I’ve had a lot on my plate in recent days – including wrapping up an intensive theology course at Tyndale Seminary and preparing to preach on the Samson narrative at Toronto Chinese Alliance Church this coming Sunday – which has contributed to somewhat of a lull in my production of blog posts. Also quickly approaching is the “Participation in God’s Mission” conference at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY, where I will be presenting a paper. The keynote speaker is Michael Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary. I’ve greatly appreciated Gorman’s work over the years and am looking forward to his keynote addresses on Paul and the Gospel of John. In fact, just this past week I recommended his Reading Revelation Responsibly to one of my students who was looking for a good introduction to the book of Revelation.
The paper I will be presenting is entitled, “A Matter of Mission: Bonhoeffer’s ‘Longing for the Concretion of Divine Grace’.” The phrase “longing for the concretion of divine grace” is a quote from Eberhard Bethge’s magisterial biography. Here is the abstract for my paper:
In October 1931, the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to a former classmate from his days as a theology student at the University of Berlin. In the letter Bonhoeffer laments that “invisibility is ruining us” and suggests that “the great dying out of Christianity seems to be here.” Less than four years later, Bonhoeffer would find himself directing an underground Preachers’ Seminary in the secluded Baltic coastal town of Zingst and later in the rural village of Finkenwalde in Pomerania. Bonhoeffer did not understand his efforts to develop “a new kind of monasticism” to be a retreat from the rubble of the dying Christendom, but rather a necessary contribution to “the restoration of the church.” Bonhoeffer introduces his theological reflections on his experiment in Christian community by saying, “We are not dealing with a concern of some private circles but with a mission entrusted to the church.” The word “mission” appears relatively rarely in Bonhoeffer’s writings, making its appearance in this context all the more striking. Drawing upon Bonhoeffer’s writings emerging from his time directing the Preachers’ Seminary, this paper will explore Bonhoeffer’s insight – and its enduring significance for the church today – that a “life together” which encompasses such emphases as spiritual formation and (perhaps provocatively) church discipline is of central importance to the church’s missional calling.