We’ve been discussing Making the Best of It, by John Stackhouse. So far we’ve revisited Richard Neibuhr’s Christ and Culture typology and we’ve reviewed two of the three theologians Stackhouse believes we can draw on as resources for thinking about Christian realism (i.e. C. S. Lewis and Reinhold Niebuhr.) Today we turn to the third theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is the longest chapter in the book and as you might imagine, it is packed full of rich material. I’ll break this into three posts, but even so, I’m simply gleaning some themes
Stackhouse summarizes the questions Bonhoeffer pursued this way:
- How I am I to understand and speak, and how are to understand and speak?
- Who am I, and who are we?
- What am I to do in the world, and what are we to do in the world?
Christ is at the center. Bonhoeffer believed that the church is to come in silence before Christ and the Word. Bonhoeffer wrote, “The way of Jesus Christ, and therefore the way of all Christian thinking, leads not from the world to God but from God to the world.” (122-123)
Bonhoeffer did not believe in Christ as “the divine principle” of liberal theology. He affirmed the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Although, Stackhouse points out that he had his doubts about the Virgin Birth and the historicity of the empty tomb. In footnote 15, Stackhouse points out that Bonhoeffer seemed to look for a path between “naïve and dogmatic realism” and “skepticism,” but not entirely with success.
We encounter Christ through Scripture. Bonhoeffer recognized that the Bible has its flaws but nevertheless “… [Bonhoeffer] emphasizes God’s encounter with humanity through the figure of Chris and the text of the Bible despite whatever limitations or even flaws might be discerned in either.” (121) Concerning Bonhoeffer’s take on the role of scripture, Stackhouse writes:
Lutheran categories – While not always agreeing with traditional Lutheran categories of “law and grace” or “two kingdoms,” Bonhoeffer was in direct dialog with Lutheran theology and regularly quoted Luther himself.
“Come and Die.” When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” from The Cost of Discipleship, is probably Bonhoeffer’s most quoted line. The death, however, is, “… in order to live again in life abundant. Cost of Discipleship was both “… an invitation and an instruction.” (123)
“Costly grace” vs. “cheap grace.” Stackhouse says that, “The Lutheran emphasis on justification by faith alone, through grace alone, had been set adrift from Luther’s own concern for holiness and rectitude.” (125) Cheap grace is sort of a warm fuzzy sense forgiveness of sins as a general truth that makes no demands on us. In Discipleship:
Christ offers us costly grace … a grace which God procured at a costly price. It is a grace the calls us into discipleship and sole commitment to Jesus Christ.
Radically connected through Christ. Jesus calls out to as radically free disciples … free from family, class, nation, etc. Stackhouse writes:
But the individual does not live and function apart from Christian community:
This quote from Ethics was particularly important:
Tomorrow we dive into Bonhoeffer's thoughts about the state and society.