The Ambiguity between “Personality” and “Person” in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Theology

  • Karola Radler Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Person, Personality, Private law, Constitution, Incarnation


His late 1932 first-time public positioning to the radical socio-political changes of his context provoked Bonhoeffer to express his personal turmoil in a literary fragment. In working through his confusion, Bonhoeffer went beyond learned concepts towards a theology that elevated revealed content over formal authority and the concept of the person of Jesus Christ over a culturally understood concept of personality. This he based on the incarnation of God in the natural person of Jesus Christ, which added a spiritual dimension to the constitutional requirement for the institutional church to be centred on the juristic concept of the natural person. In Jesus Christ, the Resurrected One, the concept of the natural person proved politically untouchable. It contested the juristic authority over life that is limited by birth and death with the theological frame of sin and redemption by God’s grace and Jesus Christ’s Stellvertretung on the cross within earthly reality.