A man with convictions is admirable; a man who dies for his convictions is worthy of emulation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer—pastor, theologian, civic leader, political activist—was executed at the hands ofthe Nazi party April 8, 1945 by hanging. While he had participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler, his execution was largely a result of his Christian activism, the impetus for which is apparent in his most famous work, The Cost of Discipleship. Part theology, part exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, this book has influenced Christians since its publication over 70 years ago.
The book begins with a contrast of "cheap" and "costly" grace, what Bonhoeffer sees as a man-made construct to induce comfortable feelings versustrue Christian faith predicated on pursuit of Christ. Cheap grace is both easily obtained and of little value, signifying nothing more than the mollification of any sense of moral obligation or Christian duty with platitudes and tautologies. Costly grace demands a life but gives a true life in return; it doesn't assuage the conscience, it redeems the will which in turn sanctifies the whole existence. It's easy to think the Church in our day is as bad as it's ever been—the fact that Bonhoeffer saw cheap grace as pervading the Church nearly a century ago lends considerable perspective.
He goes on to outline true discipleship using the Sermon on the Mount as a framework, mostly by delineating the ways in which true devotion to Christ will affect our relationships. What he calls for is not adherence to a proscribed moral code (other than that presented in Scripture), but a transformative saturation of the self with Christ to the point that we no longer do what we want but what He wants. The last two sections concern the nature and composition of the Church and each Christian's place within it.Bonhoeffer sees the Body of Christ as central to the accomplishment of broader as well asmore personal spiritual goals, and that avoidance of the assembly is dangerous for the group and for the individual.
Bonhoeffer writes with elegance and grace, but without apology or prevarication. This isn't a self-help book. There is no program to help you attain disciple status, no preferred methodology, no easy path. The rewards are not always self-evident, and their obtainment is usually beset with pain and sorrow. What Bonhoeffer seems to be saying in large part is that Christianity is not primarily for us but for Christ, and that we have to want Him more than anything if we are going to be His followers. That he clearly did himself is testament to the truth of his message, and to the sustainable power of our Lord.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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