I found this interesting commentary on some of Bonhoeffer’s thoughts:
I won’t copy/paste any of that to here – but I highly recommend it.
A few questions emerge after a careful reading of both the primary text (Bonoheffer) and the commentary: Does this kind of theology lead to a de-supernaturalized Christianity? Are these broad ideas grounded in the Old Testament, as Bonhoeffer claims? Can there be a non-metaphysical theology? Does such a concept even make sense? Do Bonhoeffer’s problems with the idea of ‘other-worldliness’ carry the weight he puts on them? Is personal salvation a foreign concept to the original message of Christianity and the Old Testament? Are things like individualism, metaphysics and religion all necessarily negative in Christianity? Do notions like these lead to a purely physicalist concept of Christianity?
These are all questions it is important to raise, engage and answer. One that comes to mind is the charges of individualism – is something individualistic just because it is personal – like, say, salvation? If this is the case, then it seems that Bonhoeffer’s thought and the commentary provided on Expirmental Theology fall victim to the same charge – if I am there for the other, then I am there for the other person – and if I am there for the other personal, I am there for them in a personal way – and is not the personal the individualistic, on this view?
Folks like N.T. Wright have done, in my opinion, a great service by really taking on the idea of Christianity being primarily about saving the soul from this world and getting into heaven and redirecting it towards the reality which we inhabit which will be renewed – but might some of the ideas presented in the commentary be taking things to far?
For my part (briefly), I would say that they are. I don’t think one can so easily tie everything negative in Christianity to notions of individualism, religion, or metaphysics, even if I do think that each of these has in fact contributed negatively to the Christian faith. I don’t think that the personal aspect of Christianity (a personal God who approaches us in our hearts) is wrong. While the direction taken by the commentary (and even Bonhoeffer) is broadly a needed corrective, I think it ends up being far too reactionary. In particular (and again, briefly) I find the attacks on supernatural aspects of Christianity on account of it being dualistic misplaced and mistaken – one can acknowledge both a physical and non-physical aspect of reality while affirming that there is in fact one reality, with two aspects (in this case, the physical and non-physical) in an intimate, though distinct, union.
At any rate, these are some broad thoughts I’m having on the subject. More to come later.