February 2006 Newsletter
Association of Contemporary Church Historians
(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)
John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia
This is a special issue in commemoration of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose 100th birthday falls on February 4th.
Against principalities and powers – letters from a Brazilian Jail
I owe obedience
to the poor whom Jesus served
to the pathways of hope in my time
to concrete and effective love for others
I do not owe obedience
to anything that renders me less free
to the laws that shackle human beings
and stifle the spread of the gospel
to the traditions that drain the Christian life
of its pristine force
to anything that makes me look
more obedient and less Christian
more prudent and less evangelical
Obedience cannot mean
fear of risk
lead to a cross not a throne
Bonhoeffer Commemoration Symposium, Vancouver, February 17 -18th 2006
To mark the 100th anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s birth, we are organizing a symposium to be held at Regent College, Vancouver, adjacent to the University of British Columbia.. The programme will begin on Friday 17th at 7 p.m. with a showing of M.Doblmeier’s biographical film, and will continue on Saturday 18th, at 9 a.m., when papers will be read by Craig Slane, Jens Zimmermann and J.S. Conway. On Saturday afternoon, we shall show the very moving film “Weapons of the Spirit” about the rescue of French Jews in 1944, made by a survivor, Pierre Sauvage. The public is cordially invited, and there is no registration fee. Further details can be obtained by writing to me at: email@example.com
1) Book reviews:
a) Roberts, Bonhoeffer and King; Böllmann, Bonhoeffer and Jochen Klepper
b) J. de Gruchy, Daring, Trusting Spirit: Bonhoeffer’s friend Eberhard Bethge
c) P.Monteath, Australia’s Lutheran Churches and Refugees from Hitler’s Germany
d) Douglas J. Hall, Bound and Free. A theologian’s journey
1a) Deotis Roberts, Bonhoeffer and King. Speaking the truth to power, Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press 2005. 160pp ISBN 0-664-22652-3
Wolfgang Böllmann, “Wenn ich dir begegnet wäre” Dietrich Bonhoeffer und Jochen Klepper im Gespräch, Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt 2005 164 pp.
In July 1997 ten new statuettes of Christian martyrs of the twentieth century were unveiled on the front portico of Westminster Abbey. Amongst them were Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. Despite the fact that they lived on different continents and were separated by nearly three decades, comparisons of their respective Christian witness are valuable and instructive – quite apart from the fact that their lives were both cut short at the same early age of 39. J. Deotis Roberts is himself a leading figure among the black Baptist community and intimate with the King family. His own path took him more into academic, rather than activist pursuits. For this reason he has an innate sympathy with Bonhoeffer’s lecturing career, and recognizes how valuable a legacy is left to us in Bonhoeffer’s teachings and writings. He seeks to make the point that however heroic and/or tragic these men’s deaths may have been, it is surely their lives and witness that will count in the long run. In particular Roberts stresses the common thread between them, which lay in their determination to face the political evils of their day with faith and courage, and to speak the truth to power, at whatever cost.
Roberts’short book traces these two men’s parallel biographies, drawing on his personal memories of King and the standard biographies of Bonhoeffer. Readers already familiar with these sources will find little new in his interpretation, but his analysis of the evolution of their respective political theologies is illuminating.
The common factor was their Christian-based opposition to racism. Bonhoeffer, to be sure, was not born into a situation of endemic racial antagonism, but realized early on, even before Hitler came to power, the incompatibility of the Nazi attitudes towards the Jews with any true understanding of Christianity. The majority of his Protestant colleagues, including leading theologians, refused to accept the consequences. Instead they temporized or argued that the political or diplomatic advantages of Hitler’s rule outweighed any extremist antisemitic rantings, which would surely be abandoned once the Nazis took the reins of power. And there is evidence that, to begin with, Bonhoeffer’s protests were centred on the plight of the Christian Jews. Only later did he realize that the call to discipleship demanded defence of the rights of all Jews, converts or not, because Christianity was indissolubly bound to Israel and to all its people. Such an insight was shared by only a few. And still fewer were prepared to engage in illegal and seemingly treacherous actions to put a spoke in Nazism’s wheels.., Bonhoeffer was disowned by his own church after his arrest, and even after his martyrdom. His speaking of truth to power was a lonely and dangerous pilgrimage.
