does not apply to the rest o f the world. The weakness of his argument is evident on this particular point. Religiosity is not a limited attribute to the Western people but a psychological element that is universal to all humankind. By linking the historical process o f the West to the demise o f religiosity, Bonhoeffer took the risk o f leaving the rest o f the world out o f his theological concern. Even worse, his scope might have been just Germany and its Church when he spoke o f the religionless world. Arguably, it is a serious limitation and weakness of his theology in light o f an open w o rld .. In summary, Bonhoeffers claim that the world became religionless is not plausible from the factual data which demonstrates that the world is still religious, and from the narrow scope applied to his claim o f the religionless world. Because his thesis, a non-religious interpretation o f the gospel, goes in tandem with the concept of the religionless world, the fact that the world is still religious becomes a serious stumbling block for his thesis itself. However, it will be argued in the present discussion that the religious nature of the contemporary world ironically makes Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation

13 Green, Bonhoeffer, A Theology o f Sociality, 251.

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more applicable than in his time. Before such an argument is made and the relevance of his thesis in todays world is explained, it will be helpful to highlight some o f the challenges that a religiously pluralistic world imposes upon Christianity.

Challenges of a Religiously Pluralistic World


In the present open world, religious diversity is welcomed as a richness o f human culture. The interactions between different religions and the influences from other religions are not only unavoidable but also encouraged. What are the challenges of a religiously pluralistic world for Christianity?

1) The Relativization of Christianity Christians are finding themselves situated in a world with other world religions. For a long period o f its history, Christianity in the West had very little direct contact with others religions o f the East except Islam, which invaded much o f the Christian Byzantine Empire and threatened Western Europe around the seventh century. Although Islam spread rapidly in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, it did not have any considerable dialogue with Christianity as another religion. On the side o f the Western world, Charles Davis traces the quest o f the West for Eastern cultures back to the eighteenth century.14 In Germany, Friedrich Schlegel published The Language and Wisdom o f the Hindus in 1808. But it was Schopenhauer (1788-1860) who praised the wisdom of Upanishads and used it as a standard forjudging Christianity. In the latter half o f the nineteenth century, Max Muller edited and translated the sacred texts o f Oriental religion. In 1879, Sir Edwin Arnolds published a long poem,

1 4 Charles Davis, Christ and the World Religions (London: The Trinity Press, 1970), 18-9.

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Light o f Asia, which made many familiar with Buddha and his teaching. In 1893, a World Parliament o f Religions was held in connection with the Chicago World Fair, where the young Vivekananda presented Hinduism as a universal faith for humankind. In 1897, he founded the Ramakrishna Mission to spread Hinduism in the W est.1 5 In the twentieth century, Western interest and knowledge o f Eastern religions has increased. One of the major sources o f Eastern religions has been those religious groups immigrating to America and other parts o f the Western world. There are many Buddhist groups in the West and, in particular, Zen Buddhism has gained in popularity.1 6 In addition to those age-old world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, Christianity has to deal with other numerous sizeable religious organizations and cults, which include pseudo-Christian religions such as Mormon, Jehovahs Witness, as well as the New Age Movement. From the perspective of religion, even though there have been many wars triggered by religious conflicts, the current world seems to be divided into several territories where each religion rules over its own territory largely undisturbed by others. To be more specific: 1) Christianity mainly in the West and American continent, and in some Asian and African countries, 2) Islam in the Middle East regions, 3) Hinduism in India, 4) Buddhism across Asia, including the Far East. In recent centuries, Christianity has spread into other parts of the world by evangelism, which usually piggybacked on the imperialism o f the West. Christian missions approached other people as caregivers, teachers, physicians, and the messengers o f the superior religion, Christianity.

15 Ibid. 16 Ibid.

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However, in todays open world, Christianity cannot pose as a teacher for other cultures and religions. It must also learn from other religions with mutual respect. The postmodern world created a religious marketplace. Christianity is no longer the only religion that is evangelistic and mission-oriented. As Christian missions struggle to develop more effective mission strategies, other religions are also advancing into the West with a strong conviction that their religious truths can provide better solutions to the contemporary problems o f human life than Christianity can. To address the problem of the emerging religious diversity, Davis says: The problem I am raising is to a great extent a new problem both for ordinary Christians and for theologians. Religious diversity now presses upon us in a way it did not before. It has always existed, but it has not affected Christians nor caused much theological concern until recent decades. I will begin this investigation, then by examining the emergence o f religious pluralism as a problem . . . People of different countries and cultures live now in mutual awareness, know more and more about one another and are being increasingly brought into personal contact . . . Nowadays, despite persistent claims to distinctiveness, every religion, including Christianity, is classified with other religions as alternative ways o f interpreting life. Religious pluralism has entered our consciousness and deprived the Christian religion o f its unquestioned monopoly, even when it remains our personal choice.17 Facing religious plurality in this world, Christians are losing the sense that Christianity is the ultimate truth. As Christianity is relativized with other religions, faith becomes a personal choice rather than a gift o f God given to humanity. It imposes a serious problem to Christianity, because Christianity as a personal choice makes it a religion - a human work. The Picn Save is the name o f a discount store chain, but the Picn Save Your Soul is the religious market place in the spiritual world. As previously

1 7 Charles Davis, Christ and the World Religions, 14.

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discussed, todays world can be described as individualistic and segmented. In a changing world, the social place and function o f religion also changes. Davis says: The German sociologist, Thomas Luckmann, has discussed this change in the Invisible Religion. In modem industrial society there is no longer an official interpretive scheme, relating society and its institutions to an overarching and transcendent universe o f meaning. Society has become segmented, and the various institutional areas, such as politics and economics, are ordered autonomously by a functional rationality, without reference to a traditional system o f ultimate meaning. It is left to the individual to choose his own interpretative scheme or world-view. . . . Religion, then, in present Western society belongs to the sphere of individual choice, . . . This, then, is the situation in which other religions are attracting widespread attention in the previously Christian West. And in this situation the plurality o f religions has a considerable impact upon the consciousness even of those who remain orthodox Christians.1 8 True Christianity is not a personal choice, but Gods calling humanity by his grace. However, as Christians finds themselves in the midst o f the religious marketplace, the truth o f the gospel can be easily relativized with the truths claimed by other religions.

2) Religious Individualism As Feil points out, Bonhoeffers criticism o f religion was initially based on its individualistic nature.1 9 Modernity destroyed community with its individualism. As Adam and Eve realized that they were naked after eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, modem human beings, after eating the fruit o f individualism, have come to see that they are a bunch of isolated individuals. Metaphorically, modernity tempted

humanity to eat the fruit of individualism, as the second serpent who seems to have said, Individualism is a forbidden fruit, because it allows an individual achievement, success, and happiness. Everything becomes your choice. Complete freedom. No one should

1 8 Ibid, 15-6. 19 Feil, The Theology o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 168. 206

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interfere with your life. It will make you like God. In order to destroy community, modernity used industrialization as a tool to bring individuals out of their family and hometown. Factories gave them an opportunity to break out from the chain o f social class in which they were confined for many generations. Not the Church, but the big cities and industries gave them a new hope. Personal success and achievement are within their reach. As individuals strive for their personal success in this world, community and family become o f secondary importance. However, the root of individualism is much deeper than modernity. According to Bonhoeffer, religion is metaphysical and individualistic.20 Religion is based on an individuals religious a priori. In religion, the redemption of the individual becomes most important. To distinguish the Church from the religious community, Bonhoeffer said: The Church does not come into being by people coming together (genetic sociology), rather its existence is sustained by the Spirit who is a reality within the Church-community; therefore, it cannot be derived from individual wills, since an individual will can at most be an expression of belonging to the Church. Thus the individual is possible only as a member o f the Church-community, and this is not merely a preparation for higher individual life, but personal life is possible only within the Churchcommunity.21 The problem o f religious plurality in this regard is that other religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, have been promoting religious individualism where

enlightenment means the task o f an individual to discover his/her own inner self. For example, Transcendental Meditation and Zen Buddhism are gaining popularity among the Westerner, including Christians. Individualization of Christian faith is shaking the

:o LPP 286, 8 May, 1944. 2 1 SC 160.

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ground o f the Church and the kingdom o f God. Furthermore, Bonhoeffers concept o f the adulthood o f humanity was drawn from the mature relationship between God and human being. Therefore, the maturity of a human being is conceivable only within the God-human relationship. Hinduism, on the other hand, views maturity o f a human being from the standpoint of discovery o f the infinite being that is hidden in ones self. Again, in Bonhoeffer, human adulthood was understood as a result o f historical progression o f humanity as a whole, whereas in Hinduism human adulthood is viewed as an achievement of an individual who reached God (Brahman) through various means. Hinduism is individualistic in nature. To modem people who are conditioned by individualism of all kinds, those religions which seem to be aligned with the individuals spiritual needs are more appealing than Christianity. Sadly, human beings are getting used to the lifestyle of isolation and feel more comfortable as separate individuals than as members of a community such as the Church-community.22

3) Science as a Religion To make the situation even more challenging for the Church leaders and theologians, the most serious problems for Christianity arose in its own backyard. The newer generations found the authoritative teachings o f the Church unacceptable by their scientific mind. Many narratives in the Bible are in direct conflict with what they are learning from school and modem science. To younger generations, the gospel message is just another Christmas story, like the fairy tale o f Santa Claus, which is believed only by

r Bonhoeffers concept presented in Sanctorum Communio.

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toddlers. As soon as they realize that the Santa story is only fiction and what they longed for was something nonexistent, their minds which are trained to be analytical begins its doubt on the credibility o f the biblical narratives. A typical example is the conflict between the Creation story and evolutionism. Young people do not want to be fooled by the scientifically unbelievable stories o f the Bible, and moreover, they do not want to be controlled by moral values imposed on them by the authoritarian and legalistic Scripture and by the Church. To most youngsters who are accustomed to their own fun-filled excitement available through the internet and other media, the Bible is simply one o f the most boring books that only a nerd might want to read. Today, it is a serious challenge for the Church to keep their youth within their reach. It seems that the younger generations simply do not want to remain in the Church. The Biblical narratives do not appeal to those who measure everything with the scientific knowledge that they possess.

4) The Loss of Christian Family Tradition In a religiously pluralistic world, religion is no longer a family heritage. It is not by Gods grace but by ones own choice that he or she becomes a believer o f a religion. Therefore, the parental task of teaching children the Word o f God and Gods wisdom is being abandoned by Christian families. Todays parents learned to not brainwash their children with their own personal faith. They should be left alone to make their own decisions for their life. It is your life anyway! is the typical attitude o f parents, at least in the West. In response to such an attitude o f their parents, the children claim, Its my life. Do not tell me what to believe! The school is a system that is purposed to mold a child into a mature individual 209

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who can fit into the society. It teaches children how to make their own decisions through the influence o f information that is readily available to them. No one, including parents, should make decisions for other individuals, including their children, once they reach a point where they can make their own intelligent choice and decision. The individual rights to choose ones own faith has become the norm in todays world. To the younger generations, which grew up in an individualistic society, other religions such as Buddhism appeals as a religion because it does not impose any pre written code o f conduct. Moreover, in those religions, one does not have to depend on another person, such as Jesus o f Nazareth for ones own salvation. Religious diversity provides an array o f choices to the more educated younger generations. They prefer to reason for themselves. They want more autonomous finding of truth. The discovery o f the power o f their inner self attracts them more than the power that comes from an external being called God. The younger generations want to explore various religions that are out there in the spiritual market place. They feel that many religions can satisfy their spiritual needs, and those religions include Satan Worship, New Age, and many other religious cults. Moreover, their search for ecstasy does not stop at religion. In order to quench the thirst o f their soul, they are going out to the spiritual land o f wilderness filled with alcohol, drugs, sex, and all kinds of fornication, just like scorpions in the desert. In this situation, how can the Church rescue those young generations from the stormy sea o f religious plurality by becoming the lighthouse again? As the spiritual bond is broken, the family life becomes a challenging one. Imagine a family where the father is a Christian, the mother a Buddhist, the son a New

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Age practitioner, and the daughter an atheist. How can such a family remain in genuine unity? In the Western world, fathers have lost their authority in their family. Becoming sensitive to the fact that the children are lacking a fathers image in the family, spiritual movements such as Harvest Ministry for Men have arisen. However, is it enough to rescue the sinking ship called a spiritual family?

5) A Lack of Theology for Religious Diversity Christian theology has been ignoring the depth o f the truths presented by other religions. I suggest that there are several reasons why Christianity opted to remain ignorant o f other religious traditions. What are the reasons? First, Christianity has been arrogant towards other religions. Based on the fact that the West conquered the world and achieved scientific advancement in recent history, Christianity concluded that it is the only true religion, and treated other religions as mythical or inferior. Second, Christianity lost direction in the midst o f the rapid transition from modernity to postmodemity. It did not have enough resources to deal with the reality of religious diversity as a theological issue. Based on my personal experience, seminaries do not seem to require their students to learn about other religions and their implications for Christianity. For example, although some classes on Islam and other religions are being offered by the seminary that I attended, they still remain as elective courses that are not required for degree programs. This is an indication that the Church was too busy with self-maintenance. Third, the Church mainly believed that other religions o f the East were contained in the Eastern world. It did not have much concern that those Eastern religions could

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appeal to the people of the West. It assumed that those religions are not compatible with Western culture, which had been shaped mainly by Christianity.

6) Diminished Position of Christianity Once dominant in the Western world, Christianity has largely lost its power and influence in cultural, political, and social issues. For instance, the Christian music has mostly been marginalized and pushed to the comer by the popular music. Likewise, Christian themes are largely no longer at the center stage of art. In political matters, many do not accept Christian values as the norm unless it is approved by the majority o f society which is often counter-Christian. The biblical teachings mostly no longer influence the decision on the social issues such as abortion and homosexuality. As a religion, Christianity is no longer considered the supreme religion in the world where many other religions are presenting their own religious conviction to the Christian world. Christianity now stands on the same rank as other religions. To the Church, which once enjoyed a lofty position within Christendom, it must be a humiliating situation. However, why does this fact have to be a serious problem for the Church? First, Christianity has to recognize that it is just one o f many religions. It does not allow the conviction that Christianity represents the only truth. Second, Christianity must respect other religions as partners in the spiritual world. Along with their truths, it must respect their geographical territories, thus evangelism and mission are going to be viewed as a hostile act against other religions. Third, Christianity has to compete with other religions to win the souls of younger generations. A new apologetic against other religions became a necessity. In fact, many younger people are leaving the Church and

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joining other religious forces. Fourth, in general, Christianity does not appear to be attractive to many in the younger generation when the church is viewed as authoritative in its approach and message. The church becomes unattractive when it is viewed as "moralistic" in nature, expecting young people to uphold traditional moral values which often appear negative and restrictive. Whereas, these same young people who grow up in the public school system are influenced by their peers, many o f whom have decided that the church is merely a "puritanical" relic o f a former age. In order to attract the younger generation, the church needs to base its moral teachings on values and norms that are more relevant to a "world come o f age. For instance, while smoking and drinking are looked at with evil-eyes on the Church grounds, it is not forbidden by many other religions. While playing golf on Sunday is viewed as a sinful thing to do, other religions treat it as personal business.

The Relevance of Bonhoeffers Theology


Having stated that Bonhoeffer made a wrong assumption concerning the religionless world for his thesis, the relevance o f his non-religious interpretation in todays world needs to be explained. In fact, it will be argued that his concept might be even more relevant in a religiously pluralistic world than in his time. How is it possible that a non-religious interpretation can remain relevant to a religious pluralistic world? The question will be answered from several perspectives.

1) The Non-religious Nature of the Gospel Arguably, Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is not a context-based theology. In other words, the validity o f the claim non-religious interpretation o f the gospel does not depend on the nature o f the world o f different ages. Whether the world 213

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is religionless or not, the non-religious nature o f the gospel should be restored. Because Bonhoeffer suggested a non-religious interpretation for the religionless world as it were, the concept can be misunderstood as if it is some kind of contextualization of the gospel. Although it is true that Bonhoeffer saw the need o f a reinterpretation of the biblical concepts by reflecting on the situation of the religionless world, he was not advocating a relativism o f any sort to fit Christianity into a particular historical context o f Germany. Rather, his non-religions interpretation was to renew the Church by restoring the non-religious meaning o f the gospel. Based on the previous discussion o f Bonhoeffers theology, it can be concluded that his intention with the non religious interpretation was far from interpreting the biblical concepts in the manner of fusion o f horizons, suggested by Gadamer, or in the historical context suggested by Heidegger. Bonhoeffer gave a hint of the meaning o f the non-religious interpretation in one o f his letters o f 1944: Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its selfpreservation, as though that were an end in itself, is capable of taking the word o f reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. . . All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be bom anew out of this prayer and action . . . We are not yet out o f the melting-pot, and any attempt to help the Church prematurely to a new expansion o f its organization will merely delay its conversion and purification ,23 The Church must be converted and purified not because the world has come of age but because it needs to restore its original meaning intended by Christ. Bonhoeffer observed that the Church had lost its meaning and become an institutionalized religion. Based on Bonhoeffers definition of maturity, which means a human beings autonomous

23 LPP 300. Italics is to emphasize Bonhoeffers intent behind the re-interpretation of the Bible.

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relationship with God, the Church as a religion remains immature. Clearly, the Church in essence retained its religious garb until our present days. Whether the world has become religionless or not in the present time, Bonhoeffers vision to renew and purify the Church through non-religions interpretation seems to be relevant as long as the Church remains as a religious institution, regardless o f the state of the world. He wrote, During the last year or so Ive come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness o f Christianity. The Christian is not a homo religiosus, but simply a man, as Jesus was a man.24 Certainly, the task o f carrying out the profound this-worldliness of Christianity is not limited to the religionless world. Rather, it is a task for the Church o f all ages to come.

2) The World under Religious Bondage As discussed in length, Bonhoeffer viewed religion as a yoke placed upon humanity. It was also explained that the world is still very mush religious and under bondage o f religion. Humanity must be liberated from the religions o f the world to come into the light of Christ. In fact, the religious nature o f the world makes the non-religious interpretation more relevant than in the context o f the religionless world where it is implied that the bondage of religion was removed by the maturity o f the world itself. The condition of the Israelites in Egypt symbolized the condition o f humanity as a whole. Bonhoeffer pointed out, Israel is delivered out o f Egypt so that it may live before God as Gods people on earth.25 If Egypt is a symbol for the bondage and oppression of religion, Gods intention to liberate humanity from the slavery o f religion becomes clear.

24 LPP 369,21 July 1944. 25 LPP 336, 27 June 1944.

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Religious pluralists will say, Do not bother, because Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists will be saved altogether. All religions are the same in essence. In a sense, all religions, including Christianity, share one thing in common: they oppress people. Their religious rituals, practices, ceremonies, liturgies, rules and regulations oppress instead o f liberating human beings. In religion, the spirit o f God is invoked only for the purpose of those religious rituals and ceremonies, whereas the Christian God is the one who is always in the midst o f human lives. The philosophical truths and the canonized words of the founders of those religions are idolized. Under the thick cover of those religions, humanity cannot see the true light: The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.26 If John perceived that the Jews world was in the darkness of Judaism, should we not see that India is still in the darkness o f Hinduism, the MiddleEast nations in the darkness o f Islam, and the Far East nations in the darkness of Buddhism? In the light of Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation, it can be argued that Jesus intended to liberate the Jews from the bondage o f Judaism by fulfilling the Old Testament Laws and Prophets. He removed all the burden o f the Laws from the Jews once for all. If Jesus came to the world to free people from the religion o f Judaism so that they can see his glory,27 it becomes clear that he also wants to liberate all human beings on the face o f the earth from the bondage o f religion. It is obvious that a religion cannot liberate human beings from the bondage o f other religions. One can argue that Christianity is the true religion and all the others are false, therefore it can free humanity

:6 Jn. 1:5. :7 Jn. 1:14.

