Tag Archives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Orthodoxy as Primary to Morality

These are brief thoughts on why I choose orthodoxy. I hope to edit, and develop this later. It is, thusly, unfinished.

I am asked why I strive for orthodoxy when it is presumed this since I came from a fundamentalist background I am less likely to navigate towards orthodoxy. Shouldn’t I be atheist or worse — progressive? Or because I would like to consider myself one who studies Scripture on the academic level, shouldn’t I refrain from the perilous seas of orthodoxy? However I believe that orthodoxy has a lot to offer and it is what I choose to believe is the better form of Christianity. My intention upon becoming a United Methodist was not to be orthodox but to remain just outside of doctrinally indescribable. I insisted that I could have my own view of the Godhead. I insisted I could define easily the boundaries of what I would and would not believe. However, the more I approached church history and scripture as well as engagements with both conservative and progressive Christians, the more important orthodoxy became. It is in orthodoxy where I find the refutation of both conservatism and progressivism as well as the stabilizing force needed to renew the Church universal.

If given enough time on this earth I would like to explore every facet of the Christian experience. However I would do so within the orthodox framework. It is not because orthodoxy is empirical or because I can prove (as a matter of science) orthodoxy is “best” or “absolute;” however, I can show it is a matter of value and worth and should not be so easily discarded upon the trash-heap of modernity, post or otherwise. Orthodoxy is that lens that has guided us for 2000 years and will continue to guide us forward.

I do not see it as a restriction or a boundary — neither as some evolution of a conspiracy centered on maintaining power and privilege. I see it rather as like a teacher to guide us, to shape us, to mold us and to finally set us free to find a value in the lessons we have learned. In fact, I would suggest that orthodoxy developed as a counter to privilege, either imperial or personal, so that no one person could place a stranglehold on the Gospel.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.
Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Orthodoxy is not restrictive. Indeed as it restricts to contain heresy it also expands to build upon the lessons learned during the rebellion. We would not have the Trinity except we first had the faulty notion of the Father who died. Orthodoxy reigned and contained that heresy — and yet was able to expand into the doctrine of the Trinity we have today.

Orthodoxy does allow for exploration and even experimentation. Its rigidity allows for freedom. Indeed it allows for mysticism and challenging long-held notions. It allows us to experience Christianity from different points of view and different angles. But yet it always maintains that it is the truth even when it expands to take in that which we did not know.

I believe there is always room for improvement and to change no matter the system but if you seek to just simply abandon the system then it becomes an issue. We see the great thinkers of the past who improved upon what they had, not by destroying the foundations upon which they themselves were built but by tackling the subject at hand while grappling with new information and new questions. It is not that they shut everything out in a fundamentalist manner but they brought in new things to help enlighten truth that they already had.

We cannot too harshly judge the great thinkers and minds of the past and consider them as our contemporaries — complete with the problems and solutions we now ourselves enjoy. Orthodoxy does not mean that that which is past is always better; progress does not mean that which is now is likely any better.

When I examined orthodoxy, especially with my background as anti-orthodox, I find it a level that is both stabilizing and liberating. Without orthodoxy, without that ability to remain grounded on (not “in”) the past, the Protestant Reformation would’ve been derailed. This is why the free churches and others today have no specific context to progress or understand doctrines as the world itself shapes our questions and demands new answers. Orthodoxy is a structure in of itself and unites those who hold to it even if in the nonessentials they disagree strongly.

Orthodoxy, then, allows for us to actually progress, to move forward, to handle the world that is revealed to us daily. It gives us a basis for deciding how to handle these new things our sacred writings did not speak to. We cannot simply say “the Bible says” or “the Bible does not say” and expect that to remain unchallenged. There is a logic and consistency at work in orthodoxy. This logical consistency is met by the Mystery of freedom provided for in orthodoxy. But when we meet new forms of life and love we can expect orthodoxy to provide an answer for us, not in restricting ourselves to the past, but an opening ourselves up to what it means to understand the incarnation of Christ. Orthodoxy is founded not upon one thing (Scripture) itself a part of orthodoxy, but but several experiences.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, every doctrine must have a social intention.1 Therefore if we hold to the incarnation we can build our doctrine from the proper use of this, we can build our doctrine on the proper use of the body, the proper use of love, and the proper use even of doctrine. Justification likewise has a social intention we should explore in this modern world. Justification, like incarnation, is not a holdover of the past. It is one of the grounding doctrines of the Christian faith. The creeds mention that Christ has died for us. While we can explore atonement models and theories, we must always remember that the basis of justification is that we as a church, as a people, even as individuals are set right with God through the death and physical resurrection of Christ. Likewise, these two doctrines are dependent upon one another. Justification is effected only because of the unique, divine Son of God.

Westminster Abbey, West Door, Four of the ten ...
Westminster Abbey, West Door, Four of the ten 20th Century- Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These two doctrines are related in no less way to the doctrine of Creation itself, including to the image of God as St Athanasius tells us in his tract on the incarnation. If we properly understand the incarnation then we know what justification achieved. If we can grasp this, then we can finally understand the imago dei.

