Bonhoeffer Down Under

Bonhoeffer Down Under

Gordon Preece
Ian Packer
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ATF (Australia) Ltd.
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Bonhoeffer Down Under
    Book Description:

    If Protestants had saints, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—martyred under Hitler on April 9, 1945 just days before the Allies reached his concentration camp—would be one of the first canonised. Not just his unsought martyr’s death, but his life’s movement from privilege to growing identification with the suffering, his courageous return from the safety and beckoning success of the US to Germany, his work with the Confessing Church and, more controversially, with the underground resistance in the plot to assassinate Hitler, all argue his case for canonisation. Bonhoeffer is among ten twentieth-century martyrs above the Great West Door at Westminster Cathedral, where their portraits often tell more about the artists and their age than the saint and theirs, the movement of their lives and the movements they belonged to or founded. This is certainly true of Bonhoeffer and the Church of his anguished age. This collection of essays is from ‘Down -Under’, for with the exception of the paper by UK theologian Keith Clements, are all the papers are by writers who live and work in the southern hemisphere. They include former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, South African theologian, John de Gruchy, and a number of Australian writers. These include papers by historian John Moses, and theologians Gordon Preece, Brian Rosner, Bruce Barber, Max Chamption and Neil Holm. Kevin Rudd writes in this volume that ‘Bonhoeffer is, without doubt, the man I admire most in the history of the twentieth century. He was a man of faith. He was a man of reason . . . He was never a nationalist, always an internationalist’. For tormented twenty-first century humanity Bonhoeffer is still one of our best guides to that new humanity being birthed by the Spirit of Christ in the midst of those seeing from and suffering below.

    eISBN: 978-1-921817-90-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xxvi)
    Rabbi Aviva Kipen

    In 2003 I accepted an invitation to attend a complimentary preview screening of Martin Doblmeier’s Bonhoeffer film documentary at Carlton’s Cinema Nova. I was one of a handful of people in the auditorium for the preview and the marketing person was trying to get feedback. As I talked she became animated. There was to be a launch screening followed by a panel discussion and audience questions, but they still hadn’t identified a Jewish participant. Would I be prepared to take on the challenge? What followed undoubtedly led to my invitation to write for this volume.

    In 1971, Theodore A Gill¹...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xxvii-xliv)
    Gordon Preece

    If Protestants had saints, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—martyred under Hitler on 9 April 1945 just days before the Allies reached his concentration camp—would be one of the first canonised. Not just his unsought martyr’s death,¹ but his life’s movement from privilege to growing identification with the suffering, his courageous return from the safety and beckoning success of the US to Germany, his work with the Confessing Church and, more controversially, with the underground resistance in the plot to assassinate Hitler, all argue his case for canonisation.

    Bonhoeffer’s books—Discipleship,Life Together,Letters and Papers from PrisonandEthicsthe best...

  6. I. Theological Foundation
    • Who is Bonhoeffer for Us Today?
      (pp. 3-18)
      John W de Gruchy

      Worldwide celebrations the year of the centenary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birth in 1906, more than sixty years after his death, are indicative of a common interest in what has been labelled the ‘Bonhoeffer phenomenon’.¹ Scholarly and popular interest in Bonhoeffer’s life and work is not only alive and well, but growing, straddling the spectrum of denomination, discipline, perspective and place.² There is a seemingly endless stream of books on his legacy in many different languages, and the publication of the new critical edition of his works in sixteen volumes, many already translated into English, has ushered in a new era...

    • Confession And Resistance
      (pp. 19-36)
      John W De Gruchy

      In the first paper I attempted to lay the groundwork for appropriating Bonhoeffer’s legacy today, but I avoided comment on his involvement in the German church struggle (orKirchenkampf) and the resistance against Hitler. This is the focus of this paper. But my intention is by no means purely historical for that, as we have already noted, would not do justice to Bonhoeffer’s legacy. We have to ask, rather, what does Bonhoeffer’s legacy of confession and resistance have to say to us now in a time of global uncertainty, injustice, religious extremism, terror and war? But first we need to...

    • Embodying the New Humanity
      (pp. 37-54)
      John W De Gruchy

      Bonhoeffer was a highly competitive sportsman, excelling at tennis and enthusiastic about other games. Bethge, his friend, was passionate about football, following the fortunes of his favourite team with great enthusiasm till the end of his life. So it is not inappropriate that we begin this third paper by reflecting on sport, though given Australia’s superiority over South Africa at present I would have preferred to remain silent. My introductory focus is, however, the Football World Cup that demonstrated the extent to which soccer has become the religion of millions. Some may judge this devotion to football as idolatry, my...

  7. II. Application
    • ʹWho is Jesus Christ for us Today?ʹ: Christology for ʹMan Come of Ageʹ
      (pp. 57-90)
      Gordon Preece

      Recently, Evangelical historian Richard Weikart wrote a helpful article entitled ‘So Many Different Dietrich Bonhoeffers’.¹ In it he laments the way theologians and Christians of all persuasions pick and choose the parts of Bonhoeffer they like and discard the rest. Theological liberals and radicals can ascribe his earlier more orthodox views ofDiscipleshipandLife Togetherto a more immature stage before hisEthicsandLetters and Papers from Prisondesigned to address ‘man come of age’ with ‘religionless Christianity’. Evangelicals or theological conservatives on the other hand largely stress Bonhoeffer’s call for stringent, costly discipleship and the devotional discipline...

