Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dietrich Bonhoeffer The Cost of Discipleship Single Minded Obedience, Discipleship and the Cross 79 - 101 Instigator: Thomas

Thomas - You are up to bat.
Pages: 79 - 101
Sections: Single Minded Obedience, Discipleship and the Cross

Please instigate by posting a comment to this.


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


Okey-dokey. I've read chapters 3, 4, and 5. DB is not letting up. He's keeping our feet to the fire. Good stuff.

First of all, in response to Eric about "unable or unwilling" to pay the cost that DB lays out. I guess it was more of a question of how far one is willing to go to follow Christ. Give up your home, family, beliefs, convictions? That sort of thing.

I think, in some ways, DB is telling us that following Christ involves giving up something. Big somethings. Major sacrifices. It means stripping away the veneer of our lives, relationships, and beliefs. And then it means being willing to toss them away so that we can be rebuilt by Christ. It means the ultimate surrender. To illustrate that, DB uses the example of Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac (99).

Anyway, a couple of questions come to mind:

1. Do you think DB is taking the idea of “discipleship” to an extreme, especially in a modern context?

2. In DB’s view is there any room for the layman, or is all or nothing? Is Christ really calling all Christians to be “disciples”?

dad said...

I will start out with my observations and then comment on Thomas's comments.
Good comments Thomas
Single minded obedeince goes against everything we know, feel and observe. Biblical examples abound - Abraham, Noah, Joseph, Daniel,Paul, some of the apostles yet they all had failures and sin in their lives. We can think of modern day men who seem to have single minded obedience such as Billy Graham, Peter Hammomd (founder of Frontline Fellowship in Africa) and some but not all missionaries.
Most of us have many "well reasoned excuses" not to obey - that would not work in the Army,at work, or on a ball team but seem to thing ist is OK when following Jesus.
As believers, we made the first step of obedience and then "wing it" for the rest of our lives.We are willing to go part way in faith but not all the way. We are saved but inefective.
DB seems to me to use many paradoxical and convoluted arguements in his thinking and reasoning. Is he confused or am I. In the end - With God all things are possible. pg 85
After our "first act of obedience" (salvation), additional acts of obedience thru faith determines our effectiveness as followers of Jesus
I am taking a pass on chapter 4
Chapter 5 --We need to accept Jesus as mediator (go between) not only in our relationship with God but also our relationship with the world.
Jesus calls us as individuals, and works with us as individuals -- we must respond to him as individuals.

Thomas asks "is DB's idea extreme" Yes! but I fear that only extreme is effective.

Thomas asks "is there room for laymen" I risk being long winded but here goes. Many clergy are not very obedient and not very effective just as many laymen are not very obedient or effective. God gave each of us gifts and abilities, some pastors and teachers, others more mundane gifts (laymen ?) but all necessary. Being effective depends on our obedience as individuals. In the Old Testement, the priests were mediators between God and man. The priest did most of the religious work but the laymen still had to obey. In the church age, Jesus Christ is mediator and we access God directly thru Jesus. We are all important.

John said...

I will make a brief comment then respond to Thomas' questions. Then later I have some of my own comments.

Brief Comment: Darned if I don't feel a bit like the rich young ruler reading this.

Question 1: I think that DB is extreme but I think the Bible is extreme also. That is the point. I think it extreme in the modern context and in the historical context.

Question 2: I agree with Dad that there is room for laymen but I'm not sure yet that DB does. I'm hoping he gets into that. It's hard to figure out how you give up everything but still spend most of your time making money. I do think I can think of a Biblical sample that DB would feel is a good examples of discipleship. The woman taken in adultery. If my memory serves me correctly he told her to go and sin no more. In that society that would mean leaving her boy friend with no where to live and no modern social safety net. Definitely a step of faith. But then if she went to full time service it is still not a sample of laymen. Abraham would be a better example.

Thomas said...

John makes a great point about the Bible being meant to be extreme. Therefore, I want to amend my first question.

How do you reconcile the extreme nature of discipleship laid out by BD (a willingness to sacrifice everything in one’s life) with other messages that Jesus proclaims, where the emphasis is on faith and love (not that they are any easier than sacrifice) as the major requirements for a follower of Jesus?

