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Formation in Christ is a curious doctrine when considered dogmatically or

systematically. This is because a doctrine of spiritual formation might be considered
a “downstream” doctrine, as it incorporates prior theological categories. One
operates—explicitly

or

implicitly—with,

among

others,

specific

doctrines

of

pneumatology, anthropology, holiness, Christology, ecclesiology, and sanctification
because, systematically considered, formation in Christ lies at their intersection.
Today, I will specifically address one of those “upstream” doctrines—anthropology—
its relationship with theologies of Christian formation, and the downstream
consequences of upstream development. We begin with anthropology because, in
many ways, it sets parameters regarding what formation in Christ can and cannot
become; anthropology asks, “What is human being, that it may be formed in
Christ?”
To assist the conversation and highlight the specific contributions to
theologies of formation, this essay will make a distinction between theological and
philosophical anthropology. Theological anthropology will be humanity considered in
reference to the biblical categories of humanity in Adam and humanity in Christ.
Though the biblical text speaks at considerable length regarding humanity and
human being, affirming our body, mind, spirit, and soul, it is somewhat silent
regarding how these complex aspects of human being interact. Theological
anthropology is primarily concerned with what it means for humanity to be fallen in
Adam, renewed in Christ, and living in anticipation of Christ’s return. Specifically
delineating how body, spirit, mind, and soul interact is more properly a philosophical
investigation, and I will speak of philosophical anthropology as the discipline which
addresses the aspects of human being, body, spirit, mind, and soul, their
interaction, and how we talk about it. Consequently, a theology of formation in

As it now stands. in specific. and function within Christian life as humanity awaits Christ’s return. and the more popular work of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. treatments of spiritual formation almost universally work from an Aristotelian or Thomistic philosophical body/soul metaphysic which speaks of the soul being shaped through specific behavior. Secondly. The haibits—with their point of reference at the level of being—transform us being into certain types of people. even if such a differentiation is rarely made. in which the soul as a specific ‘thing’ is shaped and developed through intentional habit. mind.Christ necessitates both a theological and philosophical anthropology. significant downstream implications suddenly emerge which force us to reconsider formation in Christ. I hope to accomplish two concurrent tasks. refuses the categories believed most germane to spiritual formation? Today. the work of the reformers. Initially and most importantly. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work and his . through an unfortunately brief foray into Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s technical theological and philosophical anthropology. a-priori. But what happens when a philosophical anthropology moves beyond Aristotle? What happens when you go upstream and reconsider some of this work and begin with a formal ontology that. as it attempts to articulate how body. I hope to demonstrate this to be a substantial issue within theologies of spiritual formation: how does anthropology hang together with formation. I hope to show that. spirit. and soul exist and relate in Adam in sin then renewed in Christ. and what if you’re unconvinced by the Greeks? If and when one moves beyond what one might consider this classic Thomistic or Aristotelian philosophical anthropology. This assumed anthropology is reflected in theologies of theosis.

No longer debating the metaphysical substance of being. a very brief and incomplete overview of central aspects of Heidegger’s work Being and Time is in order. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s oft misunderstood and at times confusing work Act and Being has had a muddled reception over the decades as interpreters have struggled to come to terms with what exactly he is attempting to achieve through the text. as the individual chooses her particular way of being human—the shape her existence . Being and Time had an immediate impact on the philosophical world because Martin Heidegger radically altered how philosophy approached the question and meaning of being. Heidegger questions the place of dialogue regarding metaphysical substance in the first place. we must note Heidegger’s evaluative criteria by which he interprets lived existence: authenticity or inauthenticity. For Heidegger. Bonhoeffer is deeply interacting with Martin Heidegger’s work as he wrestles through the philosophical implications of his Christology. or Dasein. The text is a highly provocative work of philosophical and theological anthropology. Additionally. in order to grasp Bonhoeffer’s work. Heidegger’s great philosophical achievement in Being and Time was shifting the field of conversation from the substance and metaphysics of being into the interpretation and hermeneutics of existence. Thus. Dasein is not a “thing” as if it could be considered in abstraction from a located and interpreted existence. Specifically. Consequently. We begin with a brief overview of Bonhoeffer’s thought. He challenged the very discourse as he insisted that all we can talk of is the way of being which he calls “being-there”. and all we can do is interpret the multifaceted shapes existence takes. But it can exist in many ways. let alone a “thing” with a soul that can be shaped or formed. Being is. Published in 1927.consequent treatment of Christian formation provides a stimulating way forward.

