The idea of embrace within a theology of the cross takes a pivotal turn in the 20th Century from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings in prison. Bonhoeffer’s sacrifice at the hands of the Nazis, and of countless others also among Jews and others who were brutally killed, stands as a theological transitory point for the 20th Century [1]. Bonhoeffer, in his later theology, foreshadows the Christological elements of a theology of embrace evident in Moltmann and Volf’s theology of the cross. In a letter he wrote on July 21st, 1944 (about one month before his execution), Bonhoeffer affirms the extent of that embrace of the world for all called through the cross of Christ to a relevant and public faith. He writes (my emphasis), “[it is] only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. … In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world – watching with Christ in Gethsemane” [2].

This “watching with Christ” is the call to embrace Christ’s sufferings, but how is this effected today? Does the example of the church in contemporary society agree with the redemptive possibility of this kind of public and total surrender to the ‘other’? Bonhoeffer also asked, “How are we to reconcile the obscurity of the cross of Christ with the light that shines? Ought not the Christian life to be as obscure as the cross itself? [3]


[1] Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer: Exile and Martyr (London, UK: Collins, 1975), 164-166.
[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1967), 369-370.
[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London, UK: SCM/Canterbury Press, 2001), 107.