    • Autonomous Spirituality: What Future for Religionless Christianity?
      (pp. 91-104)
      Bruce Barber

      The aphorism in French to the effect that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ seems entirely apposite to the title of this paper. Superficially, we appear to be living in quite an unexpected change in culture from that envisaged by Bonhoeffer as we encountered him in theLetters and Papers from Prison. If there he introduced young theological students to a world of emerging radical secularity, who could have foreseen that in our lifetime we would be encountering ‘spirituality’ at every turn. How anachronistic does the sentence: ‘Spirit talk is not our native language these days’...

    • Nihilism and Nature: Bonhoefferʹs ʹTheology of the Bodyʹ and the Homosexuality Debate
      (pp. 105-126)
      Max Champion

      This paper examines Bonhoeffer’s ‘theology of the body’ in the context of the drift to nihilism in the West and the passion aroused by the global debate on homosexuality.

      Western culture is crumbling from within. Christian humanism and enlightened humanism have been firmly rejected by post-modernity. The global triumph of Christianity-and-civilisation, so confidently predicted in 1900, has proved illusory. The goal of a common humanity based on shared faith-and-reason in universal values has been widely rejected. Meta-narratives stand accused of oppressing the marginalised. Commitment to truth is seen merely as a ploy to attain power. The freedom to act in...

    • Theological Education, the Curriculum and the Net Generation
      (pp. 127-154)
      Neil Holm

      As we move into the twenty-first century and as we become more aware of the learning needs and styles of the emerging Net Generation we need to consider what kinds of theological education might be appropriate? This paper asks, ‘What might Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Finkenwalde seminary conducted in the face of Nazi opposition in the mid-twentieth century have to teach us about curriculum and formation in theological education today?’

      This paper argues that the theological curriculum at Finkenwalde

      1. is revealed inLife TogetherandDiscipleship

      2. has an intended, although unstated, outcome

      3. has an existentialist(rather than purely intellectualist) pedagogical emphasis

      4. is relevant...

    • God the Intimate Interventionist: Nick Cave and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Dialogue
      (pp. 155-166)
      Gordon Preece

      Nick Cave, the great Australian gothic rock artist, writes songs that are God-bothering and bothered. But his most popular song is best-known for its negative line ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God’. Along with REM’s ‘Losing my Religion’, it is the anthem for many a New Atheist. Many Christians, ever-defensive and alert against the New Atheists mistakenly quote Cave in this way. Tragically, Christians’ tone-deafness highlights the way we are so often distracted by the angry Atheists from addressing the anguished longing of those who Charles Taylor inA Secular Age¹describes as ‘cross-pressured’: unbelievers aware that the rumour...

    • ʹBonhoeffer on Disappointmentʹ
      (pp. 167-190)
      Brian S Rosner

      Golf was once described as a long walk punctuated by disappointments and a football fan as someone who, no matter what the score, is in a constant state of disappointment. Somewhat histrionically, ‘Anne of Green Gables’ complained: ‘my life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.’¹ Disappointment is such a universal human experience that one American wit, Ambrose Bierce, defined a ‘year’ as ‘a period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments’ and the ‘present’ as ‘that part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.’ According to George Orwell’sAnimal Farm, ‘the unalterable law of life...

  8. III. Reception
    • Bonhoeffer the Ecumenical Troublemaker
      (pp. 193-212)
      Keith Clements

      Or, ‘Bonhoeffer’s problems with the English’—a title that might of course go down better over here in Australia! But beware: Bonhoeffer habitually spoke of the ‘Anglo-Saxons’, rather than specifically the English or British, by which he included most of the English-speaking world including the USA, and I’ve no reason to think he hadn’t heard of Australia.

      During the 8thAssembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Porto Alegre, Brazil in February 2006 I was tempted to conduct a private survey among the thousands of participants from many countries and different confessions, on which Christian figures ranked highest...

    • The Reception of Bonhoeffer in Australia
      (pp. 213-222)
      John A Moses

      When and, how and by whom were the works of the famous German theologian and martyr for true Christianity in Nazi Germany, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoefferreceived?It is a good question because of Australia’s great distance from the cauldron of conflict Europe during the turbulent ‘thirties and the Second World War. Europeans in general and Germans in particular are often greatly surprised even to have an expression of interest by an Australian in anything as remote and esoteric as the German Church Struggle in which Bonhoeffer was so deeply embroiled.

      Let me recall here that one of Bonhoeffer’s most highly...

    • Faith in Politics
      (pp. 223-236)
      Kevin Rudd

      Above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey are arrayed ten great statues of the martyrs of the Church. Not Peter, Stephen, James or the familiar names of the saints sacrificed during the great Roman persecution before Constantine’s conversion. No: these are martyrs of the twentieth century, when the age of faith was, in the minds of many in the West, already tottering towards its collapse.

      One of those honoured above the Great West Door is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, pastor and peace activist. Bonhoeffer is, without doubt, the man I admire most in the history of the twentieth...

    • ʻNot a Spirit of Cowardiceʼ
      (pp. 237-242)
      Keith Clements

      A recent issue of the Melbourne newspaperThe Age,almost on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, featured an article about the grim state of the world today, of conflict, violence and environmental degradation, and of the role the arts can play in helping us understand and come to terms with it all. It was introduced in, to say the least, a rather doleful way: a picture of a tombstone on which is inscribed the epitaph: ‘In loving memory of THE WORLD. Much loved planet, supplier of food to billions, selfishly cut down in its prime. Will...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 243-248)
  10. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 249-254)
  11. Index of Bonhoeffer Major Works
    (pp. 255-256)
  12. Index of Persons
    (pp. 257-258)
  13. Index of Biblical References
    (pp. 259-260)