Original Research

‘Whatever became of that earlier time of grace?’ Luther, Bonhoeffer and the quincentennial

Henco van der Westhuizen
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 1 | a4808 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i1.4808 | © 2018 | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 September 2017 | Published: 31 January 2018

About the author(s)

Henco van der Westhuizen, Department of Historical and Constructive Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, South Africa


The quincentenary of the Protestant Reformations creates a challenge. With reference to Protestant churches in South Africa, the ambiguity inherent in this challenge is considered in the first part of the essay. In the second part, Martin Luther’s famous discovery is investigated in light of his earlier theology leading up to 31 October 1517. It is argued that Luther’s earlier theology is characterised by a hermeneutic rediscovery. In the third part, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology is brought into conversation with Luther. It is asked how Bonhoeffer received Luther’s theology – more specifically, how he re-appropriated the hermeneutic inherent in Luther’s earlier theology. In the final part, it is asked what the theological hermeneutic inherent in Luther’s earlier theology – re-appropriated by Bonhoeffer – can mean for South African churches commemorating the Protestant Reformations.


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