“The Cost of Discipleship” by the greatest of leaders Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer   1906-1945     Jesus’ greatest disciple

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+dietrich+bonhoeffer&qpvt=images+dietrich+bonhoeffer&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=CA4F55B4551E535CCCEF4C8DBDD63DBA876A58E6&selectedIndex=4

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer on a weekend getaway with confirmands of Zion’s Church congregation (1932)

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http://www.christianbook.com/131-christians-everyone-should-know/mark-galli/9780805490404/pd/90404?p=1006325&

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131 Christians Everyone Should Know   -<br /><br />
        By: Mark Galli</p><br />
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http://www.amazon.com/The-Cost-Discipleship-Dietrich-Bonhoeffer/dp/0684815001

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One of the most important theologians of the twentieth century illuminates the relationship between ourselves and the teachings of Jesus

What can the call to discipleship, the adherence to the word of Jesus, mean today to the businessman, the soldier, the laborer, or the aristocrat? What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us today? Drawing on the Sermon on the Mount, Dietrich Bonhoeffer answers these timeless questions by providing a seminal reading of the dichotomy between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” “Cheap grace,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “is the grace we bestow on ourselves…grace without discipleship….Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the girl which must be asked for, the door at which a man must know….It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

The Cost of Discipleship is a compelling statement of the demands of sacrifice and ethical consistency from a man whose life and thought were exemplary articulations of a new type of leadership inspired by the Gospel, and imbued with the spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German: [ˈdiːtʁɪç ˈboːnhœfɐ]; February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, dissident anti-Nazi and founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and many have labelled his book The Cost of Discipleship a modern classic.

Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer became known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship. He strongly opposed Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was also involved in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and executed by hanging in April 1945 while imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp, just 23 days before the German surrender.

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Eberhard Bethge, a student of Bonhoeffer’s,   writes of a man who saw the execution: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer#Theological_legacy

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Central to Bonhoeffer’s theology is Christ, in whom God and the world are reconciled. Bonhoeffer’s God is a suffering God, whose manifestation is found in this-worldliness. Bonhoeffer believed that the Incarnation of God in flesh made it unacceptable to speak of God and the world “in terms of two spheres” — an implicit attack upon Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms. Bonhoeffer stressed personal and collective piety and revived the idea of imitation of Christ. He argued that Christians should not retreat from the world but act within it. He believed that two elements were constitutive of faith: the implementation of justice and the acceptance of divine suffering.  Bonhoeffer insisted that the church, like the Christians, “had to share in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world” if it were to be a true church of Christ.

In his prison letters, Bonhoeffer raised tantalizing questions about the role of Christianity and the church in a “world come of age”, where human beings no longer need a metaphysical God as a stop-gap to human limitations; and mused about the emergence of a “religionless Christianity”, where God would be unclouded from metaphysical constructs of the previous 1900 years. Influenced by Barth’s distinction between faith and religion, Bonhoeffer had a critical view of the phenomenon of religion and asserted that revelation abolished religion (which he called the “garment” of faith). Having witnessed the complete failure of the German Protestant church as an institution in the face of Nazism, he saw this challenge as an opportunity of renewal for Christianity.

Years after Bonhoeffer’s death, some Protestant thinkers developed his critique into a thoroughgoing attack against traditional Christianity in the “Death of God” movement, which briefly attracted the attention of the mainstream culture in the mid-1960s. However, some critics — such as Jacques Ellul and others — have charged that those radical interpretations of Bonhoeffer’s insights amount to a grave distortion, that Bonhoeffer did not mean to say that God no longer had anything to do with humanity and had become a mere cultural artifact. More recent Bonhoeffer interpretation is more cautious in this regard, respecting the parameters of the neo-orthodox school to which he belonged.

Bonhoeffer’s life as a pastor and theologian of great intellect and spirituality who lived as he preached — and his martyrdom in opposition to Nazism — exerted great influence and inspiration for Christians across broad denominations and ideologies, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, in the United States, the anti-communist democratic movement in Eastern Europe during the Cold War and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.

