Dorothee Sölle

Dorothee Sölle
Dorothee Sölle (1981).jpg
Sölle (left) in 1981
Dorothee Nipperdey

(1929-09-30)30 September 1929
Cologne, Prussia, Germany
Died27 April 2003(2003-04-27) (aged 73)
Other namesDorothee Steffensky-Sölle
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Cologne
ThesisStudies in the Structures of Bonaventura's Vigils[a][8]
Academic work
Sub-disciplinePolitical theology[11]
School or tradition
InstitutionsUnion Theological Seminary
Notable ideasChristofascism

Dorothee Steffensky-Sölle (née Nipperdey, 1929–2003), known as Dorothee Sölle, was a German liberation theologian who coined the term Christofascism.[16][17][verification needed] She was born in Cologne and died at a conference in Göppingen.


Sölle was born Dorothee Nipperdey on 30 September 1929 in Cologne, Germany.[8] Sölle studied theology, philosophy, and literature at the University of Cologne,[citation needed] earning a doctorate with a thesis on the connections between theology and poetry.[8] She taught briefly in Aachen before returning to Cologne as a university lecturer. She became active in politics, speaking out against the Vietnam War, the arms race of the Cold War, and injustices in the developing world. Notably, from 1968 to 1972 she organized Cologne's Politisches Nachtgebet [de] (political night-prayers).

Union Theological Seminary, New York

Between 1975 and 1987, she spent six months a year at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she was a professor of systematic theology.[18] Although she never held a professorship in Germany,[citation needed] she received an honorary professorship from the University of Hamburg in 1994.[19]

She wrote a large number of[citation needed] books, including Theology for Skeptics: Reflections on God (1968), The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (1997), and her autobiography[citation needed] Against the Wind: Memoir of a Radical Christian (1999).[4] In Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future she coined the term Christofascist to describe fundamentalists. Perhaps her best-known work in English was[citation needed] Suffering, which offers a critique of "Christian masochism" and "Christian sadism".[20] Sölle's critique is against the assumption that God is all-powerful and the cause of suffering; humans thus suffer for some greater purpose. Instead, God suffers and is powerless alongside us. Humans are to struggle together against oppression, sexism, antisemitism, and other forms of authoritarianism.[21][page needed]

Sölle was married twice and had four children.[8] First, in 1954 she married the artist Dietrich Sölle, with whom she had three children before divorcing in 1964.[8] In 1969, she married the former Benedictine priest Fulbert Steffensky [de], with whom she had her fourth child[8] and with whom she organized the Politisches Nachtgebet.[citation needed] The historian Thomas Nipperdey was her brother.[22]

Sölle died of a heart attack at a conference in Göppingen on 27 April 2003.[23]

Sölle's theological thinking[edit]

"I believe in God/ who created the world not ready made/ like a thing that must forever stay what it is/ who does not govern according to eternal laws/ that have perpetual validity/ nor according to natural orders/ of poor and rich,/ experts and ignoramuses,/ people who dominate and people subjected./ I believe in God/ who desires the counter-argument of the living/ and the alteration of every condition/ through our work/ through our politics." (ET, from Meditationen & Gebrauchstexte. Gedichte. Berlin 1969, ISBN 978-3-87352-016-5)

The idea of a God who was "in heaven in all its glory"[This quote needs a citation] while Auschwitz was organized was "unbearable"[This quote needs a citation] for Sölle. God has to be protected against such simplifications. For some people[who?] Sölle was a kind of prophet of Christianity, who abolished the separation of theological science and practice of life, while for others[who?] she was a heretic,[citation needed] whose theories couldn't be united with the traditional understanding of God, and her ideas were therefore rejected as a theological cynicism.[citation needed]

Some of Sölle's provocative statements:


For publications in German language see de:Dorothee Sölle#Literatur

Texts in music[edit]

  • The musician Sergio Pinto converted Sölle's poems Credo für die Erde and Ich dein Baum, into musical compositions which were published by Verlag in 2008 under the title entwurf. The CD recording was performed by the band Grupo Sal.[24]
  • The composer Ludger Stühlmeyer converted Sölle's poems Kreuzigen and Atem Gottes hauch mich an into musical compositions as well. The vocal and organ arrangements were commissioned by a circle of friends of the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing; the work was first performed in April 2013 and included a reading by Ursula Baltz-Otto during a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the death of Dorothee Sölle.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Original title: Untersuchungen zur Struktur der Nachtwachen von Bonaventura.[7]



  1. ^ Rumscheidt 2016, p. 172.
  2. ^ Pinnock 2003b, p. 129.
  3. ^ a b Pinnock 2003a, p. 2.
  4. ^ a b Coleman 2013, p. 519.
  5. ^ Bieler 2003, p. 59; Neumann 2014, p. 118.
  6. ^ a b Faramelli, Norman (1 April 2016). ""Flashback Friday" on Dorothee Sölle: Political Theologian par Excellence". Religious Socialism. DSA Religion and Socialism Commission. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  7. ^ Sölle 1999b, p. 35.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Coleman 2013, p. 518.
  9. ^ Pinnock 2018, p. 371; Sölle 1999a, p. 49.
  10. ^ a b Loewen 2016, p. ii.
  11. ^ Matteson 2018, p. 20.
  12. ^ Grey 2005, p. 343.
  13. ^ Harrison 2004, p. 147.
  14. ^ Grey 2005, p. 350.
  15. ^ Kotsko, Adam (26 April 2009). "Narrative CV: Adam Kotsko". An und für sich. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  16. ^ Hall 2000, p. 412; Sölle 1970.
  17. ^ Pinnock 2003c: "... of establishing a dubious moral superiority to justify organized violence on a massive scale, a perversion of Christianity she called Christofascism."
  18. ^ Coleman 2013, p. 519; Mynatt 2004, p. 368.
  19. ^ Hollstein 2007, p. 105.
  20. ^ Heyward 2003, p. 233.
  21. ^ Pinnock 2003c.
  22. ^ "Dorothee Sölle". Die Zeit (in German). Hamburg. 30 April 2003. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  23. ^ Mynatt 2004, p. 368; Ring 2005, p. 8511.
  24. ^ Dorothee Sölle auf der Website von Grupo Sal (in German) Archived 2 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine


