‘Teaching about Christ begins in silence. ‘Be still, for that is the absolute,’ writes Kierkegaard. That has nothing to do with the silence of the mystics, who in their dumbness chatter away secretly in their souls by themselves. The silence of the Church is silence before the Word. In so far as the church proclaims the Word, it falls down silently in truth before the inexpressible: ‘In silence I worship the inexpressible,’ (Cyril of Alexandria). The spoken Word is the inexpressible; this unutterable is the Word. ‘It must become spoken, it is a great battle cry,’ (Luther). Although it is cried out by the Church in the world, it remains the inexpressible. To speak of Christ means to keep silent; to keep silent about Christ means to speak. When the Church speaks rightly out of a proper silence, then Christ is proclaimed.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘Christ the Center,’ p. 27)
‘Christ is Christ, not just for himself, but in relation to me. His being in Christ is for me, pro me . This being pro me is not to be understood as an effect emanating from ihm, nor as an accident, but it is to be understood as the essence, the being of the person himself. The core of the ther person himself is pro me. That Christ is pro me is not an historical, nor an ontic statement, but an ontological one. Christ can never be thought of as being for himself, but only in relation to me.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘Christ the Center,’ p. 47)
Here we come to a very interesting part of Bonhoeffers christology: that Christ literally exists for me, and cannot be understood in any other way other than being in relation to me. This relational factor is what makes Bonhoeffers thought so brilliant – that Christ cannot be understood any other way than relationally. Christ in His essence is for me – and for humanity. He stands in humanity’s place before God – and here is what I believe to be the core of Bonhoeffers christology:
‘Jesus Christ is for his bretheren because he stands in their place. Christ stands for his new humanity before God. But if that is so, he is the new humanity. There where mankind should stand, he stands as a representative, enabled by his pro me structure. He is the Church. He not only acts for it, he is it, when he goes to the cross, carries the sins and dies. Therefore, in him, mankind is crucified, dead and judged.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘Christ the Center,’ p. 48)
It is the for me that justifies the world – this is a universal atonement brought on by the very essence of Christ. As stated above this is not an effect that comes from Christ but the very essence. The relational factor here is key and an underlying presupposition critical to Bonhoeffers thought – as it should be for all theology.