By contrast, King’s opposition to racism was part of his in-bred experience, growing up in a black family, church and community in the southern United States. His commitment to the pursuit of social justice is really self-explanatory. More remarkable was the vitality and leadership he developed in this cause, which distinguished him from so many other black church leaders. Equally notable was the fact alongside his privileged upbringing and elitist education, King had a vision to lift up the sufferings of his people and to challenge the racist structures and policies of the United States. Like Bonhoeffer, King was at first influenced by the example of Gandhi, but also by the sober realism of Reinhold Niebuhr. Both he and Bonhoeffer became increasingly conscious of the power of collective evil and the need to speak out against it from the truth of Christian perspectives.
Roberts can find no evidence that Bonhoeffer’s thought or actions influenced King. Nor was his example used in the black liberation struggle. But Roberts believes that Bonhoeffer ought to be an important figure for blacks, if only to show that in such a cause as theirs they were and are not alone. Hence the cogent summaries of Bonhoeffer’s witness. Roberts sees the significance and the link in both lives as consisting in their commitment to Christian political activism. Both refused to limit their Christian witness merely to the pursuit of personal piety, nor to indulge in wishful thinking that all would work out well for their nations because of their supposedly Christian leaders. Both believed that the struggle against the corrosive forces of racism and injustice required a witness unto death for the sake of the oppressed. In Bonhoeffer’s words: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”. Both were convinced they should speak for the voiceless and suffer on behalf of the powerless. Such a prophetic stance in the end cost both men their lives. But as King said: ” Death is not so much the ultimate evil; the ultimate evil is to be outside God’s love.”
Wolfgang Böllmann gives us another set of comparisons in the potential interaction of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the talented German novelist and poet Jochen Klepper. Klepper is unfortunately little known in English-speaking countries, because his works have not been translated. But he shared with Bonhoeffer a strong sense of Prussian patriotism and a traditional Lutheran respect for established authority. But Klepper was married to a Jewish wife, which unfortunately brought his public career to a sudden end in 1933. For several years he survived on his novelist’s skills, but was unwilling to accept the fact that Nazi barbarism and racism were now the paramount force in Germany. His ambivalence was even more pronounced in 1940 when he willingly joined the German army, and was bitterly disappointed when he was dismissed a year later on account of his Jewish wife. His attempts to obtain permission for her daughter to emigrate led him into a bureaucratic nightmare of refusals. So in December 1942, he, his wife and step-daughter tragically committed suicide.
Böllmann’s close study of both Klepper and Bonhoeffer as contemporaries and Christians leads him to construct a series of fictitious conversations the two men could have had, as they respectively grappled with the evil consequences of Nazi rule. He shares with us some of Klepper’s poetry, infused with his real spiritual piety, and draws on the extensive and revealing diary Under the shadow of thy wings to depict Klepper’s frustrations and terror which led him to decide that suicide was the only way out Four months after that event, Bonhoeffer was arrested, and Böllmann makes use of the surviving Letters and Papers from Prison to draw a portrait of how Bonhoeffer sought to come to terms with his plight. He suggests that Klepper was a direct inspiration for some of Bonhoeffer’s remarkable and deeply inspiring prison poems. Written at a time when Bonhoeffer could, at any moment, have been summarily tried and executed, these poems are a striking witness and thought-provoking legacy. Böllmann’s brief elucidation of the parallels between these two men’s lives is a sincere tribute to the faith which they shared and which we have inherited.
1b) John W.de Gruchy, Daring, Trusting Spirit. Bonhoeffer’s Friend Eberhard Bethge, Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2005. 221pp. ISBN 0-8006-3758-5
The South African theologian John de Gruchy is to be congratulated on this fine tribute to his German colleague Eberhard Bethge. Bethge, who died in March 2000 at the age of ninety, is best known as the close friend and later the biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyred German theologian and resister against Hitler’s tyranny. Bethge was one of the first students at the illegal seminary for pastors directed by Bonhoeffer, accompanied him as he moved from pacifism to clandestine opposition to the regime, and was the recipient of the famous Letters and Papers from Prison. In 1942 Bethge married Bonhoeffer’s niece, Renate, which brought him still closer to the Bonhoeffer family. In April 1945, only days before the end of the war, Bonhoeffer, his brother and two brothers-in-law were all murdered by the Nazis. It was a shattering blow which marked the survivors for the rest of their lives.