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from other religions. However, such an argument is not acceptable to the postmodern mind which treats all religions on equal basis. Therefore, it can be concluded that Christianity can liberate humanity from the bondage o f religion only when it is interpreted non-religiously and the Church takes action based on a non-religious interpretation o f the gospel and the Biblical concepts, as Bonhoeffer suggested. In the previous discussion, it was explained that there are certain similarities in different religions. For instance, most religions are redemptive. Bonhoeffer pointed out the fact that Christianity is mistakenly viewed as a redemptive religion as well: The decisive factor is said to be that in Christianity the hope o f resurrection is proclaimed, and that means the emergence o f a genuine religion o f redemption, the main emphasis now being on the far side o f the boundary drawn by death.28 In fact, redemption in afterlife is a common goal and characteristic o f most religions. However, Bonhoeffer argued that it is the mistake that one views Christianity simply as a redemptive religion: But it seems to me that this is just where the mistake and the danger lie. Redemption now means redemption from cares, distress, fears, and longings, from sin and death, in a better world beyond the grave. But is this really the essential character o f the proclamation o f Christ in the gospels and by Paul? I should say it is not. The difference between the Christian hope of resurrection and the mythological hope is that the former sends a man back to his life on earth in a wholly new way which is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament.29 The similarities between Christianity and other religions disappear when the lens of religion is removed from their eyes and Christ appears in their vision. Healing o f the

28 LPP 336-37, 27 June 1944. 29 Ibid.

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blind should be understood in the same light. Christianity is not a religion for redemption. Rather it carries the message that redemption was made and humanity does not have to long for the redemption. It proclaims to the world filled with religion that their redemption is here for them to enjoy. Salvation is no longer a myth but a reality in Christ. In Christ, there will not be any more bloody religious conflicts in this world. Paul said, There is neither Jews nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.30 Such is the non-religious, liberating and redeeming language of Jesus.31 What separates human beings on the deepest level is religion. We have been witnessing so many wars between nations and people with different faiths that are caused by religious differences. The whole Bible, the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, is filled with the stories o f conflict between nations and people of different faith and religion. We watch the age-old hatred between Jews and Palestinians on television almost everyday. As one watches the human tragedy o f the wars in the Middle East, and other regions all over the world live on television, Christians should ask, What should we do as Christians? Humanity is still in the darkness o f religion, and sadly, Christianity either remains silent as a spectator or becomes an active participant o f religious conflicts. Then, what should or can the Church do to liberate humanity from the bondage and oppression of religion? The Church must first free itself from the chain o f religious bondage through the encounter with Christ in order to liberate the world from religion. It must take off its institutional garments. Practically speaking, organization is needed to manage the Church

30 Gal. 3:28. 3 1 LPP 300. May 1944. 218

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affairs. However, organization should not dictate what the Church should do because the Church is the body o f Christ. Instead, through prayer the Church should find the will o f God. As Moses had to take off his sandals before God, Christianity and the Church must take off their sandals - which signifies the worldly protections and privilege o f religion in order to stand before God as the mature body o f Christ. In summary, the non-religious interpretation is relevant in a religiously pluralistic world for two reasons. First, it was the way Christianity was intended by Jesus who came to liberate humanity from the oppression o f religion. Second, it is more meaningful in todays world where many religions are keeping their grips on humanity. In order to liberate humanity from religious bondage, the Church should first free itself from the religious shackles through a non-religious interpretation of the gospel. The outcome o f such an interpretation is a religionless Christianity which will be discussed next.

Religionless Christianity for the Religiously Pluralistic World


As it has been addressed previously, the non-religious interpretation suggests that the Church take off its religious clothes. It needs to break the chain o f a legalistic and religious interpretation o f the gospel, which tainted the meaning o f incarnation and made the Church another age-old religion. The state o f the Church did not change since the time when Bonhoeffer called for the religionless Christianity. In fact, the Church has been under the law of religion ever since the Church was shaped through the Apostolic Succession. The lofty offices in the Church have been instituted, and the religious rites were invented and refined. Under the protection o f the Roman Empire, the Church succeeded to secure its 219

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religious sphere under firm control. However, such a marriage between religion and politics was not exclusive to Christianity. In fact, virtually all world religions have to collaborate with politics for their security and prosperity. When such a relationship is broken, there will be persecution and oppression instead o f protection from politics. The development process of Christianity is not something unique. Over time, the Church secured its place in the world and became a happy child o f religion. Clearly, by Gods grace the Church can still bear the name of Christ despite its misbehaviors and disobedience it has committed throughout its existence. Church history does not seem to be much different from the stories o f the Old Testament, where Israel is divided and conquered by the neighboring nations. The Catholic Church once formed Christendom, then was divided into Western and Eastern Churches, and was then divided again by the Reformation. Emil Brunner argues that the Church, from the very beginning, took a wrong course. Brunner characterizes the Church of the New Testament as the Ecclesia, a communion o f persons. He views that the Ecclesia later transformed into a religious institution. He says: So far our thesis has proved sound: the Ecclesia o f the New Testament is a communion of persons and nothing else. It is the Body o f Christ, but not an institution. Therefore it is not yet what it later became as the result o f a slow, steady, hence unnoticed process o f transformation: it is not yet a Church. The Church - firstly the early catholic, then the neo-catholic Roman Church - is distinguished from the Ecclesia above all in this - that is no longer primarily a communion o f persons, but rather an institution, and - particularly in its Roman Catholic form - understands itself as such.32

32 Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding o f the Church (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 74.

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Protestant, the Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Churches can be categorized as religious institutions. Instead of choosing the narrow gate o f Christ, they took the wide gate and the broader road of religion that leads to their corruption.33 One might argue that the Church has grown through its division and diversification. However, the Church in a religiously pluralistic world cannot afford to insist that the division o f the Church is Gods providence for its prosperity and growth. Without being able to show the world that the Church is truly one body of Christ where all branches are connected together in love, the Church will have to remain as one o f those religions in the religiously pluralistic world. At least we should be honest about the Churchs wrongdoings. The Church as religion hides its own problems and weaknesses from the world in order to pretend to be holy. On the other hand, the world come o f age knows its problems and weaknesses and attempts to resolve them openly and responsibly without God. Bonhoeffers bold suggestion for religionless Christianity is the way for the Church to live a life of Christ, because that is the narrow gate Christ chose. Religious Christianity has been spending much effort to erect religious monuments to glorify God. However, in reality, those accomplishments seem to glorify none other than the Christian institution itself. Bonhoeffer saw that God is in the midst o f the godless world suffering for the sake of humanity.34 Jesus was bom in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn.351 cannot imagine that the One who has chosen the most lowly place in the world as his birthplace would choose those magnificent Church buildings as his

33 Ml 7:13. 34 LPP 361-2, 18 July 1944. 35 Lk. 2:7.

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dwelling place. With regard to the Churchs property, Bonhoeffer asserted, The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need.36 The enlightened people can now see more clearly the falsehood and artificial nature of the dogmatic Church. People can observe the hypocritical nature o f the Church as a religious institution. They no longer blindly believe what is spoken in the Church. Many Christians left their churches because o f an unbearable atmosphere created by tradition and the worldly conflicts existing within the Church. Tne rusty dogmas replaced the living truth o f the gospel of Christ. Bonhoeffer boldly suggested that the liturgies and the Apostles Creed be revised for the renewed Church.37 To face the challenge of the religious world, the Church must become a community ruled by Christ. It cannot afford to remain as a religious institution. The only way for the Church to serve Christ faithfully and fully is to be bom again in Spirit as the kingdom o f Christ in reality here and now. In Chapter 9, the nature o f the Church for the religiously pluralistic world will be discussed in detail.

The Church for the Religious Others


Bonhoeffer was advocating costly discipleship through the idea o f the Church for others. In my view, the Church for others means the praxis of the Church. The gospel is not merely for our understanding o f Gods plan for salvation. Rather, the gospel is the way o f our life, the truth to live and the life for eternity. His understanding o f transcendence is not metaphysical but experiential and practical. God is transcendent in

36 LPP 382. 37 LPP 383.

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our neighbor. In other words, God, who is transcendent, made himself reachable through others as the one who suffers with them. Incarnation means that Christ is here today to share the suffering o f humankind. He helps us in our suffering as the weak and powerless God. Therefore, being a Christian means sharing the suffering o f Christ for the sake of others. Bonhoeffer said: Our relation to God is a new life in existence for others through participation in the being o f Jesus. The transcendental is not infinite and unattainable tasks, but the neighbor who is within reach in any given situation.38 Ray S. Anderson explores Bonhoeffers concept o f Gods transcendence in the neighbor in terms o f historical transcendence. Anderson says: [T]he structure of historical transcendence which loomed so large in Bonhoeffers thought in the correspondence with Bethge and published in Letters and Papers From Prison, particularly in the concepts of the transcendence o f God as the beyond in out midst and the neighbor who is within our reach, is a theology of historical transcendence, as Bethge himself has already indicated. Consequently, I would have to say that Bonhoeffer did indeed explicate this theology without reducing the problematic of historical transcendence, and thus retained its inner logic.39 From a practical sense, Anderson explains the nature o f historical transcendence from the perspective o f eschaton: Thus, the kind o f love which we are to have for one who has hostility towards us, or who may even have injured us or one that we love, is not a human feeling which we can generate as a capacity to show affection, but it is the recognition that the enemy is also our friend, considered from the standpoint o f eschaton. In other words, the commandment o f Jesus was eschatological in the most practical sense, for it will be tragic not to see that our enemy is also our friend, and to thereby seek reconciliation. But the concrete bond for such an assertion is contained in the historical transcendence o f God himself. For Jesus teaches us that in an action, or

38 LPP 381. 39 Ray S. Anderson, Historical Transcendence and the Reality o f God: A Christological Critique (Grand Rapids, MI: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1975), 95.

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non-action, towards the criminal in prison, the sick, the poor, the starving, and the homeless is bound up with our relation with him. As you did it to one o f the least o f these my brethren, you did it to me.40 Bonhoeffer claimed that the Church must share in the secular problems o f ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving.41 The religious Church dominates people and other religions. It intimidates people with its dogmas and sophisticated religious rites. Rather than serving, it wants to be served. Bonhoeffer continued to protest against the religious Church in the following term, In particular, our own church will have to take the field against the vices o f hubris , power-worship, envy, and humbug, as the roots o f all evil.42 Those things can still be observed in todays churches. Several years ago, several hundred pastors from overseas countries came to California to attend a seminar for healing ministry in order to learn how to exercise Gods healing power. The purpose of their trip was for Church growth. The desire o f their congregations to have more powerful pastors with spiritual gifts forced them to come to the seminar. It can be imagined that they were in a somewhat desperate situation. Although their situation is understandable, one has to wonder if those pastors really believed that healing ministry is something that can be learned in a similar fashion as in a medical school. Besides, did Jesus heal the sick to increase the membership o f his church or to recruit more disciples? On the contrary, Jesus is seen to have sent the healed away from him although they wanted to follow Jesus.43 Luke recorded that the number o f believers increased daily

40 Ibid. 298. 4 1 LPP 382-82. 42 LPP 383. 43 Lk., 8:38-39.

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because of what the Jerusalem church did, not just because a pastor healed some o f the sick.44 Jesus healed the sick out o f genuine compassion without having any other purpose attached. For another example, there are some churches where Christians are trained for the tongues. One has to ask if a spiritual gift is something that can be attained through a training program. It sounds similar to what Hindu gurus yoga practice to attain wisdom. We keep hearing about the manifestation o f the Holy Spirit through the gifts o f laughing, rolling, and holding poisonous snakes with bare hands. Those so-called gifts are truly absurd. Certainly, Bonhoeffer would have categorized them as humbugs, as religious tricks. The Church for others will participate in the suffering o f the world. Whether the one who suffers is an individual, family, village, ethnic group, or nation, the Church will be there to participate in that suffering with Christ, who is the Lord o f the world. Christ is the Lord who suffers for all humankind and for the whole world. The Church should not remain as a spectator any longer. The Good Samaritan story reminds the Church what it should do. The story is not just for individual Christians but also for the Church. However, what does it mean to be the Church for other religions? First, the Church should participate in the suffering o f Christ from the perspective of the human soul. It should be able to see the oppressive condition under which humanity suffers. Moses recorded, The Lord said, I have indeed seen the misery o f my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because o f their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their

44 Ac. 2:44-47.

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suffering.45 The Exodus event can be interpreted in light o f the salvation o f humanity from religious oppression which is symbolized by the slavery under Pharaoh. According to this passage, it is clear that God is concerned about the current human condition under many religions. This opinion will certainly raise a serious opposition from the camp of religious pluralism. However, one cannot deny that many religious people, including Christians, are still practicing superstition under the cover o f their religions. Superstition is a human beings invocation of God or gods to satisfy his/her worldly needs. It can be argued that any worship, including Christians, initiated by human needs, whether spiritual or not, is a superstitious act. True worship is human response to Gods calling, and it is an obedient act. Superstition is a sign o f ones separation from God in which he/she suffers spiritual blindness and deftness. Therefore, the Church for religious others should share the compassion o f Christ for others who suffer spiritual affliction under religions of this world. In summary, it can be concluded that Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is relevant to Christianity and the Church in todays world. The gospel needs to be understood non-religiously in order to bring a fuller life to the Church and Christians. The Church should free itself by understanding the non-religious meaning o f the gospel, and be able to liberate human beings under the oppression o f religions o f this world. Today, many Christians call for a second Reformation to renew the Church. However, convincingly, what the Church needs today is not another Reformation but a Re-birth by the Spirit on the new theological foundation o f non-religious interpretation o f Christianity. The Church must not simply understand but live the gospel. The praxis

45 Ex. 3:7.

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o f the Church begins with a non-religious interpretation of the gospel. In order to establish the goal o f the Churchs re-birth, one first needs to discover the current state of the Church. How far is the present Church off the mark o f the gospel intended by Christ? The answer will be given in the following chapter.

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CHAPTER 8 THE CHURCH IN ADOLESCENCE

In the previous chapter, the concept o f non-religious interpretation was presented as a way for the Church to face the challenge o f the religious plurality o f the world. In order to expand the horizon of non-religious interpretation, it is necessary to critique the current state o f the Church, which is situated in a world o f many religions. If the Church wants to serve a world come o f age, it is clear that the Church itself must become mature. For the purpose of the present discussion, the meaning of adulthood, Miindigkeit, will be defined in relation to the Church. Then, based on the definition of adulthood for the Church, the nature of the contemporary Church will be analyzed in order to determine its current stage o f development. From this analysis, I will conclude that the Church is still in its adolescence. 1

The Meaning of Adulthood, Miindigkeit


Clifford J. Green summarizes the essence o f Bonhoeffers understanding of Miindigkeit in terms o f human autonomy from God, human self-understanding, and human achievement.2 Just as the world come o f age became autonomous from God and learned how to manage its own affairs responsibly, the Church come o f age should also

1 The term adolescence is not borrowed from Bonhoeffer. Readers should note that it is the authors own term to describe the immature nature of the Church which has yet to come of age. The adolescence of the Church includes its being self-centered, territorial, and close-minded to others. 2 Green, Bonhoeffer, A Theology o f Sociality, 248-58.

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be able to manage its own affairs without the working hypothesis o f God.3 Similarly, as the world come of age was enlightened by its own self-understanding and became capable o f achieving its own goals, the Church come o f age should as well be enlightened by knowing its true identity. By being the non-religious community o f Christ, the Church come of age should be able to fulfill its tasks as commissioned by the Lord. However, Green arguably misses an important element o f Bonhoeffers concept of adulthood, which is the concept of freedom for others. The present analysis will include some other aspects o f Miindigkeit based on the metaphor o f marriage used by the Apostle Paul, which will be discussed first.

1) The Metaphor of Marriage Bonhoeffer, as discussed earlier, defined the adulthood o f the world in terms o f human autonomy from God. Autonomous human beings can manage the important problems o f life without God. That is not because God is dead, but because God allows human beings to manage their lives as adults. Just as parents endeavor not to nag or oppress their children, God allows freedom and self-determination for his children. Human autonomy does not mean God has left the world alone. Rather, God is closely related to humanity through the incarnate Christ, the Lord o f the world and the Church. The world can live without a God o f abstraction, but not without God who is seen in Christ the living Lord. Yet, the Church has a special relationship with Christ; Christ is its bridegroom. In this sense, marriage can be seen as a metaphor o f the

3 LPP 360, 16 July 1944.

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Churchs relation to Christ. The marital relation is between adults. Therefore, in order for the Church to be the bride o f Christ it needs to become an adult. Regarding marriage between a man and a woman, Genesis tells us, For this reason a man will leave this father and mother and be united to his wife, and will become one flesh.4 The primeval unity o f the first man and woman is the meaning of marriage. About Gods intimate relationship with them, the Scripture says, the man and his wife heard the sound o f the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool o f the day.5 God provided their daily needs by putting them in the Garden o f Eden.6 However, at the same time, they were commissioned by God to work it [the Garden] and take care of it,7 and, that aspect is what is expected from the adulthood o f humankind. In light of the world come o f age, what does the Church come o f age mean, and how can it be concluded that the current Church remains in adolescence? The adulthood o f a person is recognized through marriage. In Korean tradition, one is not treated as an adult until he or she gets married and establishes a new home. The Bible tells us that marriage means ones leaving his or her parents and being united with a partner. What does that mean for the Church? Paul explained theologically: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head o f the wife as Christ is the head o f the church, his body, o f which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husband, love your wives, just as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleaning her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love

4 Ge. 2:24. 5 Ge. 3:8. 6 Ge. 2:15. 7 Ibid.

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their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just Christ does the church - for we are members o f his body. For that reason a man will leave his father and mother . . . the two will become on flesh. This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.8 Preachers have used the text mainly to explain the biblical ideals of the relation between the husband his wife. Everett Ferguson also observed that the relation of Christ and the Church is presented as the model for human marriage.9 However, a more careful analysis will discover that Pauls real emphasis was on the marital relationship between Christ and the Church; he used the human relationship o f marriage as a metaphor to describe the nature of the Churchs relation to Christ. Based on Pauls interpretation of Genesis 2:24, it can be said that the adulthood o f the Church is attained through its marriage with Christ. According to Bonhoeffer, Christ was forsaken by the Father.1 0 On the cross Jesus was forsaken by the Father for his love toward humankind. The love of Jesus is the love o f the bridegroom toward his Church and the world. Extending from Pauls interpretation o f Genesis 2:24, it can be said that Jesus had to leave the Father to be united with the Church and the world. From this we can deduce that neither a more religious worship service nor the deeper religiosity o f an individual can make the Church mature. Rather, the maturity, Miindigkeit, o f the Church can only come from its marital relationship with Christ.

8 Eph, 5:22-33. 9 Everett Ferguson, The Church o f Christ, A Biblical Ecclesiology fo r Today (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 115 10 LPP 360, 16 July 1944.

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However, what does it mean for the Church to be in a marital relationship with Christ? The text points out several aspects o f the Churchs relation to Christ as his bride. First, the Church come of age should submit to the Lord. Second, it should be in union with Christ. Third, it must respect Christ as its head. As Paul pointed out, it is a profound mystery that the Church gains freedom in the marital relationship with the Lord by submitting itself to the Lord.

The Church' s Submission to Christ The Church attains its adulthood through its submission to Christ. One can truly appreciate the virtue o f obedience only when he or she becomes an adult. It is only when one becomes a parent that he or she seems to be able to appreciate the love o f his or her own parents. Likewise, it is only the Church come o f age which can truly appreciate the grace and love of God. Under the title The Pharisee 1 1 in his Ethics , Bonhoeffer treated the issue of the ethical freedom of human beings by interpreting the meeting o f Jesus with the Pharisee: It is in Jesus meeting with the Pharisee that the old and the new are most clearly contrasted. The correct understanding o f this meeting is o f the greatest significance for the understanding o f the gospel as a whole. The Pharisee is not an adventitious historical phenomenon o f a particular time. He is the man to whom only the knowledge o f good and evil has come to be of importance in his entire life; in other words, he is simply the man of disunion.1 2 According to Bonhoeffer, the Pharisee represents the state o f humanity disunited from God. In that state, the Pharisees utmost important concern is the knowledge of

1 1 The Pharisee is a collective term Bonhoeffer used. 12 E 30.

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good and evil - human morality. Ethical questions and moral decisions occupy the life of the Pharisee. Bonhoeffer continued to analyze the characteristics o f the Pharisee: The Pharisee is that extremely admirable man who subordinates his entire life to his knowledge o f good and evil and is as severe a judge of himself as o f his neighbor to the honor o f God, whom he humbly thanks for this knowledge. For the Pharisee every moment o f life becomes a situation of conflict in which he has to choose between good and evil. For the sake of avoiding any lapse his entire thought is strenuously devoted night and day to the anticipation of the whole immense range o f possible conflicts, to the reaching o f a decision in these conflicts, and to the determination o f his own choice.1 3 Not leaving those ethical questions to God, the Pharisee has to determine his own choice in the conflict between good and evil. However, Jesus never allows himself to be drawn into such conflicts. He speaks with freedom, remaining true, and is not suffocated by the law o f logical alternative. In this freedom Jesus leaves all concern for lawfulness behind him.1 4 In line with Bonhoeffer, one can claim that the source o f Jesus adulthood is his freedom to submit himself to the will of God. Regarding this, Bonhoeffer says: The freedom o f Jesus is not the arbitrary choice o f one amongst innumerable possibilities; it consists on the contrary precisely in the complete simplicity o f His action, which is never confronted by a plurality o f possibilities, conflicts or alternatives, but always only by one thing. This one thing Jesus calls the will o f God.1 5 The will o f God is the life of Jesus. He lives and acts not by the knowledge of good and evil but by the will of God. Bonhoeffer concluded that in the freedom of Jesus the origin is recovered: in it there is established the freedom and the simplicity of all

1 3 E 30-31. U E 31-33. 15 E 33.

