Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dietrich Bonhoeffer The Cost of Discipleship The Beatitudes, The Righteousness of Christ, The Brother, Women, Truthfuln 105 - 139 Instigator: Eric

Instigator: Eric
Pages: 105 - 139
Sections: The Beatitudes, The Righteousness of Christ, The Brother, Women, Truthfulness
Instigation Deadline: EOD - 3/9/09
Response Deadline: EOD - 3/11/09


Eric said...

We must have different edition of the book because my chapters and pages don’t seem to match yours. For this post I have read (or mostly read) chapters 5 (Discipleship and the Individual) through chapter 11 (Truthfulness) pages 105 to 155. Also included in this section is chapter 7 (The Visible Community) which was not listed in the heading for this discussion.

Anyway, there is a lot to digest in this section. In chapter 5 (Discipleship and the Individual) DB talks about the aloneness of the call to discipleship. Essentially saying that we are separated from everything by Christ. To quote DB, “Since his coming man has no more immediate relationship of his own any more to anything, neither to God nor to the world.” He further states that “The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion.” He goes on to say that Christ stands as an unbridgeable gulf between one person and another. And that all relationship to others must be through Christ. To turn this around, any relationship not through him is an illusion.

Now, I fully understand the gulf between God and man and that Jesus is the mediator in that relationship. However, I am having a hard time getting my mind around his assessment of human relationships. So, question 1, what is your take on DBs assessment of human relationships, and what if any practical application does it have?

Throughout the chapters on the Beatitudes and The Visible Community DB seems to imply that poverty and privation are essential elements of the life of the disciple. There is very little poverty and privation in the church I attend. In recent years the “Prosperity Gospel” has gained some popularity (mostly through Joel Osteen and his like) and I suppose most mainline evangelicals (myself included) would publicly disagree with the “prosperity gospel” idea; however, I think most of us still live that way, perhaps somewhat subconsciously. So, question 2. DBs privation or Osteen prosperity which do you think is right or is there some middle ground that can be achieved in the life of a disciple of Christ?

Question 3. Do you think the Christian church in the USA is completely out of touch with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Why or why not, and if so, how did we get here.

John said...

Hi Eric Good Questions. I have some thoughts of my own to share but I will start with some quick takes on the questions you ask.

Question 1: I am struggling with DBs concept of relationships with others. I believe humans are valuable in and of themselves. Even if God died, or ceased to exist, or just didn't care our relationships with others would matter on their own merits. I agree that it is unlikely we can have a great relationship with God if we have an issue with our brother but DB almost seem to have a position that maintaining a good relationship with our brother is a means to the end of a good relationship with God. I do feel DB trivializes relationships with others.

Question 2 - I'm definitely for prosperity personally. I think commerce and free markets are a great thing. I also believe in the rule of law and treating everyone with respect and dignity and looking to serve our fellow man in every way possible while at the same time striving to do the best for those you love and are responsible to. So, in the end prosperity or poverty are really not a goal in themselves. Serving others should be our goal. Caring for our loved ones should be our goal. Moving the whole of man kind toward physical and emotional well being should be our goal. Bringing the talents and abilities we have been blessed with to bear on helping our fellow man should be our goal. I don't think being poor should be a goal in and of itself nor being rich. I think service is our goal. Why should we help the poor if our goal is to be poor. A vow to poverty sounds like a vow to have others do good by helping us because we are poor. It just does not make sense to me. I have heard some of Olsteen's sermons and will likely hear more. I like some of them. Some of what he says I disagree with.

Question 3 - I have no idea. I think it is really easy for churches to get distracted and start missing the point. I think the history of the church is a story of the church missing the point and then some splinter group reacting to that and really focusing on God and then eventually that group grows (or gets snuffed out) and if it grows it starts to get off track until another splinter group reacts in a positive way and starts to go in the right direction and repeats the process. I think churches should focus on helping people develop their personal relationship with God and teach them to do right and work to serve. I'm not sure churches are doing a great job of that.

Dad said...

I will address Eric's questions first. I think John's comments are good and I pretty much agree with them.
#1. Since Jesus is God, if we have accepted Him we do have an immediate relationship with God. I do not understand how we can only have relationships with others thru Jesus. I sometimes have a hard time with DB's reasoning.
#2 I think focusing on either poverty or prosperity misses the point. We need to focus on Jesus and how He can use the abilities and talents we have been given to serve Him and help others.
#3 I think that much of the Christian church in the USA is out of touch with the Gospel (many reject and do not believe the Bible). How did this happen? Mostly by rejecting the Bible as the only revelation of God to us. This started in the seminaries and then spread. The clergy thought they were smarter than God.

