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BOOK REVIEW: The Cost Of Discipleship

Sculpture of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Fritz Fleer in front of St. Peter’s Church, Hamburg
Image by David Meisel

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Guest post

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 — April 9, 1945) was a Protestant Lutheran Pastor, theologian, and active in the German resistance to the policies of Hitler and Nazism. Due to his opposition to the Nazi regime, Bonhoeffer was arrested and executed at the Flossian concentration camp, during the last month of the war. He remains an important symbol of opposition to Hitler, and his views on Christianity increasingly influential.

In 1927, he graduated from the University of Berlin. He gained a doctorate in theology for his influential thesis, Sanctorum Communio ( Communion of Saints). After graduating, he spent time in Spain and America; these gave him a wider outlook on life and helped to move him from academic study to a more practical interpretation of the Gospels.

He was moved by the concept of the Church’s involvement in justice and protection of those who were oppressed. While the election of Hitler was widely welcomed by the German population, including significant parts of the church, Bonhoeffer was a firm opponent of Hitlers ideology. Two days after Hitler’s election Bonhoeffer made a radio broadcast criticizing Hitler, and in particular the dangers of the idolatrous cult of the Fuhrer. His broadcast was cut off mid-air.

In April 1933, Bonhoeffer raised opposition to the persecution of Jews and argued that the church had a responsibility to act against this kind of policy. Bonhoeffer sought to organize the Protestant Church to reject Nazi ideology from infiltrating the church. This led to a breakaway church—-The Confessing Church which Bonhoeffer helped to form with Martin Niemoller. The Confessing Church sought to stand in contrast to the Nazi-supported, German Christian movement. However it was difficult to agree on bold initiatives to oppose Nazification of society and the church.

Bonhoeffer felt disillusioned by the weakness of the church. He went to serve a German speaking Protestant church in London. During this period, Bonhoeffer wrote extensively on subjects of theological interest. This included “ The Cost of Discipleship” a study on the Sermon on the Mount and argued for greater spiritual discipline and practice to achieve the costly grace.

“Cheap grace is the preaching about forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living incarnate. “. Dietrich Bonhoeffer ( The Cost of Discipleship).

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1 comment

Plebney October 10, 2022 at 1:41 pm

Ya, I was finished after the churches allowed government to dictate their worship and fellowship practices.

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