From pacifism to tyrannicide: Bonhoeffer’s ethics for the Anthropocene

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s (1906-1945) engagement in conspiracies to assassinate Hitler appears to some as a distinct movement from his earlier position on pacifism. This paper examines the contributing factors to this apparent contradiction and addresses Bonhoeffer’s ethical rationale for religious violence in the particular context of the Third Reich. The paper recognises the currency of Bonhoeffer’s decision-making in contemporary political scenarios and in relation to philosophical positions on ethics.
Bonhoeffer’s ethical frames of Christonomy, Stellvertretung and Sachgemäßheit (vicarious representative action and contextuality) are discussed in the context of his engagement with the underground Confessing Church and in opposition to the Deutsche Christen’s (German Christian) complicity with the Reich.
The paper then turns towards the seminal issues of the Anthropocene, climate change, mass migration, and biodiversity loss, asking whether religious violence might be justified in the face of this existential crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-364
Number of pages21
JournalJournal for the Academic Study of Religion
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2021


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