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action.1 6 In human relationships, without love, submission becomes an act of subordination which brings humiliation and shame to the one who is subordinated. On the contrary, in a loving relationship o f husband and wife, the wifes submission to her husband is an act of love which brings joy to both o f them. Furthermore, Paul prefaces his statement with regard to the submission o f the wife to the husband by speaking of mutual submission. In a sense, Christ also submitted himself to serve the Church. From the perspective of the Churchs marital relation to Christ, its submission to Christ is an act of a loving wife towards her husband who was forsaken1 7 by his Father in order to be united with his wife, the Church. From the freedom of love toward its bridegroom, the Church come of age, in its obedience, submits itself to Christ. The Church in Union with Christ The Church married to Christ is in union with him. In a more practical sense it means that the Church come of age knows the will o f God through Christ, as Christ knows the will of the Father. For Jesus said, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 1 8 Ray S. Anderson suggests the inner logic as a way to discern Gods will: Another direction the mind can take is to seek to penetrate into the structure o f things and events as they are experienced in order to discern the nature o f things as revealed through our encounter with them. In this case, the mind seeks to understand the intrinsic structure o f reality as it presents itself to us through experience. When we do this, we are attempting to discern the inner logic o f reality as we encounter it as contrasted with the formal logic o f a mind that abstracts away from

16 E 34. 1 7 Bonhoeffers way of understanding the incarnate Christ in the midst of the world. 18 John 15:15.

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sensory experience and retreats into a timeless and contentless world o f ideas and concepts.1 9 Anderson rightly says that Gods revelation should be understood through the inner logic of the intrinsic structure of things and events. The Church come of age should be able to discern Gods will through Christ like a wife knows her husband intimately. This intimate experiential level o f knowledge between husband and wife can be viewed as the inner logic o f the union between the Church and Christ. On the subject of unity between Jesus and the Father, Bonhoeffer argued: Jesus answer arises from unity with God, with the origin, and from the overcoming o f the disunion o f man with God. the Pharisee and Jesus are speaking on totally different levels. That is why their words so strikingly fail to make contact, and that is why Jesus answers do not appear to be answers at all, but rather attacks o f his own against the Pharisees, which is what they, in fact, are.20 Jesus speaks the language of adulthood whereas the Pharisee utters the language o f adolescence. Jesus union with the Father makes him speak the language o f adulthood, but the Pharisees separation from God makes him remain in adolescence. In human life, communication between an adult and an adolescent is quite difficult because each is speaking from a different plane. Likewise, in his meeting with Jesus, the Pharisee could not understand Jesus language. The Churchs union with Christ also means that the Church shares the life and reality o f Christ in this world. The Church come o f age shares life not only among its

19 Ray S. Anderson, The Soul o f Ministry (Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster John Knox Press, 1997),
11 .

:o E 32.

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members but also with Jesus Christ whose reality is present in this world. Bonhoeffer understood the presence o f Christ in the Church in terms o f the Word. He said: Just as Christ is present as Word and in the Word, as sacrament and in the sacrament, so he is also present as Church and in the Church. His presence in Word and sacrament is related to his presence in the Church as reality is related to form. Christ is the Church by virtue o f his pro me being. Between his ascension and his coming again, the Church is his form and indeed his only form. That he is in heaven at the right o f God does not contradict this; on the contrary, this is what makes possible his presence in and as the Church. What does it mean that Christ as Word is also Church? It means that the Logos o f God has existence in space and time in and as the Church. Christ the Word is spiritually and bodily present. The Logos is not merely the weak word o f human teaching, doctrina, but it is the powerful Word of the Creator. He speaks and thereby creates the form o f the Church. The Church is thus not only receiver o f the Word o f revelation, but is itself revelation and Word o f God. Only in so far as it is itself Word of God, can it understand the Word o f God. Revelation can be understood only on the basis o f revelation.2 1 According to Bonhoeffer, Christ as the Word creates the form of the Church. He seems to v iew the Church as a creation o f the Logos in the same way God created the entire universe with his spoken Word.22 Based on Bonhoeffers argument, the Church come of age does not merely proclaim the gospel as a story o f Jesus Christ, but rather proclaims the gospel o f Christ by sharing his life and living together with him as his bodily form. The Church possesses the creative power o f the Word, which not only reveals the love of God but also creates the kingdom o f God with individuals transformed into the image o f God. By living the life of Christ in his image, the Church come o f age itself becomes the revelation o f God.

:i CC 58. Ge.l; Jn.l.

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Christ as the head o f the Church


The Church come o f age claims no lordship o f the Church itself. It acknowledges that the Lord of the Church is Christ. It knows that it is Jesus Christ who built the Church on the rock of his disciples. The Church come o f age knows that the church growth seminars or the church growth consultants are not the cause o f church growth, but that it is rather the Holy Spirit who has been working with the Church since the day of Pentecost. The Church come o f age recognizes and respects Christ as the head o f every church on the face o f the earth. Though there are many different forms and branches of the Church, there is only one head of the Church, Jesus Christ. The Churchs true union with Jesus should bring unity among churches because all churches, as the members o f Christs body, must be connected together under one head. Therefore, ecumenism should not remain as an ideal concept in the Church come of age. Ecumenism as a movement cannot unite the Church as one body o f Christ. The Church should recognize that it cannot be unified without first being united with Christ. It must be drawn together in order to build one body o f Christ. Unsurprisingly, most Christians desire unity among all Christians. However, it seems to have been an impossible task to unite the Church under one Lord, because the true unity o f the Church as a whole is possible only when all members o f the Church recognize Christ as their head. The Church come o f age does not claim the superiority o f its denomination or form against others. It knows that it cannot remain divided under one head and one husband. In that sense, Paul urged the Church,

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Make every effort to keep the unity o f the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father o f all, who is over all and through all and in all.23 One might try to justify division o f the Church with a concept o f diversity in the religious marketplace. However, such a claim only appears to be a beautification covering the scars o f the Churchs division. Bonhoeffer said, There is only one Church, and that is the Church of faith, which is governed solely by the word of Jesus C hrist. . . The Thirty Years War finally laid bare the political disunity o f the west which had resulted from the schism o f faith. The Peace o f Westphalia confirmed and ratified the confessional schism as the fate and inheritance of the western world.24 Cross-denominational and ecumenical dialogs are being made more frequently in recent years. However, all the churches still need to be connected in a real sense in order to show the world that the Church is truly one body of Christ united with each other in the love o f Christ and the creative power o f the Holy Spirit. Just as there is no building that does not have its building blocks connected with each other, all the churches, regardless o f its form, should be connected to form one body o f Christ in order to claim that the Church has come o f age. One might consider this claim too ideal. However, as Paul declared, one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father are not ideal nor abstract concepts but rather Gods reality which is revealed in Christs incarnation.

23 Eph. 4:3-5. 24 E 96.

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2) Freedom for Others The Church come of age has the ability to exercise freedom for the sake o f others. The Bonhoeffers Stations on the way to Freedom is considered to be one o f his most important poems, and shows the steps Bonhoeffer himself took to achieve that freedom of the spirit. Edwin H. Robertson points out such freedom o f the spirit enabled Bonhoeffer to write those liberating letters.25 What does Bonhoeffer mean by freedom? He set out four steps to attain freedom: discipline, action, suffering, and death. From this line of thought, one can see that his freedom is quite different from the freedom in the political sense. It is not the same freedom for which the founders of America have fought. His freedom was the one that Christ attained through his ministry on earth. By going through those four steps, one can have a better understanding of what he meant by freedom. First, in his poem, Bonhoeffer spoke o f discipline as the condition for freedom. Freedom means that human beings are liberated from their passions, longings, and desires for worldly things: If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things to govern your soul and your senses, for fear that your passions and longing may lead you away from the path you should follow. Chaste your mind and your body, and both in subjection, obediently, steadfastly seeking the aim set before them; only through discipline may a man learn to be free.26

25 Robertson and Bowden, The Way to Freedom , II. 26 LPP 370, 21 July 1944.

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Clearly, Jesus freedom from temptation serves as a model for discipline. However, it is only the first station on the road to freedom. One must notice that this poem o f Bonhoeffer follows his discussion o f this-worldly Christianity. He said: [By this-worldly Christianity] I dont mean the shallow and banal thisworldliness of the enlightened, the busy, the comfortable, or the lascivious, but the profound this-worldliness, characterized by discipline and the constant knowledge of death and resurrection, I think Luther lived a thisworldly life in this sense.27 Discipline characterizes a profound form of worldliness, in contrast to the shallow and banal form o f worldliness. It can only be understood from the perspective of obedience that is explained in Discipleship. He said: Here the gracious call o f Jesus Christ to discipleship becomes a strict law: Do this! Stop that! Come out o f the boat to Jesus! Jesus says to anyone who uses their faith or lack o f faith to excuse their acts o f disobedience to his call: First obey, do the external works, let go o f what binds you, give up what us separating you from Gods will!28 Thus discipline as the first step for freedom is to clear up all obstacles o f this world between God and ourselves so that we can have an unhindered relationship with him, in which we can gain our freedom. The second step toward freedom is action. Freedom comes only through deeds, not through thoughts taking wing,29 Bonhoeffer wrote in his poem. In other words, freedom is not an abstract concept but a concrete reality we must possess as Christians. Freedom also means the simplicity o f action based on Gods will. He said: The freedom o f Jesus is not the arbitrary choice o f one amongst innumerable possibilities; it consists on the contrary precisely in the

*' LPP 369, 21 July 1944. 28 D 66. 29 LPP 371,21 July 1944.

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complete simplicity of His action, which is never confronted by a plurality of possibilities, conflicts or alternatives, but always only by one thing. This one thing Jesus calls the will o f God. He says that to do the will is His meat. This will of God is His life. He lives and acts not by the knowledge of good and evil but by the will o f God. In it the origin is recovered; in it there is established the freedom and the simplicity o f all action.30 He further asserted, It is the call o f liberation, the call to simplicity, and to conversion; it is the call which nullifies the old knowledge o f the apostasy and which imparts the new knowledge of Jesus, that knowledge which is entirely contained in the doing o f the will o f God.31 The action o f simplicity to do the will o f God in obedience is the way to freedom. However, what is it to do the will o f God? Bonhoeffers next step to freedom is suffering. His poem continues: A change has come indeed, Your hands, so strong and active, are bound; in helplessness now you see your action is ended; you sigh in relief, your cause committing to stronger hands; so now you may rest contented. Only for one blissful moment could you draw near to touch freedom; then. That it might be perfected in glory, you gave it to God.32 It appears that Bonhoeffer is describing the suffering o f Jesus. Bonhoeffer saw that true freedom lies in God when human beings can commit themselves for the suffering o f others. In a subsequent letter, he briefly expanded his thought: Not only action, but also suffering is a way to freedom. In suffering, the deliverance consists in our being allowed to put the matter out o f our own hands into Gods hands. In this sense death is the crowning o f human freedom. Whether the human deed is a matter o f faith or not depends on whether we understand our suffering as an extension o f our action and a completion of freedom. I think that is very important and very comforting.33

30 E 33-34. 3 1 E 39. 3: i LPP 371. 33 LPP 375, 28 July 1944.

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Suffering is an extension o f our action, which is to do Gods will. We come to our true freedom through death, which is the final station on the road to eternal freedom. Freedom, how long we have sought thee in discipline, action, and suffering; dying, we now may behold thee revealed in the Lord.34

3) This Worldly Christianity and the Secret Discipline Based on the present discussion o f the Church come o f age thus far, one might raise a question regarding the religious aspects of the Church and o f individual Christian lives. If the Church come of age claims to be non-religious, is there any place in Christianity for the religious activities and symbols such as worship, sacraments, hymn, and prayer? Bonhoeffer, in speaking o f a religionless Christianity, already put the same question to himself, What is the place o f worship and prayer in a religionless situation?35 He then tried to formulate an answer in his dialogue with Eberhard Bethge, Does the secret discipline, or alternatively the difference (which I have suggested to you before) between penultimate and ultimate, take on a new importance here?36 Bethge in tum responded by asking whether there is any ground left for the Church, or whether that ground has gone for good.37 Bethge later posed another question to Bonhoeffer, What is worshipping idols? Is it the fact that for some people there is still something that cannot be discussed, sacrosanct, something different from worship? . . . What about the hymn . . .? In answering Bethges question regarding religious act, Bonhoeffer

34 Ibid. 35 LPP 281, 30 April 1944. 36 Ibid. 37 LPP 329, 8 June 1944.

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said, The religious act is always something partial; faith is something whole, involving the whole o f ones life. Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life.38 He further asserted: During the last year or so Ive come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness o f Christianity. The Christian is not a homo religiosus, but simply a man, as Jesus was a man - in contrast, shall we say, to John the Baptist. I dont mean the shallow and banal thisworldliness o f the enlightened, the busy, the comfortable, or the lascivious, but the profound this-worldliness, characterized by discipline and the constant knowledge o f death and resurrection . . . By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in lifes duties, problems, success and failures, experiences and perplexes. In doing so we throw ourselves completely into the arms o f God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those o f God in the world - watching with Christ in Gethsemane.39 From this, it is clear that Bonhoeffers main focus was on this-worldliness of Christianity. Based on his understanding o f religion as something partial, it can be deduced that he must have considered this-worldly or religionless Christianity as something holistic in nature. With his religionless Christianity, did Bonhoeffer mean to abandon traditional worship, prayer, and liturgy o f the Church? Bethge answers that this was not the case, While Bonhoeffer developed his ideas on the nonreligious interpretation o f Christianity in a world come o f age, he never considered abandoning his connection with the traditional words and customs o f the church.40 However, the problem for the interpreters o f Bonhoeffer has been the fact that he did not leave a clear

38 LPP 362, 18 July 1944. 39 LPP 369-70, 21 July 1944. 40 Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer A Biography (Revised Edition), (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000), 881.

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answer to those questions of the new form o f the Church and the meaning o f genuine worship41 for the world come of age. Bethge says in this regard: It is a disturbing thing for the church that, at the end o f his theological activity, Bonhoeffer did not give a completed ecclesiology that we could hold on to, but left this, o f all things, entirely open. The theologians o f the church feel the lack of this, and canon lawyers immediately pick up on the suggestions that are impossible for a Volkskisrche. This difficulty is not only due to the fact that Bonhoeffer did not write more than a tiny fragment on the subject, he himself saw that it would be an arduous undertaking to give a theological account o f the nature o f the church, its liturgy and communal life, on the basis o f his new ideas. He viewed his suggestions on arcane discipline and its consequences only as pointing in a certain direction.42 According to Bethge, the origin o f the arcane or secret discipline is the early Christian practice of excluding the uninitiated, the unbaptized catechumens, from the second part o f the liturgy in which the communion was celebrated and the Nicene Creed sung.43 Regarding the arcane discipline Bethge says: There is no doubt that Bonhoeffer regarded an arcane discipline as the indispensable counterpoint o f nonreligious interpretation. Much to his own annoyance, he was not yet able to resolve this problem in a theologically satisfactory way. When he developed his new perspective he immediately raised the question of what was going to happen to the worship service, although not in the spirit of dismantling or even getting rid o f it. On the contrary, he was concerned to preserve - as he explicitly states - a genuine worship.44 Clyde E. Fant concludes from his extensive study on the secret discipline, In fact, the arcane discipline is nothing other than an extension o f Bonhoeffers lifelong insistence that Christians should fall silent before the Word until they perceive its meaning

4 1 LPP 328. 42 Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer A Biography, 887. 43 Ibid., 881. 44 Ibid.

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for us today. Indeed, the understanding o f the Word is not for our own personal edification alone but for our life in the world, to which it was directed and over which it reigns.45 On the other hand, Larry Rasmussen says: Bonhoeffer sees the church o f the future as a kind o f low-profile order in the world as the world-come-of-age. In this order, arcane discipline is the focused inner concentration. Bonhoeffers continuing fascination with Gandhi was in part because he wanted to learn from Gandhi the disciplines for a discipleship community .. . Arcane discipline means that worship in a world-come-of-age is not for everyone. It is for small groups o f clearly committed Christians who comprise an intense community on the basis of their intense loyalty to Christ; and their expression o f the meaning o f that loyalty as members of the one Body is communicated with one another in worship, but not to and with all. Worship as arcane discipline is not for the streets, the posters, the media, or the masses.46 An exhaustive study of the arcane discipline is not necessary for the present discussion. However, it can be concluded that Bonhoeffer clearly intended to preserve the genuine worship for the world come of age, which he described in terms o f the arcane discipline o f the silence before the Word, and o f an intense Christian community. In addition, the hidden righteousness, the hidden prayer, and the hidden nature o f the devout life, described as the aspects of the costly grace,41 can be considered as another nature of the arcane discipline. Therefore, the Church come o f age, based on Bonhoeffers understanding of the genuine worship, should know how to practice the arcane discipline until the time o f the coming of Jesus.

45 Clyde E Fant, Worldly Preaching; Lectures on Homiletics (New York: Crossroad, 1991), 77. 46 Larry Rasmussen, Worship in a World-Come-of-Age in A Bonhoeffer Legacy, ed. A. J. Klassen (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), 278. 47 D 152-68.

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4) The Church that can discern Jesus does not care much about non-essential matters. Like Jesus, an adult should be able to distinguish the essentials from the non-essentials. On the contrary, an adolescent is preoccupied with non-essential matters o f life such as external appearance, possession, fame, popularity, and power. An adult should be free from all those nonessentials. Bonhoeffer said: Jesus casts aside all the distinctions which the Pharisee so laboriously maintains; Jesus bids his disciples eat o f the ears of the field on the Sabbath, although they would certainly not have starved without them; he heals a sick woman on the Sabbath, although she has been ill for eighteen years already and could certainly have waited a day longer (the Pharisee, too, has left room in his system for the genuine case o f emergency);. . . 48 In line with Bonhoeffers thought, Ray S. Anderson describes Sabbath in the following terms: the Sabbath rest does not mean the cessation o f Gods activity, but the finishing of his work, the bringing to completion o f the original Word o f creation.49 In other words, God continues his work on the Sabbath for the sake o f the world. The Sabbath is made for humankind, not humankind for Sabbath.50 In this regard, many churches still maintain a legalistic view on the Sabbath and other church matters such as the order of worship, the layout o f sanctuary, and the church music. However, the Church come o f age can discern what is the true source o f its life, and what is essential for the Church to do the work o f Christ and to bring life to the world.

48 E 33. 49 Ray S. Anderson, The Soul o f Ministry (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 64. 50 Ibid.

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Having the characteristics of a Church in adulthood defined, the current state of the Church needs to be analyzed in order to determine whether the Church is presently mature or not. The title of the first chapter o f a book planned by Bonhoeffer, A Stocktaking o f Christianity , was going to deal with this issue.51 He was mostly concerned about the menace of organization by which he apparently meant the Church as an institution serving the religionlessness o f human beings who have come o f age. Pietism was seen as a last attempt to maintain evangelical Christianity as a religion; the attempt to rescue the Church as an institution for salvation. The theology o f revelation, the Churchs ineffectiveness on the masses of society, the Church on defensive and not taking risks for others, and public morals. Therefore, the following discussion can be considered as an extension of Bonhoeffers stocktaking o f Christianity.

Self-centeredness of an Adolescent Church


In the previous analysis o f the Churchs adulthood, it was concluded that the Church come of age is in a marital relationship with Christ. If the Church is not related to Christ as his submissive wife, it can be considered to be in adolescence. In a family situation, adolescent teens often oppose their parents because o f the development o f their ego. Adolescents are often characterized as self-centered, stubborn, and rebellious. Therefore, a church that can only ask self-oriented questions and make decisions directed only towards self-maintenance can be called an adolescent church. Edward H. Hammett says, The traditional institutional church is in trouble. It has become more introverted

5 1 LPP 380, July/ August 1944.

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that focused on reaching the world.52 The self-serving and self-maintaining nature o f the Church is evidence that it remains in its adolescence, because the Church come o f age serves Christ and his world rather than serving itself For example, todays mainline Protestant churches are managed by pastors, elders and many committees as well as subcommittees. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be uncommon that the majority o f those committees are organized for the self-maintenance of the Church. Here is an example from the organizational structure o f a large Church in Los Angeles; under the session, there is a worship committee, mission committee, education committee, committee for the lay-people, general management committee, financial committee, planning committee, personnel committee, fund-raising committee, and election committee. As this example illustrates, most o f those committees are working together to maneuver the modem day Ark, the Church. Most activities are organized to serve the congregation by satisfying their needs. The ministries focus is on the care o f its own members. O f course, nurturing its members is an important function of the Church, as a bride prepares herself for her husband. However, nurturing the congregation is not the end o f the Churchs responsibility. If a church is so busy to satisfy the needs o f congregation that it loses its identity o f Christs wife, it can be called an adolescent church. Changing the analogy, a self-focused church is like a passenger boat

5: Edward H. Hammett, Ataking the Church Work, Converting the Church fo r the 21 Century (Macon, Georgia: Smyth and Helwys Publishing Inc., 1997), 5.

