Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology and ethics as seen through the new editions of his writings and the latest research. Readings in his main works including Discipleship, Life Together, Ethics, and Letters and Papers from Prison. Study of Bonhoeffer in his historical context of Hitler’s Germany, but equally with concern for Christian life, ministry, and the church in twenty-first century America.
The following have been ordered at the bookstore and are on Reserve:
Recommended Reserve Period
Bonhoeffer: Discipleship. Fortress Press, paper 2003 required Library use
Bonhoeffer: Ethics. Fortress Press, paper, 2009 required Library use
Bonhoeffer: Life Together. Fortress Press, paper 2004 required Library use
Bonhoeffer: Creation and Fall. Fortress Press, paper 2004 required Library use
Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison. Simon & Schuster 1997 recommended Library use
Eberhard Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Biography. Fortress Press, 2000 recommended Library use
Clifford Green: Bonhoeffer. A Theology of Sociality. Eerdmans, 1999 recommended May go out
Bonhoeffer: Act and Being. Fortress Press, 1996 or 2009
Bonhoeffer: Sanctorum Communio. Fortress Press, 1998 or 2009 (August 1) optional May go out
The first four are required reading and we will read all or most of these books. Only use the texts from the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English Edition that is published by Fortress Press. Each of these is available in paperback now.
The old translation of Letters and Papers from Prison is listed as “recommended.” By that point in the semester I hope to have for you copies of the proofs of the “theological letters” from April 30, 1944 onwards of the new translation in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English Edition (DBWE). But it is probably wise to have the complete old edition as well for reference in class discussion. Since there are various editions of this famous text I do recommend that everyone have the Simon and Schuster simply because it is easier to refer to page numbers when everyone has the same edition.
I do not plan to assign chapters out of Eberhard Bethge’s classic biography, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A Biography, but it is an indispensable reference. (Use only the revised and unabridged edition from Fortress Press, 2000.) But it is extremely useful as a reference work for the church and political history of the period as well as for Bonhoeffer, and is a bargain at about $20.00.
Inevitably, some ideas of my book Bonhoeffer. A Theology of Sociality will creep into the course! I will probably assign chapter 6 in connection with our discussion of Letters and Papers from Prison. And I will certainly refer in discussion to Chapter 4 which deals with the interplay in Bonhoeffer of theology and autobiography.
Sanctorum Communio and Act and Being are important early doctoral and postdoctoral dissertations that qualified Bonhoeffer as a professor at the University of Berlin. They are now available as paperbacks and therefore economical to purchase. Given our limited time for reading assignments, I will probably bring some handouts with excerpts from these texts to the first class for review and discussion. So you do not need to purchase them unless you are planning intensive work in these books.
By September I hope the new edition of Bonhoeffer Works volume 12 will be published, and, even if it is not, I will be able to provide copies of the proofs of the Christology lectures for our second class.
Course Outline and Reading Assignments
1. Sept 15 Introduction. Overview. Resources. Early Theology
Read the package distributed in advance, “From the phraseological to the real” in preparation for class discussion. (Questions to Lorraine Browne at the Dean’s Office.) The class will also view the film “Bonhoeffer” from Journey Films. And we will discuss excerpts (class handout) from Bonhoeffer’s two dissertations Sanctorum Communio and Act and Being. At this class arrangements for student leadership of class discussions will be made, as well as plans for online communications.
2. Oct 6 Creation and Fall. Christology
Creation and Fall will be discussed in the morning session, Christology in the afternoon. At the previous class I will distribute the text of the new edition of the 1933 Christology lectures; please read this version for class (Harper, 1978), though if you want to consult the old version in Christ the Center earlier you may do so.
3. Oct 27 Discipleship. Life Together
Most of the class will focus on Discipleship but time will be reserved for Life Together in the afternoon and it should be read in preparation. In what ways does Discipleship relate to the contemporary public issues and church issues during the 1930s in National Socialist Germany? What are its challenges in 21st century America?
4. Nov 17 Ethics
Read the entire book, concentrating on Bonhoeffer’s text and also the Editor’s Introduction. A handout will be supplied in advance identifying passages for special attention. Consider the relation of this book to Discipleship: what is the continuity, and what is different? What is the meaning of Bonhoeffer’s statement in a letter from prison that Discipleship marked the end of a certain path but he still stood by what he had written?
5. Dec 15 Letters and Papers from Prison
Plan to read, or re-read, the complete Simon and Schuster edition, but substituting the new translation of the “theological letters” from April 30, 1944 which will be provided at the previous class. Focus on three central points. 1) what does Bonhoeffer mean by “religion”? 2) what does he mean by the “adulthood” of humanity and the “coming of age” of the world? 3) what are the main theological and behavioral components of “religionless Christianity” and “non-religious interpretation” of biblical and theological concepts?
1. Regular attendance and consistent reading of assignments in preparation for class discussion.
2. Active participation in class discussion and sharing leadership of class discussions.
3. A term paper. Due date to be decided. Approximate length 12-15 pages double-spaced. Before beginning work on your paper please submit a one-page outline preferably by November 17 but no later than December 10: include title of subject, headings of main sections, and a short bibliography of essential works.
A bibliography of basic resources will be provided at the first class.
At the first class we will make arrangements for online communication with the instructor and between class members.