RTN Theology #10: The Life and Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 24, 2019
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This episode of RTN Theology centers on the life, thought, and legacy of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bob Crawford talks with professor Stephen Haynes, author of The Battle for Bonhoeffer about how Bonhoeffer has become a cultural Rorschach test, often coopted and reflecting his interpreters, but also how his life and work can be relevant and transformative for  today. New co-host and co-producer, Chris Breslin explores some of the ways Bonhoeffer continues to influence by interviewing Pastor José Humphreys (Seeing Jesus in East Harlem) about ministry in Harlem after Bonhoeffer and then reflects on Bifrost Art’s Bonhoeffer’s Prayer by Bifrost Arts.

This episode was edited by Bob Crawford


Entry Bonhoeffer

Life Together (audiobook via Libro.fm)
DB at his most accessible and challenging. At once deeply theological and heady while practical. Published in 1939, these desires and insights came from his vision and experience developing an underground residential seminary in Finkenwalde.

Discipleship (audiobook via Libro.fm)
Sometimes known as “the Cost of Discipleship,” this is Bonhoeffer’s most popular work centering on the Sermon on the Mount. You can feel the dissonance building as he writes in a mode of critique and resistance about grace against the backdrop of 1937 Europe.

God is in the Manger (Advent & Christmas)
Accessible and inspiring devotional snippets from sermons, letters and writings centered on the Incarnation of Jesus.

 God is on the Cross (Lent & Easter)
Accessible and inspiring devotional snippets from sermons, letters and writings centered on the Crucifixion of Jesus.

Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible
A short and punchy rumination on the importance of the Psalms for the life of faith. DB reminds us that Jesus died with the words of the psalms on his lips ana challenges us to read the psalms imagining them coming out of Jesus’ mouth. This provides a whole new lens that has the possibility of transforming a prayer life.

Next-level Bonhoeffer

Letters and Papers from Prison
A compilation of writings (personal correspondence, poetry, occasional reflections…) from prison which lives in the pantheon of the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and the Apostle Paul.

DB’s unfinished and posthumously released volume meant to be his magnum opus. Perhaps his most nuanced and theopolitically incisive writing.

Christ the Center
A slim and challenging theological work featuring his robust Christology.

About Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography by Eberhard Bethge
Written by former student, friend, and recipient of many a letter, this is considered one of the most personal and insightful of DB bios.

Performing the Faith by Stanley Hauerwas
Written by famed theological ethicist specifically about DB’s ethic of nonviolence. A valuable guide for dispelling some of the assassin-spy persona and understanding the core of DB’s faith-based political resistance.

Battle for Bonhoeffer by Stephen R Haynes
As discussed in Bob’s interview in this RTN-Theology episode, Professor Haynes deftly navigates the popular portrayals and, in some cases, misconstruals of DB in an attempt to resituate his witness and thought for our times.

Strange Glory by Charles Marsh
Written by UVA professor and Director of the Project on Lived Theology, this DB bio is fastidiously researched and provocative in its portrayal of a cosmopolitan wunderkind turned enemy of the state.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (audiobook via Libro.fm)
Written by conservative fire-brand, this DB bio has drawn widespread acclaim and criticism alike for its page-turning dramatics and its at-times liberty-taking understanding of DB’s academic project, personal life, and final days.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance by Ferdinand Schlingensiepen
Considered by many to be the definitive DB bio; exhaustive to be sure, clocking in at almost 500 pages.

Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus by Reggie Williams
A brilliant recent contribution to DB scholarship focusing on Bonhoeffer’s 1931 fellowship at Union Seminary and his transformative experience at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. DB claims to have met Jesus in the church life, Sunday School classes, neighborhood gatherings, black gospel music, and literature and culture of the Harlem Renaissance- rather than the coursework of the liberal protestant seminary he’d set out to attend.

Seeing Jesus in East Harlem: What Happens When Churches Show Up and Stay Put by José Humphreys
Pastor José writes brilliantly in the first person about how the key insights and vision DB had for Christian community work themselves out in the concrete realities of everyday live in the place that was so formative for Bonhoeffer.

Music by Bifrost Arts & The Porter’s Gate Worship Project
Listen to featured music by Charlottesville-based music collective, Bifrost Arts (2009-2016). Director Isaac Wardell now makes original collaborative church music as The Porter’s Gate Worship Project.

Other Episodes in the RTN Theology Series:
RTN Theology #1: The Intersection of Christianity & Culture in the United States
RTN Theology #2: Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?
RTN Theology #3: A Conversation with Kate Bowler
RTN Theology #4: Kutter Callaway on Reconstructing Our Cultural and Spiritual Norms.
RTN Theology #5: Jeremy Begbie on Theology Of And Through the Arts
RTN Theology #6 The Road to Hope? The Challenges of Faith in Politics
RTN Theology #7 Remembering Walter B. Jones: Living by Faith and by Truth
RTN Theology #8 Elizabeth Seton and Catholics in Early America w/ Catherine O’Donnell
RTN Theology #9: Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity w/ Miguel De La Torre

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