Monday, 9 January 2017

Diedrich Bonhoeffer - Part 2

I've been reading a lot more about this Jesus-loving-German and again, I have to utter "Wow!" For a man in his 30's, he was truly gifted with an ability to think in ways that have never before been thought or penned, that cut to the heart of who Jesus was and who the church should be in the world it exists in. It does arrest the heart in its tracks and challenge its motives and it's selfish ambitions - it did mine. 

Picking up from where we left off in Part 1, Bonhoeffer was convinced that the Christian life had to be completely Christ-centric, not only that, but the crucified and suffering Christ-centric. From there, a believer sees the example of Christ's sacrificial suffering and death and by grace, emulates it for a lost and dying world. Grace empowers the Christians call to an active life of sacrifice for others. Bonhoeffer said "The church is the church only when it exists for others." Not its own comfort or its programs or its families or its happiness - but for others! This could only be attained when a believer lives in the reality of the essence of the Gospel - which he says:

"Nevertheless, these three propositions remain true for us from the day of our coming to Christ until we reach the end of our earthly lives: God is holy, we are sinful, and Christ is our only hope. And that hope comes not only through Christ’s resurrection, but also through Christ’s death on the cross."

"We err when we see these as only having to do with our justification. When we leave these three propositions, and especially grace, at the door of initial salvation and try to walk on without them, we are doomed to a Christian life marked by frustration."

In his lectures on christology (Theology of Jesus Christ) he rejects those who would deny the historicity of the resurrection, and he makes a clear and definitive statement of the necessity of the empty tomb. “Between the humiliation and exaltation of Christ lies the historical fact of the empty grave. . . . If it is not empty, then Christ is not resurrected. It seems as though our ‘resurrection faith’ is bound up with the story of the empty grave. If the grave were not empty, we would not have our faith." Our faith stands on the factual history of the resurrection.

From his christology, which entails an orthodox view of the God-man and of the sacrificial life, atoning death, and triumphant resurrection of Christ, flows all of Bonhoeffer’s theology and ethics. It seems that Bonhoeffer scholars have recently taken to identifying the center of all of his thought as “Christo-ecclesiology.” What that expression means is not that he simply emphasized christology and ecclesiology (Theology of the Church) but that his ecclesiology, seen in such books as Life Together, flows from and is connected to his christology. To Bonhoeffer, they were one and the same. You cannot be the church without being like Jesus. Only when the church truly understands the suffering and sacrificial Jesus, can they truly BE the church as God intended in the earth. 

The kind of embracing of Christ that Bonhoeffer talks about is that we live for others in a sacrificial, loving way. As I said in the beginning, Bonhoeffer declared that “the church is the church only when it exists for others.”

In the days when Bonhoeffer preached, he was stirred by this truth, this "Christo-ecclesiology". He saw clearly that the church must have Jesus at the center and that the church must have room for the Jesus who suffers. In the outline for the book he never wrote, Bonhoeffer also spoke of Jesus the crucified as the model for us. As the crucified one, Jesus suffered rejection. Even as the crucified one, Jesus came and lived for others. As the crucified one, Jesus, having lived a sacrificial life of love for others, died a sacrificial death in love for others. This served as both the basis for and the model of living the Christian life and Bonhoeffer's theology of spirituality.

He wrote much of this thought in his book "The Cost of Discipleship." The book could not be clearer. “Discipleship is commitment to Christ." Christ calls, we follow. That much is straightforward, even easy. The doing of it is another story. Bonhoeffer leads us to the Sermon on the Mount and the difficulties in the simple command to follow Christ. Bonhoeffer places huge emphasis on Christ’s imperative: we must, like Christ, take up our cross and share in his suffering. He explains what this entails. “The first Christ-suffering that everyone has to experience is the call which summons us away from our attachments to this world. It is the death of the old self in the encounter with Jesus Christ.” This death, though, is the beginning of our life, our life in Christ. Second, this following of Christ in his suffering leads us into our everyday battles with temptation and our daily struggles with sin and satan.

He then offers words of comfort. “Christian suffering is not disconcerting, Instead, it is nothing but grace and joy." Christ not only suffered, but bore the suffering on the cross. In his bearing of the suffering, he triumphed over it. Bonhoeffer puts it plainly, “His cross is the triumph over suffering.” We are called to such a life. We follow Christ “under the cross.”

For Bonhoeffer, living the Christian life begins with Christ, with his call to discipleship, with the cross. We live in Christ. We live from the cross. “We are the church beneath the cross.” 

I've been truly challenged by Diedrich's life - his theology in action - his compassion, his courage and his way of thinking. I may not agree with everything he believed and his every interpretation of the scriptures - but who am I? Diedrich demands respect and an audience...and for one would love to spend some good quality time with this Disciple of Jesus one day. I have nothing else to say, except "Wow".

No comments:

Post a Comment