Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Spatially Structured Ecclesiology. Reconfiguring the Confession of Christ's Presence.
Fergus, Donald Murdoch
From the beginning of his career Dietrich Bonhoeffer was invested in describing and then crafting a form of religious community that provided a way of being human, and a form of corporate sociality that was grounded in and grew out of the presence of the person of Jesus Christ. The sanctorum communio was that form of sociality. Bonhoeffer’s ecclesiology was the outcome of his relentless searching for a form of the church that could meet the challenges of National Socialism’s Third Reich and contribute meaningfully to the life of the German nation. A reading of Bonhoeffer reveals the widespread use of spatial metaphors or descriptors in the development of his ecclesiology. Bonhoeffer was always interested in the empirical church and a careful reading shows how his spatially structured ecclesiology underlies and supports the church’s Christological core and its communal nature, giving a concrete form to the ministry of the church in the culture in which it is embedded. Bonhoeffer’s ecclesiology serves to shape the way in which the church structures its confession of Christ’s presence in the world, while at the same time keeping a steady eye on the church as a creation and gift of God. The quest for a vibrant articulation of Christ’s presence becomes a persistent hermeneutic throughout Bonhoeffer’s writing. His robust doctrine of the church based on the images of place and space leads eventually to the form of the suffering servant, Jesus Christ. Collectively, the images build a compelling case for a form of sociality that brings the motifs of self-giving love and of dying and rising in Christ together to shape discipleship in Christ and the theological reflection on that discipleship. Bonhoeffer's use of spatial imagery places the church’s central acts of announcing and bearing witness to the word of God, and its celebration of the sacramental enactments of that word of promise and hope within a particular space in which the church is highly visible. Bonhoeffer called this ‘the living space [Lebensraum] of the visible church-community’. It is from within this living-space that the church is committed to pushing back the boundaries of life until the world is held by Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life.
Advisor: Holmes, Christopher R. J.; Matheson, Peter
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Theology and Religion
Keywords: Bonhoeffer; Ecclesiology
Research Type: Thesis