Category Archives: Bonhoeffer

The Cost of Discipleship

I’ve wanted to read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship for a while. As I mentioned in a post below, I found one (an old cloth bound) for a much discounted price at the local museum book sale–it was free. All the books were; that’s why I left with a grocery sack full. And though they are all great books, this is the one I was most excited about.

This morning I found a passage that sums up the whole book:

To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, His enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that His followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenseless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, if we only look to Him and follow Him, step by step, we shall not go astray.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Keep Quiet and Listen.

“Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and his own follies.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: A Discussion of Christian Fellowship

Bonhoeffer on Singing

“Our song on earth is speech. It is the sung Word. Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because here they can unite in the Word. All devotion, all attention should be concentrated upon the Word in the hymn. The fact that we do not speak it but sing it only expresses the fact that our spoken words are inadequate to express what we want to say, that the burden of our song goes far beyond all human words. Yet we do not hum a melody; we sing words of praise to God, words of thanksgiving, confession, and prayer. Thus the music is completely the servant of the Word. It elucidates the Word in its mystery.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

“Bonhoeffer” by Eric Metaxas

On the morning of April 9, 1945, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp. The camp doctor, H. Fischer-Hullstrung, later remembered: [Just before the execution] I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor, praying fervently to God…so certain that God heard his prayer…I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.

Others testified that, up to his last day, the 39 year-old Bonhoeffer remained cheerful. He knew what he had to do, was reconciled to God’s will, and was able to climb the steps to the gallows “brave and composed.”

Who was this man who died so bravely—who Hitler himself, from his bunker beneath Berlin just three weeks before his suicide, ordered to be “destroyed?” He is the subject of best-selling author Eric Metaxas’ new biography: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Shortly after his conversion in 1988, Metaxas read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and learned the story of the young man who, “because of his Christian faith stood up to the Nazis and ultimately gave his life.” From then on, he was determined to tell the story to others. And tell it he has, and well.

Metaxas takes readers, in 592 pages, through Bonhoeffer’s entire life, from his parents’ courtship to his memorial service. No corner of the subject’s life is left unexplored. Through the author’s use of Bonhoeffer’s personal letters to family and friends, earlier biographies, interviews with those who knew Bonhoeffer, and other thorough research, readers get a comprehensive and balanced look into one of recent history’s greatest theologians.

Appropriately, Metaxas emphasizes Bonhoeffer’s theology and how it played out in his life. In contrast to “cheap grace,” Bonhoeffer believed that true grace influences all aspects of a Christian’s life. Christianity is more than formal religion, and it requires believers to be willing to sacrifice everything to God. Christianity is also more than legalistic morality. Ethics, according to Bonhoeffer, can’t be reduced to a set of rules. These beliefs are what led this humble and devout follower of Christ to be involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

How Christianity and assassination plots can be reconciled is hard for many to fathom–especially those who have lived only in peace and safety. We must consider Bonhoeffer in the context of his life, his country, and the war that he had no choice but to be a part of. Ethics, once so clear, become unclear. Do we lie to the Nazis, or do we give them information that leads to the deaths of innocents? Do we obey our nation’s laws, or do we defy them by leading Jews into safety? Do we fight in Hitler’s army, or do we refuse, knowing that we will be beheaded and leave our family destitute? These are some of the questions Bonhoeffer faced.

But readers can sympathize with Bonhoeffer. Metaxas masterfully inserts us into the protagonist’s world. We celebrate with him in his family’s parlor. We study with him in his illegal seminary. We watch with him as his world unravels. And we see him agonize over decisions, decisions that are not so clear, and decisions that he often had to make without the support of others.

Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer will be regarded as one of the best books of the year. I’ve learned, as expected, much about the life of a great and inspiring Christian. But I’ve also learned about the world, sin and evil, what it really means to be a Christian, and what it really means to live. There are a few books that, years after I have read them, I realize have had a great influence on me. This is sure to be one of them. You can’t go wrong with this book; I give it my highest recommendation.

I received a review  copy of this book through the Thomas Nelson Blogger Review Program.

Who Stands Fast?

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God–the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Book Giveaway to Commemorate the 65th Anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s Death

On April 9, 1945 (65 years ago today), Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian, was executed at the Flossenburg concentration camp for daring to stand up to the evils of Hitler and the Nazis. His death came just three weeks prior to May 2, 1945, when the Germans surrendered in Berlin.

Thomas Nelson publishing has graciously agreed to sponsor a book giveaway to commemorate this anniversary. Thanks to their generosity, two of my readers will win a copy of Eric Metaxas’s new hardback biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Metaxas is the New York Times bestselling author of Amazing Grace.

I received a review copy of this book through Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze Program a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve enjoyed it more than any other that I have read this year (or last). But due to its size (591 pages), I don’t have a review to offer you yet. I can tell you that when I do post it, it will be positive. (Update: You can read my review here.)

To enter, just leave a comment on this post. I will draw two winners on May 2nd.

Please let others know about this giveaway.

Thanks again to the folks at Thomas Nelson for sponsoring this giveaway. And thanks for reading.

Update: The winners have been selected and notified.

Bonhoeffer on Prayer

It is much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted in Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas

 

I have just this week began reading the book that will probably occupy my reading time for the next month–Eric Metaxas’ 550 page biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’m finding the book beneficial in several respects, and so I plan to take my time and get the most out of it. Don’t expect a review too soon.