Theology Comprehensive

Theology Comprehensive

10-10-03

Bill Honsberger
Question #1 – The 19th century has been called the “heyday” of liberal Christian theology, particularly as it developed within the German academic tradition. Trace at least three of the major trajectories and themes of liberal theology during this century with focus on Schleirmacher, Ritschl, and Troeltsch. What are the distinguishing marks of liberal theology? How does it differ from the kind of “evangelical” theology launched by Luther in the 16th century? Finally, explain briefly Barth’s basic critique of liberal theology and what was meant by the remark that he “dropped a bomb on the playground of the liberal theologians?”

Liberal German theology is built on the back of the romantic’s reaction to the Enlightenment. One cannot make sense out of it unless one understands the currents that add into the larger stream. To survey these developments, one needs to start with Rene Descartes. Descartes departed from the scholastic tradition within the Roman Catholic Church, (and that of the Reformation as well) by leaving the authority of the Scriptures and the church tradition, and instead insisting that all that we know was through the process of reason and deduction. In leaving the classic understanding preeminent in the Western world for so long, Descartes argued that only through these reasonable process could man know anything. As the founder of the modern rationalist school, Descartes thought that one could not trusts sense perceptions of any kind. A stick might “bend” under the water, showing how easily our sight can be mistaken and so on. This sets the tone for the entire Enlightenment period. Descartes was so confident that he believed through mathematics and reason one could readily prove the existence of God himself. His epistemological base however, “cheated” a bit by bringing in God a-posteriori as the one who could guarantee our thought process. Our “clear and distinct” ideas then provided us with all we needed, and faith, in the sense of how the church had used it, became unnecessary. Earlier Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin, had all argued the proper roles between faith and reason, how these applied towards the Scriptures and so on, with different answers for all of them. But this was an internal debate as it were, with all of them relegating reason under the authority of the Scriptures. Descartes had changed this dramatically.

In reaction to Descartes’s rationalism, the Scot David Hume reacts later by arguing just the opposite. No knowledge comes from rational thought, but rather comes through experience of the physical world. Hume said that all we have is sense datum, by which he meant the raw information fed to us by our senses. We then take this sense datum and by force of habit interpret it in certain ways that are “reasonable” to us. Even what most take as common sense, such as cause and effect, was attacked by Hume. We can only report what we perceive, and all connections are suspect and mere contrivances and inferences. Buoyed by a wave of disbelief in the Scriptures by people like Spinoza and other critics, Hume then attacked the supernatural or miraculous stories in the Bible. In his arguments Hume basically defined miracles out of existence. Simply put, it reads like this:

1) Miracles are a violation of natural law.

2) Violations of natural law cannot exist.

QED – Miracles do not exist.

Arguing that he had disproved the Resurrection of the dead, Hume relied on the “fact” that no one had ever seen that and strangely, he said that no one had even claimed that it had happen. (Of course this is exactly the claims of all Christians for over 1700 years at that point, so one might be tempted to wonder how much oxygen the highlander had been getting, but that is for another day)) All of this is necessary background for the real revolutionary challenge given in response to both Descartes and Hume – that of Immanuel Kant.

Describing himself as being “awoken from his dogmatic slumbers” by the onslaught of Hume, Kant set about a course of providing a new and comprehensive epistemic base, which would be a type of synthesis of both rationalism and empiricism. In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant established, contra Descartes, that we have knowledge only of phenomena, that which we experience in the sensible world. We are limited by our sense data, and are unable to really ascertain with any certainty, what there might be “behind” the sense data. This then is the noumena, the ding an sich or thing in itself. This cannot be determined by any sense perception at all. Kant then argued, contra Hume, that we can use reason in ways like cause and effect, because our minds are built with certain categories, such as quality, quantity, relation and so on, and it is these categories which “sort” out the sense datum and allow us to make use of cause and effect, which had the net benefit of rescuing science from the ravages of Hume. Kant basically had structured two separate worlds with distinct epistemologies applicable only in their respective arena. In the world of the phenomena, science, measurement, sense datum –all of this was authoritative. In the world of the noumena, one was allowed to believe and have faith, because this was literally the metaphysical playground. As long as one did not violate the law of non-contradiction, one could believe what one chose, and the rules of science or natural law that Hume had proposed, were not in play. In this way Kant had “limited reason, to make room for faith”. Science ruled in its arena and Faith ruled in its. In this way Kant thought that reasonable people (Konigsbergians for example!) could use and apply the strictures of his system and both Enlightenment sensibilities and churchmen would all be happy. This was not to be the case, but that does seem to be what his project entailed. Shortly after Kant all Sheol broke out. The Romantics like Goethe and others, were reacting to the overemphasis on reason that was marking the Enlightenment. Buoyed themselves by “wisdom” from the east in the form of recent German and English translations of the Bhagavad-Gita and others texts, the German Idealists and Romantics forged a different synthesis, one which instead of emphasizing reason or experiences of the phenomenal world, exalted feelings and intuitions, a harmony with nature and the ultimate freedoms possible for humans.

