Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the intellectual progeny of the competing liberal and dialectical theological camps of his time. Yet he found both camps incapable of properly accounting for Christ’s relation to time and history, which both grounds their conflict and generates further theological problems, both theoretical and practical. In this book Nik Byle argues that Bonhoeffer was able to mine Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time for material theologically useful for moving beyond this impasse.
Bonhoeffer sifts through Heidegger’s analysis of human existence and finds a number of moves and concepts useful to theology. These include Heidegger’s emphasis on anthropology over epistemology, his position that one must begin with concrete existence, and that human existence is fundamentally temporal. Bonhoeffer must, however, reject other hallmark concepts, such as authenticity and Heidegger’s entire anthropocentric method, that would threaten the legitimate theological use of Heidegger.
Making the appropriate theological alterations, Bonhoeffer applies the useful elements from Heidegger to his Christocentric theology. Essentially, Christ and the church become fundamentally temporal and historical in the same way that human existence is for Heidegger. This sets a new foundation for Bonhoeffer’s Christology with concomitant effects in his ecclesiology, sacramentalism, theological anthropology, and epistemology.
Nik Byle is professor of philosophy and religious studies at Arizona Western College.
1. Navigating Oppositions: Act and Being
2. Cor Curvum in se: Philosophical Epistemology
3. Heidegger’s Dasein: His Anthropological Success
4. Authenticity: Heidegger’s Sin
5. Divine Temporality: Christ as Ur-Dasein
6. Heidegger in Later Bonhoeffer
The theology of the Protestant reformation began with Martin Luther’s disputation with scholastic theology which challenged the extent to which it had become improperly enthralled by philosophy. In the mid-twentieth century, that dispute was back at the top of the agenda for the young Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In Nik Byle’s brilliant study of Bonhoeffer’s intense and formative engagement with the philosophy of Martin Heidegger we have a case study of how a genuinely Protestant theologian truly can make constructive use of philosophy without losing either its soul, or its mind.
Of all contemporary philosophers, Bonhoeffer was most influenced by Martin Heidegger. Nicholas Byle's brilliant study shows in which regard and how far. Every student of Bonhoeffer interested in the early Bonhoeffer should read Byle's nuanced analysis.