A review of the religious influences Marx had as a child at home and during his school days. Some of the essays he wrote for his Abitur, the German school leaving examination, permit us to watch his later ideas being formed at an earlier age.
Since Christology is fundamental to Bonhoeffer’s thought, the Word of God is not an idea but a person and is to be studied in the worshiping community. Bonhoeffer deals with the early heresies condemned at the Council of Chalcedon,which he uses as a touchstone for his Christology.
Bonhoeffer’s popular book Life Together deals with the practical relations of the church’s life in Christ, including his concept of Christian community; how the community should worship by always including scripture, hymns and prayer both individual and common; personal worship that includes meditation, prayer and intercession; the problems of the church that require learning control of the tongue, meekness, listening, forbearing and proclaming.
Theoretically Marx does not see the destruction of religion as an important aim. The disappearance of religion will be the normal outcome of rational thinking and rational living. Man’s ultimate task is to create a world in which authentic humanity is guaranteed and gradually achieved in the material, moral, cultural and intellectual spheres.
Marx’s critique of religion should be considered as a symbol of our lack of prophetic spirit. Since Marx directs his attacks on religion in the name of man, against the alienation of man from his own potentialities and purposes, it constitutes, for that reason, the greatest challenge to Christianity in our time.
Discipleship as answering Jesus’ call to follow him by being radically obedient to the commands of Christ, particularly as they are found in the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. Discipleship in the world today means following a living Jesus as he is proclaimed in the preaching of the church and in the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion.
By the phrase, “world come of age,” Bonhoeffer means two things: 1. The large measure of control given man over nature by the discovery of the scientific method. 2. The awareness that the modern man is no longer under either the tutelage or the control of ‘god’, but is called to freedom and responsibility.
The uniqueness of Christian ethics lies in its insistence on the centrality of Jesus Christ in discerning the will of God for doing what is good and not evil. It is concerned not with rules but of actions directed by our life in Christ. Issues of conscience, responsibility, freedom and obedience are discussed in the light of the situation in Germany when this book was written. It issues in what can only be called a situational ethic for a crisis situation.
Bonhoeffer developed his thinking with a firm belief in the Incarnation and the Cross, and consequently, in the potential of a renewed humanity. This belief led him to a wholehearted recognition of the world come of age, to a criticism of religion, and to an attempt to interpret Biblical and theological concepts in a non-religious language.
The most provocative of Bonhoeffer’s books was his Letters and Papers from Prison that included phrases like “religionless Christianity,” “Jesus as the man for other,” and “the God who forsakes us.” He declares that the evil of the Nazi period threw ethical concepts into conflict. In asserting that “we are moving toward a completely religionless time” and that religion is opposed to being Christian, he declares that we must live as persons who manage our lives in a kind of Christian worldliness, a Christianity without religion, but certainly not Christianity without God.