Bonhoeffer puts it like this. It already is in reference to what it understands itself as to be capable of being. and you cannot discuss Dasein apart from the interpretation of being found in the present. and therefore human being. a few central aspects of Heidegger’s project in Being and Time become quite important for Bonhoeffer’s work. molded. “Dasein is already its possibility.takes—she does it with reference to how she understands herself to be able to exist in any given moment. The decisive point is. This means. walaupun Heidegger menyatakan bahwa pendekatan Dasein adalah nontheistik membiarkan Heidegegr berbicara tentang ada tanpa referensi kepada Allah. or formed. in authenticity or inauthenticity. As I mentioned. that human being has no preexistent metaphysical composition. has no selfexistent nature—it’s not a thing— which can be spoken of in abstraction. Thus. What this means is that existence. knowing himself living either in authenticity or inauthenticity to his potential to exist in the world. quite significantly. is interpreted in reference to its specific way of existing and in dialogue with what it could have become at any given moment. Bonhoeffer memakai pemikiran Heidegger bukanlah tanpa persalan. let alone transformed into Christlikeness. . It is capable of choosing itself in authenticity and of losing itself in inauthenticity. Heidegger’s great achievement is shifting the field of conversation away from a substance metaphysics of being into the interpretation and hermeneutics of concrete existence. It is not some-thing to be considered. and—very importantly—is not some-thing which can be shaped. Dasein. that it already ‘is’ in every instance what it understands and determines itself to be. moment. and will tease out in his doctrine of formation in Christ—particularly his use of Dasein in reference to being. Dasein is the being of the subject who is interpreting his existence. reflective.” And again. however. Secara khusus.

. humanity’s transcendent reality is genuinely inaccessible because it isn’t a possibility for the form Dasein can take. therefore. forbidding them to live in reference to their transcendent reality in Christ. or treating it as an external object of knowledge which could be treated in abstraction. there is a transcendent ‘what’ of being which Bonhoeffer must acknowledge. Bonhoeffer maintains the tension through an appreciation of the Lutheran doctrine of the bound will. Thus. Just as Dasein isn’t some-thing. The person is truly bound. The heart turned in upon itself believes its only possibilities to exist is from the self. thus binding the individual away from any transcendent possibility-to-be. understood in reference to a term he coins. therefore. ada transenden apa Consequently. And yet he must address it without either making it a possibility for the form human being can take. Act and Being. In effect. portrays a theological anthropology—the reality of a transcendent metaphysic—through a philosophical anthropology that denies its existence. his Christology and theology of the resurrection hold that Christ renewed all humanity and human being through the resurrection. “how” we are determines the possibilities we see our Dasein to be able to take and. Konsekuensinya. Wiesein (“how-being” which corresponds to Dasein’s “there-being”) draws upon the relationship between Dasein’s existence and its potential-to-be in any given moment. the shape and form of existence.Bonhoeffer mendorong Heidegger berbicara mengenai ada dalam referensi kebangkitan Kristus. Bonhoeffer has to acknowledge the theological transcendent reality of all humanity in Christ without making living in reference to this reality something philosophically or existentially possible prior to God’s revelation. Life in reference to the self binds the individual. Bonhoeffer has to treat this-thing—all human being renewed in Christ—as if it’s no-thing until and unless the person encounters God’s revelation in Christ. Wiesein.