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full o f its own crewmembers and having very little room for passengers. The egocentricity of a church is a clear indication o f its adolescence. One can argue that in the previous example there is a mission committee to carry out the Great Commission o f the Lord. However, the Great Mission was not commissioned to a specific committee but to the whole Church. Thomas Torrance said, mission belongs to the nature of the Church.53 Charles Van Engen advocates that the Church should focus mainly on mission. Van Engen understands Bonhoeffers concept of the Church for others primarily from the context o f mission.54 However, Bonhoeffers concept does not merely mean the Churchs mission, which will be discussed later. Moreover, service for the Lord is not initiated by Christians as a voluntary work. Rather, Christians are irresistibly called by Christ. Mission should not be viewed as a form of voluntarism in which one can decide whether to participate. It is a commandment for all that are called to be Christian. In the age o f an open world, the Church should be honest about it, and confess how many people in the Church can truly sense such a calling. O f course, it does not mean that the whole church should be turned into a mission organization overnight. Clearly, mission is not the only thing the Church should do. However, it can be argued that the agenda o f todays Church is quite limited to selfserving, self-maintaining activities that satisfy the needs o f its congregation rather than its non-Christian neighbor; priorities which do not lead out of adolescence.

53 Thomas F. Torrance, The Mission o f the Church, Scottish Journal o f Theology 19.2 (1966): 141, quoted in Charles Van Engen, God's Missionary People (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991), 29 54 Van Engen, God s Missionary People, 74-75.

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Pharisaism of an Adolescent Church


A church in adolescence speaks the language o f the Pharisee: the language o f egocentricity. An adolescent church is not interested in Gods will, but only interested in protecting their turf. An adolescent minister is only interested in maintaining his/her position. Instead o f serving the Lord by serving Gods people, an adolescent minister manipulates the mind o f his or her flock by abusing the word o f God. Recently, I witnessed a tragic incident o f power struggle in a large Church in East Los Angeles. The pastors, elders, and entire congregation were divided in half over the soundness o f the senior pastors teaching. Rumors and accusations were rampant. Finally, one night, the police were called in order to stop the worship service which had been taken over by the opposing side. Eventually, the police dispersed the congregation, and the church building was quarantined. Both parties went to the court for a ruling to end the struggle. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church: If any o f you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things o f this life? . . . Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another - and this in front of unbelievers!5 5 Despite the fact that Paul already gave instruction regarding disputes within the Church, many churches opt to ask the court to decide the final disposition o f their inner conflicts rather than coming together before God to reconcile in the love o f Christ. If the

551 Co. 6:1-3.

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Church is in union with Christ, its members should know how to forgive each other. If the Church respects Christ as its head, its members would not fight against each other to the end. When a church does not know how to resolve its inner conflicts, it is still in its adolescence because a church come of age respects Christ as its head who mediates and reconciles the members o f his body. The Church come o f age comes before God, not before the court, to resolve the inner conflicts. Figuratively, an adolescent Church, which cannot resolve trivial cases o f childhood by themselves, is taking those cases to a mature world for judgment. If a congregation is divided among them and yet preaches the love of Christ to the world, it could be called Pharisaic. The ministers in adolescence consider ministry as their profession. They strive for a successful ministry which is usually measured by the size o f congregation. They long for an achievement and the recognition and love o f his/her congregation. However, ministry is to take ones own cross and follow the Lord. It is not something that is to be achieved but to be followed by a servant o f Christ. An adolescent minister considers that ministry is a profession for the ordained ministers. However, ministry is for every member o f the congregation because the burden o f the cross is laid on every Christian.56 BonhoefFer said: The call to follow Jesus, baptism in the name o f Jesus Christ, is death and life. The call o f Christ and baptism leads Christians into a daily struggle against sin and Satan . .. But there is another suffering and another dignity from which no Christian can be spared. To be sure, Christs own suffering is the only suffering that brings reconciliation. But because Christ has suffered for the sin of the world, because the whole burden o f guilt fell on him, and because Jesus Christ passes on the fruit o f his suffering to those who follow him, temptation and sin fall also onto his disciples. Sin covers

56 D 87.

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the disciples with shame and expels them from the gates o f the city like a scapegoat. So Christians become bearers o f sin and guilt for other people.57 Every Christian is called to participate in the ministry o f Christ for this world. Of course, it does not mean that there is no need o f a minister. As a living body o f Christ, the Church requires many parts o f which a minister is one part. Christ establishes the office of minister with a special gift. However, it is not a lofty position within the Church. Ministers are not the religious leaders such as the Pharisees. Rather, through their own life in complete union with Christ, ministers should show their congregation that discipleship means allegiance to the suffering of Christ for the sake o f others.58 A minister in adulthood shapes his/her congregation to be the minister for others o f this world, whereas a minister in adolescence keeps the ministry o f Christ within his/her office as a privilege. An adolescent Church understands the gospel in the same way the Pharisee understood the Law o f the Sabbath. For example, it can be said that the tradition of the holy observance o f the Lords Day in the Protestant churches replaced the pharisaic observance o f the Sabbath. It does not mean that one should be tolerated for ones lax attitude towards the service for the Lord. Nor it means that the Lords day is unimportant. However, many churches seem to come alive only on the Lords day. Bonhoeffer criticized this tendency of the Church, Christ, instead o f being the center of our lives, has become a thing o f the Church, or o f the religiosity o f a group o f people. To

57 D 88. 58 D 88-9.

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the nineteenth- and twentieth-century mind, religion plays the part o f the so-called Sunday room.59 Not only should every Christian live the life o f a disciple on a daily basis, but also the Church should have its own life everyday as the living body o f Christ. For the Church come of age, the Lords day is not the day o f religious observance set aside from the week. Rather, it is the day when the Church begins another week of service by getting together and loving each other as brothers and sisters o f Christ, and reaffirms its participation in the work o f the Lord who is in the midst o f this world. On the contrary, for the Church that is not yet come o f age, the Lords day is a tradition that must be observed religiously by its members to show their devoutness to the world. It follows the example o f the Pharisees whose utmost importance lies on the observance of the laws as a religious code. The Church must acknowledge the superficial nature o f religious observances o f its traditions and renew itself as the living community o f Christ which leaves its door open to the world everyday o f the week.

Territorialism of an Adolescent Church


Is reconciliation between the Catholic, the Orthodox, and the Protestant Churches ever possible? In recent years, they came close to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. However, they do not seem to know how to love each other wholeheartedly. Love your enemies, Jesus commanded. However, when it comes to church tradition, no reconciliation seems to be possible. Based on the fact that those Churches are still divided, they do not seem to be mature.

59 Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer A Biography, 116. DBW 10, 302-3.

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An adolescent church holds on to its own territory. It claims the ownership of the Church. An adolescent church is a religious system which owns its property and its congregation. It is not willing to relinquish its ownership and fights for its territory. An adolescent congregation calls it my church or our church and hesitates to call it the church o f Christ, because that might invite unwanted proposals to unite with other churches. In a culture where a merger o f corporations usually means that a corporation became a loser in a competitive market economy, a unification o f churches is perceived by an adolescent church as the loss o f its own territory. In addition, an adolescent church weighs itself against other churches. For example, an adolescent congregation compares their ministers with the ones o f other churches. They want to feel superior to other congregations by having a more capable minister as their senior pastor. They compare the academic degree o f their pastors with others. For example, there are many adolescent congregations in Korea that send their pastors oversea in order for them to obtain a degree o f Doctor o f Ministry. Adolescent seminaries create convenient programs for them in order to take advantage of childish desires o f those congregations that are willing to pay the price for the glory o f their ego. An adolescent church must feel superior to other churches for its own pride. Just as adolescent youths pay much attention to what others possess and compare themselves with friends, an adolescent church compares itself with other churches to satisfy its need to be superior. Territorialism o f the Church seems to have been originated from the Old Testament; So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel - because there the Lord confused the 254

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language o f the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face o f the whole earth.60 Humanity was scattered all over the world. The account o f Shem, Ham, and Japheth61is the story o f division o f humankind and o f the beginning o f territorialism. Without understanding that the Creator is also the Owner o f the whole world, human beings start claiming the ownership o f the land and drawing their boundaries. Based on the Old Testament, the Israelites did not have the concept o f tribal ownership o f the land until they went into Canaan. Although the division o f the land was based on Gods instruction to Moses,62 the Israelites were reminded o f an important concept of inheritance.63 Jubilee was instituted by God as an event o f liberation and atonement for the people and the land.64 However, the land as Gods inheritance turned into the land o f the kingdom of Israel when the people of Israel asked for their own king.65 There was no more possibility o f Jubilee, because now their kings possessed the land. To keep their throne, the kings would have to maintain the ownership o f the land. The people of Israel failed Gods plan o f liberation and atonement. One might ask how this Old Testament account relates to territorialism of an adolescent Church. The inquiry made here is, Who is the owner o f the property o f the Church? Should the church property belong to a local church? Or, should it belong to a denomination or the Catholic Church? Bonhoeffer would have answered that the owner

60 Ge. 11:8-9. 6 1 Ge. 10. 62 Nu. 34. 63 Lev. 20:24, Nu. 34:14ff. 64 Lev. 25:9-10, On the day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. 651 Sam. 8:9-17.

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of the church property is not the Church but the Lord, because the land is an inheritance of God. He said, The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need.66 Certainly, his statement does not seem realistic. Did he mean that the Church should not have property o f any kind, which includes its buildings and facilities? Unfortunately, Bonhoeffer failed to give concrete examples for what he meant by giving away all its property. Regarding this, Bethge attempts to explain: Nevertheless, he had a fairly clear idea that the church should get rid of many things after the catastrophe o f 1945 and find new constructions. He was probably too optimistic about the possibilities for a truly new beginning in 1945. He hoped for a new financial basis, and new forms of training, ministry, and confession. He hardly assumed that the Volkskirche that had become do discredited during the Nazi era could simply survive, and so he made all kinds of frivolous suggestions.67 However, Bethges explanation does not seem to be completely satisfactory because Bonhoeffer, even though he admitted that it was very crude and condensed,68 apparently constructed his Outline fo r a Book with theological carefulness and seriousness. In fact, Bonhoeffer kept in mind whai he wrote in [The Cost o f ] Discipleship when he developed his Outline , since he said on 21 July 1944, I thought I could acquire faith by trying to love a holy life, or something like it. I suppose I wrote [The Cost of] Discipleship at the end of that path. Today I can see the dangers of that book, though I still stand by what I wrote.69

66 LPP 382, Outline for a Book. 67 Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer A Biography, 887. 68 LPP 383. Outline for a Book. 69 LPP 369.

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In speaking o f Simple Obedience,70 Bonhoeffer already addressed the paradoxical nature o f this issue: A paradoxical understanding o f the commandments has a Christian right to it, but it must never lead to the annulment o f a simple understanding o f the commandments . . . Understanding Jesus call paradoxically is the infinitely more difficult possibility. In human terms it is an impossible possibility, and because it is, it is always in extreme danger o f being turned over into its opposite and made into a comfortable excuse o f fleeing from concrete obedience. Anyone who does not know that it would be the infinitely easier way to understand Jesus commandment simply and obey it literally - for example, to actually give away ones possessions at Jesus command instead o f keeping them - has no right to a paradoxical understanding o f Jesus words.7 1 Apparently anticipating some criticism, he said in the Outline , there are certain things that Im anxious to say simply and clearly - things that we so often like to shirk.72 It appears that his ideas, which includes the giving way o f property, in the Outline came from his theological thoughts o f an early period. This is because in [The Cost of\ Discipleship , he warned against ones using the paradoxical element o f Jesus commandments as an excuse for fleeing from concrete obedience.73 However, one must be careful to interpret Bonhoeffer in this regard, because his intent was not to emphasize the act o f giving away property, but to emphasize a simple obedience o f the Church in terms o f its existing for others.74 Bonhoeffer said: Obedience to Jesus call is never an autonomous human deed. Thus not even something like actually giving away ones wealth is the obedience required. It could be that such a step would not be obedience to Jesus at all, but instead, a free choice ones own lifestyle. It could be a Christian ideal, a Franciscan ideal o f poverty. It could be that by giving away

70 D 77-83. 7 1 D 80-1. 72 LPP 383. 73 D 81. 74 LPP 382.

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wealth, people affirm themselves and an ideal, and not Jesus command. It could be that they do not become free from themselves, but even more trapped in themselves.75 Based on this, it can be concluded that Bonhoeffer was not suggesting a possessionless Christianity o f some kind, but a Church which was obedient to the call of Christ to participate in his suffering for the world. Despite the fact that the western churches have been experiencing renewed spiritual vitality and vigor, the Church, in its essence, still seems to remain largely religious from the perspective o f its territorialism and self-oriented nature. When the world is suffering from famine, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and various other forms o f injustice, the luxurious church buildings displaying their magnificence can be viewed as an example o f an adolescent church which is disobedient to the commandment of Jesus. More concrete examples o f obedient acts of the Church come of age will be described in the next chapter o f this discussion.

An Adolescent Church as a Religious Institution


In light of Bonhoeffers understanding o f religion and the Church, it can be argued that the Church at large remains religious. Regarding the nature o f the Church, Emil Brunner uses the term the Ecclesia. He explains the nature o f the Ecclesia o f the New Testament: The Ecclesia is what it is through the presence o f Christ dwelling within it. He is present with it through His Word and His Spirit . . . Therefore, because the Holy Spirit is the very life-breath o f the Church, the Church participates in the special character o f the holy, the numinous, the

7 5 D 83.

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supernatural, in the hollowing presence o f God: for that reason the Christian society itself is a miracle . . . The fact that it is both koinonia Christou or koinonia pneumatos and fellowship one with another, thus combining the vertical with the horizontal, divine with human communion - that fact constitutes its entirely characteristic, its utterly unparalleled life.76 However, the Ecclesia - a communion o f persons - had been transformed into an institutional church, and indeed into that particular church in which the momentum of institutional development had reached its climax, that church which interprets itself in a severely institutional sense, viz. The Roman church,77 says Brunner. Furthermore, Brunner concludes, The whole history of the Roman church is the history, carried to its remotest consequences, o f a progressive, consistent, and complete institutional distortion, or more precisely, legalistic distortion.7 8 Brunner suggests three notions o f tradition in the history o f the Church: the primitive Christian notion of tradition, the early catholic notion, and the neo-catholic Roman notion. First, in the primitive notion, tradition is involved with the unique revelation o f God in the historical facts concerning Jesus Christ. Second, in the early catholic notion, the Church evolving out o f the fellowship o f Jesus sought to create a second means o f guaranteeing the genuineness o f the tradition, that is, o f preserving it in its original purity. It not only established and defined the Canon o f the New Testament, it also created the office o f bishop continuous with that o f the apostles to control the rank luxuriating gnostic heresies. Third, in the neo-catholic Roman idea developed during the

,sEmil Brunner, The Misunderstanding o f the Church (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1953), 12. 77 Ibid., 16. 78 Ibid.

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middle of the twelfth century in the western Roman church, the notion o f the Church as a corporation was created. The Church ceases to be Christianity represented in the persons o f the bishops, and becomes a corporate body ruled by the Pope. From that time, canon law was made by the bearers of ecclesiastical authority.79 Although it has been distorted over the history o f the Church, those traditions were developed to preserve Christianity. Similarly, Bonhoeffer observed from the German church: Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its selfpreservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable o f taking the word o f reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christians today will be limited to two thing: prayer and righteous action among men.80 The Roman Catholic Church is in its infancy as a body o f Christ. It is still busy trying to preserve its religious institution. From my judgment, the Pope, cathedrals, religious ceremonies, superstitious practices, and the worship o f Mary can be considered as the signs o f a religion that Bonhoeffer defined as: metaphysical, individualistic, and superstitious in the sense of deus ex machina. The cross o f the Catholic Church still carrying the suffering Jesus signifies its religious state. The symbol puts the burden o f sin - which was removed once for all by the vicarious act of Jesus - back on the shoulder of humanity. On the other hand, the Protestant Church is also in its adolescence. The innumerable number o f denominations and branches o f the Protestant Church is the result o f power struggles and inner fighting within the Church. It was the mistake o f the leaders

79 Ibid., 35-46. 80 LPP 300, May 1944.

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o f the Reformation - Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli - to have left the Protestant Church divided by differing with each other in defining the concepts such as the precise nature of Christs presence in the sacrament, which some might consider non-essential. Over the course o f the history o f Protestantism, the Church repeated the mistake that those leaders made initially, and continued its division. At the same time, the Protestant Churches inherited some religious ideas from the Catholic Church, which is their origin. For instance, the notion o f sacrament as a way of dispensing Gods blessing is distinctively a Catholic one. Various forms o f sacraments have been developed and practiced depending on different churches. It is an important part o f religious ceremonies and also holds a mystical element, which the Protestant Church opted to retain in order to remain as a religious institution. The original meaning o f sacrament was tainted. The Protestant Churches removed the body o f Jesus from the cross symbol. However, its cross still symbolizes it as a religion. In a religiously pluralistic world, such a religious symbol work against evangelism because it leads the religious others to view Christianity simply as another competitive religion. Until the cross is removed from the roof-top of the churches, and the churches celebrate its new life with the resurrected Christ who is here and now, the Church will be perceived merely as a religion. In an attempt to expand and implement Bonhoeffers concept o f the secret discipline, the cross as a symbol of Christianity can be internalized within the Church. Regarding the meaning of Easter, Bonhoeffer said that it is not from the art of dying [of Socrates] but from the resurrection of Christ that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world. To Bonhoeffer, resurrection is not simply a historical
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event to be remembered. It signifies that religion is nullified by the resurrected Christ who is ever-present in the midst o f this world. Based on the presence o f Christ in this world through the Spirit and the Church - the body o f Christ - Bonhoeffer concluded, In the place o f religion there now stands the church.81 Religious people long for their union with God. However, with the presence o f the Christ in the midst of the world, such a longing is not necessary. God is here and now in the world as a concrete reality. Therefore, any form of religion that does not recognize Gods presence in our midst must be replaced by religionless Christianity and a non-religious Church. The traditional institutional church is in trouble. The Church only as a religious institution seems to be declining in the current society. Edward H. Hammett warns us: It is complacent and clergy-directed. In most major denominations membership is down. Denominational and church loyalty is waning. Tithes and offerings are declining and being dispersed to many parachurch organizations. Biblical illiteracy is rampant, even among those who have been actively involved in church life for years.82 Regarding the need o f return to the form o f the New Testament Church, Howard A. Snyder asserts: The great temptation of the organized church has been to reinstate these three elements [sacrifice, priesthood, tabernacle o f the Old Testament] among Gods people: to return community into an institution. Historically, the church has at times succumbed. Returning to the spirit o f the Old Testament, she has set up a professional priesthood, turned the Eucharist into a new sacrificial system and built great cathedrals. When this happens, a return to faithfulness must mean a return - in both soteriology and ecclesiology - to the profound simplicity o f the New Testament. Usually,

8 1 LPP 286, 8 May 1944. 81 Hammett, Making the Church work. Converting the Church fo r the 21 Century, 5.

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however, reformation in doctrine has not been tied to sufficiently radical reform in church structure.83 Although one does not have to agree with Snyders negative view o f sacrifice, priesthood, and tabernacle as the determining elements of an institutionalized church, Snyders observation seems to be relevant to the present discussion. The first element of an institutionalized religion, sacrifice, can be viewed as representing the religious rituals. For example, the Eucharist lost its original meaning o f participation in the suffering of Christ and became a religious ritual performed by priests or by the ordained ministers. How many Christians today are taking the bread and wine as a symbol for their own suffering for others? As their pastor recites the liturgy for Eucharist, to most Christians, it is a repeated event o f remembrance o f the death o f Christ, not a symbolized act of their participation in the suffering o f Christ. It is viewed by many Christians as a privilege rather than a symbol of their participation in the sufferings o f God the secular life84 which Jesus suffered When Eucharist remains as a religious ritual, it does not have much meaning. It should be given a new meaning as an act o f discipleship. Eating the bread and drinking the wine should be our act o f submission to the will o f God and our

determination to suffer for others. Bonhoeffer said: Christians stand by God in his hour o f grieving; that is what distinguishes Christians from pagans. Jesus asked in Gethsemane, Could you not watch with me one hour? That is a reversal o f what the religious man expects from God. Man is summoned to share in Gods sufferings at the hands o f Godless world.85

83 Howard A. Snyder, Radical Renewal, The Problem o f Wineskins Today (Houston, TX: Touch Publications, 1996), 56. w LPP 361, 18 July 1944. 85 Ibid..