Bethge understandably became the staunch supporter of the remaining Bonhoeffer family. With their help he began the long task of compiling and editing his friend’s literary texts. This was in fact to become his life’s work, and was completed only shortly before his death more than fifty years later. His full-scale biography has been recognized as one of the great biographies of the century, and de Gruchy serves us well in describing how this work was undertaken. It was the definitive study just because no one else was so close to Bonhoeffer or understood his theology so intimately. Had anyone else taken on this task, in all likelihood we would have had a rather different Bonhoeffer today. But, as one commentator noted, Bethge’s life work was something very different from the preservation of a legacy; what Bethge had been engaged in was a “highly dynamic and thoroughly open‚ process of recreating Bonhoeffer’s thought for new situations. In short, as de Gruchy points out, without Bethge we would not know or understand Bonhoeffer in the way we do today. But the reverse is equally true: without Bonhoeffer, Bethge’s life would have been very different. He was indeed a “daring, trusting spirit‚, as Bonhoeffer called him in one of his prison poems.
Bethge’s motives were clear: he was Bonhoeffer’s intimate friend for ten years; he was married into the Bonhoeffer family; and he shared a close affinity with Bonhoeffer’s theology. But the task of making his mentor’s views known and accepted was to be an arduous and daunting one. Contrary to the present-day popularity and acceptance of Bonhoeffer’s theology, the situation in 1945 was very different. At the time of Germany’s national defeat, the reputation of those who had participated in the anti-Nazi resistance movement, including those who actively supported the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, was highly controversial. The fact that Bonhoeffer, as an ordained Lutheran minister, should have championed the plan to murder the head of state was regarded as offensive by most of his conservative establishment colleagues. Even years later, when his friends sought to unveil a plaque in his memory at Flossenbürg Concentration Camp and invited the Evangelical Bishop of Munich to take part in the ceremony, he brusquely turned them down with the remark that Bonhoeffer had been put to death as a national traitor not as a Christian martyr. In effect he got what he deserved.
In such a climate, Bethge’s efforts were uphill work. The reforming impulse expressed by younger members of the Confessing Church was largely overlaid after 1945 by the desire of the majority of churchmen to return to stability, with a convenient amnesia about their support for the Nazi regime. Even the call for a new beginning expressed in the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt of October 1945 was disputed. The energetic demands for repentance made by Bonhoeffer’s colleague, Martin Niemöller, who had survived eight years in concentration camp, received a lukewarm reception.
Bethge’s determination to act as the interpreter of his friend’s theological views was therefore in part prompted by the need to challenge this post-war atmosphere of comfort-seeking restoration. He rightly saw that Bonhoeffer’s radical ideas developed during his years in Tegel prison would be an effective way of making his legacy known. To this end, he dug up the surviving letters and papers which had been buried in the family’s garden for security. These letters, which had been smuggled out of the prison through the good services of one of the prison guards, were, for this reason, both unique and precious, affording at least a glimpse of the perilous circumstances in which this correspondence was conducted Though incomplete, they contained an invaluable picture of Bonhoeffer’s theological development. Bethge then selected what seemed to him the most relevant theological sections, leaving aside the more personal and private passages. He also omitted his own replies, which were later on shown to have been both a comfort and a significant stimulus to the incarcerated Bonhoeffer.
When they were first published in 1951, these Letters and Papers from Prison had an immediate and remarkable reception, not only in Germany but particularly in the English-speaking world. They rapidly became a Christian classic. The book appeared at the right time, just when the first glimmer of hope arose out of the moral and physical disasters of the war. The challenges contained in Bonhoeffer’s prison thoughts were welcomed by those who sought new approaches and who were no longer content with stale presentations of the church’s traditional doctrines. In addition, Bonhoeffer’s views were enhanced, particularly in North America, by the fact of his martyrdom.
This success prompted Bethge to begin editing more of Bonhoeffer’s earlier texts. At the time he was on the staff of Otto Dibelius, the Confessing Church leader now advanced to be the Bishop of Berlin. Together with a group of younger clergy, many of whom had been associated with Bonhoeffer, Bethge joined a “ginger group” which published a critical magazine Unterwegs in pursuit of their vision for the future of the church. Together they helped him to explore Bonhoeffer’s legacy.
