The rest of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volumes 7 to 16, are made up of personal letters that he wrote, sermons, meditations, essays, diary entries, a novel, and lectures spanning from his early life to his last days in prison.
These are all fascinating works and give us great insight into DB’s thinking and life.
Of particular note is Lectures on Christology (American title: Christ the Center) 1933, which is contained in Volume 12 of the set.
These were the last lectures that DB gave before leaving the University of Berlin.
One of the key concepts in these lectures is the need for Christians to ask the right Christological question and avoid the wrong Christological question. The right question is, “Who are you?” The wrong question is, “How are you possible?” We are sure to go wrong when we ask “How?” instead of “Who?’
DB begins his discussion with the Christ “who is present as the crucified and as the risen one.” DB then tells where we can find this Christ. “Christ as a person is present in the Church.” This is important for an inescapable reason. Only because Christ is present can we question Him. The presence of Christ is the necessary presupposition for the unfolding of the Christological question. Only when preaching and sacrament take place in the Church can Christ be questioned. The understanding of the Presence opens the way for the understanding of the Person.
DB breaks down this understanding of Christ’s presence in the Church under three headings: Christ as word, Christ as sacrament, and Christ as Church. This is clearly an unpacking of his earlier emphasis on “Christ existing as community.”
He then explores the broader dimensions of Christ’s presence today under the headings: “Christ as the center of human existence,” “Christ as the center of history,” and “Christ as the center between God and nature.”
DB devotes the next section of the lecture series to an analysis of the orthodox understanding of Christ, and the heresies it defeated. Throughout this section he sticks closely to his principle that the proper question to ask of Christ is “Who?” and not “How?”
In the same year that DB gave these lectures, he publicly denounced Hitler. He then left for a visit to the United States where he stayed at Union Theological Seminary. When he returned to Germany (against the pleas of his new American friends), he quickly became a part of the struggle between the pro Nazi “German Christians” and the Confessing Church.