A Genuine Religion of Redemption

It is said that the distinctive feature of Christianity is its proclamation of the hope of resurrection and that this means the emergence of a genuine religion of redemption, the main emphasis now being on the far side of the boundary drawn by death. But it seems to me that this is just where the mistake and the danger lie. Redemption now means redemption from cares, distress, fears, and longings, from sin and death, in a better world beyond the grave.

But is this really the essential character of the proclamation of Christ in the Gospels and by Paul? I should say it is not. The difference between the Christian hope of resurrection and a mythological hope is that the former sends a person back to his life on earth in a wholly new way, which is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament. The Christian, unlike the devotees of the redemption myths, has no last line of escape available from earthly tasks and difficulties into the eternal. But, like Christ himself, he must drink the earthly cup to the dregs, and only in his doing so, is the crucified and risen Lord with him, and he crucified and risen with Christ. This world must not be prematurely written off. In this the Old and New Testaments are one. Redemption myths arise from human boundary-experiences, but Christ takes hold of a man in the center of his life.

— From a letter of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Eberhard Bethge
written from Tegel prison, and dated 27 June 1944

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