Bonhoeffer (Foreword)

“Bonhoeffer; Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Recent traveling has allowed me to put a dent in this excellent bestseller by Eric Metaxas.  I have read many of Bonhoeffer’s personal works, and have a great respect for his life and ministry that he entirely surrendered to the cause of his generation.  He, of course, was of a minority that stood against Hitler.  He was put to death for the stand he took.  One of my favorite quotes of his includes the words, “to not act is to act; to not speak is to speak.”

In the foreword of Metaxas’ book, Tim Keller elevates the reader’s interest by focusing on what led to Bonhoeffer’s imprisonment and death on the gallows. He states the impossibility of understanding Bonhoeffer’s Nachfolge (Cost of Discipleship), without becoming acquainted with the German church’s apathetic response to Hitler.   He says, “How could the church of Luther, that great teacher of the gospel, have ever come to such a place? The answer is that the true gospel, summed up by Bonhoeffer as costly grace, had been lost.”

Keller expounds upon his explanation by describing the mindset of the church in Germany with words that sound much too similar to the church in America.  “On the one hand, the church had become marked by formalism.  That meant going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone, so it really doesn’t matter much how you live.  Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace.  On the other hand, there was legalism, or salvation by law and good works. Legalism meant that God loves you because you have pulled yourself together and are trying to live a good disciplined life.”

Keller describes how both of these impulses made it possible for Hitler to come to power. “The formalists in Germany may have seen things that bothered them, but saw no need to sacrifice their safety to stand up to them. Legalists responded by having pharisaical attitudes toward other nations and races that approved of Hitler’s policies. But as one, Germany lost hold of the brilliant balance of the gospel that Luther so persistently expounded — ‘We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone.'”

Keller explains that the German church accepted an abstract view of grace, one that teaches, “God forgives; that is His job.”

It is then asked, “Could this possibly happen to us today?”  Keller writes, “We still have a lot of legalism and moral-ism in our churches.  In reaction to that, many Christians want to talk only about God’s love and acceptance.  They don’t like talking about Jesus’ death on the cross to satisfy divine wrath and justice.  Some even call it ‘divine child abuse.’ Yet if they are not careful, they run the risk of falling into the belief in ‘cheap grace’ — a non-costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are.  That will never change anyone’s life.”

Keller concludes, “So it looks like we still need to listen to Bonhoeffer and others who go deep in discussing the nature of the gospel.”

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About mtsweat

Seeking the rest that is only promised and found in Christ Jesus, along with my treasured wife of more than twenty-five years, we seek to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, walk with the Holy Spirit as He moves our hearts, loving others always as Jesus loves us, and carry the news of His glory, the wonderful gospel, that gives light and life where there once was only darkness.
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3 Responses to Bonhoeffer (Foreword)

  1. singingsinglev4 says:

    Great Post!!! I saw the 700 club’s show on the book and the life of this man. Many people in today’s society are living in cheap grace, where they are not “doing anything wrong”, but they are not pursuing holiness and have become “comfortable”. Other people are so fallen away and like the parable of the prodigal son they are welcomed back into the Father’s arms when they come and repent, but then they think that’s it that all they have to do is live a “good life” and they’ll be ok. There must be made a distinction especially now between holiness, repentance, redemption, and grace, and where it all falls in our lives. We are also forgetting one important thing and that is the intimacy with God. Many people don’t know how to pursue it. The problem is we have so many “denominations” in the Body of Christ, nobody can seem to agree on anything. But through these posts I see that many people are united in their views.

  2. lambskinny says:

    Cheap grace or costly legalism — both are inherently incorrect views of the “good news.” Thanks so much for this post! God bless.

  3. The Bible Man says:

    Many years ago I was taught an acronym. GRACE is Gods Religion At Christs Expense. Jesus gave HIS earthly life for that grace that we enjoy today. The Apostles suffered greatly to bring us the news of Salvation too. That is not “cheap grace” to me. I want to hear it ALL not just what Pastors and People want to teach me. I want God to teach me through HIS word. Not just parts of it that I want to here, but ALL of it. Great Post My Friend!

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