The first real liberal Christian that we will look at here is Friedrich Schleirmacher. Raised in a Christian Reformed minister’s home, Schleirmacher was taught reformed Calvinist theology, but then lived for a period among the Moravian Pietists. The Pietists deeply impressed Schleirmacher with their devotion and fervor, but it was also at this time that he started reading Goethe and the neologians, who were very skeptical of the Bible. This dramatically changed him. As he entered ministry and the academic world, he was bothered by the reality that so many educated people, were abandoning their Christian faith, and the sitz im leben of the day was to despise all things “religious”. Deism, which was a reaction to the Hume understanding, reduced God to a clock maker. Kant had argued that there is a moral compunction in humans, which can only come from God, but had ruled out the possibility of miracles being observed in the physical or phenomenal world. The Bible was then seen as fairy tales for children, hardly worthy of serious respect. Schleirmacher wanted to find a new way of understanding religion, especially Christianity, that would both be attractive to the “cultured despisers” as he called them, as well as keep within the bounds established by Kant. In a merger with Romanticist thought he felt he had found his answer. Disdaining all critics from Orthodox beliefs, (including his own father) Schleirmacher argued that religion is not based on miraculous claims but rather on “das Gefuhl”, the feeling, the intuition of the Infinite. Schleirmacher defined this as a feeling of absolute dependence that is ubiquitous throughout the world. It is this common feeling that proves the existence of God for him. With this radical definition of religion, he set out to redefine the Reformed and Lutheran traditions in their own self-understanding. In this way he sets the tone for the entire German academy. If the “embarrassing” myths and fairy tales, which had been the common faith for so long, do not bind Christianity then one could reconstruct or redefine Christianity in all sorts of ways. For Schleirmacher, he had a new understanding of sin, of God and of man. Similar in many ways to another contemporary that influenced him, G.F. Hegel, Schleirmacher brought God into the immanent physical world. God was not so removed, as the deists had argued; rather God was in full and constant communion with mankind and with nature. The Hegelian dialectic had also brought the WeltGeist or eternal mind/nous into history and nature. Since God was in fact in such close communion, it made no sense at all to speak of the “fall” of man in the classical sense. Man was only fallen in that he did not realize how close his communion with God was. His sin was this refusal to recognize the feeling of dependence upon God, and instead to declare himself “whole” without necessitating a resumption of communion. Who then is Jesus? Here Schleirmacher departs even more radically from his Reformed roots. Jesus was not an ontologically divine being, as the Scriptures and early creeds had declared. Jesus was instead the perfect example of a person who more than anyone else in history was aware of his communion with God. His “divinity” was not because of his essence or being, but rather based on his complete intuitive communion with the God who is within and without the world. His “at –one-ment “ with nature, makes him the savior. Doctrine for Schleirmacher was then but the religious experience of Gefuhl as put in print. The Scriptures were to be seen as the religious community expressing their experiences over time, and this tradition was merely the collection of human experiences, not the inspired words of God as thought by the Reformed tradition.

This project sets the tone for many similar yet differing thinkers. Albrecht Ritschl, himself deeply dependent on Kant’s distinctions, argued that Christianity must be rescued from all its metaphysical moorings. Since one could not observe miracles, than Christianity must not be bound by a pre-modern worldview, which believed in such things. It must be based upon a more secure foundation. For Ritschl this was to be found in the real person of Jesus Christ, not the Christ of the miraculous worldview, which was to Ritschl the accumulated effect of centuries of church traditions and apologetics. This simplified Jesus then was about establishing the Kingdom of God, an ethical outpost in a fallen world. Since Kant had argued that the reality of ethics could only be established by the existence of God, Ritschl argued then that it is this reality, which is the central component of the Kingdom of God. Jesus was not a miracle worker/magician; rather he was the rational ethicist par excellence. The Sermon the Mount was the basis for all activities, and the Great commandments (Love God, and Love your neighbor as yourself) are then the defining marks of real Christianity.

