“Between Resistance and Submission: Bonhoeffer, Luther, and Christian Witness as Political Theology”
Congratulations to Rev. Dr. Claire Hein Blanton who received her Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen this second week of July 2022. Her thesis was written under the supervision of Dr. Philip Ziegler and Dr. Michael Mawson.
Is Bonhoeffer of any use today? Or, more pointedly, is there a place for Bonhoeffer’s political theology within contemporary society? With the continued interest in Bonhoeffer’s theology and life, there has been an emergence of divergent voices claiming that our political climate has created a series of “Bonhoeffer Moments.” But what, precisely, is a “Bonhoeffer Moment” and does it signal that Bonhoeffer’s political theology is of continued use?
These questions form the center of this project. However, to arrive at an answer requires determining what is Bonhoeffer’s political theology, what influences his theology, and how these influences are held in tension. Bonhoeffer’s theology forms at the intersection of his specific historical context alongside the influence of Luther’s theology. It is necessary to read his political writings with these influences in the background.
The first half of this work focuses on explicating the importance of these influences and highlights various issues that emerge when Bonhoeffer is read outside of them. The second half of this work, then, turns to Bonhoeffer’s writings and analyzes them in light of the work done in chapters one-three. Chapter four focuses on Ethics and the various manuscripts that directly touch upon political responsibility and engagement. Chapter five does the same task but seeks to show the continuity of thought in Bonhoeffer’s work through an analysis of several pieces spanning a ten-year period of writing.
As a result, I claim that Bonhoeffer’s political theology, when properly understood, falls somewhere between resistance and collaboration. Bonhoeffer’s political responsibility is distinctly rooted in the willingness to live into God’s command and bear responsibility for the neighbor. It is a qualified action that does not easily lend itself to full-scale action or adoption, but in its emphasis on individual responsibility, does have a place in modern political discourse.