Breaking the Circle of the Self: Bonhoeffer and the Religious a Priori

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John Macquarrie includes among the 'stubborn' questions raised by theology those that ask about the sources of religious knowledge, including 'the question of how far religious belief originates from a reality beyond ourselves and how far it arises out of the constitution of our own human nature'. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had firm views on this issue. Knowledge of God, he believed, was grounded in the objective event of God's self-disclosure in Jesus Christ, and nowhere else. Human beings have no innate, intuitive capacity for God. Bonhoeffer's critique of religious intuition faces formidable obstacles, but it is certainly possible to understand why he believed genuine transcendence to be incompatible with the disclosure of God through the human self-understanding. This article explores Macquarrie's question in light of Bonhoeffer's critique of religious self-consciousness, and it does this, to a considerable degree, on Bonhoeffer's terms, by respecting the distinctions that lie at the heart of his theology between self and other, between boundlessness and limitation, and between the transcendental act of faith and the ontological being of revelation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Specialist publicationThe Bonhoeffer Legacy: An International Journal
PublisherATF Press
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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