Everything we do as Christians — whether it is liturgical, practice, ethics, or morality — must come from proper orthodoxy and orthodoxy in its proper place. Without these things, the foundation of Christianity as we know it falls. For those like Oneness Pentecostals who believe in “Jesus only,” we must remember that the very book given to us that tells about Jesus — that book which we recognize in someway as an authority in our spiritual lives — is likewise given to us through orthodoxy. It was assembled by those who sought not to control or to have power but to protect and defend the Gospel as once for all delivered to the Apostles by Christ. Those who believe in a “Jesus only” Christianity do not truly exist as a Christian specimen except in their own minds. “Jesus only” Christianity is a logical fallacy and a paradox.

Is orthodoxy oppressive? No, not in of itself. Are people oppressive? Surely so. Those on the left who continuously claim that orthodoxy is oppressive fine their replication on the right with those who claim all things are persecution. I contend, with experience, that the oppressive systems are not orthodoxy but generally built around an independent personality, who believing him or herself more knowledgable than all of Church Tradition has created themselves a church. Orthodoxy itself is not oppressive, only those who misuse it and those who ignore it for their own private revelation.

Is orthodoxy biblical? Indeed, very much so. Further, the gospels testify to a level of orthodoxy, as well as a door to generous orthodoxy — if not heterodoxy. In Matthew 16.19, Jesus gives to Peter the much-discussed keys of the Kingdom. In John 20.21-23, Jesus gives to the Apostles the door of forgiveness. Matthew establishes a view of orthodoxy by not only using a rabbinical legality but also by pinning it to the role of the prime minister as found in Isaiah 22.22. Jesus created a line leading directly to orthodoxy. Further, Jesus was likewise exclusive. Jesus threatened to throw some into outer darkness. He had no issue saying “depart from me.” As much as Jesus was exclusive Jesus was likewise inclusive. He allowed that people could fall into that gray area of the middle as we see in Luke 9.49-50.

Let me return to Bonhoeffer. In Cost of Discipleship (293n.), he writes,

False doctrine corrupts the life of the Church at its source, and that is why doctrinal sin is more serious than moral. Those who rob the Church of the gospel deserve the ultimate penalty, whereas those who fail in morality have the gospel there to help them. In the first instance doctrinal discipline applies to those who hold a teaching office in the Church. It is always assumed that only those will be admitted to the ministry who are didactikoi, able to teach (I Tim. 3.2; II Tim. 2.24; Titus 1.9), “able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2.2). If hands are laid on any man before he is ready for his office, the responsi­bility rests with the ordaining minister (I Tim. 5.22). Doctrinal discipline thus starts before the actual ordination. It is a matter of life and death for the Church that the utmost care be exercised with regard to ordinations. But this is only the beginning. When the candidate has been approved and admitted to his office, he must, like Timothy, be admonished unceasingly to maintain the true saving doctrine. In this connection the reading of the Scriptures is especially emphasized. The danger of error is only too strong (II Tim. 3.10, 14, 4.2, 2.15, I Tim. 4.13, 16; Titus 1.9; 3.8). Further the minister must be exhorted to live an exemplary life—“Give heed to thyself and to the doctrine.”

It is not merely enough to say that what we teach must be biblical. Indeed what we teach must be orthodox. Because it is only by orthodox teachings we can understand the social intention of the Gospel. This is our fabric and our lens for viewing Christianity and questions that arise. Orthodoxy is not a rulebook nor is it a fence. It is a pathway protecting against stumbling blocks. It is what teaches us about morality and ethics and indeed, assigns to them importance. Likewise, it teaches us what love is and brings forth its primacy.

While John Wesley never articulated it so well, Wesley’s intention was not that far off from Bonhoeffer, which is not completely surprising given the Lutheran influence on Wesley along with Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran formation. While this is the case, Wesley did not suffer from the false notion that morality can exist independent of nor primary over doctrine. His teachings always began with correct doctrines, including justification. Justification, if we understand it correctly, leads us to holiness which is the goal of the Gospel. Even in his interpretative strategies, Wesley began with Scripture. He did not begin with morality. Correct morals comes from understanding God’s revelation and covenant. Orthodox doctrine without holiness is Gnosticism — that ancient and modern way whereby our salvation is dependent upon correct knowledge.

One of the stranger things about protestant orthodoxy is the fight’s inherent paradox. Perhaps if we contend for orthodoxy, we must likewise contend for those who established it, as enshrined better either in Rome or the East. Or, rather, we contend for the creedal orthodoxy, allowing for a small measure of Protestantism whereby we hold to the Creeds, forgetting that these were established by Councils and Councils Bishops and Bishops Apostles. If we contend for this creedal orthodoxy, wherein the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Resurrection are held as paramount next to Creation, Mary’s place in the Gospel, the Scriptures as a testimony to Christ, Justification, and a Church universal then we will do well enough. I still, however, find it difficult to contend for orthodoxy while ignoring, even in small pieces, those who establish orthodoxy.

