Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Repudiation of Protestant German War Theology
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a revolutionary in two senses. Obviously, his role in the conspiracy to overthrow Hitler, when it was discovered, stamped him as a political revolutionary. Beyond that, however, Bonhoeffer was a theological revolutionary in that he repudiated and refuted the prevailing Lutheran-Hegelian-Rankean Geschichtsbild, i.e., image of German history, that had become paradigmatic for his class, the so-called Bildungsbürgertum, the highly educated upper middle class. Central to this image was the idea of the Creator God as essentially a “warrior” God who realized the history of salvation via the power struggles of nation states. Bonhoeffer, in his confrontation with the Third Reich, came to the conclusion that its evil triumph had a great deal to do with the image of history that underpinned it. This article traces the evolution of the doctrine of the Power State rooted as it was in Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms or realms, and shows how Bonhoeffer via his reflections expressed in the fragments known as Ethics, overturned that doctrine and thereby wrought an intellectual-historical achievement of immense significance not only for Germany, but also for the modern world.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Adjunct Professor in the School of Classics, History and Religion, University of New England. Armidale, New South Wales, Australia
Publication date: 01 October 2006