For Ernest Troeltsch, the defining marks of Christianity were found in a history of religions approach. Since all religions had similar miraculous claims, then Christianity had no right to set itself about the rest, which had been done by Schleirmacher, Ritschl and others. Troeltsch set about to free the Jesus of history (real) from the Jesus or Christ of Heil Geshicte (higher history or faithful history) His methods have been deeply influential to this day especially with the Jesus seminar. He had a three-fold approach to the Scriptures and all other ancient literature as well. First there was the idea of critical analysis. By this he meant that one should look skeptically, with the eyes of naturalism, at all ancient texts. While this did not rule out miracles with absolute certainty, it did make it very difficult to imagine. The second part of the approach was even cleaner on this point. – The idea of analogy. By this he meant that if one were to read about an alleged miraculous story in the Bible, and there was no one for one corresponding event in present history, then one should discount the story. The third prong of the approach was that of Correlation. This means that we have a universal experience in history of many layers of cause and effect events, and the freedom of individuals within this maelstrom of experiences. The Bible should be understood within this framework in the sense that there were causes for its writing, but not cause and effect for its miraculous stories. Troeltsch also was deeply influenced by the Romantics and argued for a type of pantheism in nature, not the complete loss of identity as taught by the Brahmans of India. But for some type of divine seed or spark to be seen in all of nature.

Another famous liberal Christian was David Strauss. His prominence was due to his formal disconnection between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. This “Search for the Historical Jesus”, which in its third or fourth version to this day by different thinkers, established the idea that the Bible was not a historical account that could be verified in any real way, but rather was an historical accumulation of many centuries after the fact. Supported by the Graf/Wellhausen JEDP theory, the Bible was a collection of barnacles that had been edited and redacted, and must be scraped away to find the true, historical “Jesus”.

In a similar way Adolph Harnack, perhaps the most famous of all the liberal Christian theologians, argued that the religion of Jesus and the religion about Jesus, were two separate things. Jesus had merely preached to believe in God and follow the commandments (Harnack is loved by Muslim apologists these days!) and it was the Apostle Paul who had in fact switched the religious influence, making the deity of Jesus and the resurrection the key parts of the story. Harnack felt once stripped away from the Pauline accretions; Jesus was a very inspiring moral figure, but no more than a man.

In his What is Christianity? Harnack supplied us with a basic outline of the distinguishing marks of liberal theology. They include the following:

1) The Fatherhood of God

2) The Brotherhood of Man

3) The eternal value of the Soul

4) The essential communion of God and man, not disturbed by moral failure but by lack of proper God consciousness.

This is radically different than the evangelical theology of Luther in the 16th century. In harmony with the Scriptures, Luther believed that God was transcendent from this world but also immanent but not identified with nature or history. Sin was a radical break by men towards God. Our moral rebellion against God, most easily seen in our human pride, had necessitated out punishment and only the mercy and grace of God, which was seen in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ as established by the Scriptures, could remove this offense and actual separation. One could simply just deny all the Harnackian points, but that is too simplistic. Luther depended on the Scriptures for all his answers. In Bondage of the Will, he repeatedly attacks Erasmus for ignoring the teaching of the Scriptures and instead depending upon traditions of the church, and even worse for depending on human wisdom. By this Luther criticized Erasmus’s apparent fascination with the classics of ancient Greece and Rome, which the Renaissance had brought back to popularity Erasmus thought, somewhat similar to Aquinas at this point, that the classics served as prolegomena or as a preparation for the Gospel for pagans. Luther would have nothing to do with the “bitch goddess reason”. For Luther God as revealed in the Scriptures, first through the prophets and then ultimately through the person of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the written words of Scripture. For Luther as well as fellow reformer Calvin, the inner working of the Spirit upon man’s heart was an accompanying plank to the Scriptures, but both were not impressed with mere religious intuition and experience. This can most easily be seen in his reaction to the Anabaptist movement, which especially early one was awash with alleged prophetic utterances and “enthusiasm” which was resulting in lawlessness. Luther’s dialectic between the justified man being both sinner and saint in tension, allowed him room for some understanding of mysterium. This can also be seen in his understanding of the Eucharist, where he split with another famous Reformer Zwingli, over what Luther deemed the “real presence” of Christ in the elements. This via media between transubstantiation of the Roman Catholic Church and the memorial view of the Reformed traditions, was seen by Luther to be an additional truth of the inner witness of the Spirit, but always guided by God’s written word.

