Rapid technological development has flooded modern-day society with change and innovation. Virtual Reality, one of these technologies, is modifying conventional ideas of not only entertainment and communication, but also questions the concept of reality. The roots of the underlying concepts of Virtual Reality can be traced back to the past. Metaphysically, hermeneutically and anthropologically these traces indicate why Virtual Reality is more than just the mere simulation of reality and why this technology has such an immersive influence on society. This influence is also prevalent in theology, wherein virtuality is more than just a metaphor for understanding theology and expressing faith.
This study explores the value of virtuality for theology by investigating Dietrich Bonhoeffer s doctoral dissertation Sanctorum Communio of 1927. Three tenets of virtuality, being actualisation, time-space irrelevancy and collectivity are elaborated on with the aim of providing a new reading of Sanctorum Communio. Deleuzian philosophy and the technology of hypertext are indicated as two main moments in die development of actuality. This study supports Gilles Deleuze s position that virtual reality is about the reality of the virtual which causes space and time to become irrelevant, however, based on a modernistic epistemology this notion can lead to individualism and disruption. The value of actualisation is found in community as depicted in collective intelligence and reciprocity, offering a new postfoundationalist epistemology for understanding virtuality and reality.
Bonhoeffer s Sanctorum Communio is thus approached via the hermeneutical key of virtuality. By investigating the sociality of the church, Bonhoeffer arrives at a Christo-ecclesiology of the church as being Christus als Gemeinde existierend. This presents a church for all space and all time, but just as community is the key to unlocking the value of virtuality, it similarly is the key to unlocking the value of the actualisation of Christ in church. This is realised through the reciprocal community of the sanctorum communio. By re-reading Bonhoeffer through the hermeneutic of virtuality, a new understanding of reality and of church is formulated.