Religionless Christianity

Two interesting posts have appeared in the last week concerning Bonhoeffer’s religionless christianity, here, and here.. Here is a selection from the latter post:

Bonhoeffer’s great insight in LPP as far as I can see, was to dimly perceive that, while religion was a predominant guise for Christianity throughout history this did not need to be the case – that Christianity could affirm all its central tenants without religion as he defined it (God could be affirmed without metaphysics – again he was not saying that this was ontologically better but rather was becoming historically nessesary). He saw religion as having served its time well, but which had finally reached its twilight.

This is interesting to me because I think it allows us to understand Fundamentalism in a different way. Namely, as an impotent reaction to the loss of religion. The attempt to place it back in the centre. Fundamentalism can thus be seen as the very evidence of the growing redundancy of religion. It is the violent kickback against the continual loss of ground that religion has had to concede in recent years. But for Bonhoeffer there is a way beyond an anemic religious Christianity that places God at the edge and a violent fundamentalism which impotently seeks to place religion in the centre and this is what he was hinting at.


7 responses to “Religionless Christianity

  1. Hi,
    The religionless Christianity sounds nice but it doesn’t pass the test of world reality. Look at Africa and South America where hundreds of thousands of people are converting to Christianity, they are not coming to a religionless Christianity. They are forming credal Christian churches.

  2. Funny I run across this today–a line of thinking new to me (I’m a social worker, not a theologian) that also intreagued me recently–see weblink. Needless to say, I appreciate this blog. –J

  3. “I’m a social worker, not a theologian” – they’re not mutually exclusive you know! In any case, thanks for stopping by.

  4. Have you ever read any of the Belgian Catholic Theologian Edward Schillebeeckx’s work ? I recommend “IAm a Happy Theologian”. 🙂

  5. Michael Morkve

    I revently wrote a dissertation on Bonhoeffer’s concept of ‘Religionless Christianity’, tracing it from the influence of his ‘teachers’ right through his own writings. If any of you would like a copy, my email is Write me and I will send it to you.

  6. Orville Stoeber

    We also have Richard Holloway’s, godless morality to consider.

  7. A propos to the test of reality: American Fundamentalism, according to theologian Raymond Brown, was a lay movement begun in California, circa 1917, as a reaction to the non-biblical or watered down theology that was being taught in seminaries. Fundamentalism has no particular cultural attributes except for an embrace of biblical fundamentals. It is the media that has tried to identify fundamentalism with a milieu, and done so with utter ignorance and contempt. Fundaments are like integers in math, it is pointless to proceed to higher mathematics if one has not mastered arithmetic. In fact, one can not do math at all without fundamentals. The return to basics has brought people streaming into churches around the world. Why? People want a faith that works in real time. The central question is not is it true but does it work.
    Bonhoeffer’s faith does not contradict fundamentalism except at one precarious point, the immanence of God, where Bonhoeffer seemingly did not affirm God acting in the world. And that, I believe, was a more or less unconscious bias arising from rationalism and scientism of the European milieu into which he was born. I need not note that Europe was brought to the brink of destruction by the seductiveness of those twin gods. In light of his culture, Bonhoeffer, the apologist, attempted to translate a true biblical faith in terms that his world could understand. If he had been able to see into the 21st century I’m quite certain he would agree that it was a failed proposition, however noble his intent.
    When Bonhoeffer left Europe brieflyfor the US he was dismayed by the American church and culture. Bonhoeffer said our only hope was the Black Church. And that means a faith based on biblical fundamentals give us results in the presence and action of God.
    I think one has to read Bonhoeffer like one reads Augustine. Both are writing theology on the run, fighting battles on multiple fronts. Bonhoeffer does not compose a Summa Theologica from the pristine heights of the summit. He wrestles with contradiction in front of our startled eyes rather than presenting us with an idealized theological formulation or a bloodless paradox.
    There are those that say that Augustine is so convoluted he is not worth reading. But Augustine is fighting on both sides of a dialectic. He lunges at the Arians and then pivots and brandishes the other edge of the sword against the Monophysites.
    Bonhoeffer’s dialectical theology is very similar and must be read accordingly. It is a biblical faith streaming live in the midst of an apocalypse.
    I’m weary of the way academics cripple the breadth and power of Bonhoeffer’s masterful theology. If you don’t take Bonhoeffer’s faith and work in the context of an imploding world you will end up destroying it.

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