Bieler, Andrea (2003). "The Language of Prayer Between Truth Telling and Mysticism". In Pinnock, Sarah K. (ed.). The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International. pp. 55–70. ISBN 978-1-56338-404-2.
Coleman, Mary E. (2013). "Dorothee Sölle (1929–2003)". In Markham, Ian S. (ed.). The Student's Companion to the Theologians. Chichester, England: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 518–521. doi:10.1002/9781118427170.ch74. ISBN 978-1-118-47258-3.
Grey, Mary (2005). "Diversity, Harmony and in the End, Justice: Remembering Dorothee Soelle". Feminist Theology. 13 (3): 343–357. doi:10.1177/0966735005054916. ISSN 1745-5189.
Hall, Douglas John (2000). "Confessing Christ in a Post‐Christendom Context". The Ecumenical Review. 52 (3): 410–417. doi:10.1111/j.1758-6623.2000.tb00048.x. ISSN 1758-6623.
Harrison, Beverly Wildung (2004). "Working with Protestant Traditions: Feminist Transformations". Justice in the Making: Feminist Social Ethics. By Harrison, Beverly Wildung. Bounds, Elizabeth M.; Brubaker, Pamela K.; Hicks, Jane E.; Legge, Marilyn J.; Peters, Rebecca Todd; West, Traci C. (eds.). Interviewed by Legge, Marilyn J. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 145–152. ISBN 978-0-664-22774-6.
Heyward, Carter (2003). "Crossing Over: Dorothee Soelle and the Transcendence of God". The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International. pp. 221ff. ISBN 978-1-56338-404-2.
Hollstein, Thorsten (2007). Die Verfassung als "Allgemeiner Teil": Privatrechtsmethode und Privatrechtskonzeption bei Hans Carl Nipperdey (1895–1968). Beiträge zur Rechtsgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts (in German). 51. Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg: Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 978-3-16-149080-4. ISSN 0934-0955.
Loewen, Margreta Susanne Guenther (2016). Making Peace with the Cross: A Mennonite-Feminist Exploration of Dorothee Sölle and J. Denny Weaver on Nonviolence, Atonement, and Redemption (PhD thesis). Toronto: University of Toronto. hdl:1807/75526. OCLC 1036287373.
Matteson, Dannis M. (2018). "'Hope Requires Participants': Dorothee Sölle's Warning and Task for Political Theology in the Trump Era". New Theology Review. 30 (2): 20–30. ISSN 0896-4297.
Mynatt, Jenai A., ed. (2004). Contemporary Authors. 219. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale. ISBN 978-0-7876-6699-6. ISSN 0010-7468.
Neumann, Katja Lisa Elena (2014). Gendering Liberation: "Deprivatising" Women's Subjectivity in the Prayer-Poetry of Dorothee Sölle (PhD thesis). Stirling, Scotland: University of Stirling. hdl:1893/21172.
Pinnock, Sarah K. (2003a). "Introduction". In Pinnock, Sarah K. (ed.). The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International. pp. 1–15. ISBN 978-1-56338-404-2.
 ———  (2003b). "A Postmodern Response to Suffering After Auschwitz". The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International. pp. 129–144. ISBN 978-1-56338-404-2.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
 ——— , ed. (2003c). The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International. ISBN 978-1-56338-404-2.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
 ———  (2018). "Dorothee Soelle". In Rodkey, Christopher D.; Miller, Jordan E. (eds.). The Palgrave Handbook of Radical Theology. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 367–380. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-96595-6_22. ISBN 978-3-319-96595-6.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
Ring, Nancy C. (2005). "Sölle, Dorothee". In Jones, Lindsay (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion. 12 (2nd ed.). Detroit, Michigan: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 8511–8512. ISBN 978-0-02-865997-8.
Rumscheidt, H. Martin (2016). "Dorothee Soelle: Variations on Themes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer". In Kirkpatrick, Matthew D. (ed.). Engaging Bonhoeffer: The Impact and Influence of Bonhoeffer's Life and Thought. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press. pp. 169–186. ISBN 978-1-5064-1037-1.
Sölle, Dorothee (1970). Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House.
 ———  (1999a). Against the Wind: Memoir of a Radical Christian. Translated by Rumscheidt, Barbara; Rumscheidt, Martin. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-1-4514-0706-8.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
 ———  (1999b). "Was ist Theopoesie?". In Szagun, Anna-Katharina (ed.). Erfahrungsräume: Theologische Beiträge zur kulturellen Erneuerung (in German). Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia: LIT Verlag. pp. 31–35. ISBN 978-3-8258-4142-3.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)

Further reading[edit]

Wind, Renate (2012). Dorothee Soelle: Mystic and Rebel; The Biography. Translated by Lukens, Nancy; Rumscheidt, Martin. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-9808-9.