On 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.