A Theology of Life: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Religionless Christianity

Article excerpt

A Theology of Life: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Religionless Christianity, by Ralf K Wustenberg. Translated by Doug Stott. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids,1998. 207pp. $20.00. ISBN 0-8028-4266-6.

BONHOEFFER'S TANTALIZING THOUGHTS in his later prison letters about a "nonreligious interpretation of biblical concepts" for a "world come of age" are rigorously explored in this volume. Wustenberg sets forth his research and findings in three chapters. The first examines Bonhoeffer's understanding of "religion" throughout his writings and concludes that he never developed a fixed concept or theory of religion but used the word somewhat loosely in varying contexts. The second investigates the origins of Bonhoeffer's "nonreligious interpretation," locating them in Barth's early critique of liberal theology's positive evaluation of religion and in Bonhoeffer's reading of the pragmatic philosophy of William James and the philosophical historicism of Ortega y Gassett and, especially, Wilhelm Dilthey. W*stenberg concludes that nonreligious interpretation results from combining dialectical theology and philosophical historicism. The third chapter seeks the content of nonreligious interpretation in the 1944 prison letters, finding that Bonhoeffer unites his basic christocentricity with Dilthey's "philosophy of life. …