Before we plunge in today, a few quick things:
1) Refresh yourself on the Standards of Moderation. If you ever comment and it doesn’t show up, you’ll have an idea why.
2) As I posted a few days ago, I’m using Twitter a lot more than I ever have. You can join me and follow my Tweets here. I just promoted a bunch of other Tweeps this morning. I plan to do that every Friday.
3) Don’t forget the free book offer, which is just around the corner.
Now on to Bonhoeffer.
Act and Being, 1931. This is volume 2 of Deitrich Bonhoeffer Works.
It was a dissertation that qualified DB to become a faculty member of the School of theology at the University of Berlin. It’s a heavy theological work that draws on a good bit of philosophy. Not light reading at all. I’ll give a summary, then make some practical application.
DB begins by presenting a view of theologians as belonging to either one of two schools of thought. There are advocates of a theology of Act and advocates of a theology of Being. Theologies of Act stress discontinuity, dualism, the moment of revelation, and decision. Theologies of Being stress continuity, unity, tradition, and cognition.
Karl Barth is the quintessential theologian of Act. The influence of Immanuel Kant’s transcendental philosophy is evident in Barthian thought.
The theology of being stands for the continuity of God and Christianity. Some of these theologians see God’s availability to us in terms of true doctrine. Others in terms of inner experiences. Still others in terms of the institution of the structures of the Church or a verbally inerrant Bible. But all of these not only make God available, they make Him manipulatable. God loses His sovereign freedom in all three cases. He can be pinned down and domesticated by us.
We can avoid losing God in the unknowability of the transcendent or trying to capture Him in forms that make Him just another object to manipulate by returning to the reality of Christ existing as community.
As those who are recreated into Christian community, we participate in the continuity of revelation as the life of the Church. God’s self-presentation in the proclaimed Word make it necessary that we reflect on that Word so that we can faithfully proclaim it. This reflection is called theology. Because theology reflects on the Truth of God, it participates in that Truth. Yet because theology is not itself that Truth, it always has a fragmentary, fragile, and partial grasp of the Truth. And thus it is always open to criticism, correction, and improvement.
Revelation has its being in the Church. Both preaching and theology are for the Church and in the Church. Act and Being are united in the Church.
Like DB’s first work, Christ and the Church lay at the center of his theology and philosophical outlook: “Christ existing as community.”
In Jesus Manifesto, there’s a chapter on the kingdom of God that takes a fresh look at the justice vs. justification debate. Some of that chapter is taken from these two articles where I talk about how some Christians view the kingdom simply as Act. While others view it simply as Being. But it’s both.
Here I stand with DB. In the Church we find the unity of Act and Being. Christ is both Act and Being and so is His kingdom.
Note that DB’s prophetic books are much more accessible.