How do your IB Philosophy students react to Bonhoeffer’s suggestion that Christianity was already, back some seventy odd years ago, a religion having lost its initial spirit and very substance? After all, is religion nothing more than a cultural phenomenon like any other? Why did it take Christianity an emperor’s edict – Constantine’s – to impose itself as the official religion of the Roman Empire? Is the fate of any religion irremediably attached to political circumstances which, for instance, make it acceptable to persecute Christians before 313 but not after? Should religion be reduced to its most simple spiritual dimension and dispense with the paraphernalia of power? Buddhism preaches and practices humility without claiming any kind of God-given supremacy over different beliefs?
if contemporary Christianity has lost its inner fervour, how is it possible to talk about God and all the more, about Christ as a ‘former’ role model, if no longer credited with the title of ‘Lord of the World’? Bonhoeffer pondered: ‘what do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? Is it at all possible to see God and Christ in a purely secular light? Don Cupitt and others vainly tried in the sixties and seventies? Isn’t a world deprived of any transcendantal dimension running the risk of sooner or later falling prey to any dangerous ideology using and abusing man’s fundamental need for spiritual answers in the name of its own dubious cause?