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As it was pointed out earlier in this chapter, Bonhoeffer knew the implication o f a religionless Christianity from the perspective o f its visible form: The questions to be answered would surely be: What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak o f God - without religion, i.e. without the temporally conditioned presuppositions o f metaphysics, inwardness, and so on? How do we speak (or perhaps we cannot now even speak as we used to) in a secular way about God? In what way are we religionless-secular Christians, in what way are we the e K -id r ja ia , those who are called forth, not regarding ourselves from a religious point of view as specially favoured, but rather as belonging wholly to the world? In that case Christ is no longer an object o f religion, but something quite different, really the Lord of the world. But what does that mean? What is the place o f worship and prayer in a religionless situation? Does the secret discipline or alternatively the difference (which I have suggested to you before) between penultimate and ultimate, take on a new importance here?86 Bonhoeffer certainly did not intend to abolish worship and prayer with his concept o f non-religious Christianity. On the contrary, he was advocating the practice of an arcane discipline87 o f worship and prayer as a practical way o f life for the non religious Christians. Edwin H. Robertson says: Bethges judgement, which is confirmed by so many references in these prison letters, is that Bonhoeffer regarded an arcane discipline as an essential counterpoint o f his non-religious interpretation. He does not resolve this counterpoint, but it is clear that he intends to preserve a genuine worship and not impose upon the world. He does not answer his question as to what is going to happen to worship service. It is, however, quite clear from the baptism sermon that Bonhoeffer had no view o f doing away with the word, the sacrament and the community, replacing them by love. What he would not do was impose them upon the world.88

86 LPP 280-281. 87 LPP 281. 88 Edwin H. Robertson, Bonhoeffer's Heritage, 137.

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Eucharist should not be abolished but needs to be reinterpreted non-religiously to restore its original meaning. It should not remain as a superficial religious ritual. Bonhoeffer said, It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings o f God in the secular life. In other words, a non-religious act of Eucharist will lead the Christians not just into the remembrance, but into the messianic suffering of God.89 Bonhoeffer asserted, The religious act is always something partial; faith is something whole, involving the whole o f ones life. Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life.90 The meaning o f priesthood, the second element o f an institutionalized religion, differs in various denominations. However, the common feature o f priesthood seems to be that the office functions as the representative o f Christs authority, as an example of which can be found in the case benediction as a part o f worship service. In the Catholic Church, for another example, priesthood serves as the ear o f God through Confession, and serves as the hand o f God by dispensing the forgiveness and blessing. The element of pagan Shamanism must have influenced the structure o f the office o f priest. In fact, this religious element has caused many conflicts with pagan religion when Christianity was brought to the land where Shamanism has the control over the territory. In that situation, the Christian mission is viewed as an infringement of the local Shamans vested interest as seen in the case of a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future.91 It

89 LPP 361-62. 90 LPP 362. 9 1 Ac. 16:16-23.

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can be perceived as a religious warfare. Jesus did not start a spiritual war against religion. Jesus Christ is the gospel that liberates all humanity from the grips o f religion. He does not fight the war against religion, but liberates humankind by participating in their suffering as their paraklete (advocate: called to the side). Anderson says: The church does pretty weli with the first two forms [kerygmatic and didactic] of Christs ministry through the proclamation o f the Word and through teaching the Word. What is too often neglected is the paracletic ministry of Christ through which persons experience the presence and power of Christ alongside them in their need and struggle for dignity, meaning, and belonging. Paraclesis, says [Jacob] Firet, is the consolation and admonition o f God which reorients people toward salvation in the concreteness o f their situation; for the caregiver this means that he knows the concreteness o f the situation o f those people by participation in it.92 The priesthood that functions as a medium for Gods blessing in religious ceremonies belongs to the realm o f religion, not the Christian Church. In general, priesthood and pastorship have been understood almost synonymously. However, such understanding is not correct. All Christians are chosen by God to be the priest for the world.93 The New Testament does not explicitly mention priesthood as an office established within the Church through the process o f ordination. On the other hand, pastor is described as one o f the offices o f the Church given by the Lord to prepare Gods people for works o f service, so that the body o f Christ may be built up.94 Therefore, an ordained pastor should not be viewed as a medium in religious rituals but

92 Ray S. Anderson, The Soul o f Ministry , 179. Jacob Firet is quoted from his book Dynamics o f Pastoring. 93 See 1 Pe. 2:9, Rev. 1:6 and 5:10. Also, Luthers doctrine of the priesthood of all believers affirms that the Church is being called to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pe. 2:5). just like Israel was distinguished from other peoples . 94 Eph. 4:12.

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be viewed as a servant who renders his or her service by leading the functions o f the Church such as Eucharist, and proclaims the word o f God on behalf of the Holy Spirit. Also, the pastors should return to their duty o f taking care o f their flocks in their concrete life situations as their paraklete. The pastors who are taking the scepter o f priesthood of the Old Testament, which was superceded by Christ,95 are adolescent pastors, and the congregations fed by those adolescent pastors remain in their adolescence, because their pastors do not give them the hard food o f discipleship o f Christ; only the milk of religion.96 There are churches where the succession o f priesthood takes place between father and son. The Church is being viewed as a corporation which can be inherited by the offspring of the owner. The one who planted the church can easily have an idea of ownership. This is true not only in America, but also in Korean Churches, where it becomes a serious issue within the Church. The pastors who do not recognize Christ as the true builder of the Church are not qualified to lead the church. The leadership o f the Church should follow the example o f Jesus as his servant, who is serving rather than dominating; liberating rather than oppressing.97 In a religiously pluralistic world, the distinction between the priesthood and the pastorship is o f utmost importance because Jesus Christ himself is the only high priest for all humanity. The priesthood o f Jesus Christ not only supercedes the priesthood o f the

95 Heb. 2:17-3:1,4:14-10:22. 96 1 Co. 3:2. 97 LPP 382-83.

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Old Testament, but also the priesthood o f all the other religions. An adolescent pastor who acts as a priest for other Christians is under the temptation o f power-worship98 Another element o f religion was the tabernacle. Many churches are proud o f their magnificent architectural achievements. The leaders o f those churches try to justify their buildings as a form of glorifying God. But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!99 But, She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.100 Even Solomons temple cannot contain the Lord, but there is no place for baby Jesus. What does that conflict mean? I suggest that the temple symbolizes the act of religion, and the inn symbolizes the suffering world. Religion does not leave room for the suffering and powerless God. All the rooms appear to be already taken by the high priests, the scribes, and the rulers o f this world. The main interest o f some religious leaders might be how to leave their name on the comer stone o f a church building or cathedral. For instance, there was a church where an elder donated several hundred hymnals for the church. In doing so, he wrote his name on every single hymnal so that the members of the church could remember his name every time they opened it. The worldly cause and concerns seem to preoccupy the minds o f the adolescent religious leaders.

98 LPP 383. 99 1 King 8:27. 100 Lk. 2:7.

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An Adolescent Church in a Religiously Pluralistic World


If the Church remains a religion, it will inevitably face other religions on the religious football field. The major concern of Christianity is how to respond to the changing and globalized world where many other religions are competing to expand their territory. C. Peter Wagner understands this as spiritual warfare against the

territorial spirits. He complains about the lack o f attention from the evangelical community, and says: Many are ignorant of the phenomenon o f territorial spirits, some intentionally because of fear generated by the other dangers, and some unintentionally because they were never taught the kinds o f things I have been mentioning. Among those who do recognize the phenomenon of territorial spirits, there is ignorance in the area o f methodology .. . 1 0 1 However, is Christianity truly in warfare against non-Christian territorial spirits? Did Christ come to earth to start warfare against territorial spirits? From the perspective of Bonhoeffer, Wagner is trying to turn the clock back to the Dark Age, which is pointless in the world come of age.102 His idea is simply not acceptable for the world come o f age. Jesus Christ humanizes humanity by liberating them from the bondage of religion. Jesus drove out the demons from his compassion for those who were possessed by demons. He does not have to fight against demons. He simply commands them to come out from those victims. Likewise, the authority to command demons or the unclean spirits has been given the Church and Christians so that the power o f God can be manifested for the sake of the world.

1 0 1 C. Peter Wagner, Territorial Spirits in Wrestling with Dark Angels (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1990), ed. C. Peter Wagner and F. Douglas Pennoyer, 88. 102 LPP 327, 8 June 1944.

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As a religion, Christianity situated itself on the religious football field. Religious pluralists made Jesus Christ a quarterback in the religious football game. However, Christ is not here for a religious game, nor did he found a religion called Christianity. Then, how can the Church as a united body o f Christ let the world know that Christ is the Lord, not a team quarterback? First, the Church needs to walk off the religious football field, because it does not belong there. Let the religions of the world continue to play the religious game. Second, the Church should not leave the stadium - the world - because it is part o f the world. The world is where the Church belongs to, and it must live this-worldly life fully and responsibly. Third, the Church must proclaim to the crowd that Christ is the Lord of all humanity. Forth, the Church must announce that the religious game is over, and lead the crowd out of the stadium into the reality o f this-worldly life where Christ reigns as the weak and powerless King, who shares the suffering o f all humankind in the concrete situations of daily life. Christianity as a religion is in adolescence. It made itself a playmate o f other religions. Christianity come o f age knows that it is not a religion, but the liberator of humanity from the slavery o f religious bondage in a spiritual sense. It knows that religion is false, and that the intent o f religion is to alienate humanity from God. Religion tells human beings that God needs to be addressed through some kind o f medium in order to satisfy human needs of healing the sick, bringing the fortune, and having happiness. It never reveals the fact that God is here and now in the midst o f our life, and is living together with us. Thus, religion separates humanity from God. The specific aspect of religionless Christianity will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter. 270

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In summary, it has been argued that the Church is in its adolescence. It should become mature to match the maturity of the world in order to live the life o f a disciple of Christ because the Lord is the Lord o f the world yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The adolescent Church cannot serve the world come o f age. It must be bom again in the Spirit in order to attain maturity. The adulthood o f the Church is attained through its marriage with Christ. When it truly recognizes that Christ is the Lord, and submits itself totally and unconditionally, it will come of age and its new life will begin in unity with Christ as the liberating power for the religiously pluralistic world. In the final chapter, I will attempt to draw a blueprint o f a form o f religionless Christianity, or the Church come o f age, with the help o f a non-religious interpretation o f the gospel.

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CHAPTER 9

THE CHURCH COME OF AGE

In Chapter 8, it was asserted that the contemporary Church is in a state o f adolescence. Surely, the Church in adolescence cannot serve the world come o f age. Metaphorically, an adolescent church cannot understand the language o f adults. Thus, it cannot participate with the world in adulthood. The rule o f the game in adulthood is much more complex than what an adolescent church can understand and follow. By analogy, while the world is playing golf at the 18-hole course, the Church can only play at the miniature golf course. An adolescent church cannot digest the concept o f openness and tolerance that the world come of age has already learned from postmodemity. It is evident that unless the Church becomes mature and learns the language of adulthood, it cannot communicate with the mature world effectively. If the Church stubbornly remains in its adolescent state and uses its own traditional language, the world will no longer pay attention to what the Church has to say. It now becomes clear that the gospel o f Christ spoken in the language o f adolescence will be irrelevant to the world in its adulthood. However, some practical questions arise: 1) How can the Church o f adolescence attain its adulthood? 2) What should be the structure o f the Church come of age? 3) What should the Church come of age do? 4) How should the Church come o f age deal with religious plurality? In this chapter, these questions will be answered in light of Bonhoeffers understanding of maturity. In addition, the postmodern virtue of

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tolerance and openness will be used as other criteria o f maturity and adulthood.

What Should the Church Do to Become Mature?


Many contemporary theologians and church leaders have been expressing the need of a second Reformation of the Church. For instance, William A. Beckham calls for the second Reformation through the Two-Winged Church, which consists o f a large group celebration and a small group community.1 James H. Rutz suggests the Open Church where ministry is open to every member of the church.2 Clearly, what they have in mind is revitalization of the local churches through some kind o f re-formation. What they are suggesting is quite convincing and relevant to our contemporary world. However, why does the Church not seem to accept their suggestion in order to revitalize itself? Re-formation means to change the current form into a new one. By conforming the existing system into another, a new formation takes place. The form o f the Church is often compared with wineskin. Regarding the saying of Jesus, No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined,3 Howard A. Snyder says: What did Jesus mean? . . . Jesus distinguishes here between something essential and primary (the wine) and something secondary but also necessary and useful (the wineskins). Wineskins would be superfluous without wine. This distinction is vital for the everyday life o f the church. There is that which is new, potent, essential - the gospel o f Jesus Christ. And there is that which is secondary, subsidiary, made by human hands. These are the wineskins - traditions, structures and patterns of doing

1 William A. Beckham, The Second Reformation, Reshaping the Church fo r the 21st Century (Houston, TX: TOUCH publications, 1996), 25-32. 2 James H, Rutz, The Open Church, How to Bring Back the Exciting Life o f the First Century Church (Beaumont, TX: The SeedSowers, 1993), 29. 3 Lk. 5:37-38.

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things that have grown up around the gospel.4 Snyders way o f understanding the wineskins as secondary to the gospel has been generally accepted. However, it seems that this way o f understanding the wineskins needs some criticism. First, there is no evidence that Jesus considered the wineskins secondary or subsidiary. The interpretation o f Snyder and others, which treat the wineskins secondary to the wine, were influenced by Greek metaphysics, which separate essence from form; giving more importance to essence. On the same occasion, prior to giving the example o f the wine and the wineskins, Jesus said, No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have tom the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.5 In this example, Jesus was making a contrast between the new and the old, not between essence and form. One can argue that the contrast between essence and form is made through the example of the wine and the wineskins. Even if that were a correct observation, an assumption is made that essence is more important than form. However, it is clearly an analytical way o f thinking in Western terms. On the contrary, the Eastern way o f thinking will view the wine and the wineskins from the perspective o f unity. On the one hand, the wine cannot be in its reality without the wineskins. On the other hand, the wineskins have no meaning without the wine in it. Therefore, in Eastern thinking, there is no such notion that essence is primary and form is secondary. For instance, the polarity o f yin/yang in Taoism is o f complementing and balancing each other. A typical example is the relationship between the male and female

4 Howard A. Snyder, Radical Renewal, The Problem o f Wineskins Today (Houston, TX: TOUCH publications, 1996), 13-14. 5 Lk. 5:36.

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gender. In Taoism, male and female are also complementing each other rather than one gender dominating the opposite. There is no notion that the female is inferior to the male. Without the yin/yang combination o f male and female, human life would not exist. The outcome o f Snyders understanding o f the wine and the wineskins is that in order to revitalize the Church, the only thing that needs to be changed is the wineskins, because the wine is an immutable essence. In Bonhoeffers term, this type o f thinking is categorized as a positivism o f revelation,6 which means that the essence or the revelation is understood as an abstract concept that is solidified. The problem o f the interpretation o f Snyder and others, which considers the gospel of Christ immutable, is that it prevents the reinterpretation o f the gospel for the changing world. In other words, it limits the boundary o f the gospel to the point o f the resurrection. However, the gospel was not confined to the historical events o f virgin birth, crucifixion, and resurrection. Bonhoeffer said, Today is Ascension Day, and that means that it is a day o f great joy for all who can believe that Christ rules the world and our lives. 7 Surely, the ascension o f Jesus was followed by the Pentecost, which signifies the presence of the Lord over the boundary o f time and space. Therefore, it can be stated that the gospel is not a good story about the historical events o f incarnation, but the good news about Gods work in our life here and now. We should pay attention to the fact that, in the parable, Jesus did not refer to the perpetual objects, but to the ones that need to be renewed continually. Then, how should we understand the parable? First, the gospel should be understood as the good news renewed

6 LPP 280, 286, 329. 7 LPP 49, Ascension Day, 4 June 1943.

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with the stories o f the fresh and live acts o f God in every moment o f the life o f the world, the Church, and individuals at every place on the face o f the earth. The good news should not be enclosed in a time capsule. Second, the reformation o f the Church by reforming the wineskins is not enough for the Church to face the challenge from the changing world. Third, the wine can mean the corporate spirit8 o f the Church or the community o f believers. Such an interpretation o f the parable o f the wine and the wineskins lead us to an understanding that the Church must be renewed in its spirit and form. It is more accurate to say that the Church has been going though reformation throughout its history until today. Although the Reformation left a giant mark on Church history, it is clear that the Church has never been the same from the perspective o f the wineskins. Then, why is the Church not as relevant and powerful in todays world? It seems that there is enough evidence that any form o f reformation o f the church replacement o f the wineskins - is not sufficient to bring a new life to the Church in the religiously pluralistic world. Clearly, what the Church needs is not just to re-form, like the changing of clothes, but the renewal o f its whole character from the inside out. The Church must be bom again! Truly, the renewal o f the Church must start from its spirit. The Church needs the new wine before it asks for the new wineskins. The new wine is the Holy Spirit who is ever dynamic and alive. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can give new birth to the Church. No one can see the kingdom o f God unless he is bom again, Jesus said to Nicodemus.9 It can be said that Nicodemus represents not only an individual but also the

8 Bonhoeffer. See Sanctorum Communio. 9 Jn. 3:3.

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whole o f humanity. Jesus statement to Nicodemus is not simply for an individual, but for the Church and for all human beings. What Jesus meant by his saying to an individual, Nicodemus, was made clear through the work o f the Holy Spirit to a group numbering about one hundred and twenty on the day o f Pentecost: When the day o f Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing o f a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each o f them. All o f them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.10 It is generally accepted that the first church was bom on the day o f Pentecost. The Holy Spirit gave birth to the first church o f Christ. As Eve is the mother o f all human beings,1 1 it can be said that the Holy Spirit is the mother o f all churches. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit 12 Jesus said. Then, how can the Church be reborn? Not surprisingly, Nicodemus asked exactly the same question to Jesus, How can a man be bom when he is old? by attaching his own reasoning to the question, Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mothers womb to be bom! 1 3 Repeatedly, Church leaders have been asking the same question Nicodemus once asked Jesus: How can the Church be renewed when it is two thousand years old already? This question is the source o f agony because they seek answers through their own reasoning, just as Nicodemus did: How can the Church, which is divided so much,

10 Ac. 2:1-4. 1 1 Ge. 3:20. 12 Jn. 3:6. 13 Jn. 3:4.

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be united as one body o f Christ? How can the Church, which is so behind time, adapt to the modem world? How can the Church, which is too old for the younger generations, fulfill a successful youth ministry? Every time these questions were asked, Jesus would give a simple answer: You must be bom again 14 It seems that the Church leaders have been limiting the infinite possibilities o f the Church with their own knowledge and capability as human beings. Based on their own view, the Church leaders decide what is and what is not possible for the Church. However, if those one hundred and twenty disciples were enabled by the Holy Spirit 15 and began to speak in other languages that they never knew, our contemporary Church should be able to perform the miracle o f re-unification o f the Church to form a true kingdom o f Christ. Bonhoeffer observed that the new community was created by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He said, The coming o f the Spirit is a new creation, simply because it leads the community into fellowship with Christ. Kaine ktisis (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15), the second creation after the old, corrupt creation, is man in the community, the community itself (Eph. 2:15). Part o f the world is made afresh after the image of God (Col. 3:10)16 As a new creation made by the Holy Spirit, the Church should be obedient to the Spirit. Bonhoeffer continues his argument: The church, as a part of the world and o f mankind created afresh by Gods Spirit, demands total obedience to the Spirit which creates anew both the religious and the profane. Because the church is concerned with God, the Holy Spirit, and his Word, it is therefore not specially concerned with religion, but with obedience to the Word, with the work o f the Father, i.e. with the completion of the new creation in the Spirit. It is not the religious question or religious concern o f any form which constitutes the church -

1 4 Jn. 3:7. 15 Ac. 2:4. 16 WF 48.

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from a human point o f view - but obedience to the Word o f the new creation o f grace. In other words, the church is constituted not by religious formulae, by dogma, but by the practical doing o f what is commanded. The pure teaching o f the Gospel is not a religious concern, but a desire to execute the will o f God for a new creation.17 Therefore, it is not for the Church leaders to worry about whether the Church can accomplish certain things. They should not hinder the work o f the Holy Spirit by becoming the arbiter o f Church affairs. The obedient act and the practical doing are what the Church should do as a new creation. Regarding Peters first sermon in Act 2, Bonhoeffer said: Peters testimony forces the listeners to ask, What shall we do? (Acts 2:37). The question means that through the fact o f the risen Christ who is borne witness to and now proclaims himself in power, the listener is clearly shown that his whole existence is confronted with something new . . . They have heard o f the grace to which Peter bears witness, but they know that this grace does not belong to them. It is at first only proclaimed grace. That is the judgement, to hear o f grace and to know o f it, and yet to know that it does not belong to you. This tension leads straight to the question What shall we do? What shall we do for this grace to belong to us, so that it doe not become judgement? The response o f the listeners is not, That was a good sermon; with the proclamation o f grace all is in order and we can go on living as we have been doing. They know that where grace is proclaimed man is called to ask What shall I do?'\ because otherwise grace becomes a judgement on him .18 Then the question that the Church should ask is not How can we do? but What should we do? because Jesus already answered the former question by saying everything is possible by the Holy Spirit. Hence, the real question the Church should ask in order to renew itself is the question o f What, not How ; What should the Church do to be reborn by the Spirit?

1 7 Ibid. 18 Ibid., 46-47.

