The Cross of Reality investigates Bonhoeffer’s interpretation and use of Luther’s theology in shaping his Christology. In this essay, H. Gaylon Barker uses the “theology of the cross” as a key to understanding the characteristic elements that make up Bonhoeffer’s theology; he also shows how Bonhoeffer’s conversation with his teachers and contemporaries, Karl Holl and Karl Barth in particular, develops.
Bonhoeffer’s thought was indeed radical and revolutionary, but it was so precisely because of its adherence to the classical traditions of the church, especially Luther’s theologia crucis. When his theology is understood in light of this tradition, his “nonreligious interpretation,” which he set out to describe in his theological letters from Tegel prison, is not a radical departure from his earlier theology, but is the mature expression of his “theology of the cross.” Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran roots would not allow him to turn his back on the problems and tragedies of the world. In fact, because God had turned toward the world, had entered into the world and identified with suffering individuals, the only proper sphere for theological reflection was this world. Theology properly conceived, therefore, is very this-worldly. It is this worldly character that gives it its power to speak.
1. The Background and Content of Bonhoeffer’s Christology
2. Theological and Christological Foundations, 1925–1933
3. Christological Development and Witness, 1933–1945
4. Bonhoeffer’s Cross of Reality
About the Author
H. Gaylon Barker is president of the International Bonhoeffer Society—English language section and served on the editorial board of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English series published by Fortress Press. He also serves as a pastor at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Ridgefield, Connecticut, and is adjunct associate professor of theology and religious studies at Molloy College. He is coeditor of Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 14 (Fortress Press, 2013).