But Berlin at the time was a dangerous place, blockaded by Soviet forces and infiltrated by agents. For those who had survived the Nazi tyranny, it was an uncomfortable situation. Moreover, the atmosphere in West Germany was unpleasant. Attempts to bring Nazi criminals to trial often failed. For example, the SS Colonel Huppenkothen who had interrogated Bonhoeffer and others of the July 1944 conspiracy, was acquitted despite legal appeals, much to the outrage of the Bonhoeffer family. For these reasons, in 1953 Bethge welcomed an invitation to follow in Bonhoeffer’s footsteps by becoming pastor to the German congregation in London, just twenty years after his friend.
In Britain, Bethge noted with pleasure the remarkable interest in Bonhoeffer’s ideas. He was able to link up with Bishop George Bell of Chichester, Bonhoeffer’s champion, and with the British publishing houses, who were very pleased with the success of The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together. With their encouragement, and with that of Paul Lehmann of Harvard University, Bethge resolved to undertake the writing of a full biography, based on the considerable compilation of notes and records he had saved. A year’s sabbatical at Harvard Divinity School gave him the time and opportunity to get started.
This biography was no act of nostalgic atavism, or of filial piety. Rather, Bethge always saw it as a contribution towards the reconstruction of church life in Germany. At the same time he sought to present a defence of the moral understandings which had motivated the members of the German Resistance. He had also to describe the Church Struggle against the Nazis, and the fortunes of the ecumenical movement of the 1930s, and as well to outline the developments in theology in the historical context of those years. This was to be a massive task, resulting in the end in 1100 pages of print. But more and more the emphasis came to be placed on the significance of Bonhoeffer’s theology, defending his positions against the criticisms of other prominent theologians such as Karl Barth or Rudolf Bultmann. Thus the book came to be both a historical narrative and a theological interpretation. When it appeared in 1967, despite its great length, it received wide acclaim.
De Gruchy give a masterly account of how Bethge combined the roles of biographer and interpreter. His numerous appearances before audiences in both Germany and North America helped to present a balanced picture of the martyr-theologian and to draw out the lessons for Christians today. De Gruchy rightly notes that Bonhoeffer’s views were broadly disseminated through the appearance of such books as Bishop John Robinson’s Honest to God. All at once Bonhoeffer’s phrase “religionless Christianity” came to have wide currency. This upset many who had been earlier attracted by the rather saintly author of The Cost of Discipleship. On the other hand, some “secular‚ or “death of God‚ theologians now claimed Bonhoeffer to be one of them. Bethge was at pains to correct such defective views of his mentor.
In the eyes of some observers, Bethge’s whole life seemed to be one of self-effacing devotion to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But de Gruchy points out that there were two separate areas in which Bethge made a highly significant contribution in his own right. The first of these was in South Africa. The Bethges were invited to go there in 1973, and were soon caught up in the heated debates about the moral and theological justifications for the prevailing system of apartheid. The impact of racial intolerance was evident on all sides. Inevitably, this brought to mind the parallels with the Church Struggle against Nazi racism. Bethge’s support of the anti-apartheid forces, and his awareness of the black theologians demonstrated a sensitivity clearly derived from his own earlier experiences. He came to recognize more than ever that the burning issues of the day were those of justice, peace and liberation from oppression. He therefore repeatedly stressed the need for a confession of Christ that spoke directly to questions of racism and human rights.
Even more significant was the lead Bethge gave in the contested field of Christian-Jewish reconciliation in Germany. From 1970 onwards he was increasingly burdened by memories and interpretations of the Holocaust He was easily persuaded that the German churches must unequivocally declare their repentance for their complicity in these atrocities. At the same time, they must begin to take appropriate steps to change the sad legacy of the church’s antisemitic, or anti-Judaic, teachings. In this regard he clearly went much further than Bonhoeffer had done. But, as de Gruchy correctly points out, this was a late conversion on Bethge’s part. In his own autobiography, he had described how, in his youth, he had had no contact with Jews. In his biography of Bonhoeffer, the Jewish issue was not tackled head-on. Indeed Bethge remained ambiguous about the extent to which Bonhoeffer’s joining the resistance movement could be attributed to his sympathy for the victimized Jews, or how far Bonhoeffer had repudiated traditional Lutheran antisemitism.
Not until after the biography was finished did Bethge come to see the centrality of the Jewish issue for Christians. But from then onwards, he became the most outspoken champion of the need for all church followers of whatever denomination to adopt a new stance. It would not be enough merely to overcome the social and political prejudices of earlier years. Far more significant, Bethge argued, was the need to change Christian theological attitudes towards Judaism as a whole.
