Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Discipleship...and its Cost

While we were studying the 1930's in our homeschool I wanted to address European affairs. Even though my son is a senior, I think a deep understanding of European history helps us better understand American civics and history.

I'm an avid book collector and years ago I found Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship at a used bookstore. I bought it and it has sat unread in my bookcase while I've dug through piles of other books for our homeschool studies. Now we are studying the 1930's at the rhetoric level. Bonhoeffer's book stood out.


I recently finished reading The Cost of Discipleship and was powerfully affected by its message, of how the rise of Nazism drove Bonhoeffer's theological leanings, with implications for today. I shared some of what I read on facebook where I have a friend who was reading the biography on the author, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. At first I passed it off as a possibility for summer reading, when I was done homeschooling. As we continued to chat about Bonhoeffer and The Cost of Discipleship, I became driven to get the biography and incorporate an additional 500+ pages into our homeschool reading.


My son has a solid understanding of 20th century American history. I trusted Bonhoeffer would be the key I was looking for, to give us a further glimpse into European history. Why and how did Hitler come into power? I was currently reading Winston Churchill's, The Gathering Storm. Churchill repeatedly warned Britain and Europe of the dangers lurking at the hands of Hitler. His warnings fell on deaf ears. The people, tired from the horrors of WWI, felt that if they placated Hitler and gave him what he wanted, they'd be left alone. As insightful as Churchill has been, how intriguing to get a perspective from within Germany.


More on Bonhoeffer, the biography, later. For now though, I wanted to share some quotes from The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937, a year before Hitler's tanks roll into Austria, and then Czechoslovakia. (That is as far as we've gotten in our studies.)

For a preview of the biography though, I learned that the German Lutheran church f the 1930's supported Hitler to the extent that they effectively rewrote the Bible and made Hitler god. Bonhoeffer spoke against this but his words fell on many deaf ears. He and others formed the Confessing Church. In the book, Bonhoeffer elaborates on the definitions of cheap grace and costly grace. To paraphrase, cheap grace is claiming Christ without following the teachings of the Bible, living as one wishes instead of as Christ leads. In cheap grace, Jesus is not viewed as Lord. However costly grace submits to Christ, follows the Word, and seeks His will. Jesus is viewed as Lord. Bonhoeffer expounds upon these ideas as he looks at the Sermon on the Mount, found in the book of Matthew, chapters 5-7.

And now, for Bonhoeffer's words:

"Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace." p43

"The price we are having to pay to-day in the shape of the collapse of the organized Church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost." p54

"How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?" p55

"...some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and gives them the grace of martyrdom..." p89 (Note: Bonhoeffer was martyred shortly before the Allies came into Germany.)

"Suffering means being cut off from God. Therefore, those who live in communion with him cannot really suffer." p92

"How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink from that passion in our own lives?" p144

"They (Christians who choose costly grace) wander on earth and live in heaven, and although they are weak, they protect the world; they taste of peace in the midst of turmoil; they are poor, and yet they have all they want. They stand in suffering and remain in joy, they appear dead to all outward sense and lead a life of faith within." p270-271 (Summary of the Beattitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3-10)

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