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Title: A friendship for others : Bonhoeffer and Bethge on the theology and practice of friendship
Author: Parsons, Preston David Sunabacka
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 3176
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This study considers the theology and practice of friendship in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s academic writing, his pastoral work and thought, his involvement in the Abwehr plot, and his prison letters, taking special interest in the influence of Eberhard Bethge on Bonhoeffer and the influence of Bonhoeffer on Bethge. Friendship, as a locus of interpretation, also provides a fresh perspective on other aspects of Bonhoeffer’s thought, including ecclesiology, divine and human agency, eschatology, vicarious representation, concrete ethics and the divine command, politics, freedom, and obedience. Part I of the dissertation investigates Bonhoeffer’s theology before Bethge. In Sanctorum Communio, Bonhoeffer’s doctoral dissertation and first book, friendship is described as a community that is oriented to God’s creation and eschatological future, and the friend can participate in Christ’s redeeming work through ecclesial practices of Stellvertretung. Bonhoeffer’s failed friendship with Helmut Rößler, and his remarks about friendship within the context of his ministry in London and about the relation between ethics and the concrete command, offer insight into his theology of friendship as a political and ecclesiastical phenomenon in the context of the Third Reich. Part II of the dissertation looks at the theological influence Bonhoeffer and Bethge had on one another. At Finkenwalde, we begin to see this mutual influence begin to take shape, where freedom and obedience become part of the foundation of Bonhoeffer’s later concept of the Spielraum, and where we begin to see Stellvertretung, as a practice, take place between them. In the prison correspondence and through the influence of Bethge, Bonhoeffer develops the idea of the “realm of freedom” (der Spielraum der Freiheit), an expansion of Bonhoeffer’s theology of the mandates, where freedom and friendship become part of his understanding of social and political life. Integrating these theological and biographical resources, the study makes the constructive argument that a friend can be a theological Stellvertreter, taking into special account the particularity of the friend and mutuality that is characteristic of friendship. Through this participation in Christ’s redeeming work, its ecclesial location, and its political significance, a friendship can be for others.
Supervisor: Ford, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Friendship ; Political Theology ; Ecclesiology ; Dietrich Bonhoeffer ; Eberhard Bethge ; Stellvertretung