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Religion in the Public Sphere—with Dietrich Bonhoeffer towards a Renewed Understanding of ‘the Two Kingdoms’

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In this article Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s critical reception of the Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms is related to the discussion about religion and politics in liberal democracies. Bonhoeffer experienced not only how the church isolated itself from the political sphere—by a ‘pseudo-Lutheran’ doctrine of the two kingdoms—but also how the church was politicized and abused by Deutsche Christen. His theological thinking is therefore a helpful starting point to formulate a theology which is politically relevant without being transformed into politics. Against the background of Bonhoeffer’s theology an argument is advanced that a renewed understanding of the two kingdoms assists the church in being focused on the Gospel, at the same time as it can also give the church instruments to be present in the public sphere with well-defined pretensions, which clarifies whether the assertions of the church are based on revelation or on public reason.

Affiliations: 1: Lutheran School of Theology in


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