Philosophically. Wiesein can exist in reference to its eschatological potential-to-be in Christ—which he calls being in the mode of Christ. body). particularly in the conclusion of Act and Being. Bonhoeffer reflects the fullness of humanity at the level of being through his use of Dasein. or had anywhere to progress to. spirit. and formation away from any reference to being in Christian life. Theologically. as both are ordered in Christ. as if it was a thing that could be treated apart from the rest of the aspects of being (mind. growth.and cannot be free apart from the inbreaking Word of God in Jesus Christ. Human being cannot be treated with respect to progressively developmental categories because it is a conceptual unity in Dasein. This is why vision plays such a key role in Bonhoeffer’s theology. Even moreso. theological and philosophical work has a few important downstream considerations. this implies Bonhoeffer will not call formation in Christ the shaping of the soul. You cannot live in reference to Christ until you see him beyond yourself. . complete and entire in Christ. or the inner dimension of the self. not the “stuff” of being. Precisely because all humanity is already new humanity. and this necessarily removes all talk of progress. After revelation of reality in Christ. When this occurs. all human being is completely renewed in Christ through the resurrection. there is no place to grow to because one is already everything in Christ. Looking downstream. the individual exists in the mutually constitutive unity of act (Wiesein) and being (Dasein). not the what. Prior to God’s revelation. Wiesein binds Dasein to only be able to exist in reference to the self—which Bonhoeffer calls being in the mode of Adam. The how of being. Positively stated. The way of being is key for Dasein. Bonhoeffer’s complex. his conscious adoption Heidegger’s categories tacitly rejects metaphysics in the first place.

he accomplishes it in two ways. or work through categories of progressive development of human being because the theological and philosophical categories deny that from the outset. instead of in reference to being itself. therefore act in a way which faithfully corresponds to your being in Christ. is the precise logical appeal Paul makes in the pastoral epistles. You are in Christ. It spends considerable time developing the concept of will within the church. he treats formation as an ecclesial concept and speaking of Christ taking a specifically social form. Secondly. by theologically articulating progress in Christian life in reference to a way of being. I’ll transition into a brief overview of how Bonhoeffer understands Christian formation as the precise way Christ exists as community. so to speak. First. Bonhoeffer’s doctoral dissertation. Among other things. by the time he speaks of growth and con-formation to Christ. I believe this reflects the genuinely unique aspect Bonhoeffer’s theology brings to spiritual formation discourse: what is Christian formation if you’ve rejected the Greeks? So how does Bonhoeffer hold these points and still have a developed theology of formation? Broadly stated. it seems to me. Here. He treats formation as Christ taking form in the church and thus gives it a primarily social shape—as the church exists in a certain way that corresponds to its being in Christ. and many common categories are already off the table.Consequently. Which. Formation in Christ simply cannot talk about developing habits that shape the soul. specifically highlighting its renewal . Sanctorum Communio. the text theologically interprets a central sociological insight regarding the relationship between individual will and its role in structuring community. explores the theological and sociological nature of community. his conceptual die has already have been cast.

instead of simply naming off all 11 players at the same time. A sociological mark of community is this common. and his argument investigates the relationship between individual will and community. It underscores a significant point for Bonhoeffer. the community of wills. . In justification the will to self is renewed as the will for God and for neighbor. He is drawing attention to another insight.” Through the way in which persons originate and communal wills are identified. and how this unified desire in the same direction allows them to be treated as “The Defense”. both being sociological insights. communities can become collective persons and be treated as people. Bonhoeffer ties his comments regarding will and collective into the sociological concept of a community’s objective spirit. So you might think of the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense. showing community to be. a third entity—what he calls the objective spirit—emerges and encapsulates the social ethos defining the community’s will. Just as individuals possess a will which can be exercised in daily life. communal will towards something. so too does the community. This notion of a collective person is quite important in the text. a community’s objective spirit can be treated as a collective person and given a personal character—the ethos behind the will. unified. essentially. we can note Bonhoeffer’s theological insight that a collective person that wills can will itself either in harmony or conflict with the will of God and therefore emerge as a certain kind of collective person. independent of being willed or not willed by the persons who are uniting. a ‘structure’ is created—that is. that.in God’s justification. and what values it stood for—kindness and gentleness are not among them. Looking forward. a third entity. namely that. sociologically speaking. And. “where wills unite. As an example—think of a the common will the Chicago Bears defense possesses on a Sunday afternoon. previously unknown.