The centuries-old calumny, whereby Christians had seen Jews as deservedly outcast and reprobate, or alternatively as targets of Christian evangelism, should be abandoned. Instead, a new and much more positive approach to Jews and Judaism must be adopted. Persuading his Lutheran colleagues to accept this new stance proved to be a taxing and arduous procedure throughout those years. Admittedly the way had been paved by the declarations from the Second Vatican Council in Rome. But it is clear that these hard-boiled Lutheran clergy were reluctant to learn from their Catholic counterparts.
Bethge played a leading role in urging his own church of the Rhineland to take a clear and strong position. In 1980 this Synod issued an important statement which tackled the implications of the Holocaust, clearly rejected any form of antisemitism, and even called for the abandonment of the traditional kind of missionary activity towards the Jews. Throughout the rest of his life, Bethge continued to wrestle with the issue of how Christians, especially Germans, could find new ways of entering into dialogue with Jews. This meant, primarily, rejecting Christian triumphalism, which so often had caused terrible crimes against Jews. Instead, he argued, along with Bonhoeffer, that the Christian should stand in solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, and the victims, and participate, with Jesus, in their sufferings.
In his retirement, Bethge continued to be fully engaged in writing, speaking and editing. The flood of visitors requesting information or help about Bonhoeffer was incessant. The new and complete edition of all Bonhoeffer’s works, in 17 volumes, required his nearly full-time consideration. We can therefore be grateful to John de Gruchy for giving us this appealing portrait of a great teacher, whose generous humanity and loyalty to his friend Bonhoeffer enriched all who knew him or read his writings. It was Bethge’s particular gift that he could become the interpreter of one of Germany’s most significant theologians. As de Gruchy says, by gathering the fragments of Bonhoeffer’s life and theology into a coherent, meaningful whole, he brought them to appropriate posthumous completion through his scholarship and his ministry. His was a remarkably fulfilled life.
1c) Peter Monteath, Dear Dr. Janzow. Australia’s Lutheran Churches and Refugees from Hitler’s Germany. Australian Humanities Press 2005. 116 pp. ISN 0-9758313-0-5
Australian attitudes towards Nazi Germany’s persecution and expulsion of its Jewish citizens were ambivalent. The Anglo-Irish majority of the island’s population still maintained considerable anti-German and anti-alien feelings left over from the first world war. Only a few liberal voices expressed sympathy for those suffering under a far-distant tyranny. So too the Australian churches responded in a bemusingly inconsistent manner. Some were still guided by a traditional anti-Judaic stance; others recognized a Christian duty to extend help to those afflicted by dreadful mistreatment in Europe. Among the latter were a group of South Australian Lutherans. In November 1938, one of their leaders, Dr Janzow, described the appalling pogrom in Germany of a few days earlier as “pagan” and said he could not understand how a civilized nation could perpetrate such horrors. At the same time, he announced a scheme whereby the Lutheran churches planned to bring refugee Jews to Australia, by raising funds and making loans so that they could resettle in a new homeland.
This news item found its way into the London Times on 15 November 1938, was widely reproduced and led to a large response from numerous applicants across Europe replying to Dr Janzow’s initiative. Hence the title of this book. These letters were recently exhibited in Adelaide, and Professor Peter Monteath of Flinders University was asked to write an accompanying guide to put them in context. His well-researched study gives the background in both Europe and Australia, to this heart-warming proposal to assist these victims of racial intolerance.
Unfortunately, the maze of bureaucratic regulations in both countries meant that majority of Dr Janzow’s correspondents never succeeded in reaching safety. In fact, as he later admitted, he had not been able to do much for these refugees. Less than a year later, the outbreak of war put a stop to such plans. Only three known individuals came to a new life in Australia under these auspices. One was a Lutheran pastor, who had been brought to England by Bishop George Bell in the summer of 1939, but whose arrival in Australia in 1940 was marred by his prompt incarceration as an enemy alien. It took the Lutheran church four years to secure his release, though his later career was luckily successful. Peter Monteath’s researches tracked down the tragic fate of several more of Dr Janzow’s applicants, murdered in concentration camps. But his achievement is to have preserved and published this moving selection of letters. They show the desperate plight of those seeking a life-line from the persecutions they faced in Hitler’s Germany. “Small though they are in number, and by now far removed from us in time, they nevertheless have the capacity to reach to us across the decades and to touch us. They remind us of the importance of preserving our common humanity and of the costs of losing it” (p. 3).
