When Christ calls a man...
...He bids him come and die.
That's right. In today's evangelical circles, grace is entirely too cheap. And I had to read one of Bonhoeffer's theological works to find out what real grace looks like. Today's review, my friends and fellow bibliophiles: The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The Main Thesis:
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace...An intellectual assent to [Christ's grace] is held to be of itself sufficient to secure the remission of sins...Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before...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 Jesus Christ.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought...Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer thoroughly rounds out the premise that God's grace requires everything in return. Using Matthew Chapter 5-10, he explains section by section Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which lays out the life Jesus' followers are to live. Then he applies it to the modern church and what that looks like today. The Cost of Discipleship is divided into four sections: 1. What grace is--a call to discipleship. 2. The Sermon on the Mount--the "extraordinariness" of the Christian life. 3. The messengers--what disciples of Christ looks like. 4. How the Church today reflects the image of Christ.
First of all, I will say that this is the first straight theology I have read of my own accord. I fear me, it was more for Bonhoeffer than for it's own sake at first, but by the first chapter, I was challenged, thrilled, and eagerly drinking it in. That's saying a lot for a die-hard story fan, because Bonhoeffer doesn't use a single story, illustration, or biblical parallel in this whole work. He quotes the Scripture, and lays out how we are to follow it.
And I felt as if I was quenching my thirst with a really satisfying drink.
I may have disagreed with Bonhoeffer on a couple of points: when he discusses baptism, he takes a side tangent into infant baptism. While I agree with him on some of his thesis, namely that baptism should be undertaken with holy reverence; I would argue that I only see where believer's baptism would fulfill the Scriptural requirements. I realize that different convictions are held on this point, and I have many respected friends who believe otherwise, so I mainly raise this point for those who hold to believers' baptism to be aware of.
The second point I might pick with him is on the matter of judging others: Bonhoeffer holds, and rightly so, that we should not judge others. But he fails to point out a very important aspect of this: First we should remove the beam from our own eye, and then remove it from our brother's. We do not judge, but Scripture does, and it is not wrong to gently point out sin in our brother's life, with all graciousness, humility, and tact.
Those points aside, and they are small parts of the whole really, this book refreshed my soul and taught me much. Bonhoeffer teaches that we should hold Christ's grace in high reverence, that Christ is the one who calls people to him. It's not a free ticket to heaven, it's a call to be justified and sanctified. His point helped me better express my own thoughts on this area. Secondly, his chapter on forgiveness and correction in the church was quite eye-opening; I had some hazy ideas on this, similar to his own, but he helped shed some more light on it. And thirdly, his appeal to simply follow Christ--not looking to our own profit, or our own good works--was challenging indeed.
He packed myriads of Scripture into his points. His theology is sound, well-referenced, and thought-provoking indeed. It's quite a simple read, though the last chapters do get a bit long, and I give my highest recommendation to this work.
Following Christ is not merely intellectual assent. It is a revolution to a man's whole way of existence.