Friday, February 17, 2006


I haven't blogged on Dietrich Bohoeffer's 100th birthday, though it has been on my mind. Showing the excellent Doblmeier documentary to my students last week made me think afresh his relevance for our time. I have blogged on Rowan Williams, and just noticed his opening address to the International Bonhoeffer Congress. It dovetails nicely with the theme of the last couple of blogs here:

"... to live in the climate of authentic spiritual discipline is to be ‘re-educated’. To adore God for God’s own sake, to bring one’s sins daily before God and the neighbour, to make one’s own the language of Scripture, especially psalmody – all this apparently irrelevant activity is part of opening ourselves up to the transforming word. It is useless and worse than useless when it becomes a way of protecting believers or of denying the acuteness of the world’s pain; so, when the Confessing Church began, step by step, to ‘normalise’ its relations with the Reich, Bonhoeffer spoke out against it as he had spoken out against the state church of the mid-thirties. But this does not mean that he thought the disciplines of Finkenwalde had been a mistake or a false start.

"In a context where, as we are so often reminded, spirituality has become a major interest, Bonhoeffer obliges us to ask what the transforming potential is of any practice or tradition. Does it transform only the individual’s sense of well-being? Then it is merely ‘piety’. But if it enables each believer to stand alongside other and alongside the forgotten, it is on the way to allowing the action of God to make itself manifest. And that is the entire point of spiritual discipline – not the cultivation of a private self, but the renewal of the world by God, a transformation of all the conditions of human speaking and relating. ‘The event of Whitsuntide thus does not consist primarily in a new religiousness, but in the proclamation of a new creative act of God…It is not for a moment a matter of putting the religious before the profane, but of putting God’s act before both religious and profane’ (The Way to Freedom, 47).

Read the rest of the address here

Read a sermon on Bonhoeffer which +Rowan preached at St Matthäus Church, Berlin at a service to mark the centenary of Bonhoeffer's birth here

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