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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The catalyst in Bonhoeffer’s student theology was his discovery of Karl Barth. Adopting Barth’s focus on revelation brought him into tension with his teachers in Berlin whose theological methods were characterized by, to use Barth’s pejoratives, historicism and psychologism. From the perspective of a theology of revelation, Bonhoeffer criticized his teacher Karl Holl’s theology of conscience and its psychologistic appropriation of Martin Luther. However, Bonhoeffer could not square his conviction about the theological importance of the Church in its historical form with Barth’s then thin account of the relationship between revelation and history. He also discerned in Barth traces of individualistic and epistemologically oriented philosophy, which he thoroughly critiqued. For these reasons, Bonhoeffer cultivated during his student years a social, historical understanding of revelation as Christ’s (inter)personal presence in the church, often drawing insight from Luther, now interpreted Christocentrically rather than in terms of the conscience.

Keywords: Bonhoeffer, Barth, Holl, Luther, revelation, conscience, philosophy, Church

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