Bonhoeffer is commemorated as a theologian and martyr by the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and several church members of the Anglican Communion.

Bonhoeffer influenced Comboni missionary Father Ezechiele Ramin.

The Deutsche Evangelische Kirche in Sydenham, London, at which he preached between 1933 and 1935, was destroyed by bombing in 1944. A replacement church was built in 1958 and named Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Kirche in his honour.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brett-mccracken/what-makes-evangelicals-d_b_3824024.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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The question remains: what constitutes an evangelical identity in today’s post-Falwell world? Can, or should, evangelicals be “different”? And what should define that difference?

Previous generations of evangelicals interpreted the call to be set apart (to “be holy, for I am holy,” 1 Peter 2:16) as meaning: flee from worldliness and avoid being tainted by the “secular.” This defensive posture was dos-and-don’t oriented and favored legalism over liberty.

Younger evangelicals are reacting against the baggage and reputation of that posture by ardently emphasizing liberty. They drink, they smoke, they go to indie rock shows and are #%(@^#$ proud of it. (I chronicled this generational pendulum swing in my 2010 book, Hipster Christianity).

But in the process of draining the dirty bathwater from the tub of evangelicalism, have younger believers thrown out the baby of “set apart” holiness? If Christians are known for anything, shouldn’t it be for their commitment to living Christ-like lives of faith, hope and charity? Should not their lives noticeably overflow with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and temperance?

The thing about holiness is that the point of it is not to steer clear of all that is unholy; it’s not about retreating from “the world” and existing in some perfect space untainted by temptations and immoral sights and sounds. The Christian call to holiness is more complicated than just abstaining from a checklist of vices.

Christians are called to be “set apart” in this world, yes. But the difference between the church and culture is not a “hard” difference, notes Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, but rather a “soft difference” characterized by “people who are secure in themselves — more accurately, who are secure in their God,” who “have no need either to subordinate or damn others.”

Evangelical difference should not be about retreating from or picking battles with the culture, but rather embracing the path of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the cost of discipleship,” a commitment to living in the footsteps of Christ, even if it means living out of the mainstream of culture.

As Volf says, “to make a difference, one must be different.” If evangelicals are going to make any difference, it won’t be because they’ve self-consciously endeavored to repair their PR image; and it won’t be because they’ve adopted and affirmed every pattern of behavior around them. It will be because they genuinely and passionately follow after Christ, manifesting through their lives something refreshingly different — what theologian N.T. Wright calls “the language of God’s new world.”

Brett McCracken is the author of Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty (Baker Books, 2013).

Follow Brett McCracken on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BrettMcCracken

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http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/martyrs/bonhoeffer.html

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“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

“The time is fulfilled for the German people of Hitler. It is because of Hitler that Christ, God the helper and redeemer, has become effective among us. … Hitler is the way of the Spirit and the will of God for the German people to enter the Church of Christ.” So spoke German pastor Hermann Gruner. Another pastor put it more succinctly: “Christ has come to us through Adolph Hitler.”

Timeline

1885 Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis
1886 Student Volunteer Movement begins
1895 Freud publishes first work on psychoanalysis
1906 Dietrich Bonhoeffer born
1945 Dietrich Bonhoeffer dies
1951 Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison

So despondent had been the German people after the defeat of World War I and the subsequent economic depression that the charismatic Hitler appeared to be the nation’s answer to prayer—at least to most Germans. One exception was theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was determined not only to refute this idea but also to topple Hitler, even if it meant killing him.

From pacifist to co-conspirator

>Bonhoeffer was not raised in a particularly radical environment. He was born into an aristocratic family. His mother was daughter of the preacher at the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and his father was a prominent neurologist and professor of psychiatry at the University of Berlin.

