Christ among a band of people : Dietrich Bonhoeffer and formation in Christ
This thesis explores Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology of conformation in Christ. The topic is introduced through considering the need and value of such an exploration and notes the topic’s particular suitability to speak to ecclesial life. The method and organisation of material is also considered. Chapter One details the significance of systematic theology for ordering spiritual formation, and it highlights the way in which doctrines treating humanity at the level of being shape and frame later considerations of conformation in a certain direction. The chapter also considers Bonhoeffer’s doctrines of holiness and sanctification and describes how these doctrines influence his later treatment of conformation to Christ. Chapter Two considers the relationship between divine and human agency in formation in Christ. The chapter first considers the theological pitfalls for poor accounts of divine and human agency within theologies of formation. It places Bonhoeffer’s theology in conversation with the work of Dallas Willard, and gives a detailed accounting of discipleship for both authors. This allows the thesis to consider Bonhoeffer’s unique theology through the category of agency. Chapter Three discusses the content of Bonhoeffer’s conformation to Christ, and introduces the topic by discussing the way in which Christology orders what one considers formation in Christ to be. The chapter then considers the particularly social nature of conformation to Christ’s form. From there, the chapter considers the specific form of Christ in the world. The thesis concludes by looking forward and noting the benefits gleaned by reading Bonhoeffer’s theology in light of his systematic theology, and how such a reading specifically addresses current Bonhoeffer interpretation. Furthermore, it suggests that understanding progress in Christian life as increasing faithfulness to a specific way of being in the world is perhaps a more helpful way in which to understand formation in Christian life.