Thursday Review: Bonhoeffer on Life Together

A review of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Psalms: Prayerbook of the Bible, Fortress, 2005. purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US

I first read Life Together about twenty years ago when it had a formative impact on me. And it was a delight to re-read it in this new edition which is part of the excellent and, I suspect, definitive Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series. Life Together is pure gold from start to finish and this edition really does it justice (see my previous review of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series).

Life Together was written in the run up to the Second World War as the Confessing Church confronted Nazism. The community to whom it was first addressed is the seminary of the Confessing Church which Bonhoeffer led and which he styled as a community sharing life together (despite, as the introduction points out, some initial resistance). The ideas in Bonhoeffer’s earlier theological works are embodied in practical guidance to a real community with the result that Life Together represents accessible, embodied theology.

Being written for a specific community means that at times description and prescription overlap and not all of it will be directly applicable to your context. But Life Together is a classic of Christian spirituality and a theologically rich guide to making real community work. In future blog posts I’ll post some selected quotes, but I could have chosen many more.

In this edition it is published along with Bonhoeffer’s short work Psalms: Prayerbook of the Bible. Again this was a big influence on me when I first read it some years ago. Bonhoeffer commends the Psalm as a key resource of Christian spirituality. But what I found especially helpful was his exposition of the Psalms as the prayerbook of Jesus. When we find it hard to pray the Psalms (the imprecatory Psalms and the declarations of innocence), we should think of them as the prayers of Jesus which we pray in him.
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