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First, the Church must learn from the obedience o f the disciples o f the resurrected Jesus Christ. After witnessing the Ascension, the men o f Galilee 19 returned to Jerusalem obeying the instruction o f the Lord. They were the same men o f Galilee who followed Jesus when they first met him as Jesus was starting his ministry. Clearly, they followed him from their own motives of the renewal o f the Jewish kingdom. Their understanding o f the Messiah was humanistic, and had nothing to do with Gods will. When Jesus called them in Galilee, they responded not by faith but by their own conviction that, We have found the Messiah.20 Hence, their following o f Jesus was not an act o f obedience, but an act o f voluntary will. When Jesus said, Follow me. 2l, they took his words not as a command, but as an invitation. However, after meeting the resurrected Jesus, their attitude changed. When the resurrected Jesus told Peter, You must follow me,22 Peter followed Jesus in obedience. When Jesus said, Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about,23 the disciples themselves heard those words of Jesus not as an invitation but as a command. The resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven in front o f their eyes. The physical absence o f the Lord in this world mandated the faith o f the disciples. They returned to Jerusalem, not to Galilee, clearly, not in their own conviction but in obedience. Second, the Church must pray together not for its own agenda, not even for

20

Ac. 1:11. Jn. 1:41. Jn. 1:43. Jn. 21:22. Ac. 1:4.

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renewal o f the Church, but for the Holy Spirit, just as the disciples eagerly waited and prayed constantly24 for the gift o f the Holy Spirit. What is lacking in the Church is not its agenda, but the Holy Spirit. The Church needs to empty itself in order to renew itself. It should rely on Gods power and guidance through prayer rather than relying on its own ideas, programs, dogmas, rules, traditions, organizations, denominations, titles, names, offices, prides, and convictions. The kenosis o f the Church, the emptying o f self, must precede its renewal. All Christians must come before God in prayer as naked and humble souls. In repentance, the Church must pray for the Holy Spirit. Bonhoeffer said: Our being Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among men. All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be bom anew out o f this prayer and action. By the time you [Bethges infant son] have grown up, the churchs form will have changed greatly. We are not yet out o f the melting-pot, and any attempt to help the church prematurely to a new expansion o f its organization will merely delay its conversion and purification.25 The Church is in need not of the second Reformation but the second Pentecost. It needs to be bom anew in its spirit. When its spiritual renewal occurs, the Spirit will re form the Church to conform to the image o f Christ, because it is not Christians nor the Church leaders but the Holy Spirit who creates the Church. Emil Brunner says, The outpouring o f the Holy Ghost and the existence o f the Ecclesia are so closely connected that they may be actually identified. Where the Holy Ghost is, there is the Christian communion . . . Therefore the community as bearer o f the Word and Spirit of Christ precedes the individual believer.26 When the Spirit comes upon the Church, its members will speak once again in tongues to proclaim the grace o f God to the world. Bonhoeffer

24 Ac. 1:14. LPP 300. 26 Brunner, The Misunderstanding o f the Church, 11.

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said: It is not for us to prophesy the day (though the day will come) when men will once more be called so to utter the world o f God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite nonreligious, but liberating and redeeming - as was Jesus language; it will shock people and yet overcome them by its power; it will be the language o f a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming Gods peace with men and the coming of his kingdom.27 An institutionalized church without liberating and redeeming power can be viewed as the Church without life. It only exists as a skeleton. The Prophet Ezekiel recorded, The hand o f the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit o f the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full o f bones . . . He asked me, Son of man, can these bones live?28 The question for todays institutionalized Church, where institution became the end of itself, seems to be just that: Can the Church without the power o f liberation and redemption live again? Just as Ezekiel testified that those bones lived again, the institutionalized Church will be revived when the Spirit comes upon it.

As the living Body o f Christ, the Church also needs to have a form, which will be the subject o f the next discussion.

The Form of the Church Come of Age


It has already been noted that an institutionalized Church where institution

2 7 LPP 300, May 1944. 28 Eze. 37:1-3. 29 Eze, 37:7-10. So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breathe in them. Then he [the Lord] said to me, Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army.

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becomes the end o f itself is the Church in adolescence. Needless to say, the Church needs organizations and certain external forms and structures in order for it to function as a living organism. Miroslav Volf says, The essential sociality o f salvation implies the essential institutionality of the church. The question is not whether the church is an institution, but rather what kind o f institution it is.30 Volf views that the character of an institution depends primarily on two factors: the pattern o f power distribution and the manner o f its cohesion.31 He says: The combination o f these factors in their concrete implementation yields the multiple forms of institutions with two extreme models (which never occur in reality in their pure forms): institutions with asymmetricalmonocentric distribution of power (formally or informally) coerced integration, and institutions with symmetrical-decentralized distribution of power and freely affirmed integration.32 Based on this understanding o f the characterization o f an institution, Volf views that, although the Church is essentially an institution, it is not essentially an institution in which interaction must be specified externally.33 In other words, the Church as an institution should not be based on an external structure such as a hierarchical structure but on the free affirmation and participation of its members. In this sense, the Church and institution are not mutually opposing concepts. Rather, the Church should be an institution where its members work together with a charism in order for the Church to be an event o f Christs presence. In this regard, Volf says: Considering that no member o f the church is without a charism, this definition o f the relationship between charisma and institution has one important consequence: The members o f the church do not stand over

30 Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image o f the Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company), 235. 3 1 Ibid., 236. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid., 238.

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against the church as an institution; rather, their own actions and relations are the institution church. . . . Without institutions, the church cannot become an event. This principle is correct, however, only if it is also reversible; unless the church becomes an event it cannot be the kind of institution it is supposed to be.34 Then, what kind o f institution is the Church supposed to be? Certainly, the Church should not be an institutionalized institution. The institutionalized Church here means those churches that are mainly based on rules, regulations and organizations. The churches built upon those foundations do not have vitality because institution as an organization with its rules and regulations does not have its own life without the dynamics o f love. It is the genuine brotherly and sisterly love of Christ that gives vitality to the Church. Along this line of thought, Emil Brunner states: The Ecclesia o f the New Testament, the fellowship o f Christian believers, is precisely not that which every church is at least in part - an institution, a something. The Body o f Christ is nothing other than a fellowship of persons. It is the fellowship o f Jesus Christ or fellowship o f the Holy Ghost, where fellowship or koinonia signifies a common participation, a togetherness, a community life. The faithful are bound to each other through their common sharing in Christ and in the Holy Ghost, but that which they have in common is precisely no thing, no it, but a he, Christ and His Holy Spirit. It is just in this that resides the miraculous, the unique, the once-for-all nature o f the Church; that as the Body of Christ it has nothing to do with an organization and has nothing o f the character o f the institutional about it. This is precisely what it has in mind when it describes itself as the Body o f Christ.35 If the institutionalized Church is not the correct form o f the Body o f Christ, there arises a practical question of What should the Church do to de-institutionalize itself? Brunner rightly suggested that the Church should identify itself with the fellowship of Jesus Christ or the fellowship o f the Holy Spirit. However, it seems that Brunner did

34 Ibid., 241. 35 Brunner, The Misunderstanding o f the Church, 10-11.

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not go far enough to recognize the true character o f the Church. Although koinonia is an important aspect o f the Church and a community life is desirable for the Body o f Christ, the Church is arguably more than just a fellowship or a community life. In order to understand the true nature o f the Ecclesia, one should pay attention to the underlying social structure presented in the Bible, which is nothing other than family: the family of Abraham, the family o f Jacob or Israel, and the family o f Christ. The Churchs true nature should be understood in the context o f family. Jesus shared his life together with the disciples by eating, drinking, sleeping, and doing his ministry. He said: A crowd was sitting around him [Jesus], and they told him, Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you. Who are my mother and my brothers? he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does Gods will is my brother and sister and mother.36 In that incident, Jesus renewed the concept o f family. He gave a new meaning to the word, family, for all Christians. Clearly, he was making the biological relationship secondary to the Christian relationship in Christ. Whoever does Gods will is my brother and sister and mother, said Jesus. It can be stated that God, not human beings, creates the true family. Without God, the family has been always thought in terms o f bloodline. A family name signifies a clan, usually following the fathers line. In Korea, no one, including the woman, ever changes his or her last name. Changing the last name is considered the most shameful thing. However, in European tradition, womens changing their last name at the time of marriage is a norm. Although those traditions appear to be different from each other, in essence, both traditions attempt to preserve the bloodline

36 Mk. 3:32-35.

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and the clan, which is the category o f family from the perspective o f human beings. Those who were seated in a circle around Jesus heard him give the new definition of family. It was the event when Jesus restored the meaning o f family as intended by God. Everett Ferguson points out: For those who must give up their earthly family in order to follow Jesus or to proclaim the gospel, he makes the promise that in this life they will receive a hundredfold - brothers and sisters, mothers and children (Mark 10:29-30). These are the brothers and sisters in the family o f God by reason of possession of the same Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:5-7).37 The one who places their earthly family behind Jesus will receive a hundredfold blessing; new mothers and fathers, new brothers and sisters, and new sons and daughters in Christ. When Christians can recognize each other as eternal brothers and sisters in Christ with their commitment for each other, the Church will truly become the kingdom of God. When the Spirit comes upon the Church, it will unite all churches and all Christians into one family with Christ at the center. The kingdom o f God is the kingdom of love and a family that acts according to Gods will. Thus, it can be said that the Church is not just an institution but a family. As a family, which is created by God, not by human beings, the love o f Christ rules over everything else. Rules, regulations, and traditions will not be abolished but rather given a fuller meaning through the love of Christ. Jesus said, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law o f the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.38 Institution is not an evil in itself. Rather, the problem o f the Church is that it made

37 Everett Ferguson, The Church o f Christ, A Biblical Ecclesiology fo r Today (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 115. 38 Mt. 5:17.

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institution as an end in itself. In this sense, Brunner seems to have been too idealistic when he drew a clear line between the New Testament Ecclesicf and the institutional church. He says, the New Testament Ecclesia , the fellowship o f Jesus Christ, is a pure communion o f persons and has nothing o f the character o f an institution about it.39 From a historical perspective, however, the present Church is certainly a continuation o f the New Testament Ecclesia . Brunner opposes Ecclesia to the characterization o f the Church as an institution. However, just as a body needs to have a form, the Church as the family o f Christ also needs to have a structure as a living organ. Institution is the skeleton of the Church so to speak. When it does not have the flesh and tendon attached to it, and there is no Spirit in it, it does not have life. As a living organism, the Church inevitably requires a form as a social structure which is different from form and essence in a Greek way of thinking. Institution, in that sense, is necessary as the social structure of the Church. However, that does not mean the Church should remain institutionalized , because institutionalization is the work o f humans; not o f the Holy Spirit.

Institutionalization can be viewed as a human effort to preserve the Churchs institutional structure by fossilizing the Church in a lifeless form just like an empty shell. As stated previously, the institution is not an evil in itself, but its meaning and purpose have been distorted over the course of the Churchs history. The Church seems to have considered the preservation of its structure more important than the preservation o f its life. Family is not an antithesis o f institution, because family is in essence an institution created by God. Its social structure has utmost importance for the Church

39 Brunner, The Misunderstanding o f the Church, 17.

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because only in that relationship can the true nature o f the Church be understood. On the other hand, the concept o f community seems to be too weak to fully describe the indissoluble nature o f the Church as one family o f God. The Holy Spirit creates the Church as Gods family with Christ as its head who rules over the Church with his power and authority o f love. Rules and regulations will be made perfect from the perspective that they will be followed by the members o f the Church as an act o f love; not as an act of mere compliance. Brunner summarizes the work o f the Spirit, which relates to the Ecclesia , as three fold. First, the mysterious power o f the Holy Spirit which makes the fellowship, koinonia. Brunner says, Flowing from the revelation o f the Holy Ghost was the mysterious power which made the fellowship, consisting o f many separate individuals, into a unity, a single body . . . We must not rationalize this concept o f the body . . . by reducing it to a mere metaphor.40 Karl Barth criticizes Brunners view that the Ecclesia was created by the mysterious power and the miracle o f the Holy Spirit. Barth says: To put it bluntly, did this great miracle really happen? Even according to what we find in the witness o f the New Testament not to speak o f the first centuries, . . . Does not this picture belong to the sphere o f that which never was on land or sea, to the world o f ideas and ideals? . . . Basically, is not the attempt to discuss the problem o f the Church in terms o f this criterion a romantic undertaking which makes no serious attempt at theological deliberation?41 However, Brunners view o f the mysterious power and the miracle o f the Holy Spirit, which created the New Testament Ecclesia should not be simply discounted as a romantic undertaking o f ideals. The Apostle Paul wrote, He [God] made us competent

40 Ibid., 49. 4 1 Barth, C.D. IV/2,686-7.

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as ministers o f a new covenant - not o f the letter, but o f the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.42 Bonhoeffer said: Bultmann seems to have somehow felt Barths limitations,43 but he misconstrues them in the sense of liberal theology, and so goes off into the typical liberal process of reduction - the mythological elements of Christianity are dropped, and Christianity is reduced to its essence. My view is that the full content, including the mythological concepts, must be kept - the New Testament is not a mythological clothing of a universal truth; this mythology (resurrection etc.) is the thing itself - but the concepts must be interpreted in such a way as not to make religion a precondition o f faith (cf. Paul and circumcision).44 What has happened on the day o f Pentecost must be understood from the perspective o f the Incarnation. The birth o f the first church was neither merely a miracle of the Holy Spirit nor an ideal o f human beings. Rather, it was a concrete event in which the Holy Spirit gave birth to the family o f God. Second, the gifts o f the Holy Spirit for the individual members o f the Ecclesia allow all members to perform the services, the diakoniai. Brunner says: The New Testament surprises over and over again by the multiplicity of these functions and their bearers, o f the various services and those who render them. One thing is supremely important: that all minister, and that nowhere is to be perceived a separation or even merely a distinction made between those who do and who do not minister, between the active and the passive members o f the body, between those who give and those who receive . . . When we who are so accustomed to the judicial organization o f the Church ask how such a pneumatic order is possible, the answer might be: it is no longer a simple possibility, but it was once possible thanks to the reality of whose dynamic power we can now entertain scarcely a vague surmise - the reality o f the Holy G host45

42 2 Co. 3:6. 43 LPP 328, 8 June 1944. it was that in the non-religious interpretation of theological concepts he gave no concrete guidance, either in dogmatics or in ethics. There lies his limitation, and because of it his theology of revelation has become positivist, a positivism of revelation, as I put i t 44 LPP 329, 8 June 1944. 45 Brunner, The Misunderstanding o f the Church, 50-51.

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Based on this, Brunner appears to have ignored the complexity o f the dynamic power o f the Holy Spirit. In a family, there are different roles and responsibilities. In order for a family to function as an organism, there must be the correct relationships between its members. Just as a family is comprised o f parents, children, brothers and sisters, the Church is comprised o f the members to whom the Holy Spirit gave the spiritual gifts to prepare Gods people for works o f service, so that the body o f Christ may be built up.46 The act of giving and receiving in the family o f God does not differentiate the superior from the inferior, because both givers and receivers work towards the same goal o f building up the body o f Christ. In this sense, Brunner seems to have oversimplified the pneumatic order o f the Church. Third, Brunner argues that the fellowship o f Jesus is spread through the dynamic energy of the Holy Spirit. Brunner says: People draw near to the Christian community because they are irresistibly attracted by its supernatural power. They would like to share in this new dimension o f life and power . . . There is a sort o f fascination which is exercised mostly without any reference to the Word, comparable rather to the attractive force o f a magnet or the spread o f an infectious disease. Without knowing how it happened, one is already a carrier o f the infection.47 Certainly, one cannot ignore the work o f the Holy Spirit in the Church through its supernatural power. However, there is also a different dimension in the growth of the Church. Gods family grows through the genuine love o f Christ. The love o f Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit is manifest through the loving and caring acts o f the Church members. It is neither the church dogma nor the religious ceremonies, but the brotherly

46 Eph. 4:11-12. 47 Ibid. 52.

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and sisterly love o f Gods family which attracts the people o f this religiously pluralistic world. Therefore, the Church must live the life o f Christ with his love to show the world the true character of the Church as Gods family. The Church come of age will be built upon the love o f Christ as one family of God. Ecumenism of the Church will naturally spring up from the love o f Christ and all the churches will be connected with each other in the act o f love and mutual understanding in order to do the will of God together as one family. The churches come o f age will responsibly come before God to form an empirical body o f Christ by accepting and recognizing each other and by sharing their resources to do Gods work. The earthly hierarchy o f the Church will be replaced by the offices o f the servanthood respected by the church members. In the Church come o f age, Christ will be recognized and honored as its true owner and its source o f life. It may sound too idealistic and remote from reality. Robertson says: Bonhoeffer was a critical supporter o f the ecumenical movement. His main criticism was that it had not developed a theology. This was not a call for an excluding theological statement, but for a new birth of theological earnestness related to the issues o f the day . . . But even as a youth secretary, he saw the falling away o f denominational shibboleths.48 For Bonhoeffer, Ecumenism o f the Church is more than a Christian solidarity. Rather, it meant Gods call for the praxis o f the Church to promote world peace at the time o f conflict.49 When the world come o f age is seeking its unification and the promotion of world peace through the efforts just like the United Nations, the Church come of age becomes visible to the world. In a practical sense, it can be suggested that

48 Edwin H. Robertson, Bonhoeffer's Heritage, 163. 49 See Bonhoeffer, No Rusty Swords, 286-7.

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the Church take the first step towards its unification before God by forming an assembly to call for the repentance of all Christians and churches, and to do the work o f God, salvation o f this world, together in Christ. In the Spirit, the Church will demonstrate to the world the impossibility o f being bom again on its own terms, and reveal the eternal power and glory of the Lord. With regard to the unity o f the Church, H. Richard Niebuhr says: The road to unity which love requires denominations, nations, classes, and races to take is no easy way. There is no short cut even to the union o f the churches. The way to the organic, active peace o f brotherhood leads through the hearts of peacemakers who will knit together, with patience and self-sacrifice, the shorn and tangled fibers o f human aspirations, faiths, and hopes, who will transcend the fears and dangers o f an adventure of trust. The road to unity is the road o f repentance. It demands a resolute turning away from all those loyalties to the lesser values o f the self, the denomination, and the nation, which deny the inclusiveness o f divine love. It requires that Christians learn to look upon their separate establishments and exclusive creeds with contrition rather than with pride. The road to unity is the road o f sacrifice which asks o f churches as of individuals that they lose their lives in order that they may find the fulfillment of their better selves. But it is also the road to the eternal values o f a Kingdom of God that is among us.50 Ecumenism is not an ideal but what is demanded by the gospel o f Jesus Christ. Without unity as a visible expression o f the love o f Christ and as an empirical evidence of the reality of Christ in this world, the Church cannot pose as the living body o f Christ. The World Council o f Churches was formed in Amsterdam in 1948. Since then, the organization has been promoting solidarity o f the churches and assembled together for a theological study and a public utterance.51 The WCC is not a visible structure that is sufficient for an external form o f the Church come o f age. A more functional structure

50 H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources o f Denominationalism (Gloucester, Mass: Peter Smith, 1987), 284. 5 1 Robertson, Bonhoeffer's Heritage, 164-5.

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would be needed for the Church come o f age to work together Gods praxis for the world, which will be discussed next.

The Praxis of the Church Come of Age


When the Church attains its maturity, it should ask the question, What should we do as the Church come o f age? With regard to BonhoefFers hermeneutical model of community, Luca D'Isanto says, The true response o f the church consists in rendering the hidden God visible and interpretable in the ecclesial praxis o f contemporary individuals . . . because no interpretation o f Gods being can be authentically validated without moving into action. 52 The praxis o f the Church cannot be summarized in a few terms. However, for the present discussion, its meaning will be reviewed from several key aspects: didache, koinonia , diakonia, and latreia (worship).

The Non-religious Didache The history o f humankind has proven that it is the collective power o f the enlightened members of a society, which can transform a given society. In order for the Church to take a new shape, individual Christians need to be enlightened through non religious instruction and teaching. Regarding Christian teaching, Bonhoeffer interpreted Acts 2:42 from the perspective o f didache : The testimony o f the Apostles following Peters sermon is called didache. In contrast to any form of religious speaking, instruction, the imparting o f past events, is meant here. That something has happened is testified, is taught - and also that something is to happen (Acts 2:38f.) The content of what is to be said is therefore fixed, it needs only to be handed on. Didache is the work o f mediation between firm facts and an audience -

52 Luca DIsanto, Bonhoeffer's Hermeneutical Model o f Community in Wayne Whitson Floyd, Jr. and Charles Marsh, eds. Theology and the Practice o f Responsibility: Essays on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1994), 146.

