Reclaiming Authentic Lutheranism: Michael P. DeJonge Delivers Guest Lecture on Bonhoeffer’s Ethical Framework

Michael DeJongeOn Bonhoeffer’s Reception of Lutheran Theology and Political Life

On September 20, Michael P. DeJonge delivered a guest lecture entitled “Bonhoeffer’s Reception of Luther.” Drawing from his most recent publication of the same title, DeJonge centered the lecture on the argument that Bonhoeffer’s approach to political and ethical issues rests on a complex and balanced account of the relationship between theology and political life inherited through the Lutheran tradition.

He begins by discussing how the structure or logic of Bonhoeffer’s thought is informed by two extremes of ethical framework, the compromise approach and the radical approach. As Bonhoeffer seeks out the middle position of the two, he reclaims the authentic Lutheran position, DeJonge argues, using two tools from the Lutheran tradition of social ethics: the ideas of the two kingdoms and the orders. DeJonge concludes with a practical account of how this abstract conceptual frameworks should approach political projects.

In his discussion of the two kingdoms, DeJonge says:

“Bonhoeffer is a two kingdoms thinker, and it is really crucial to see that if you want to understand the way he works with political and ethical issues… A key theological notion that is secured by the two kingdoms is the idea of preservation. So in the Lutheran tradition, there is a relatively clear distinction between preservation and redemption. Once creation falls into sin, God’s action towards the world isn’t straightaway redemption, but rather preservation and redemption. Preservation is God’s activity by which God prevents the world from falling into the total chaos that should follow from sin. Before God redeems the world, God needs to preserve the world in its fallenness, keep it out of nothingness. So God is doing that with one hand, and redeeming the world with the other.”

Listen to the entire lecture through its resource page here.

Michael P. DeJonge is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida, and teaches in the areas of the history of Christian thought, theories and methods in religious studies, and modern religious thought. His research has focused on the twentieth-century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and he sits on the board of the International Bonhoeffer Society and is a co-editor of the journal, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Yearbook.

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Lived Theology after Charlottesville

All of us at the Project on Lived Theology extend our gratitude for the many expressions of concern and solidarity received since the white supremacy marches on grounds and in Charlottesville. In the coming months, our work building bridges between scholars and practitioners has assumed a new urgency. We look forward to learning from and sharing resources in the conversations and exchanges emerging at UVa, Charlottesville, and around the nation. This statement drafted by our colleagues in the Department of Religious Studies eloquently conveys our renewed mission and purpose going forward.

August 14, 2017

An Open Letter from the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia in Response to the Events of August 11th and 12th

The Department of Religious Studies denounces the violence and terror perpetrated by the gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA on August 11th and 12th, 2017. As a faculty, we are particularly horrified that our University Grounds were used to promote this agenda and that students, who were exercising their constitutionally protected right to protest, were physically attacked a short distance from their dormitories.

The Department of Religious Studies rejects the white supremacist ideology of intolerance and its practice of hateful speech, as well as the violence it engenders. We stand in solidarity with the victims of these events and with those who courageously resisted the hate groups and their virulent messages; we stand with the community of Charlottesville and with all those at whom hate continues to be directed. We cherish the diversity of our student body and commit ourselves to supporting students who are targeted by hate groups. We promise to be available to students who seek support from us, even as we actively develop new initiatives to support them.

As a department, we advocate for no single religious faith or political point of view. Our faculty comprises scholars who practice different religions or no religion at all. Our professors, all of whom serve the Commonwealth of Virginia, hold a range of political views. Those who are American citizens vote their consciences individually in elections, for a wide array of political parties. Amid this political and national diversity, we stand united in our unanimous and unequivocal condemnation of those who promote hate, by way of violent speech and action—the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis, the neo-Fascists, the anti-Semites. And we regard this condemnation as the expression of a simple, moral truth rather than a political statement.

We must not hesitate to name and condemn the intimidation, terror, and violence that convulsed and profaned our city and university this weekend. We consider the groups who organized and participated in the “Unite the Right” rally to be hate groups. We do not take their views to represent a legitimate, alternative political perspective: they are dangerous, and they perpetuate what is universally condemned by all the world’s religions and ethical systems. We feel morally compelled to call out those who afflicted our community with their night-time mob on the University’s Grounds and with their violence on our city’s streets the following day. Burning torches, aggressive chanting, and racist, homophobic, and antisemitic slogans echo the symbolism, and messages, of Nazi-era Germany and of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. This is not a time for equivocation. We stand firmly and explicitly against the views and actions of those espousing hate, terror, and violence in Charlottesville over this past weekend, and any other day.