shows how community can be treated as an individual. renewing through obedience what Adam destroyed through disobedience. as the second Adam. Additionally. importantly. individually and communally. Christ. This is precisely the philosophical dynamic he described through Wiesein in his Habilitation. the human race was created to will God’s will. Humanity in Adam is the collective individual representing the bound will as objective spirit. the individual’s will is renewed and can now begin willing God’s will. through justification. such that a new type . And. “the will to community and the will to embrace God’s purpose. establishing the church in his body through the resurrection. This allows him to position Christ’s work as the second Adam. The will-to-self as objective spirit is humanity in Adam bound to itself and existing as a collective person.” Instead. Individually. and thus to reflect the biblical symmetry of Romans 5. This is particularly relevant as he considers how Christ takes form in the world as a collective individual borne through the communal will of the church. renewed human being and took it into himself. the individual fragments herself from the community. and as community. In rising up against God in rejection of her created will. it is significant to note that none of this formation has anything to do with human being in and of itself. Bonhoeffer portrays this self-willing objective spirit as Adam existing as community: fallen humanity as collective person. again. making God’s community (the collective person who wills the very will of God) impossible. the individual defies the divine will in service of the self. Bonhoeffer demonstrates the theological significance of these sociological realities by putting them in conversation with the biblical categories of humanity in Adam and humanity in Christ.All of this is crucial because it allows him to speak of communities as a person and.

From early to late. The church is Christ existing as community. he . therefore. the church. “He who bore the form of the human being can only take form in a small flock. Bonhoeffer notes that Christ takes form among us. this is Christ’s church. This is how he can treat ethics as formation.” This is how Bonhoeffer’s upstream work cashes out. As he says in the Ethics. structuring of the church as collective individual and is the transcendent metaphysic he works around in Act and Being. as Christ’s body. Though he never returns to a proper sociological investigation of the church. because Christ takes form through the behavior of the church. Christ’s presence as community is a deeply theological concept which permitted a sociological interpretation that opens a series of conceptual paths for him to develop his unique theology. Christ’s resurrection brought all humanity into himself. level) it is Christ’s body. But. precisely because (at a formal. takes a specific shape as it exists in space and time —through the collective spirit of humanity renewed in Christ and willing God’s will. and (sociologically understood) it is the collective individual emerging through the objective spirit of the renewed will.of collective individual takes form in the world. as he puts forth an elaborate and extensive theology of formation in Christ that speaks of progress (as Christ increasingly takes form in the world through the church) through a specific way of existing in the world—willing the will of God for God and neighbor. in the first place Jesus Christ taking form in Christ’s church. ontological. Act and Being’s anthropological fine tuning sets the parameters Discipleship and Ethics built upon as Bonhoeffer developed the social form of Christ in the world. “Formation” means. This is the formal. ontological. he also never departs from the primarily social understanding of Christ’s presence in the world. He possesses theological tools to develop an extensive theology of formation in Christ without any reference to being.

One can speak of developing certain ways of being. but his particular contribution is quite provocative as we consider formation within the local church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer can become a very helpful conversation partner. I believe. Bonhoeffer’s theology can be most instructive for those doing constructive work in the relationship between anthropology and formation in Christ. Bonhoeffer reinforces that formation need not be soul shaping after virtue or that being shaped in Christlikeness means growing in Jesus’s character. Thus. on aggregate. The soul doesn’t have to grow anywhere. but being remains static. . we can be more faithful to our holy character in Christ. articulating theological loci to be worked through. secured in Christ through the resurrection.does all this from a categorically different metaphysical presupposition. And this is where. He not only illumines requisite systematic issues underneath a theology of formation. Particularly for those theologians working from a post-Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophical anthropology.