Bonhoeffer Speaks

Bonhoeffer Speaks Today is an important book, especially for those of us in the SBC. Bonhoeffer is not the poster-boy for Evangelical theology, nor is he the liberal caricature he is sometimes portrayed as. But where he is right, he is a shining example to the church of Christ, and where he is right is where it matters most. Dr. Mark DeVine, Professor of Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has given us an accessible, brief, and powerful treatment of Bonhoeffer's life and doctrine. In a time when American christians, and Southern Baptists particularly, often love safety and shun suffering, have bought into the materialistic values of the west, reject the sufficiency of Scripture in determining the will of God, and exalt the priesthood of the believer, over the reformation (and Biblical) concept of the priesthood of all believers, Bonhoeffer's words, and DeVine's treatment of them, deserve special attention.

Chapter One is the story of Bonhoeffer's life and helpfully explains some of the man's personality, theology, ministry, struggles and death. It will likely feel a bit long to some readers, but it is important to put a human face on the famous author. I have read The Cost of Discipleship a few times and this chapter helped me to process what I have already read.

Chapter Two gives us Bonhoeffer's perspective on Christian ethics and "Knowing and Doing the Will of God." I have already blogged a bit on this chapter here, but let me summarize by saying that this is a Scripture-centered, Gospel-driven approach that really resonates with me.

Chapter Three dives into the issues of the image of God, the individual, and 'The Community of Believers." DeVine's explanation of the value and place of the individual in Bonhoeffer's writings is wonderful. Bonhoeffer is quotes as saying, "through the call of Jesus men become individuals." As important a place the community has in the theology of Bonhoeffer, there is no relationship with Christ apart from his response to the risen Savior. And yet, salvation and the work of God happens in and through the redeemed community. Great words here for all of us, especially as one truth often ecplispes the other by becoming an exagerated half-truth.

Chapter Four speaks to the popular issues of "Witness and Relevance." Bonhoeffer warns the church of the danger of pursuing relevance rather than proclaiming it. One does not make the Bible, or the Gospel, relevant. It is the most relevant issue a man must face.

Where the question of relevance becomes the theme of theology, we can be certain that the cause has already been betrayed and sold out.... The intention should not be to justify Christianity to the present age, but to justify the present age before the Christian message.

He cautions against nationalism in the church as a culprit in silencing the prophetic voice of God's people. And yet he encouraged a "worldly Christianity," not promoting blind assimilation of church into culture, but pointing to the church's responsibility to understand its culture, and speak to it in words it can understand.

Chapter Five hits so many different themes, focusing on "Freedom, Suffering and Hope," I will only say it is a powerful end to the book. The German pastor calls us to pursue God, not happiness, and in doing so we will find true happiness. All of this comes in the context of experiencing freedom and suffering while anticipating future glory.

The book is not just worth your time, it is important. Get it, read it, pass it on. Or better yet, tell your friends and church members to buy their own copy. This was a wonderful book on many levels, but most importantly I am hopefull of walking closer with Christ because of it.