Bonhoeffer On American Christianity Without Reformation

Bonhoeffer On American Christianity Without Reformation October 12, 2019

“God did not grant a Reformation to American Christendom. He gave strong revivalist preachers, [people] of the church, and theologians, but no reformation of the church of Jesus Christ from the word of God. Those churches of the Reformation that came to America either stand in deliberate seclusion and distance from general church life or have fallen victim to Protestantism without Reformation. There are Americans who announce with certainty and pride that they build on principles that are pre-Reformation and radical Reformation (nebenreformatorisch) and see in this their essential nature. It cannot be denied that the dangers for American Christendom today are seen clearly by some of the leading theologians. Reinhold and Richard Niebuhr, Pauck, Miller, and several others among the younger theologians speak largely in the spirit of the Reformation. But these are exceptions. American theology and the churches as a whole have never really understood what ‘critique’ by God’s word means in its entirety. That God’s ‘critique’ is also meant for religion, for the churches’ Christianity, even the sanctification of Christians, all that is ultimately not understood.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Essay about Protestantism in the United States, DBW volume 15, 461).

“Freedom [in America] entails the possibility–as a possibility for the church offered by the world–for unhindered effectiveness. But as long as the freedom of the church is essentially understood as this possibility, the concept of church freedom remains unrecognized. The freedom of the church is not where it has possibilities, but only where the gospel is truly effective in its own power to create space for itself on earth, even and especially when there are no such possibilities for the church.” (449).

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