To try and explain “briefly” what Barth brought to the table might require an actual miracle in this room right now! What is called the “bomb on the playground of the liberal theologians” was the publishing of Barth’s commentary on Romans in 1918. Barth had been trained and impressed by liberal theology and took all its earlier presuppositions seriously, but with the advent of World War 1 he was troubled by the acquiescence of his German professors, his heroes as it were, to the war drums of Kaiser Wilhelm. Barth started to see that the identification by Hegel and so many other 19th century thinkers, of the world with God and the church, had created a situation where the church was unable to criticize the world. The church had been co-opted by the world and God as well was identified with whatever happened. Barth’s “bomb” was his central theme in his commentary – that of God as “wholly other”. Unlike classic liberalism, which placed God in ultimate immanency and communion with man and the world, Barth argued that God to be God must be completely transcendent. By this he meant qualitatively not merely location. God is “anderes”. He is holy, not mundane. Barth saw this as a necessary corrective in the Hegelian tendency towards versions of pantheism. God as other could speak to the church and to the world about Sin!!! This was another part of the bomb – Barth had read Romans and in some ways similar to Luther had discovered his total sinfulness, which had separated him from God. Sin was not, contra Schleirmacher, mere lack of God consciousness, but following Kierkegaard here, sin was his pride, his certainty in the Hegelian sense, his identification without repentance and faith, as being in relation with (or possibly even in the blasphemy of identifying oneself ontologically as divine) God. For more on this subject we will move on to the second question.

Question #2 – What is meant by “neo-orthodoxy? What, if anything is “orthodox” about it? Discuss systematically the thought of Barth as the founder of neo-orthodoxy. (As if his commentary on Romans is systematic!!!) To what degree does Bonhoeffer carry through with the program of neo-orthodoxy and how, if any, does he diverge?

Perhaps the simplest way of defining “neo-orthodoxy” is to see it in at least two different modes. First in some critical manners – it is a corrective upon the liberal Christian thought of the 19th century as described in detail above. In this vein it is returning to “orthodoxy” in many important details. God is seen as separate from his creation, transcendent, not part and parcel of the world. Man is infinitely other than God, a creature of the created world, with no goodness in him. A sinner bound by his overwhelming pride to rebel and mar the creation of a holy and other God. God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness were very much in line with Reformed thinkers like Luther and Calvin. Another return to orthodoxy could be seen in the re-emphasis on Jesus Christ, who in liberal theologies had become an example, a shower –of-the-way, but not the way. Neo-orthodoxy, especially Barth, Brunner, and Bonhoeffer, emphasized Christology as the major field of theology. This too was a refreshing return to orthodox thought. Liberal thought about Jesus had called him God, but had also called all men God. Jesus was not really even necessary to the process of God consciousness, but just the best example of it. The crucifixion and resurrection were redefined as mundane events, clouded by editors and churchmen, and again not ultimately essential to the story. But in the neo-orthodox camp, the crucifixion was absolutely critical, because of the sinful condition of mankind and the qualitatively difference of God. These are just some of the returns to orthodoxy that marked the neo-orthodox camp.

However this is called “neo”-orthodox for a reason. In many ways painful to this orthodox reader, the great thinkers in this tradition would accept many of the liberal presuppositions that had marked the 19th century. This second mode accepted much of what had been argued by Schleirmacher, Strauss and others. This is especially seen when it comes to the understanding of the Bible. To the liberals, the Bible was merely a collection of myths and fairy tales, redacted by latecomers at worst, or at best the community of believers religious experiences which had been recorded, complete with false world views, historical and scientific errors and so on. In many ways the neo-orthodox camp accepted these ideas uncritically. They did part company in an important way in seeing that yes even though the Bible was full of these stories and myths – it still in some way contained the word of God. Similar to Troeltsch in some ways, one could encounter the Divine through the instrument of the Bible. God could inspire one in a divine I-thou type encounter through the reading of the scripture or the practice of the liturgy. God could meet you in awe-inspiring ways through the accounts of the stories. In this vein then, the fallen ness of the Scriptures merely reflected the fallen ness of man in general. Both could be uplifted by grace through faith, and in some ways the very humanity contained in the scriptures served as witness to the otherness of God as well.

