Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bonhoeffer on heresy

“We have lost the concept of heresy because there is no longer any magisterium. This is a terrible catastrophe. The present ecumenical councils [(of Lausanne, Stockholm, etc.)] are not quite councils because the name of heresy has been expunged from their vocabulary. But we cannot have a confession of faith without being able to say: in the light of Christ, this is true and this is false. . . . The concept of heresy arises from the brotherhood of the Church and not from a lack of love. A man acts fraternally with regard to another if he does not hide the truth from him. If I do not tell the truth to my neighbor, I treat him as a pagan. And if I tell the truth to someone who is of another opinion, I show him the love I owe him.”

     Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Nicene anathemas, Gesammelte Schriften 3, Theologie, Gemeinde:  Vorlesungen, Briefe, Gespräche, 1927 bis 1944 (München:  Chr. Kaiser, 1960), 206, as quoted by Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., in The Christian Trinity in history, trans. Edmund J. Fortman, S.J., Studies in historical theology 1 (Still River, MA: St. Bede’s Publications, 1982), 98.  This appears in DBWE 12 as
For us the concept of heresy no longer exists, because there is no longer a doctrinal authority vested in councils.  Our ecumenical councils of today are anything but councils, because the word heresy has been struck from our vocabulary.  And yet the concept of heresy is a necessary, nonnegotiable factor for the confessing church.  Doctrine must always be set over against false doctrine; otherwise one does not know what doctrine means.  However, care must be taken that the concept of heresy be one that is used by the church out of love, not out of lack of love.  For if I do not speak the truth to my brethren, I am considering them as heathens; if I do speak the truth to them, I am doing it out of love.
     Lectures on Christology (student notes), Summer 1933, Berlin:  1932-1933, ed. Larry L. Rasmussen, trans. Isabel Best & David Higgins, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 12 (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2009), 332 =Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke, ed. Carsten Nicolaisen & Ernst-Albrecht Scharffenorth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke 12 (München:  Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1997), 316.

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