(Note: Read more about my work on Barth, Bonhoeffer, and the Bible here.)
This semester — my final one at Beeson Divinity School — I’m doing a directed study with Piotr Malysz on the topic of “Religion” in Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The impetus for this study was a discussion question in Dr. Malysz’s Spring 2015 20th Century History and Doctrine course. On March 24, our third class period on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, our second question for discussion read as follows:
“What is religion for Bonhoeffer? What are its anthropological manifestations (in Bonhoeffer’s day)? In what ways is Bonhoeffer’s understanding of religion similar to, and different from, that of Barth?”
Having taken Malysz’s Fall 2014 seminar on Karl Barth, I was intrigued by the question. We only spent a few minutes on the topic in class, focusing on how Bonhoeffer’s definition of religion focuses on a “necessary God of the gaps,” but I wrote down the following questions for further consideration:
- Is there a tension in how Barth and Bonhoeffer describe “religion,” or an underlying harmony?
- Barth speaks of boundary, Bonhoeffer of finding God at the center. Are they getting at the same thing?
- What is the relationship between Barth’s “No-God” and Bonhoeffer’s God as “stopgap”?
It has been over a year since that class discussion, but these questions are still on my mind. I’m convinced that Barth’s and Bonhoeffer’s theological critiques of religion can provide resources for the Church today.
In addition to that class discussion question, Tom Greggs‘ Theology Against Religion: Constructive Dialogues with Bonhoeffer and Barth [affiliate links throughout] has been an enormous catalyst for this project.
After graduating from Beeson in December, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in historical/systematic theology. If all goes well, I’d like to expand my Barth/Bonhoeffer project this semester into a doctoral project – perhaps focusing on the relationship between Barth’s “No-God” and Bonhoeffer’s “God-as-stopgap,” or on the relationship between Barth’s and Bonhoeffer’s theological interpretation[s] of Scripture and their theological critiques of religion.
My Reading List
Anyway, with the help of Michael DeJonge, Clifford Green, Garrett Green, Tom Greggs, and Paul Dafydd Jones, I have developed the following reading list for this semester’s directed study:
- BARTH, Karl. On Religion: The Revelation of God as the Sublimation of Religion.Translated by Garrett Green. New York: T&T Clark, 2007.
- —. The Epistle to the Romans. Translated by Edwyn C. Hoskyns. Oxford: OUP, 1968.
- BONHOEFFER, Dietrich. Letters and Papers from Prison. Translated by Isabel Best, Lisa E. Dahill, Reinhard Krauss and Nancy Lukens. Edited by John W. de Gruchy. DBWE Vol. 8. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.
- —. “The Center of the Earth (Gen. 2:8-17)” In Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1-3, translated by Douglas Stephen Bax, edited by John W. de Gruchy, 80-93. DBWE Vol. 3. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997.
- —. “7. Inaugural Lecture: The Anthropological Question in Contemporary Philosophy and Theology.” In Barcelona, Berlin, New York: 1928-1931, translated by Douglas W. Stott, edited by Clifford J. Green, 389-408. DBWE Vol. 10. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008.
- DEJONGE, Michael P. Bonhoeffer’s Theological Formation: Berlin, Barth, and Protestant Theology. Oxford: OUP, 2012.
- FEIL, Ernst. “Part Three: Religionless Christianity in a World Come of Age.” Chapters 4-5 in The Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, translated by Martin Rumscheidt, 99-202. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985.
- GREEN, Clifford J. “The Prison Letters and the Theology of Sociality.” Chapter 6 in Bonhoeffer: A Theology of Sociality. Revised Edition, 247-300. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
- GREGGS, Tom. Theology Against Religion: Constructive Dialogues with Bonhoeffer and Barth. New York: T&T Clark, 2011.
- MCCORMACK, Bruce L. Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.
- PANGRITZ, Andreas. Karl Barth in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Translated by Barbara Rumscheidt and Martin Rumscheidt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.
- SLOT, Edward van ‘t. Negativism of Revelation?: Bonhoeffer and Barth on Faith and Actualism. Dogmatik in der Moderne 12. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015.
- WÜSTENBERG, Ralf K. A Theology of Life: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Religionless Christianity. Translated by Doug Stott. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
- —. “Philosophical Influences on Bonhoeffer’s ‘Religionless Christianity.’” In Bonhoeffer and Continental Thought: Cruciform Philosophy, edited by Brian Gregor and Jens Zimmermann, 137-55. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009.
If you’re interested in Barth and Bonhoeffer, I’m interested in starting up a conversation! Based on what I’ve written above, do you:
Have any suggestions on how to improve this reading list?
Have any suggestions on who might be interested in supervising doctoral work in this area?
If so, let me know in the comments!