All eight children were raised in a liberal, nominally religious environment and were encouraged to dabble in great literature and the fine arts. Bonhoeffer’s skill at the piano, in fact, led some in his family to believe he was headed for a career in music. When at age 14, Dietrich announced he intended to become a minister and theologian, the family was not pleased.

Bonhoeffer graduated from the University of Berlin in 1927, at age 21, and then spent some months in Spain as an assistant pastor to a German congregation. Then it was back to Germany to write a dissertation, which would grant him the right to a university appointment. He then spent a year in America, at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, before returning to the post of lecturer at the University of Berlin.

During these years, Hitler rose in power, becoming chancellor of Germany in January 1933, and president a year and a half later. Hitler’s anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions intensified—as did his opposition, which included the likes of theologian Karl Barth, pastor Martin Niemoller, and the young Bonhoeffer. Together with other pastors and theologians, they organized the Confessing Church, which announced publicly in its Barmen Declaration (1934) its allegiance first to Jesus Christ: “We repudiate the false teaching that the church can and must recognize yet other happenings and powers, personalities and truths as divine revelation alongside this one Word of God. … ”

In the meantime, Bonhoeffer had written The Cost of Discipleship (1937), a call to more faithful and radical obedience to Christ and a severe rebuke of comfortable Christianity: “Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

During this time, Bonhoeffer was teaching pastors in an underground seminary, Finkenwalde (the government had banned him from teaching openly). But after the seminary was discovered and closed, the Confessing Church became increasingly reluctant to speak out against Hitler, and moral opposition proved increasingly ineffective, so Bonhoeffer began to change his strategy. To this point he had been a pacifist, and he had tried to oppose the Nazis through religious action and moral persuasion.

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Now he signed up with the German secret service (to serve as a double agent—while traveling to church conferences over Europe, he was supposed to be collecting information about the places he visited, but he was, instead, trying to help Jews escape Nazi oppression). Bonhoeffer also became a part of a plot to overthrow, and later to assassinate, Hitler.

As his tactics were changing, he had gone to America to become a guest lecturer. But he couldn’t shake a feeling of responsibility for his country. Within months of his arrival, he wrote theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”

Bonhoeffer, though privy to various plots on Hitler’s life, was never at the center of the plans. Eventually his resistance efforts (mainly his role in rescuing Jews) was discovered. On an April afternoon in 1943, two men arrived in a black Mercedes, put Bonhoeffer in the car, and drove him to Tegel prison.

Radical reflections

>Bonhoeffer spent two years in prison, corresponding with family and friends, pastoring fellow prisoners, and reflecting on the meaning of “Jesus Christ for today.” As the months progressed, be began outlining a new theology, penning enigmatic lines that had been inspired by his reflections on the nature of Christian action in history.

“God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross,” he wrote. “He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. [The Bible] … makes quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering. … The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help.”

In another passage, he said, “To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself (a sinner, a penitent, or a saint) on the basis of some method or other, but to be a man—not a type of man, but the man that Christ creates in us. It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.”

Eventually, Bonhoeffer was transferred from Tegel to Buchenwald and then to the extermination camp at Flossenbürg. On April 9, 1945, one month before Germany surrendered, he was hanged with six other resisters.

A decade later, a camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s hanging described the scene: “The prisoners … were taken from their cells, and the verdicts of court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in one room of the huts, I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued in a few seconds. In the almost 50 years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

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Bonhoeffer’s prison correspondence was eventually edited and published as Letters and Papers from Prison, which inspired much controversy and the “death of God” movement of the 1960s (though Bonhoeffer’s close friend and chief biographer, Eberhard Bethge, said Bonhoeffer implied no such thing). His Cost of Discipleship, as well as Life Together (about Christian community, based on his teaching at the underground seminary), have remained devotional classics.

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One Response to “The Cost of Discipleship” by the greatest of leaders Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  1. Pingback: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love — Wendy Murray | Curtis Narimatsu

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