For example, Mark 12 says this:
“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.”


Eric said...

Hey guys. Sorry but I haven’t been keeping up with the reading very well. I have been working 6 12 hours days a week since the beginning of February and I’m starting wear down. Only one week to go though. I think that I have read enough to make a little bit of a contribution.

I liked dad’s comment about “winging it”. I think that is entirely true.

Tough questions.

Based on my reading of the New Testament Jesus was a radical. He said a lot of thing that didn’t seem to make sense, the first shall be last, love your enemies, you must die to live etc., etc. He turn Judaism on its head. The Jewish leaders hated him. The sinners, the down trodden, the oppressed loved him. He changed the course of western civilization and has influenced millions upon millions of people. So yes I think Christianity is extreme. Now whether DB is going to a further extreme then Jesus, I don’t know.

As to the question of whether Jesus is calling all Christians to be disciples, I believe that he is. In Matt 28:19 Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. However, I don’t think that discipleship means ridding yourself of all earthly possessions and attachments. I don’t think DB is suggesting that you pick one or the other (layman or disciple) as much as trying to wrap is arms around how to mesh them together. I like what the guy who wrote the memoir said, something to the effect that not everyone is called to be a hero. In other words not everyone is called to do what DB did, or what the apostles did, or what many others have done for Christ throughout history. I believe that Jesus calls on some Christians to do more than other. But that doesn’t mean we, as layman, are allowed to be any less committed to obey him or any less ready to answer the call if it comes. And for most of us the call to be a hero doesn’t come. But we have to be ready.

Now I believe that Jesus point with the rich young man was not that we should all sell everything that we own and give it to the poor but that we get rid of anything in our lives that prevents us from putting our faith, our security and or hope in Jesus. I believe that Jesus command to the rich young man was literal for him but not necessarily for all of us. Jesus didn’t command everyone to give up their wealth. Consider Joseph of Arimathea who was a rich man and a disciple of Christ. The rich young man’s faith was in his wealth and Jesus knew that wasn’t going to change while he still had it, so he told him to get rid of it.

Anyway, I might be off my rocker.

Thomas said...

Definitely not off your rocker, Eric. That made a lot of sense.

Eric said...

I like what Jon Foreman wrote in one of Switchfoot's song. I am presuming that he is making referenc to God. "Take what you want from me empty til I'm depleted I'll be around if I'm ever needed."

I wish I had more, some, a little bit of that attitude. Sounds a lot like discipleship.

John said...

I think this quote on page 81 is interesting. "Father tells me to go to bed, but he really means that I am tired, and he does not want me to be tired. I can overcome my tiredness just as well if I go out and play. Therefore though father tells me to go to bed, he really means: 'Go out and play.'"
DB makes a point to not rationalize the call. Eric makes a good part about Joe of Arimethea. He was a rich guy who was not called to give up all of his riches (as was Abraham for that matter).
DB goes to great pains to both emphasize that selling all riches or any other great outward of expression of obedience in and of it self is meaningless but at the same time you can't use that fact to justify not making the sacrifice you are called to face.

Big question: How do you know what you are called to do? How do you know what your cross is?

Page 88: "Once more, all that self-denial can say is: 'He leads the way, keep close to him.'"
I think this reflects one of DB's big ideas: that it is about following a person not following an ideology.

This is also reflected in page 95 & 96: "It is never a deliberate act whereby we renounce all contact with the world for the sake of some ideal or other."

He sounds a lot like Kierkegaard only you can actually understand what he is saying.

In chapter 5 he is a little anti "Wild at Heart" in that he emphasizes the importance of the individual to alone turn to and follow Christ. The "Wild at Heart" concept emphasizes having a partner.

Thomas said...

This thought just occurred to me in light of what John and Eric have been saying. Perhaps what needs to be sacrificed is whatever is preventing you from fully loving Jesus. Maybe it's whatever you love more than God is what has to go.

In Abraham's case, he had to be willing to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, his only heir, who was the most important thing to him on this earth, because Abraham loved his son more than God.

If that's the case, then it's not so much about whether you are rich or not, but if riches and the pursuit of riches are getting in the way of your love for Christ.