My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

15 April 2008

More from Bonhoeffer

When Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship, he was struggling to call the Lutheran church to wake up and prepare for to do battle with national socialism. His prescription went much deeper than mere laziness. He blamed it on poor theology masked with good theology. I read this paragraph with my mouth open (people at the coffee shop think I'm a little weird anyway); it is bracing prophecy, a powerful tonic even today.
We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcase of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ. It is true, of course, that we have paid the doctrine of pure grace divine honours unparalleled in Christendom, in fact we have exalted that doctrine to the position of God himself. Everywhere Luther's formula has been repeated, but its truth perverted into self-deception. So long as our Church holds the correct doctrine of justification, there is no doubt whatever that she is a justified Church! So they said, thinking that we must vindicate our Lutheran heritage by making this grace available on the cheapest and easiest terms. To be "Lutheran" must mean that we leave the following of Christ to legalists, Calvinists and enthusiasts - and all this for the sake of grace. We justified the world, and condemned as heretics those who tried to follow Christ. The result was that a nation became Christian and Lutheran, but at the cost of true discipleship. The price it was called upon to pay was all too cheap. Cheap grace had won the day.

I'm not convinced this exalting of the doctrine of free grace is the problem in reformed churches today, but this is a clear warning: we are not justified by the doctrine of justification. We are justified by Jesus. A misplaced focus will give birth to a host of errors and sins.

2 comments:

Daniel Howe said...

From my beloved Anglican ethicist, Oliver O'Donovan, in his thoughtful essay on homosexual politics:

"There can be no change of voice, no shift of mood, between God's word of forgiveness and his word of demand, no obedience-without-gift, no gift-without-obedience. The gift and the obedience are in fact one and the same. They are the righteousness of Jesus Christ, encompassing and transforming our own lives, past, present and future. To preach the good news, then, is precisely what we do in expounding Christian ethics, if we expound Christian ethics faithfully. Preaching the good news is the only form of address of which the Christian church as such is capable, whether speaking to Christians or to non-Christians."

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