For a Better Worldliness: The Theological Discipleship of Abraham Kuyper and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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This study investigates the theological concept of Christian discipleship in Abraham Kuyper and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It begins with a historical-theological study of Kuyper and Bonhoeffer, and then provides an ethical consideration of a resulting four-movement hermeneutic of discipleship. Part I explores the development and practice of Kuyper's discipleship in the years 1894 to 1905, with particular analysis of important works from this period, including his Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology, "Dienst des Woords," Christ and the Needy, Lectures on Calvinism, "The South African Crisis," The Work of the Holy Spirit, To Be Near Unto God, "Common Grace," and "Sphere Sovereignty." These works are placed alongside key personal and political episodes in Kuyper's life in order to understand the influence of his concept and practice of discipleship on his public actions.

Similarly, in Part II, Bonhoeffer's theological notion of discipleship is investigated between the years 1935 to 1945. His book Discipleship is analyzed for its theological and practical implications to his work directing the preacher's seminary at Zingst, Finkenwalde, and then "underground." To further explore Bonhoeffer's efforts at theological education, his writings on the Sermon on the Mount, the House of Brethren, the Guide to Scriptural Meditation, and numerous letters and lectures are investigated in terms of their relationship to specific historical issues and events related to the Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer's 1939 trip to America and his decision to participate in the conspiracy are also studied. Finally, Bonhoeffer's Ethics and Letters and Papers from Prison provide significant insight into his culminating understanding and practice of discipleship.

The final part of the dissertation compares and contrasts Kuyper's and Bonhoeffer's theology of discipleship via a four-movement hermeneutic of discipleship: revelation is the foundation of discipleship; Jesus Christ is the reality of discipleship; belief-obedience is the action of discipleship; and the possibility of discipleship is participating in God's work in and for the common good of the world. These four movements provide a historical and theological framework for comparing and contrasting Kuyper's and Bonhoeffer's theology and practice of discipleship. In addition, the four movements promote an ethical and theological approach to the contemporary question of discipleship. Throughout, the study maintains focus on a central question: what does it mean to follow-after Jesus Christ?

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PHD in Theology

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Carter, Grayson

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Abraham Kuyper, Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Missions and World Christianity


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