1d) Douglas John Hall, Bound and Free. A theologian’s journey. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2005. 156 pp ISBN 0-8006-3773 -9.
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship was the first strictly theological book I ever read. That was in the summer of 1949. I was enthralled by Bonhoeffer from the outset.” So records Douglas Hall, now Canada’s leading Protestant theologian, in his delightful and thought-provoking account of his theological journey over the past half-century. As a young man, he was greatly influenced by German theology, not only by Bonhoeffer, but particularly by Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, and more latterly by Jürgen Moltmann. He learnt from them that the theologian’s vocation calls for a strong concern for academic excellence combined with a commitment to the welfare of the Christian community. He learnt also from them the twin dangers of detachment and its opposite, seduction by secular ideologies. Dry-as-dust theologians separated from active church life may find themselves without relevance; but no less perilous is what happens to the churches when their teachers mislead them. They become collectivities of a nebulous sort of “fellowship”, or activists willfully pursuing political goals, or undifferentiated pietists. Today there is greater need for sound teaching than ever before. This is, of course, what Barth and Bonhoeffer were saying both during and after the Nazi catastrophe. But Hall reached the point where his theological journey necessitated his growing out of this tutelage. He turned his focus to finding a similarly prophetic tone for the social and political situations and theological witness in North America.
In so doing, he took over Bonhoeffer’s profound respect for the Christian faith, which led him to be extremely critical of the Christian religion. Hall is particularly critical of the kind of Christian triumphalism, either in a fundamentalist other-worldly or a liberal this-worldly guise, which seems to be providing justification for many of the political policies advocated by the world’s most imperialist power today. Instead of legitimizing the dominant culture, he believes, the Church is called to transform it. Theologians must struggle to articulate an alternate but living truth in a world that staggers from one piece of bad news to the next. The theological vocation, as Hall has lived it, requires courage, bound by tradition, but free to explore the realms of transcendence. To be a theologian is both a privilege and a joy.
Hall’s journey included many years of teaching, first in western Canada, and more latterly at McGill University in Montreal. But he continued to learn from the Germans. Moltmann’s The Theology of Hope made a great impression on him, just because he too was well aware of the devastating aftermath of World War II, and because his mentor Reinhold Niebuhr had already laid the foundations. But he found that Moltmann’s message, which was addressed to a defeated, despairing and spiritually empty society, was being taken up in North America as a confirmation of its own hope-affirming, even hope-demanding culture. His book Lighten our Darkness was written in the mid-1970s to counter this kind of easy optimism so prevalent in the churches on this side of the Atlantic. The Church’s hope is, however, based on the cross of Christ, not on material or political advances. “If the Gospel becomes nothing more than a sentimental pat-on-the-back for today’s technocratic utopianism, then we are falling for what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”.
In his subsequent book, The Cross in our Context, Hall again pointed out the dangers of religious triumphalism. Here the exclusionary deed, the aggressive and proselytizing stance, the crusading attitude and acts are products of those who believe that they are possessors of the Truth, with their innate sense of superiority and mandate to mastery. It is not good enough to point the finger at Islam. Christianity adopted such a stance for centuries, and even now reproduces it in various places.
Hall shares with Bonhoeffer and Moltmann, and indeed with Luther, his belief that the theology of the cross shows a better way. For him the glory and power of God are made manifest in the weakness and suffering of the crucified one. Through his suffering on the cross, through his bearing the burden of our griefs and sin, Jesus reconciles us to God and restores creation to its fulfillment. Above all, the cross challenges the easy assumption of mankind’s perpetual progress, or, in church terms, of Christendom’s eventual victory. Instead, forsaking these kinds of external props, the individual Christian must look at Jesus on the cross, abandoning shallow illusions, but embracing hope for the suffering world. Hall’s credo is aptly summed up in his poignant affirmation (p. 94): “If Jesus as he was and is and will be is our Guide into the great immensity that is life in this world, we shall find ourselves beckoned into places and causes and relationships whose breadth and scope will always astonish us, sometimes scare us, and in the end liberate us from the narrowness and provincialism of our own inherited values and destinies”.
With very best wishes,