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mediation understood in a purely formal way, and nothing else. Didache has itself no religious character.53 Here, Bonhoeffer seems to emphasize several points. First, didache does not attempt to teach something new. Its purpose is not to satisfy ones curiosity. Rather, it hands over things that might be already known to an audience. It reminds an audience what God has done for them. Second, it is not related to religious rituals o f any kind. However, teaching in general is for something not already known to an audience. To impart something already known sounds senseless and superfluous. Based on the steadfast attitude of the disciples, Bonhoeffer reasoned that there must be something that keeps didache from being superfluous. He continued: There must therefore be something in this didache which distinguishes it from any other, so that it does not make itself superfluous. The steadfastness is essential and necessary. Why? Is there a sense c f duty, that the assembly must be kept up? Is it responsibility for the others? i.e. has this steadfastly an ethical . . . emotional basis? All this, as we can see today, would not have the power to build a community.54 Obviously, he is linking didache with a community, the first Church. It seems that he considered didache essential to build a Church-community. Then, what made those disciples learn steadfastly from the Apostles? Bonhoeffer finds the answer from the Holy Spirit: It lies in the fact that this testimony, precisely as didache , is a work of God, o f the Holy Spirit himself. The Holy Spirit himself speaks in this didache. He himself is the fact o f this didache. And because the church is the church o f the Holy Spirit, it builds itself up daily through this didache. The Holy Spirit exists in the didache .55

53 WF 49. 54 Ibid.

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Bonhoeffer observed that the Holy Spirit had chosen the Apostles as his special instruments to be the witnesses of Christ. They are used as the living link o f the Holy Spirit with the teaching. Bonhoeffer considered that the true sermon must be able to be called apostolic preaching in this sense. Didache can be linked with Christian education. If the purpose of general education is to help individuals to form a character suitable as a member o f society, the purpose of Christian education, as edification, is to help individuals to grow up as mature members o f Gods family and citizens o f the kingdom o f God. Everett Ferguson states, Edification (the building up in the faith) is a natural outgrowth from evangelism. The persons converted by the missionary preaching and evangelistic work then had to be instructed how to live as members o f the church.56 The fundamental difference between a general education and Christian education is that the former aims to produce socially responsible individuals. Whereas, the latter aims to create koinonia. The former is performed by trained professionals whereas the latter is performed by the Holy Spirit through the gifted servants o f Christ. Based on the preceding discussion, one can conclude that: 1) Christian education is a didache; a non-religious teaching act o f the Holy Spirit. In other words, its purpose should not be to form a religious character, but a whole-person o f Christ. 2) Christian educators should consider themselves as Gods instruments and witnesses o f the Holy Spirit. Christian education is not a personal choice o f profession, but rather, Gods calling to build a kingdom community o f Christ. 3) Christian education should be made in the

56 Everett Ferguson, The Church o f Christ, 286.

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koinonia of Christ and the Holy Spirit through which the fellowship o f faith is possible. Such koinonia is created by didache , the preaching o f the Word. 4) Christian education should be done steadfastly on a daily basis o f prayer and thanksgiving. Sunday school cannot be equated with Christian education. 5) Christian education should encompass people of all ages. As the first didache was for every disciple, all Christians must be taught on a daily basis. 6) Christian education must be prax/s-oriented in contrast to knowledge-oriented. It means that Christian education must be able to teach a person how to live for others as Christ demonstrated through his cross and his present suffering for others in a religiously pluralistic world. Therefore, the ultimate goal o f the present Christian education should be to enlighten and animate individual Christians through non-religious instructions. In doing so, a transformation o f the present Church in adolescence to the Church come o f age existing for others will be seen.

The Koinonia o f Family o f God In addition to the fact that didache is the work o f the Holy Spirit, Bonhoeffer found that didache creates koinonia: It [didache] does not leave the listener as an individual, like any other simple imparting o f facts, such as a lecture. Each one does not take up his things and go home - this didache creates koinonia. . . . Brotherly fellowship grows only with the hearing o f the Word, and all brotherly life in turn stands in the service o f proclaiming the Word. It is not without significance that koinonia is mentioned in between the teaching o f the Apostles and the breaking o f the bread. That is in fact the place of Christian brotherliness. Founded on and made possible by the preaching, fulfilled by and directed towards the breaking o f the bread, in the

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community o f the body o f the Lord.57 He concluded that the goal and the fulfillment o f the brotherly/sisterly fellowship is the fellowship in the Lords supper: Koinonia is the waiting to share in the eternal Lords supper that Christ will drink with us new in his Fathers kingdom. Fellowship stands between Word and sacrament, between the earthly feast and the eternal feast.58 It is a fellowship of prayer, of thanksgiving, and o f intercession. Brunner says o f koinonia. The Word o f God is truly and effectively in the Church as the word o f the Holy Ghost, implying therefore a unity o f logos and dynamic energy which lies beyond all comprehension. From this unity, . . . flows the hidden life o f the primitive community. It forms the secret, both o f the fellowship and of its moral power; for upon the inspiration o f the Holy Ghost rests the Koinonia. As well as the communion o f men with each other, the fact that they are knit together in an organism which includes both equality and difference, the fundamental equality o f all and their mutual subordination each to other. The significant mark and the essential being o f this communion consist in the quality o f agape - the new ethos of the fellowship and its members.59 The importance o f koinonia lies in the fact that it is not created by the faith of individuals but, on the contrary, individual faith flows out from koinonia with the Lord. Peter C. Hodgson says o f koinonia: Although we are accustomed to speaking o f the Church as a fellowship of faith, this may be a somewhat misleading expression taken alone and is found only once in the New Testament (Philem. 6). We hear more commonly o f the koinonia of the Son (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:;3, 6), o f the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16), o f the Spirit (2 Cor 13; 14; Phil.2:1), and in the gospel (Phil. 1:5). . . . It is not our faith that constitutes koinonia but the reverse, in the sense that koinonia is the matrix in which faith occurs - the koinonia o f Christ, based on the faithfulness o f God. Individual acts o f faith do not together constitute a communion; rather the

57 WF 50. 58 Ibid. 59 Brunner, The Misunderstanding o f the Church, 53.

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condition for the emergence o f faith is the new possibility o f communal praxis represented by the koinonia 60 Koinonia, as the matrix in which faith occurs, is more than fellowship. It is the praxis o f the love in which Christ exceeds the brotherly and sisterly love o f this world. Koinonia has several characteristics which distinguish it from a mere fellowship. First, koinonia consists o f a togetherness o f Christ and all members o f a church community. This togetherness is solely based on the reality o f Christ among Christians. Bonhoeffer differentiates a spiritual community from all other communities. He said, Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate . . . Within the spiritual community there is never, in any way whatsoever, an immediate relationship o f one to another.61 In this regard, James Burtness observes that Life Together, which is from the Finkenwalde period, is christocentric.62 Bonhoeffer points out that the greatest danger to Christian community is the danger o f confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea o f religious fellowship.63 Second, koinonia is a spiritual love rather than the merely emotional love o f a neighbor. Bonhoeffer said: Self-centered love loves the other for the sake o f itself; spiritual love loves the other for the sake o f Christ . . . Self-centered love makes itself and ends in itself. It turns itself into an achievement, and an idol it worships, . .

60 Peter C. Hodgson, Revisioning the Church, Ecclesial Freedom in the New Paradigm (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 32. 6 1 LT 38-41. 62 James Burtness, Shaping the Future: The Ethics o f Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 36. 63 LT 26.

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. Spiritual love, however, comes from Jesus Christ; it serves him alone. . . Self-centered, emotional love can never comprehend spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above. It is something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love.64 As a spiritual love, koinonia requires self-denial and sacrifice o f its participants. The act o f having everything in common, selling their possessions and goods, and giving to anyone as he/she had need was not a mere mishap o f the first church which was caused by misconstrued eschatology. Rather, it was the spiritual love manifested through the life o f those who were filled with the Holy Spirit. In the Church come o f age, which is filled with the Spirit, its members will become more generous in giving to the needy not simply because of their compassion but rather because o f their love o f Christ. Third, koinonia opens the door o f Christians to others. Today, the privatization of faith is the biggest enemy the Church has to fight. Each Christian home has become an island. Many individual Christians keep their life in secret and do not want to share their life problems with other fellow Christians. In todays church, even the Pastors home visitation is considered a nuisance by some Christians. In many cases, gathering together in their homes becomes an annual open-house rather than a life-sharing event of breaking the bread and eating together with glad and sincere hearts.65 The busyness of modem life pushes people more and more to their private comers. They become too weary and tired o f their life to share their life together. In this highly individualized world, the Church come of age should connect the life o f individual Christians together in their homes and in their local churches through the love o f Christ and the transforming

64 LT 42-43. 65 Ac. 2:46.

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power o f the Holy Spirit. The Church come o f age practices the koinonia which flows out of the hearts of individual Christians who are enlightened with the didache o f the Word o f God.

The Diakonia o f Servanthood In an institutionalized church, diakonia is misidentified as an office within the Church. Brunner points out, There was in the Ecclesia a regulation o f the functions . . . assigned by the Holy Ghost to the various individual members who were thus equipped to perform their special services - falsely represented as offices. For an office belongs to a public organization; an office is part o f an institution.66 As a living organism, the Church certainly needs an organizational structure to support its functions. However, it should not be a corporate structure in which an office is given certain authorities or privileges over other members of the Church. Jesus defined the nature o f diakonia for the Church when he said, You know that the rulers o f the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son o f Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.67 Diakonia can be understood from several aspects. First, just as the koinonia for the Church is from above not from below, and by the Holy Spirit not by human desire, the diakonia for the Church is enabled by the power from above and by the charisma o f the Holy Spirit, not by human capability. The office o f the Church has been instituted with the spiritual gift.

66 Brunner, The Misunderstanding o f the Church, 50. 67 Mt. 20:25-28.

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Many Protestant Churches seem to neglect this spiritual nature o f the office o f the Church, and reduce it to a mere governing body o f the Church. The members o f the congregation perceive that the church officials are the ones who are elected by them. In that sense, it is the congregation, not the Holy Spirit, becoming the elector o f the church officials. However, the Church come o f age recognizes the sovereign power and authority o f the living Christ who builds up the Church through the charisma o f the Holy Spirit. With regard to the church structure based on the charisms o f the Holy Spirit, Hans Kiing says, The operation o f God is the Spirit is directed towards these individuals in the Church, it is something concrete and individual. This becomes clear when we describe pneumatic reality o f the Church in terms o f what may be called its charismatic structure.68 Kiing says that the great variety o f charismatic gifts is not concentrated and centralized in a few individuals or the leaders o f the church community.69 The charism cannot be subsumed under the heading of ecclesiastical office, but all Church offices can be subsumed under charism,70 he asserts. The charismatic structure o f the Church can be realized when all individual members o f the Church are empowered by the charisms of the Holy Spirit. Thus, he suggests, If the charisms o f individual Christians were discovered and furthered and developed, what dynamic power, what life and movement there would be in such a community, such a Church.71 Second, diakonia should be understood from the perspective o f servanthood. As the verb diakoneo means to serve, to care for, to see after, and to wait on,

68 Hans Kiing, The Church (New York: Doubleday, 1976), 235-6. 69 Ibid., 244ff. 70 Ibid., 245. 7 1 Ibid., 250.

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diakonia does not carry any notion o f ruling over others. Rather, it denotes the acts of a servant who is waiting to serve others. Jesus showed the supreme example o f this servanthood, diakonia, through his service through his cross. He came to serve by giving his life as a ransom for many. Diakonia, therefore, demands even ones life in serving others. However, this servanthood should not be understood as directed towards other human beings. In other words, Christians are the servants o f the Lord, not o f human beings. They serve others in their obedience to their master and to his commandments alone. Third, diakonia is to participate in the sufferings o f God. Bonhoeffer said, It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings o f God in the secular life. That is metanoia : not prioritizing ones own needs, problems, sins, fears, but allowing one-self to be caught up into the way o f Jesus Christ, into the messianic event, thus fulfilling Isa. 53.72 Thus, the boundary o f diakonia should not be limited within the Church. Rather the Church should be in the midst o f the world serving its spiritual as well as worldly needs. The Church come o f age should start building more Christian schools, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, shelters, vocational schools, and counseling centers, in order to serve the needs o f this world. In order for the Church to do the work, there has to be an organization or institution that can support and manage those projects.73 From Acts, it can be learned that individual Christians born-again by the Spirit

72 LPP 362, 18 July 1944. 7 3 Readers should keep in mind that the author does not deny the need of institution or organization to support what the Church should do to be obedient to Gods will. The authors concern is the Churchs institutionalization of its structure as the end goal.

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are the elements o f the Church come o f age. Being born-again is not an abstract concept but an actual transforming act of the Spirit. When individuals are transformed into a new creation, the Spirit also creates a new community called the Church. It first forms local communities of believers. Then, those local Churches are connected together to form a body o f Christ. O f course, in reality, it is not as simple as it is described here. However, no matter how complex the Church organization might be, if it is based not on the hierarchical power structure but on the servanthood and humility o f Christ, the form o f the Church come o f age can be realized. Fourth, diakonia is the praxis o f responsibility o f the Church come o f age. Bonhoeffer found a genuine experience o f God in our encounter with Jesus Christ who is there for others: Encounter with Jesus Christ. The experience that a transformation o f all human life is given in the fact that Jesus is there only for others. His being there for others is the experience o f transcendence. It is only this being there for others, maintained till death, that is the ground o f his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Faith is participation in this being o f Jesus (incarnation, cross, and resurrection). Our relation to God is not a religious relationship to the highest, most powerful, and best Being imaginable - that is not authentic transcendence - but our relation to God is a new life in existence for others, through participation in the beings o f Jesus.74 Being there for others can be viewed as responsibility as the responsiveness of human life to the reality of the world out there.75 Wolfgang Huber argues that responsibility has a twofold structure: responsibility to and responsibility fo r. Huber says: Responsibility for is often interpreted as care. Bonhoeffer himself seems

74 LPP 381, Outline fo r a Book. 75 Cf. Wolfgang Huber, Bonhoeffer and Modernity in Wayne Whitson Floyd Jr. and Charles Marsh, eds. Theology and the Practice o f Responsibility: Essays on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1994), 14.

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to favor such an interpretation with his concept o f existence for others or proexistence. But responsibility for involves more. It is not simply care (Fursorge), but prospective care (Vorsorge), namely the prospective care for a shared realm o f living together. This is precisely the sense in which Bonhoeffer summarizes his ethics o f responsibility in the text After Ten Years : . . 76 Therefore, it can be said that diakonia has a dimension o f our responsibility for God and for humanity not only by caring for our neighbors but also by caring for the generations through the transforming praxis o f living together. Huber continues to explain another side o f the structure o f responsibility in the following terms: Responsibility to originally means responsibility to a judge. The transfer o f this idea from the sphere o f law to the sphere o f law to the sphere of ethics was historically possible only under the influence o f the Christian idea that all humans have to give a last account to a divine judge at the end of history, in the fullness o f time . . . The Christian tradition links this universalization o f responsibility back to the life of the individual. Here the parable o f the last judgement (Mt. 25:31-46) has a fundamental as well as an exemplary function. On the one hand this parable portrays the last judgement as the fulfillment o f time, when the actions o f all individuals can receive their definitive meaning in light o f the actions o f all other individuals. But, on the other hand, it portrays a present situation on the basis of which ones action are judged - namely the needs o f the weak and oppressed, the fears and hopes of our poor and marginalized brothers and sisters. The legitimacy or illegitimacy o f our actions is decided in our interactions with those who are weaker than we are. That seems to me to be the adequate explication o f Bonhoeffers notion o f existence-forothers in the framework o f an ethics o f responsibility.77 In general, as in the case o f Huber, Bonhoeffers concept o f being there for others has been interpreted from the perspective o f the oppressed and the poor. Undoubtedly, Bonhoeffer was influenced by the suffering o f the Jews to develop this theological theme o f being there for others. However, our contemporary situation is

76 Ibid., 15. 77 Ibid., 15-6.

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different from what Bonhoeffer had to face in his time. In order to find out how we can be responsible to God or stand before God78 in our situation, we need to ask, Who are the oppressed in the context o f our pluralistic society? It seems that liberation theology did not go far enough to touch on the liberation o f human souls from the realm o f religion. The liberation o f humanity must be viewed as a liberation o f human being as a whole: body, soul and spirit. Therefore, this way o f understanding diakonia as our being there for others renews the meaning of evangelism o f Christianity.

The Latreia o f Religionless Christianity. The early Church was a worshipping community; Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor o f all the people.79 Arguably, their worship was not a superficial act o f religion. Their communal life was not limited to the daily meeting in the temple courts. The religious act is always something partial; faith is something whole, involving the whole o f ones life. Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life,80 said Bonhoeffer. The early Christians were converted from the religion o f Judaism, as well as other religions, to a new way o f life. First, latreia , worship, can be understood from the spiritual aspect. Regarding the worship of Christian community o f life together, Bonhoeffer said: Life together under the Word begins at an early hour o f the day with a worship service together. A community living together gathers for praise and thanks, Scripture reading, and prayer. The profound silence of morning is first broken by the prayer and song o f the community o f faith.

78 See LPP 360. 79 Ac. 2:46-47. 80 LPP 362.

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After the silence o f the night and early morning, hymns and the Word of God will be heard all the more clearly. Along these lines the Holy Scriptures tell is that the first thought and the first word o f the day belong to God .. ,81 The day o f a Christian begins with the Word, hymn, and prayer. The term, non religious Christianity, means ones total submission to the Lord. It does not deny the spiritual aspect o f a Christian life. On the contrary, it demands ones wholly dedicated life through the secret disciplines o f a more sincere and genuine spiritual worship. As Jesus said, true worshippers do not limit the place o f their worship to the church ground. The reason being that, spiritual worship is not something partial or, in that sense, religious, but holistic. Mature Christians live their individual lives as worship. However, what is the meaning o f religionless worship and prayer? What does the Eucharist mean for religionless Christianity? Clearly, Bonhoeffer did not intend to create a secret Christian society with the secret discipline o f worship and prayer. Yet, the meaning o f religionless worship and prayer needs to be clarified. Barry A. Harvey views that the Eucharist is never simply a fellowship meal with Jesus or with our neighbors, but concretely embodies the divine summons to share in Gods sufferings at the hands o f a
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godless world.

Harvey says:

The Christian practice of everyday life, linked eucharistically by Gods own sufferings in Jesus Christ to the victims o f suffering and oppression subversively challenges the hegemony o f the (post)modem world to justify itself in light o f the human cost which it involves, but it also extends in a concrete manner the divine offer o f new life in the servant 83 community.

8 1 LT 51. 82 See Barry A. Harvey, Religionless Christianity in Wayne Whitson Floyd Jr. and Charles Marsh, eds. Theology and the Practice o f Responsibility: Essays on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1994), 53. 83 Ibid. 54.

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Religionless worship does not eliminate the corporate worship service from the community o f believers. Rather, it intensifies the meaning o f worship service as praxis o f the Holy Spirit who transforms individual Christians into spiritual beings. Through worship and prayer, Christians as an individual and a community, enter into the fellowship with God. Worship will include repentance, the Word, the bread and wine, thanksgiving, praising, healing, witnessing, confessing, life sharing, and glorifying God. The spiritual nature of worship should be understood from the perspective o f personal edification as well as communal growth and maturity which will become visible when the whole community o f believers come before God as a suffering community for others. Second, latreia , has a corporate nature. Christians gather together to worship God. The early Christians met in the temple court as well as in their homes. The home church can be a place for Christians to meet together, but the early Christians did not avoid meeting in the temple court where non-Christians also came to worship. In this sense, the temple court represents the religious world. Every day they gathered there to worship God who brought salvation to the world, and to witness the gospel o f Christ to the Jews who were religiously waiting for Messiah the Prince84 and to the Gentiles. From house to house they broke bread.85 Sacrament as a part o f worship represents Christians togetherness in Christ. By breaking the bread and drinking the cup together, they remembered what Christ had done for their sake and remembered that they are members of the Body of Christ, the Church. Third, latreia does not mean a mystical religious ceremonies or rituals where God

M Dan. 9:25. 85 Ac. 2:46.

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is removed from the reality o f this world. Rather, it means a true worship where the Lords presence in this world is recognized and praised. True worship does not distinguish the life in the church community from the life in the world. Non-religious Christianity does not nullify the worship service on Sunday. Rather, it transforms the Pharisaic and superficial worship service into something that is liberating and redeeming.86 In a true worship, baptism will be understood not merely as a mark of Christians. On the one hand, it will symbolize ones belonging to the eternal kingdom of God and also ones total commitment o f their life for the Church and for the Lord. On the other hand, baptism will be understood as a symbolization o f the commitment of the church community to the service of each member in which the Church come of age shares the life o f each member, just as the Lord received his baptism as a sign o f his commitment to humanity as a whole. Therefore, in reality, the Church and its members become one through the baptism o f the Holy Spirit. The worship in truth always unites Christians and the churches under the name o f Christ because he is the truth.

