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Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Troubled Times

, 2008
ISBN: 9780567032584

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This book is an interpretation of Bonhoeffer in the contemporary context. Jeffrey Pugh puts Bonhoeffer’s theology in perspective by revisiting some of the themes of his life that have found abiding significance in Christian theology. Starting with a chapter on why Bonhoeffer is still important for us today, this book moves to chapters that bring Bonhoeffer into conversation with our present situation. In each of these chapters Pugh takes one of the central ideas of Bonhoeffer and gives them a fresh perspective.

Many of Bonhoeffer books today are written from an exegetical perspective, they try and get at exactly what Bonhoeffer meant. Others are written from a hermeneutical perspective, they try and interpret Bonhoeffer’s abiding significance. This book seeks to combine both these approaches to offer interpretations of Bonhoeffer that are germane to our situation today.

Get Eberhard Bethge’s authoritative work on Bonhoeffer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography.

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Key Features

  • Interprets Bonhoeffer for the contemporary theological and ethical context
  • Focuses on the problems in Bonhoeffer’s context and how Bonhoeffer addressed them
  • Extrapolates moral and theological principles for the church’s life today


  • Why Bonhoeffer, Why Now?
  • Living in a World Come of Age
  • The Eclipse of Religion: Religionless Christianity
  • As if God Did Not Exist
  • The Suffering God
  • The Call to Resistance—How Do We Respond to Evil in Our Midst?
  • What is Christianity for Us Today?

Top Highlights

“‘The Church is the Church only when it exists for others’.3” (Page 2)

“One reality that remained constant throughout his life, though, is found in his writings from beginning to end. This is the question of what shape does Christ take in the world? How does Christ and the community founded in his name make itself manifest in the midst of struggles and conflicts?” (Page xiv)

“In some ways the concerns that were academic for him in the ecclesiology he explored in Sanctorum Communio now had become living reality. How does the church that incarnates Jesus Christ take concrete form in the world?” (Page 36)

“And if you see your government and culture as being on the righteous side you usually have not developed the resources to question which way the world is going.” (Page 2)

“The Bonhoeffer of Discipleship and Finkenwalde is not the same Bonhoeffer who works in the Abwehr and conspires to rid the world of Hitler.” (Page xiv)

Praise for the Print Edition

Books on Bonhoeffer abound because Bonhoeffer’s legacy continues to attract attention, and rightly so. At this time in global history when religion is too often part of the problem, we need to take seriously Bonhoeffer’s alternative reading of Christianity. In "Religionless Christianity" Jeffrey Pugh offers us a well-researched account of what Bonhoeffer had in mind, and he does so in a way that is well-written and eminently readable.

—John W. de Gruchy, emeritus professor of Christian studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa

With the publication of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Bonhoeffer scholarship has fully matured; we know the details of his life and thought, together with their genealogy and context. Across recent decades the scholarly analysis of modernity has also achieved a certain maturity. But it is Jeffrey Pugh, in Religionless Christianity, who lets us think with and from Bonhoeffer about compelling issues in our own context, shaped as it is by modernity and post-modernity. And he does it superbly well.

—Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary

Who is Dietrich Bonhoeffer for us today? It is the Bonhoeffer, according to Pugh, that would have us look to Christ as the key to helping us discern the world in which we live. Drawing on his wealth of knowledge about Bonhoeffer, Pugh helps us understand how Bonhoeffer continues to help us accurately see the powers that we are so tempted to call “freedom.” There are plenty of books on Bonhoeffer, but this is a book that not only helps us better understand Bonhoeffer; it also helps us better understand ourselves in light of Bonheoffer’s work. Pugh is anything but uncritical in how he approaches Bonhoeffer, but his criticisms are but a tribute to this remarkable man and theologian.

—Stanley M. Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe, Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke University

We who still ponder the meaning of Bonhoeffer for our present life and calling are deeply indebted to Jeffrey Pugh for this remarkable book. Pugh’s compelling analyses in Religionless Christianity enable us to encounter Bonhoeffer at that more personal level in which his vision for the future and challenges for the present becomes sources of inspiration and moral enrichment as we cope with the troubling issues and problematic moments of our own lives. At every turn in Pugh’s book, we are led to appreciate Bonhoeffer’s life among the fragments of his courageous resistance to moral degradation within his own nation.

—Geffrey B. Kelly, professor of systematic theology, La Salle University, Philadelphia

Jeffrey C. Pugh is Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies at Elon University. He is the author of Entertaining the Triune Mystery: God, Science, and the Space Between.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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    Digital list price: $27.99
    Save $7.00 (25%)