Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Discipleship Costly Grace, The Call to Discipleship 43 - 78 Instigator: Jon

Sections: Costly Grace, The Call to Discipleship

Jon, your up. Please instigate by commenting on this post.


Jon said...

I'm all over it...

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

Instigate - verb
1. to cause by incitement; foment: to instigate a quarrel.
2. to urge, provoke, or incite to some action or course: to instigate the people to revolt.



It's been a few years since I stepped into the ring. As the bell rang, I thought I would take half a round to dance around, sort of gauge just how long Dietrich's arms were and whether he likes to jab or throw roundhouse left hooks. Chapter one landed just below my right ear and made the room spin.

It's easy enough to "Amen" his description of cheap grace-- "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." (page 44-45)

But this is when the room started to spin: "Above all, [grace] is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: 'Ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us." (page 45)

Reminds me of this old hymn that I grew up singing (feel free to hum along, if you know it):

I Gave My Life for Thee
by Frances Havergal (1858)

I gave My life for thee, My precious blood I shed,
That thou might ransomed be, and raised up from the dead
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?

My Father’s house of light, My glory circled throne
I left for earthly night, for wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?

I suffered much for thee, more than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony, to rescue thee from hell.
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?

And I have brought to thee, down from My home above,
Salvation full and free, My pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?


In choosing the phrase "costly grace," Dietrich (like this hymnwriter) seems to be painting the grace of God in terms of a transaction--something is given, and something is owed in return. "I love God because He first loved me." The transactional model of God's love and grace is so deeply ingrained in us that we don't even think about what it would mean if it were [shudder] actually true.

It was some relief to read the history that led DB to write this chapter, especially this: "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...To be 'Lutheran' must mean that we leave the following of Christ to legalists, Calvinists and enthusiasts--all 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." (p. 53)

Ah, now I see why the roundhouse left. He seems to be swinging at the chin of every German churchgoer--not necessarily at me, a simple guy trying to walk with Jesus.

So I leave you with these two questions:

1) Is Dietrich presenting a transactional view of the grace of God--that our sense of discipleship is born of our indebtedness to Him for what He did for us? If yes, how do you feel about that?

2) So far, does this book come across to you as a hard hitting devotional, with thoughts that you personally might "take to heart"? If not, then what does it feel like to you?

[I'll post some comments about chapter 2 tomorrow...]

John said...

Wow. This was a hand full. First Jon's questions. Is it transactional? This are my thoughts not necessarily DB's. I don't think it is transactional at all. I see it as God is offering a better way and in order to participate in that better way you have to stop what you are doing and start doing the better way. Here is a bad metaphor. If you were a farmer in a poor country who has bandits who take away part of your crop all the time and then this hero comes along and risks his life and kills some of the bandits and says "come with me to this other place and there are no bandits and corps grow better." You can either go or not go. If you say "I believe the hero" but keep farming where you are then you don't believe.
It's not a transaction it is a free offer to something different.
Regarding how the book comes across: It fells more like a challenge that a devotional. I don't think it is the kind of thing that you "take to heart" It's demanding you make choices. It is a little more pushy than a devotional.
Additional random thoughts.
DB is a whole hearted Christian. He doesn't mess around with defending the faith or apologetics, or "evidence that demands a verdict." He is a christian and he assumes you are too.
On page 46 he seems to imply that Peter receives forgiveness for his own martyrdom. That is a little concerning. His thought on monasticism are interesting. Oddly the monks were often the most affluent people in the community. I think monasticism is an unsustainable approach to Christianity.
Basically in chapter 1 he is attempting to wrestle with the concept of false or empty faith against works salvation. It's a narrow path. If you veer to the left your faith is empty and you are not a disciple. If you veer to the right you are trying to save your self and you are not a disciple.
Chapter 2 starts with a bang. "The response of the disciple is an act of obedience not a confession of faith."
There are no pansy followers of Christ. It's not an arm chair intellectual pursuit where you confess and believe the right thing. You have to do what you are called to do.
Page 59 "An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on the forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous, and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever, and are essentially inimical to the whole conception of following Christ."
DB is very person/Jesus focused. You're not following a concept or adhering to a system. You are following a person.
Page 63 "It is only the call of Jesus which makes it a situation where faith is possible."
The concept of the call ups the ante. Not only must you follow a person not an idea or a system which is passive and to some degree you control but you have to be invited. You have to respond to his call.
I think that his detailing of the disciple's calls was interesting. Especially Peter in the boat. It really accentuated DB's point about the importance of the call. It is presumptuous to act without first being called. Peter asks Jesus to call him out on the water.
I like to think that for the disciples being called there is a back story we don't get. Perhaps they know Jesus before and talked about things after synagogue abut how things should be and then one day Jesus comes up and says "this is it. We've talked about this stuff but now we are going to act on it. Are you with me?"
The challenge to the rich man was interesting. Follow me or don't. All of your questions and difficulties are just excuses to not follow or delay following. There is obedience and excuses for disobedience. Two choices.
I think this chapter is well wrapped up but this quote at the end.
"Perhaps you still think you ought to think out beforehand and know what you ought to do. To that there is only one answer. You can only know and think about it by actually doing it."

