Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Religionless Christianity

Bonhoeffer Excerpt

“Our whole nineteen-hundred-year-old Christian preaching and theology rest on the ‘religious a priori’ of mankind. ‘Christianity’ has always been a form – perhaps the true form – of ‘religion’. But if one day it becomes clear that this a priori does not exist at all, but was a historically conditioned and transient form of human self-expression, and if therefore man becomes radically religionless…what does that mean for ‘Christianity’? … How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity – and even this garment has looked very different at times – then what is a religionless Christianity?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison


Such an interesting question, “How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless…?”

Bonhoeffer doesn’t ask, “How can Christianity appeal to non-Christians?” Nor does he ask, “How can we find common ground among religions.” Instead, he wonders how Christ can be Lord of those with no interest in religion, and/or those who are unaffected by religion (even if they profess to be religious).

I think what he is really saying is, “Does the life and teaching of Jesus matter in today’s world? And if so, how?”

I’m becoming more and more convinced that it does matter. But what can/should it look like? I think about this a lot…


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)


3 Responses

  1. I see His life, the life of God the Father being that which defines any form or structure where two or more gather.
    What does it look like, well in my opinion it is so totally unobtrusive in nature that it is pretty much invisible to how much has been attached or associated with what church is supposed to be or look like
    At a core level the issue of self-aggrandizement has been severally dealt with, there is no longer any need to be using what we do as members of His church to to meet some unmet need in our life, as well as trying to draw attention to all the good we think we’re doing!

    The ongoing transformational workings of His grace will make Himself known through whomever, however he pleases. So may are clowning around trying to clone the ‘church’ so that one size WILL fit all~how absurd.

    Not sure this speaks into what you have said and questioned here, but these are my thoughts for now.


  2. […] Bonhoeffer continues his discussion of religionless Christianity: […]

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