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Bonhoeffer, Religion and Politics

4 th International Bonhoeffer Colloquium


Edited By Christiane Tietz and Jens Zimmermann

Bonhoeffer’s stance on political issues has been the focus of considerable research. Insufficient attention has been given, however, to the theoretical foundations of Bonhoeffer’s political theology, that is, to the fundamental elements and concepts that shape his understanding of religion’s relation to politics. This volume aims to redress this oversight in Bonhoeffer studies. The collected essays show how Bonhoeffer’s theological core convictions resulted in assumptions about the nature and goal of politics that remain relevant for today. The contributions to this volume document the 4 th International Bonhoeffer Colloquium which took place in Mainz, Germany, in 2010 and was funded by the Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation.


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2. The Church’s Relation to Politics


Philip G. Ziegler Christ’s Lordship and Politics: Visser ‘t Hooft and Bonhoeffer Introduction: the Biographical and Historical Setting The personal and professional connection between Bonhoeffer and Willem Adolph Visser ‘t Hooft is well-documented in the history of 20th century ecumenism and theology. Their initial encounters were literary: Bonhoef- fer read Visser ‘t Hooft’s published doctoral thesis on The Background to the Social Gospel in preparation for his first venture to America in 1930; also, Visser ‘t Hooft was deeply moved by Bonhoeffer’s 1935 essay, “The Con- fessing Church and the Ecumenical Movement.”1 They first met in person in the Spring of 1939 in London when Bonhoeffer was en route home from his second brief American sojourn. Writing in 1945, Visser ‘t Hooft spoke of the quick ease and frankness they acquired with one another as they talked on the platform of Paddington Station.2 After the outbreak of the war, the two met face to face on the few occasions Bonhoeffer travelled to Switzerland. Visser ‘t Hooft proved an invaluable contact through whom Bonhoeffer could communicate along ‘the Swiss Road’ with the wider ecu- menical world, including Bishop Bell.3 The German theologian and the 1 Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Minneapolis: Fortress 2000, 645. Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft, Memoirs. London: SCM 1973, 107, 28: “As early as 1931 he had used my book on the Social Gospel for his own studies of American Chris- tianity.” 2 See Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft, Das Zeugnis eines Boten. Zum Gedächtnis von...

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