Dad said...
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Dad said...

I am not good a theology, debate, or argument. What I can do is sort out what passages say to me. I will take this approach in this study.
Cheap Grace results in preaching forgiveness with out repentence. Also results in lack of discipleship.
Costly Grace must be sought over and over again -- it must be asked for.
It requires us to follow Jesus.
It required Jesus to die.
It required DB to die
It required most of the apostles to die
It requires some in third world countries to die even today.
It require putting Jesus and self last.
How can we live the Christian life in the modern world? Can we live the true Christian life in todays enviornment?
Jesus call requires an awnser.
Service without being called is ineffective.
If we are to be a disciple, we must respond to His call. Each persons situation will be different. Jesus interacts with us as individuals ,not as groups.
Faith and obedience are linked together -- you can't have one without the other.
Bonhoffer goes into great detail to conclude that "The step of obedienc must be taken before faith is possible" pg 66.
God calls -- man must take the next step -- then faith helps and propels you to further obedience.
I agree with Jon - the concept of cheap grace is hard hitting.
We specialize in cheap grace in many of our churches in the U.S.
It is different in many 3rd World countries where following Jesus may mean suffering, imprisonment, and even death.
I do not look at this book as a devotional but rather as a wakeup call

John said...

Sometimes I have the same question as Dad does about being a disciple in the modern age. I agree with Dad also. This book seems like a wake up call.

Dad said...

I posted before Mom looked it over. We found several mistakes. Sorry, including leaving out a word. Should be - put Jesus first and self last. I will do better next time.

John said...

No worries Dad.

Thomas said...

I'm not done reading the section under discussion yet, but I thought I’d throw out a few preliminary remarks based on what has already been said.

I agree with the “wake up call” idea by Dad. However, to me anyway, it seems DB is challenging the reader, almost in confrontational way, about how far and deep our commitment to following Jesus is. So in that regard I agree with John.

So far, the idea of costly grace has many components, like Dad said, but it also requires a “cost” from the follower, a high cost, which is a price that may be too big for most of us to pay. How much are we willing to pay to follow Jesus? In other words, what are we willing to give up, or give in to, or walk away from, or change about our lives and personal convictions in order to follow Jesus?

These are tough questions. Penetrating. Just how committed are we? And if we aren’t, what does that mean? To extend Jon’s metaphor, that’s a barrage of combination punches with an uppercut, smack to the jaw. I’m a little wobbly. DB is tough.

Eric said...

