Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael DeJonge, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Michael Morris, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lee Braver, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Benjamin Crowe, Ph.D.


Act and Being, Being and Time; Christology; ontology; anthropology; epistemology


This dissertation’s guiding question is: What was the impact of Martin Heidegger’s early philosophy on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology? I argue that Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein, his technical term for human existence, provides Bonhoeffer with important conceptual tools for developing his Christology, from which the rest of his theology follows.

Part of recognizing Heidegger’s importance to Bonhoeffer involves understanding the latter’s critiques of previous notable philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Husserl, and Scheler. As Bonhoeffer evaluates these philosophers, they lead to theologically unacceptable positions. Heidegger, in contrast, has come to a theologically profitable understanding of human existence and epistemology. Though there are theologically useful elements in Heidegger’s philosophy, there are elements that require significant alteration, and even rejection. Heidegger recognizes that epistemology must be based on actual human existence, and he can account for the historical continuity of human existence; however, because of Heidegger’s anthropocentric philosophy, he cannot account for God’s transcendence necessary for proper theology. Bonhoeffer then applies the conceptual tools he has appropriated from Heidegger to revelation, Christology, and the church. This eliminates the anthropocentrism that made transcendence impossible, while maintaining the benefits of Heidegger’s philosophy in order to account for Christian existence.

Understanding Bonhoeffer’s appropriation of Heidegger is additionally important for understanding Heidegger’s potential relation to theology. This dissertation concludes by placing Bonhoeffer in the context of other theological appropriations of Heidegger. In light of this context and Heidegger’s own understanding of philosophy’s relation to theology, I argue that Bonhoeffer represents one, viable theological use of Heidegger.