Karl Barth shows the influence of many of the liberal thinkers in his work, but is set apart from them by his reading of Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard had written much in response to the pomposity of Hegel. Hegel’s dialectic had smoothly worked its way through his philosophy and theology with the net effect that one had all the answers in both field right at Hegel’s doorstep. Hegel was then a new type of rationalist. One did not need to wonder and have faith in God; one could merely trace the working of history to see the presence of God/WeltGeist. If one wanted to perceive the divine, then look at history. The Romantics had pulled God into nature as well. God becomes the evolutionary process. For Schleirmacher this was the real miracle – the working of natural processes. But Kierkegaard sees the problems here. One could see the death of millions in Hegel as the outworking of the Spirit of God, which has a way of minimizing the individual. My death matters to ME thought Kierkegaard. Soren is also reacting to the neatness of the Kantian moral framework, with its duties and obligations all worked out. Ritschl best exemplified this project among the liberals. All ethical concerns in the Kingdom of God can be contained in a grocery list as it were – no faith required here. But for the Dane this was pointless and depressing. Was Christianity merely a formal shell, with grocery lists of doctrines and ethical choices, or was it something that grabbed ones heart and soul and filled it with passion for God, and for life? Did not Hegel lose the otherness of God by this new rationalism? What kind of God is so mundane that one could always see his hand in history? Doesn’t one just wash out the word “God” in this sense with the word “history? How could one have faith, which pleases God, when all knowledge about God is certain and mundane? Kierkegaard argued that “truth is subjectivity”, in that what is true is what moves me to faith and passion and commitment. The “facts” of the Bible were not sufficient to ground faith, rather they serve as the antithesis of faith. This understanding heavily influences Barth. For him, faith in God cannot be minimized by returning to Protestant or Roman Catholic Orthodoxy, in which he believed faith has been relegated to a secondary status by scholars and theologians. Faith in God is faith because one cannot experience God in the phenomenal world. Following Kant’s distinctive here; Barth refuses to see God routinely acting in the world of nature or in the Scriptures. God is hidden, dues abscondum. To see God routinely in nature as Schleirmacher and the Romantics did was to wash out faith. I don’t need faith, I just need eyes.

Kierkegaard had argued that it is the existenz or existence of man that is what is critical, not some formal essence. Before man is anything else, he exists. He is thus “free” to be shaped. What is required is the means to shape him and for SK this is faith, which is a subjective leap across a ditch, against the facts, against the totalizing systems, especially that of Hegel. Barth argues this but has his own version of dialectic – the Yes and No of God. Once can see this best in his understanding of the No to Christ, as seen in the refusal to remove the “Cup” from him, being a Yes to the Church, in that salvation is now offered to all. Barth would talk this way throughout his theology. The dialectic of this world with the wholly other God is also an important one for Barth. Man is free but not really free. He is marked by sin and pride and only God’s justification can truly free him.
Barth argues the way he does because he saw, as mentioned earlier, that the worldliness of the church in Germany, had allowed his teachers to cozy up to the Kaiser and then most distressingly – to Hitler. Shortly after Hitler’s election to office the state church endorsed Hitler and his theology. The church now endorsed the theology of Blood and Land. Seen by both Barth and Bonhoeffer as a twisted take on Luther’s dialectic of man as sinner and saint, Barth helps to establish a “Free” church which could remain outside of the culture and give room for the God who is wholly other, to judge culture. This distance was impossible in the liberal understanding. God as completely transcendent (not as watchmaker – but as holy) was needed to challenge the sins of the German corporate church. The Fatherland or Reich was not a holy one, which especially can be seen in the writings and life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – more on him later.

Barth saw the scriptures again as a record of fallen man, with all that means, and so did not take the miracle accounts that are scattered through the scriptures as critical to the faith. This was not the case when it came to the Incarnation and crucifixion, and arguably the resurrection as well (Barthian scholars seem quite confused on this one!) For Barth the centrality of the faith was found in the Incarnation and. Religion in all its forms was man reaching out to God, but the gap was too deep. God is too other. But Christianity was for Barth the only solution to this difference – God had come in Jesus Christ to man. Contrary to liberal thinkers, Barth held both the humanity of Christ along with the deity of Christ. This dialectical tension was always paradoxical. With Kierkegaard, Barth saw this paradox as necessary to faith. To theologize it was to lose the paradox and therefore minimize the need for faith. But like SK – what could be more paradoxical than the infinite (the Yes for God) becoming finite (the No for God)? So then even though many of the “minor” miracles, which had offended modern man had been believed by the orthodox and rejected by the liberals, Barth saw them as unnecessary to the larger project of God – justifying the sinner and later the world. If they were true history, then God would have always been active in the world and this would minimize faith. In this he is similar to Troeltsch. God’s only revelation is to be found not in a written word, nor in an alleged miracle, but rather in the person of Jesus Christ – paradoxically God and Man in tension. This is why Barth would respond so strongly, especially initially, to the natural theology proposed by Emil Brunner, fellow neo-orthodox compatriot. To see God’s hand in nature was to “find” God. God to be other must be hidden. Later Barth would soften his position somewhat.