I don’t know whether or not DB is implying a transactional view of grace but he was getting uncomfortable close to a works salvation for my taste. My understanding of grace from Eph 2: 8-9 is that grace is free, a gift given to us with nothing expected in return. Because there is nothing we can give or do that could repay God for the grace he has given us. I believe that God looks at us (believers) through the blood of Christ and sees a righteous person. So from God’s perspective we are righteous and don’t owe a dept, which is the beauty (and mystery) of grace.

I can buy into the idea that disciplehsip is costly. The "Take up you cross and follow Me" kind of discipleship comes at the price of giving up your life competely to God to do with as He pleases. That is costly, from an earthly perspective, to the individual.

Now to me there is a distinction between grace and discipleship. But I don't think that Bonhoeffer necessarily makes this distinction. I think to Bonhoeffer grace and discipleship are one and the same. Can’t have one without the other. As such the cost of discipleship is also the cost of grace. And in his mind since most christian aren't really buying into the discipleship thing its not costing them anything, hence cheap grace.

Eric said...

As to call of the disciples John mentioned, I’d like to make a comment. I’ve been reading a book called “Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Time of Christ” by Alfred Edersheim. In it there is a chapter on education. All young boys are sent off for their religious education. At the end of each level, those who make the grade move on, those who don’t go back to the family business. None of the disciples, apparently, made the grade and were all sent back to the family business. In the end you have the best of the best of the best who complete their education and their goal is be called to be a disciple of a rabbi (put on that rabbi’s yoke, follow and promote that rabbi’s interpretation of the Law). Getting called by a rabbi was one of the greatest honors in Jewish culture. So to the disciples, whether they had any prior history with Jesus or not, this call to be a disciple of Jesus was a great honor. It made them “so to speak” among the best of the best. And, I think Jesus’ point in calling this group of guys who “didn’t make the grade” by the world's standards was to demonstrate that anybody can put on Jesus “yoke” and follow Him because His yoke is easy (Matt 11:29-30).

Apply this as you will to Bonhoeffer’s costly grace.

Eric said...


As to your comment about the cost of following Christ being "too big for most of us to pay" Do you mean unable or unwilling to pay? In 2 Corinthians 12:9 the Apostle Paul says, after describing a burden he did not think that he was able to bear, "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

So I am not sure it is a matter of unable but unwilling on the part of most folks.

Eric said...

I should also add that our ability to follow Chist comes through the grace of God. On our own I acknowledge we are unable to follow Christ. So then the question becomes am I willing to step out on faith, that God will come through, and do something that I know I can't do on my onw.

John said...

Hi Eric. I have heard something like what you describe about the rabbi thing. I think it makes a ton of sense.

Matt said...

Robert Lewis calls it "The paradox principle."
We must die to live. Die to self, in order to live for Christ, which is the only way to truly live.

I didn't get a works salvation out of it, I got, like I think Jon did, a wake up call.

pg 50: "If grace is God's answer, the gift of Christian life, then we cannot for a moment dispense with following Christ. But if grace is the data for my Christian life, it means that I set out to live the Christian life in the world with all my sins justified beforehand. I can go and sin as much as I like, and rely on this grace to forgive me, [...] It is under the influence of this kind of "grace" that the world has been made "Christian," but at the cost of secularizing the Christian religion as never before."

I've only read chapter one so far (and I will catch up in time to contribute on time for the next section!) but I didn't get a confrontational feeling like Thomas did. I'm not sure if that's because I prefer hard hitting sermons in church that make you squirm and that was chapter one was, or because there's a little defensiveness left over from how the chapter started. I, too, felt like he started out saying, "If you're comfortable and unwilling to assassinate someone, then you're relying on cheap grace," but I think the message was not that at all. I think the message was one of a fundamental shift in mindset, that you have to understand that grace came at the ultimate cost at we should fall on our knees praising God for that grace everyday, not simply accept it.

My two cents, and thanks to mom and dad for getting me the book since I was too poor to buy it and too lazy to get to the library on time.

John said...

Thanks to the two cents Matt. He doesn't take his foot off the pedal much in other chapters either.