The last year of Bonhoeffer’s life (Letters & Papers From Prison)

After a year in jail, Bonhoeffer begins to struggle. Though his imprisonment is difficult, he does not primarily struggle with his situation. His primary concern is how God fits in the contemporary world, a world that, as he says, “has come of age.” A world that has no need for religion and the church.
He begins to detach God from religion by saying, “We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as religious do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by religious.” Later he adds, “As in the scientific field, so in human affairs generally, ‘God’ is being pushed more and more out of life, losing more and more ground.”

But what does it mean if religion is removed? “It means that the foundation is taken away from the whole of what has up to now been our ‘Christianity.’”
This is where I believe many people misunderstand Bonhoeffer. They think he is doing away with Christianity altogether. They fail to recognize his distinction between religion and following Christ.
In fact, Bonhoeffer says, Christ is all we have left. He says that we must follow Christ but not in religious huddles that insulate us from the world. We must be out in the world. We must live real life. Bonhoeffer says, “One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type), a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God…”


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