To Barth, revelation was revealed only when God spoke to me. This encounter was between persons (important to Ritschl and Bonhoeffer and Bultmann – meaningless to Tillich) and was occasioned in the Scriptures that one has the stage set for the encounter between God and man. The actual accounts themselves are merely an “echo” of the encounters. Since revelation was limited to the Incarnation, the encounter between God and sinful man was an existential one. This subjective meeting inspired passion and commitment as man rejoiced in his justification by God’s grace alone. Here Barth reflects Luther – the qualitative distinction between God and man can only be bridged by the Cross, and sinful man can repent and be justified. Barth saw this as a healthy corrective to the rather lame view of sin as portrayed in the liberals. How could the liberal view, with its eyes to ever progressing optimism, deal in reality with Hitler?

In all of this Bonhoeffer is co-simpatico. Much like Barth, he had been trained in liberal schools, most notably by Harnack himself, whom he greatly admired. But Bonhoeffer agreed with Barth, that the identification of the church with the world and therefore with the state, had lost the church’s and God’s voice. Bonhoeffer would like Barth make Christology the central discussion of theology, but he also wanted the eschatological to be important as well. Bonhoeffer actually went much further with his Christology, making what he saw as an important distinction. Christ it to be pro me – that is that the crucifixion and love of God is always to be in the sense of for the church and for the individual. Later Bonhoeffer would say that this is also Christ for others, especially in the secular unbelieving world. This would lead him to his idea of “religionless Christianity” by which he meant (and this is very sketchy since his project was cut short) that the secular world had lost its need for “religion” in the traditional sense, and that Christ had been relegated to the sidelines or a type of God of the Gaps theory by the culture. But for Bonhoeffer Christ was the center of the world and since the church was the Body of Christ, then the church needed to be in the center of world, redeeming it and seeing others as Christ had. This idea of his is very problematic in some way but very much tied in with his idea of discipleship and of ethics. For Bonhoeffer, the Nazis had co-opted Luther’s dialectic and reduced it to “cheap grace”, a grace which not only justifies the sinner, it justifies sin as well. So he could say that all of Germany was “Christian” but nobody follows Jesus. In some important ways this echoes some of Nietzsche’s comments as well. While Barth critiqued from afar in Switzerland, Bonhoeffer returned to Germany under death threats and participated both in an underground seminary, and in the resistance against Hitler. To be a disciple of Christ, since Christ is pro me and therefore pro others as well, meant if nothing else, that the Jews had to be rescued. Bonhoeffer was caught smuggling Jews to freedom outside of the state. This to him was the true meaning of loving your neighbor. While Barth’s ethical concerns always seemed to depend on the dialectic, which sometimes could seem like an equivocation, Bonhoeffer’s own ethics, mirroring Kierkegaard in opposing Kant, took on a sense of freedom and faith. Each individual is a sinner in a fallen world, and each circumstance is unique, therefore no absolutized grocery list is sufficient to be Christ in the world. Bonhoeffer noted that Christ’s attack on the Pharisees exemplified this point. The Pharisee was a man consumed by his consciousness about good and evil, while Christ by contrast was consumed by the need of the Other. The Pharisee would let some starve or be sick because the Law seemed to require this. Christ would violate the law (or at least the Pharisee’s understanding of it!) in order to serve the one in need. No timidity or equivocating for Bonhoeffer. The Church is required to be Christ, to be his Body, to be pro me for all others. One could not hide behind church membership, baptism, or anything else, because grace demanded obedience. This requires the individual believer to abandon his self-consciousness and be Other – orientated alone. I think this is what was most distinctive about Bonhoeffer and Barth, in that Christology was a platform for action for Bonhoeffer, in ways much more dramatic than his Swedish mentor.

Love at the end of the rainbow