Man Come Of Age: Bonhoeffer’s Response To The God-Of-The-Gaps -- By: Richard H. Bube

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 14:4 (Fall 1971)
Article: Man Come Of Age: Bonhoeffer’s Response To The God-Of-The-Gaps
Author: Richard H. Bube

Man Come Of Age:
Bonhoeffer’s Response To The God-Of-The-Gaps

Richard H. Bube, Ph.D.*


The fallacy of the God-of-the-Gaps has been often expounded in treatments of science and Christian faith. These discussions usually consider the fallacy in terms of the activity of physical or life scientists who properly do not need the “God-hypothesis” to fill the gaps in their physical or biological knowledge. In this paper the radical concepts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his letters from prison: “man come of age,” “religionless Christianity,” “without God before God,” are considered as the results of his attempt to envision the consequences of an extension of the fallacy of the God-of-the-Gaps into the religious area as well. When viewed in this perspective, it is easier to see how the evangelical author of Cost of Discipleship is related without a profound change in thinking to the radical author of the letters from prison. The questions Bonhoeffer raises are of increasing importance for us as scientists and Christians.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned on April 5, 1943 in Tegel prison in Berlin. His first letter to his parents was dated April 14, 1943. In it he remembers the celebration of his father’s 75th birthday two weeks earlier and the hymns they sang; particularly he mentions,

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation…
Shelters thee under his wings, yea, and greatly sustaineth.1

Then he adds,

That is true, and it is what we must always rely on.2

*Professor of Material and Electrical Engineering Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California, and editor of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. Based on a paper presented to the Annual meeting of the ASA at Whitworth College, August 1971.

Note: All references to Bonhoeffer’s prison letters are from Letters and Papers from Prison, Rev. Edit., ed. by Eberhard Bethge, New York: the Macmillan Company, 2nd printing (1968). Where only page numbers are given below, reference is to this book.

In his last letter from Tegel, written on August 23, 1944, he writes,

I am so sure of God’s guiding hand that I hope I shall always be kept in that certainty …My past life is brim-full of God’s goodness, and my sins are covered by the forgiving love of Christ crucified … May God take care of you and all of us, and grant us the joy of meeting again soon. I am praying for you every day.

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