Dietrich Bonhoeffer's notions of religionless Christianity have provoked a great deal of theological inquiry, much of which has hindered evangelical reception of Bonhoeffer's work. By setting religionless Christianity in the context of Bonhoeffer's Lutheran sacramental theology, Chris Dodson furthers Bonhoeffer's belief that receiving the God given in the sacraments both resists Christians' proclivity towards religious, self-serving ends and draws Christians into a life of robust faith and love. Receiving Christ in baptism, the Eucharist, and confession serves to instill, sustain, locate, and vitalize the form of life that Bonhoeffer calls “religionless.” The church and its core practices are not abandoned in Bonhoeffer’s prison letters; they are reengaged with a more proper disposition: faithful love of God and neighbor. In this way, common evangelical skepticisms about Bonhoeffer’s later theology can be assuaged. Bonhoeffer’s theology, rightly construed, provokes evangelicals, and particularly American evangelicals, to reconsider and restructure their worship along the lines of a religionless Christianity that promotes a deeper faith resulting from a more vigorous encounter with Christ as he gives himself over to his people.
Chris Dodson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) teaches theology, history, and literature at Decatur Christian School in Decatur, Illinois.
Chapter I The God Who Is Given: Luther and the Sacraments
Chapter II Bonhoeffer’s Sacramental Theology
Chapter III Bonhoeffer’s Theology Of The Sacraments
Chapter IV Faithful Habitation Of A Religious World
Chapter V Among The Iconoclasts: Un-Conceiving God
Chapter VI Sacraments Against Religion: Receiving The God Who Is Given
Dodson’s insightful and persuasive work brings welcome and much needed clarification to our understanding of Bonhoeffer’s vision of the church and its sacramental practices in connection with the important theological critique of religion he also advanced. Careful theological studies of this calibre are essential if the church and its teachings are to continue to benefit aright from Bonhoeffer’s legacy.
You might have thought there was nothing left to say about “religionless Christianity,” the phrase from Bonhoeffer’s prison letters that sparked the first Bonhoeffer boom in the 1960s. Chris Dodson shows otherwise in this welcome book by situating religionlessness in the context of Bonhoeffer’s sacramentology, and his sacramentology in the context of the Lutheran tradition. The payoff is a fresh interpretation of Bonhoeffer’s late theology where the sacraments are re-read not as dead weight in a religionless age but as the very catalysts of religionless faith.
In this rich and careful book, Chris Dodson provides the first systematic and sustained treatment of the role of the sacraments in Bonhoeffer’s theology. In particular, he provides a compelling reading of Bonhoeffer’s sacramentology as at once deeply Lutheran and distinctively modern. On this basis Dodson revisits and reframes Bonhoeffer’s late theology, providing fresh insights into "religionless Christianity." This is an outstanding book that makes an important contribution to Bonhoeffer scholarship.
This book offers a fascinating investigation into the connections between Bonhoeffer’s exciting suggestion of a “religionless Christianity” and his commitment to sacraments. Any scholar of Bonhoeffer, or anyone interested in sacramentology would be wise to read this important work.