Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the view from below
: a method of repentance that overcomes corrupted longing

  • Christopher Whyte

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been rightly lauded for uniquely attending to the oppressed and subjugated in his theological endeavors. However, there are issues and ambiguities within his corpus—as well as complexities within his personal history—that undercut his attempts to faithfully articulate the full implications of Christ’s presence as co-sufferer amongst the marginalized. Consequently, direct dissemination of Bonhoeffer’s work without rigorous contextualization can have detrimental impacts inconsistent with his stated aims. More specifically, while Bonhoeffer ardently opposes white supremacy as enacted by the National Socialists, he also makes claims evidencing entanglement with white supremacist logics. In support of this claim, I engage the work of Reggie Williams, Lisa Dahill, Michael Mawson, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Keri Day to offer a constructive theological ethical method for repentance that identifies an entrenched struggle with white supremacy affecting both Bonhoeffer and Bonhoeffer scholarship. This method minimally proposes means of overcoming the longings at the root of white supremacy in order to better resist the manifestations of white supremacist structures and systems. In support of this method, I consider the distinct responses to white supremacy offered by Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, and William Seymour, Pastor of the Azusa Street Revival. I critique and attempt to move beyond Bonhoeffer’s engagement with suffering to better attend to problems Bonhoeffer did not sufficiently consider. While appreciative of Bonhoeffer’s resistance to white supremacy, I offer modest constructive recommendations for more robust repentance than Bonhoeffer was able to accomplish.
Date of Award11 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAndrew Bartholomew Torrance (Supervisor)


  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Repentance
  • Suffering
  • White supremacy
  • Christian ethics
  • Ecclesiology
  • Azusa Street Revival
  • Abyssinian Baptist Church
  • Reggie Williams
  • Liberation theology

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 7 May 2029

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