Chapter 6 -- The Beatitudes
It seems to me that all of these characteristics are a description of humility. There are rewards but when? On earth, millenium, or Heaven? It looks like the rewards for humility will be in Heaven. Am I reading this right? Are we never to stand up for our "Rights"? That goes against everything we hear today. What do you think?
Chapter 7 -- I will make a comment and quit for now. We are the light of the world (Jesus's only witness). The question is --How bright are we in our enviornment(home, community, work, church) If we are a bright light, does that contadict what we learned in chapter 6?

Dad said...

Some added random thoughts from Chapters 8-11
True followers of Jesus desire to do and keep the Law (it is not a burden). Contrast that with --trying to keep and do the law to please and gain favor with Jesus.

The concept of forgiveness for past actions seems to be totaly left out of DB's discusions.

An important concept is that we as Christians should always be truthful - hence an oath of any kind is unnecessary. It seems to me that if we are always truthful; then giving an oath in court (which is primarialy a ritual) should not be an obstacle.

Matt said...

Well, I am simply astounded at how hard it is to actually read a book these days. I knew the magazines were coming faster than I could read them but this is ridiculous! If the kids are awake and I sit on the couch, they're on me with their own books in seconds. If they're asleep I'm either too tired to concentrate on a cerebral book or working on a home improvement project, actually both, and falling behind in projects even faster than I'm falling behind in reading.

Never fear, though! I'll skip ahead right now and be ready for my section next week.

John said...

Regarding Dad's questions/comments on chapter 6 I had some of the same thoughts. I think he is saying that our rewards are in heaven. I really struggle with this. It seems to be too disconnected. The idea that what I do now only matters in so far as how it impacts me in the future heaven state. I still really feel what happens now and what I do now matters now regardless if there is a heaven or not and regardless of whether it matters in heaven. Regarding the conflict in chapter 7 he mentions that conflict later but I don't know that he addresses it very well.
Also, I agree. It would be an over reaction to refuse to take an oath of office of to take an oath in court.

Matt, I look forward to your cogent thoughts next week.

Thomas said...

I don’t think DB is necessarily saying that poverty and privation are requirements of being a disciple. I think DB is saying that a follower of Christ doesn’t have much use for material things and such because all his needs are met in Christ. To follow Christ means that what is of value to the world is not of value to the disciple because the disciple values Christ above all things. I could be wrong here, but that was kind of what I was seeing. To follow Christ means to lay aside one set of values to take up another set of values. Values of humility, meekness, and mercy. Of course that’s easier said then done.

I also have to admit I’m not a big fan of the prosperity gospel. I’m more in DBs camp when it comes to that issue. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Christ ever preached that by following Him, a Christian should reap earthly rewards, or that following Christ was a path to riches. The only riches are in Heaven, I think. On earth, the Christian’s job is to love. Everything else is in God’s hands.

As far as relationships, I think DB is saying that the best way to reach others, as a Christian, and have a genuine relationship with others is to do it through the spirit of Christ and not through ourselves. I mean, DB is saying there is really nothing meaningful for the Christian that doesn’t first come through Christ. That’s pretty much the premise he is basing everything on.

Like John, I struggle with a lot of this, too, especially the implications. Like Eric alluded to, is there a middle ground? I don’t know. But what might be a possible way is the “love” ethic that DB talks about later, which, to me, is the core message of Christ. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One last thing, one of my favorite stories is the Epic of Gilgamesh, written on stone tablets around 2000 BC. Anyway, after Gilgamesh’s best friend dies, Gilgamesh is in terrible grief, and seeks out the answer to eternal life to bring his friend back to life so they can live forever and never have to be separated. Of course, he fails. He learns that man’s fate is to die. That man is not a god, and that eternal life is not meant for man.

In regards to the discussion and DB, I guess my point is that we as human beings think we can figure things out when in reality we can’t. We are very limited. Our reach always exceeds our grasp. In the end, we are flesh and blood. We are bound by that. Who can say they know the mind of God? Not me. I muddle through as best I can. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? What does Christ really ask of us? If it is to love those that despise me, those that are despised, as much as I love and cherish my family, then I will fail at every turn. But if it’s to reach for that love, and sometimes touch it, then I can probably muddle through.