Religion and the Limits of Critique: Bonhoeffer's Theological Sociology
Hayden, Sean Gabriel
This dissertation examines the early theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), from his student years to the completion of his habilitation essay in 1930. The unity of Bonhoeffer’s theology, previously unnoticed, lies in its systematic structure, composed of three interlocking problems, which Bonhoeffer himself describes as the “circles” of knowledge, history and ethics. This thought-form has a long history in nineteenth century German philosophy and theology, but Bonhoeffer borrows it most directly from Karl Barth. Barth displaces the concept of “religion,” as the union of divine and human self-consciousness, with revelation, as the “suspension” (Aufhebung) of human self-knowledge in God’s own self-knowledge. Bonhoeffer takes exception to the individualistic and formalistic cast of Barth’s theology and returns to the concept of the concrete church-community as the reality of God’s being in human history and society.