Christianity for the Religious Others


What should the Church do in the religiously pluralistic world? This is the initial question raised by this thesis. First, the Church come o f age must exist for the religious others who are under the grips of false religion. Clearly, in order for the Church to exist for the religious others, it cannot remain as a religion because a blind man cannot lead a blind man.87 Therefore, as previously stated, the Church must first be bom again by the Spirit as a religionless Christianity. Without the Spirit, the Church will have to remain as

86 LPP 300. 87 ML 15:14.

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a religion, and it can do nothing for the religious others in this religiously pluralistic world. Second, once the Church is bom again as a religionless Christianity, which is the true identity o f the Church as the body of Christ, it should dialogue with other religions just as Jesus spoke with Pharisees, Sadducees, and Samaritans. Jesus did not speak to them on the same plane. They were religious people, but Jesus was not. With his perfect knowledge o f the Father, religion could only be superfluous to him. Jesus was able to talk freely to those religious others because he is the Lord even o f the Sabbath.88 In order to dialogue with the religious others, the Christian Church should know who they are and what they believe. True compassion comes from ones understanding o f others. Therefore, the Church must understand the differences and similarities between Christianity and other religions in order to communicate effectively with them. Third, the Church, with humility, should be willing to learn from how the religious others put their faith into practice in their daily lives. Jesus, for example, did not discount the Pharisees sincerity and vigor in practicing their faith: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that o f the Pharisees and the teachers o f the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom o f heaven.89 The Church come o f age is not afraid o f facing the truths of other religions. Bonhoeffer urged, The church must come out o f its stagnation. We must move out again into the open air of intellectual discussion with the world, and risk saying controversial things, if we are to get down to the serious

88 Mk. 2:28. 89 ML 5:20.

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problems o f life.90 Fourth, the Church must have credibility in its way o f living.91 When the other religions claim that their moral values and standards are higher than Christianity, and their communities practice more authentic love among themselves and for the world, Christianity cannot claim it is the visible community with Gods presence. In summary, there are some similarities between Christianity and other religions from the perspective o f morality and the values they teach. Those similarities seem to have caused religious pluralists to believe that all religions are essentially the same. Christianity, however, is fundamentally different from other religions in the fact that Jesus can also lay claim to the religious others, I am the way and the truth and the life.92 Buddha, Mohammed, and other founders o f religions might have understood the truth, but they could not claim that they themselves are the way, the truth, and the life, as Jesus did. Since they have died, their words can only be in the past tense, but Jesus speaks his words in the present tense as the resurrected Lord. The Church for the religious others, therefore, should answer the question of Who is Christ for us today?93 by proclaiming to the religiously pluralistic world that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life for us today. As the conclusion of the present thesis, the meaning o f Christs being the way and the truth and the life will be discussed next.

90 LPP 378, 3 August 1944. 91 See Hans Pfeifer, Ethicsfo r the Renewal o f Life in in John W. de Gruchy, ed. Bonhoeffer fo r a New Day: Theology in a Time o f Transition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 152-4. 92 Jn. 14:6. 93 LPP 279, 30 April 1944.

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Je su s Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life


The Church come of age does not promote Christianity as a religion because it now knows that Christianity cannot be a religion because it bears the name o f the one who came to transform all religions o f the world and to liberate humanity. Jesus came to the world as the light. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it, wrote John.94 The darkness o f the world can be interpreted as the darkness o f religion that covers human souls. Although the light has been shed upon the world, the religious world did not understand it. The Apostle Paul once found himself at Areopagus in Athens. Paul said, Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects o f worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.95 Today, the Christian mission is to proclaim AN UNKNOWN GOD to the religious world. How can the Church proclaim Christ as AN UNKNOWN GOD who revealed himself to the religious world, which evaluates Jesus only as one of the most respectable saints in human history along with Buddha, Mohamed, and Confucius? First o f all, the meaning of the term, Christianity, needs to be redefined. Christianity is the term describing Christian faith as a religion. Unless it is redefined as something non-religious in nature, the present discussion becomes meaningless. Therefore, it should be noted that the term in the following discussion is used strictly to mean non-religious Christian faith or the person o f Christ and the witness o f his disciples.

94 Jn. 1:4-10. 95 Ac. 17:22-23.

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Clearly, non-religious Christianity has several dimensions, which can be categorized in terms o f logos, praxis and koinonia. These categories will be explained through the self characterization o f Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life.

1) The Way Christ claimed himself as the Way. Thus, the Church p ro -claims that Christ is the way. Christianity was initially called hodos (the Way)96 by non-Christians. Paul said to Felix, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower o f the Way, which they call a sect.97 Unfortunately, the term Christianity seems to have replaced the expression the Way. Some aspects o f the Way can be described. First, the Way points to a certain destiny. It leads humanity to a certain direction: to the Father. It lets human beings know who they are: sojourners. By knowing the Way human beings learn that their life on earth is only temporal, and that they should not be discouraged because our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.98 Second, the Way is holistic. It is a road to which Jesus takes all humankind. Rather, Jesus is the Way. As he was God-human, the Way is a way that is wholly human and wholly divine. It is the logos. It is the true Tao." The Way shows us how to live as a whole person in this world. Bonhoeffer said, The religious act is always something partial; faith is something whole, involving the whole o f ones life. Jesus

96 Ac. 9:2. 97 Ac. 24:14. 98 Ro. 8:18. 99 A Chinese term which means the way.

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calls men, not to religion, but to life. 100 The Way teaches humankind how to live a life filled with complete joy. I am the vine; you are the branches, If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing . . . I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 10 1 The Way is not a broken but a contiguous line. It is not the way only for Sunday or only on the church ground. It is the way for all Christians to walk together in their daily life. Third, the Way enlightens human beings. It is the light which brings an understanding o f Gods mystery to human beings. It is the true way to nirvana, it is the true way to the Enlightenment. The events o f Jesus healing the blind should be understood in spiritual way; But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.102 Fourth, the Way is universal; it is for all humankind. It is universal from the perspective that it unites. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 103 It is not the way for chauvinists or feminists; it is not the way for the white or for the black; it is not the way for the West or for the East. It is the Way for all humankind, in which all human beings can meet with mutual understanding and compassion. There is no hatred in the Way, but only love. The United Nations is a human way, a temporal way, to unite all humankind, but the Way is the divine way to unite all humankind with genuine love o f Christ which leads

100 LPP 362, 18 July 1944. 1 0 1 Jn. 15.5-9. 102 Mt. 13:16-17. 1 03 Gal. 3:38.

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humanity to the Father through the salvation. Fifth, the Way is not a method but a commitment of faith. It is not a human ethic nor a human based morality. Those things belong to Pharisees. The Way comes from above, whereas ethics and morals come from below. The knowledge o f Jesus is entirely transformed into action, without any reflection upon a mans s e l f . . . his deed is no longer one possibility among many, but the one thing, the important thing, the will of God, 104 says Bonhoeffer. The Way calls for actions o f humankind. It is not knowledge that one keeps in his/her head. Bonhoeffer argued that the new knowledge o f Jesus is entirely contained in the doing o f the will o f God. The Way is a way that one can walk only with simplicity 105 o f his/her action in obedience to Gods will, which is the way to a morality grounded in what God determines to be good and right. The Way is a way to be followed. The German word Nachfolge means following, as in run along behind me! The Way is the content o f discipleship Christians must follow.106

2) The Truth First, the Truth is the origin o f all truths. It is above and beyond all religious truths o f this world. Let the postmodernists and religious pluralists be dissatisfied on this point. The Truth o f Christ cannot be compromised with the human-made truth of religion. Because Jesus is the truth, he can speak nothing but the truth. No religious truth can counter the truth o f Jesus: They were unable to trap him [Jesus] in what he had said

E 38. 105 E 30-41. 106 See Haddon Willmer, Costly Discipleship in John W. de Gruchy, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 175.

104

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there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.107 The Truth silences all other truths o f religion. Bonhoeffer said, The Church must come out o f stagnation. We must move out again into the open air o f intellectual discussion with the world, and risk saying controversial things, if we are to get down to the serious problems o f life. 108 The Church should face the challenges of the religiously pluralistic world with a conviction that there is only one truth, Jesus Christ. Jesus can claim that he is the Truth because he speaks just what the Father has taught him.109 The truth o f Jesus is not his own but flows from the relationship in which I and the Father are one. 110 Second, the Truth is not an abstraction but the living truth: the praxis of love. The miracles performed by Jesus should be understood as the manifestation o f the Truth. Jesus did not perform those miracles to demonstrate a superpower in order to impress people: The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it. 111 Those miracles were performed out o f his truthful compassion for the sick, the poor, and the oppressed. The Truth o f Christ has to be put into practice: Therefore everyone who hears these words o f mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 112 The Truth o f Christ is also Gods concrete commandment. Bonhoeffer put in practical terms: In its unity which embraces the whole o f human life and in its undivided

107 Lk. 20:26. Cf. Mt. 16:1, 19:3, 22:18, 35, Mk. 8:11, 10:2, 12:15, Lk. 10:25, 11:16, Jn. 8:6. 108 LPP 378, 3 August 1944. 109 Jn. 8:28. 110 Jn. 10:30. 1 1 1 Mk. 8:11-12. 112 M t 7:24.

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claim to man and to the world through the reconciling love o f God, Gods commandment, revealed in Jesus Christ, confronts us concretely in four different forms which it alone unites: the Church, marriage and the family, culture and government.113 The Truth is not only for the Church but it is also for the world. The Church seems to be at a point of retreat from the matters o f this world. For example, the racial issues are still rampant in our society. However, there is very little voice heard from Christian circles that deals with those issues. Drug and alcohol became serious social issues, but there is not enough visible effort from the Church other than making its facilities available to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) which has very little to do with Christianity. The Truth must be demonstrated through the concrete actions o f the Church, the life of Christian family, the Christian culture and value, and the obedient acts o f Christian politicians and government officials. When the Truth is practiced in all different dimensions o f Christian life, the world will know that Jesus Christ is indeed the Truth, as he claimed. Third, the Truth embraces all other truths o f religion. It does not stand against the truths o f Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Taoism. Rather, it rebukes and corrects those truths claimed by religions, but embraces those truths as the father embraces his prodigal son. The Truth understands them as the consequences o f the Fall; as the outcome of the knowledge o f good and evil.114 The Church should not be in conflict with the religious others, but it should know how to embrace them without compromising the integrity o f the Truth o f Christ.

113 E 281. 114 See Part I The Love o f God and the Decay o f the World in Bonhoeffers Ethics.

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Fourth, the Truth liberates. Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. The Truth of Jesus Christ liberates the religious others from the bondage of religion. The preaching of the word of the Truth is the true event o f an Exodus o f humankind from the land of religion. The Sabbath imparted from Jesus can be attained only in the land o f freedom where those high places are demolished and peace exists.

3) The Life First, Christ is the Life. When Jesus claimed that he is the life, he undoubtedly meant that he lives in the midst o f this world. The Great Commission can remain as a commission for the present Church not because it is a written commandment in the Scripture but because Jesus promised the Church, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. 115 In other words, Christian mission is possible not simply because o f the Church here and now. Jesus said to his disciples, I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two o f you on earth agree about

anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. 116 The Life is with us human beings and lives with us. The Life is Immanuel: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, God with us. 117 Not only is Christ with us, he is at the center o f everything. In regard to the centrality of

115 Mt. 28:20. 116 Mt. 18:18-20. 11 7 M t 2:23.

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Christ, Bonhoeffer stated: It is the nature o f the person o f Christ to be in the center, both spatially and temporally. The one who is present in Word, Sacrament and Church is in the center o f human existence, o f history and o f nature. It belongs to the structure if his person to be in the center... Christ is the mediator as the one who exists pro me [for me].118 What does Gods being with humanity mean to the religious others? It means they no longer have to seek God through their religions because God is already here in the midst of all human beings. Jesus Christ, Immanuel, is the answer for all religious questions. Religion becomes meaningless before God who is with us and lives with us. Second, the Life is the source o f all lives. The Life is the first fruit o f the resurrection, the second Adam.119 The Apostle John wrote, And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son o f God does not have life. This is not a thought but a testimony o f John that in Jesus Christ we received eternal life from God. Although John meant Christians by we, certainly his testimony is for all humankind including all religious others. A man asked Jesus, What must I do to inherit eternal life? 120 Clearly, this is the most important question that a religion must be able to answer. In fact, all religions have interpretations for the answer to this question. However, religion can give an answer only in the future tense: By doing this and that, you will attain eternal life or nirvana . The Life on the other hand, declares in present tense, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. 121 It means that religion can only offer humankind a possibility o f

1,8 CC. 60. 1191 Co. 15.

120 Mk. 10:17, Mt. 19:16-29, Lk. 18:18-30. 1 2 1 Jn. 3:36.

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eternal life which the Life has already made available in the present for all humankind. Third, the Life is found in the relationship o f the triune God. The Apostle John was convinced that God is love. 122 It is obvious that love requires the other. Without the triune relationship o f the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Johns statement, God is love, is not possible. Undoubtedly, God is love even before the event o f Creation. God timelessly loves within the structure o f trinity: The Father loved the Son and placed everything in his hands. 123Therefore, love explains why God must be in trinity. God is perfect love within the triune relationship. Jesus described his relationship with the Father in terms of love of the Father and the obedience o f the Son: As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Fathers commands and remain in his love. 124 All that belongs to the Father is mine. 125 This loving relationship of the triune God must have been a part o f Imago Dei that the first man and woman bore before the Fall. Through Jesus Christ, God restores the image o f God that humanity had once lost: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 126 Therefore, reconciliation between God and humanity can be understood as the restoration o f Gods image o f love in human beings. Through Jesus, human beings can love the Father, and love each other. Jesus said, My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for

122 1 Jn. 4:8. 123 Jn. 3:35. 124 Jn. 15:9-10. 125 Jn. 16:15. 126 Ro. 8:29.

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his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 127 Jesus laid down his life for his friends: all humankind. There is no greater love than his. However, his love demands humanity to obey his command: Love each other as I have loved you. Jesus as the Life calls humanity to be in a loving relationship. Love is the nature of the community o f Christ. Jesus said, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 128 Jesus, the Life, gives humanity the communal life o f love through which human beings can have it to the full. How, then, can Life be interpreted for the religiously pluralistic world? Bonhoeffer said: The Christians cannot simply take for granted the privilege o f living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst o f his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies o f God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their w o rk .129 To be in the midst of the world filled with religions is the mission o f the Church of Christ. The scope o f the Christian mission seems to be much larger than sending out missionaries to countries overseas. The importance o f the missionary work cannot be discounted. However, the Church as the whole must realize that its true mission is to love God by simply being obedient to the command o f Christ: Love each other as I loved you. In his obedience to the Father, Jesus fulfilled his mission on earth: I have obeyed my Fathers commands and remain in his love. 130 Jesus told his disciples, Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be

127 128 129 130

Jn. Jn. LT Jn.

15:12-14. 15:12-14. 27. 15:9.

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loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. Jesus did not fulfill his mission with earthly devices or methods. He did not invent many different programs or organizations to love his friends and the world. His cross demonstrates the simplicity o f his obedience by which he loved the Father and the world. All the churches on the face o f the earth should come before God to repent for their disobedience. Jesus said, If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. The words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 13 1 The Church must confess that it does not love one another as Jesus loves his Church. The mission o f the Church is to love God before it loves humanity. The Church has placed its own agendas - Church growth, equipping the saints, and maintaining the order and structure o f the Church - before its love o f God and in doing so it has neglected to obey his command o f loving one another. Bonhoeffer called for the Churchs transformation to a spiritual community: Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise o f all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more Calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it. Because Christian community is founded solely on Jesus Christ, it is a spiritual [pneumatische ] and not a psychic [psychische] reality. In this respect it differs absolutely from all other communities. The Scriptures call pneumatic or spiritual \geistlich] what is created only by the Holy Spirit, who puts Jesus Christ into our hearts as lord and savior. The Scriptures call psychic or emotional [seelisch] what comes from the natural urges, strengths, and abilities o f the human soul.132

1 3 1 Jn. 14:23-24. ,32LT 38.

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How should the Church be categorized based on Bonhoeffers analysis? According to the previous discussion, the present Church in adolescence could be called a community o f a psychic reality rather than a spiritual community.133 For the Church to serve Gods purpose for the sake o f a religiously pluralistic world, the Church should acknowledge the lordship o f Christ and become a mature spiritual community created by the Holy Spirit. The Church come of age knows that it must follow its master, Jesus Christ, into the world. Douglas John Hall says: The church which follows Jesus Christ into the world will have to experience humiliation; and surely Bonhoeffer understood, what has become more inescapable in the half-century since his death, that this humiliation would have to include, eventually, the very demise o f that form o f the church which for some sixteen centuries dominated the Western world and still dominates our mental and spiritual processes even when it is quantitatively and qualitatively obsolete. It is the humble and simple life o f Jesus that the Church should learn from in order to live its life as his disciple community. The Church must renew itself to live a new life. It must acknowledge that its current way o f life does not conform to the life o f Christ the Lord. It must make a radical decision to follow Jesus into the world. Jesus asked his disciples, When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything? Nothing, they answered.135 The presence o f Christ will suffice the needs of the Church. When the Church lives the life of Christ with humility and simplicity, the transforming power o f the Holy Spirit will flow from its gate into the world to fulfill the

134 Douglas John Hall, Ecclesia Crucis in Wayne Whitson Floyd Jr. and Charles Marsh, eds. Theology and the Practice o f Responsibility: Essays on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1994), 71. 135Lk. 22:35.

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will o f God for the suffering world. In conclusion, this thesis argued that Bonhoeffers non-religious interpretation is relevant in the present context o f a religiously pluralistic world. This is so because a non-religious interpretation points to the original meaning o f the gospel as intended by Jesus Christ, who came to this world to humanize humanity through liberating humankind from the oppression o f false religions. Peter Selby says: The day is indeed new, and not just for this society. The new day brings new perplexities in the form o f issues about democracy, about the economy, about the vision o f humanity which informs our common life. Among those who face the new day will be those who, like some o f us gathered at this Congress, have questions and perplexity about the identity o f Christianity, and indeed o f Christ himself, in our time.136 Selby is correct in that we have the new day o f our own. The world has become mature and much more complex. Clearly, our new day raises new challenges for Christianity. However, throughout the discussion, it has been suggested that the human condition in terms o f religious oppression did not change over the course o f human history, thus non-religious interpretation as the authentic meaning o f Christianity will stay relevant as long as the world remains religious. One might argue that all religions comfort human souls rather than oppress it. For example, one can argue that even the ancient Egyptian religion comforted the souls o f Pharaoh and his people and gave peace to their minds. In this instance, the deceitfiilness o f religious comfort and peace can be easily understood from the perspective o f the truth o f the gospel o f Christ. Religion with its inherently superstitious nature certainly enslaves human souls. Jesus said, My peace I

136 Peter Selby, Who Is Jesus Christ, fo r Us, Today? in John W. de Gruchy, ed. Bonhoeffer fo r a New Day: Theology in a Time ofTransition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 37-8.

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give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. 137 It was also suggested that the Church is still adolescent while the world has become mature. In order for the Church to become mature, it needs to take off the religious garments and be bom again as a religionless Christianity, as Bonhoeffer suggested. Since Bonhoeffer could not finish what he had started due to his untimely death, his effort o f a non-religious interpretation should continue in order to help the Churchs future.138 Finally, it was suggested that the Church must come before God and repent for its disobedience of not loving one another. In order to love the religious others in a religiously pluralistic world, the Church should be united in and by the Holy Spirit. This should be done not in the form o f an institution, but in the form o f Gods family. A religionless Christianity, through its non-religious praxis o f love for the religious others, should be able to proclaim that: Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life for all humankind. The Church come of age will know how to love God by obeying a new command o f the Lord: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. 139

137 Jn. 14:27. 138 LPP 383. 139 Jn. 13:34-35.

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ABSTRACT
This dissertation attempts to find out the relevance o f Dietrich Bonhoeffers theology in a religiously pluralistic world. The postmodern society is open to many religions including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, Confucianism, Mormon, Jehovahs Witness, folk-religions, and many different spiritual movements. Religious plurality and openness o f the contemporary world are challenging the Church from the perspective of evangelism. How can the Church witness the gospel o f Jesus Christ when the world no longer considers Christianity the supreme religion? Bonhoeffer understood that the world come o f age had become religionless, and tried to answer the question, Who is Christ for us today? with non-religious interpretation. On the contrary to his worldview, this world seems to be religious more than ever. How, then, can his thesis still remain meaningful in the world o f modernity and postmodemity with many religions? This paper answers those questions in three parts. The first part presents an overview o f Bonhoeffers theology mainly focusing on the concepts o f the world come of age, non-religious interpretation o f the gospel and biblical concepts, the Church for others, secret or arcane discipline, worldly Christianity, holy worldliness, non-religious Christianity, religionless Christianity, deus ex machina (God of the gaps), and etsi deus non daretur (even if there were no god). The second part examines the characteristics o f the modem and postmodern world based on the rejection o f universal truth, the world without God or the death of God, relativism and the problem o f hermeneutics, individualism and communalism, toleration o f differences, and religious pluralism. The 21 century is in transition from a state o f modernity to postmodemity. The third part applies Bonhoeffers Outline fo r a Book to the present context. It defends the relevance o f Bonhoeffers theology to the world o f postmodemity and o f the Generation-X. It presents stocktaking o f Christianity based on the adolescent nature o f the Church. Its adolescence and immaturity should be overcome by the Church come o f age where its adulthood and maturity are attained through the praxis o f the Church as the community o f life together in a communal structure. Theological Mentor: Ray S. Anderson, Ph.D. Words: 350

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