When it comes to other forms of Christianity, I do not generally concern myself with them, finding something of value in Paul’s words of preaching Christ. On the other hand, if they pretend to be orthodox or if they are fundamentalism, then it raises my rancor. Indeed, I have little or no issue with gnostic Christians, Mormons or even American Baptists. I do, however, take issue with oneness pentecostals and progressives. I try to always watch my language and call those who attend or pretend to orthodox Christianity “orthodox Christians” and expect of them to be true to their self-identification.

So… there you go. Some thoughts. I wrote most of this while traveling down the road. Apple’s iOS dictation is awesome.  

  1. “Because God has entered human history, new relationships are engendered. Those who respond to this revelation bear a responsibility. Bonhoeffer insisted on the social intention of every Christian doctrine.” (Bonhoeffer’s Costly Theology – Christian History & Biography – ChristianityTodayLibrary.com).

Review: Bonhoeffer Works Vol 14 @fortresspress

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 14: Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937

Author: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Editor: H. Gaylon Barker and Mark S. Brocker

Hardcover: 1258 pages

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8006-9835-3

Fortress Press

Amazon

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Bonhoeffer’s works. So, it should surprise anyone that I received a review copy of Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 14 from Augsburg Fortress.

The book is split into three parts. Part 1 contains 154 letters and documents, both to and from Bonhoeffer. Part 2 contains exercises, lectures, and essays written by Bonhoeffer f. Part 3 contains sermons and meditations written by Bonhoeffer. The books is pretty evenly divided between letters and other writings (about half the book is letters with the other half being the other writings.)

The piece that I found most interesting was Bonhoeffer’s Lecture and Discussion on the Power of the Keys and Church Discipline (beginning on page 825). I found this piece to be interesting because of its proximity in writing to my favorite of Bonhoeffer’s works, Discipleship. One of the things that drew me to this particular piece is that we can see Bonhoeffer formulating pieces of Discipleship. This also allows us to see the development of Bonhoeffer’s ideas that later became a part of Discipleship.

There is a lot in this volume, but one aspect that I liked about this volume was the incorporation of the student notes found in Part 2.  For example, there are notes on Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession (337). From the footnotes, we know that these notes were taken by a student maned Joachim Kanitz. And Eberhard Bethge’s corresponding notes have this lecture given on July 15, 1935. It should come as little surprise that most of the student notes found in this volume are from Eberhard Bethge; however, if you spend some time looking through the different student notes, you will come across the names of other students. I personally thought this was interesting because it adds a new dimension to Bonhoeffer’s works, especially during his time teaching at the seminary. It’s not just Bonhoeffer’s words that we have here, but also the words of his students.

This is an excellent resource for those studying Bonhoeffer. There are a plethora footnotes that cross-reference other letters/papers/documents in this volume as well as other volumes in the series. My only complaint with the volume is there are several items that were published in the Nachlaß Dietrich Bonhoeffer that are not included in the English edition. Those items not included can be found in Apendix 6 (1043). All told, this is another excellent volume in the series!

Disclaimer:
I received this book free from Fortress Press. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review of “Bonhoeffer the Assassin?” by @BakerAcademic on the @AcademicLogos Platform

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1939 in London
Click to Order via Logos

Logos sent along a nice review copy of a new book: Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking. The focus of the review is not so much the argument, which I will get to, but why Logos. I previously shared some pictures of the iPad version.

The point of this review is not so much the content or the argument; however, I can never pass a good argument up. Unfortunately, Nation fails to deliver a solid response to the still-as-yet historical fact that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who preached pacifism, attempt to kill Hitler. There are, of course, variations on what this meant. Did the German theologian provide care, direction, or even help in planning? Or perhaps he was ready to kill the monster himself. Regardless, this fact does not sit well with those who hold that had Bonhoeffer attempted to kill Hitler, then his preaching is far less reliant than had he not.

I, of course disagree. Regardless of our theological tenets and ethical stances, we must always wrestle with them, especially the face of such cruelty as of that imposed by the Third Reich. If Bonhoeffer had had a chance to kill Hitler — if both men were alone in a room, say — but refused, how much more the moral monster might we think the theologian today rather than the somewhat hypocritical ethicist. Indeed, if we do not wrestle with our positions, we slide into fundamentalism of which the end is always disaster.

Nation, Siegrist, and Umbral argue from silence too often. Rather than taking Eberhard Bethge’s memorys as factual they desire to supplant it with theological expectations. Bethgre was part of the conspiracy. Logic dictates, then, that the testimony of a man this close not only to Bonhoeffer (as student) and to the conspiracy must have some weight. Yet, the only argument put forth by the authors seems to be that we cannot know the facial expressions therefore we really do not know what was said (89). They overrule reasonable plausibility with concern of theological preservation.

I must suggest this book as an exercise in discovering the Historical Jesus.

But, on to the Logos platform. I prefer electronic editions of most things. Indeed, I have the Kindle, iBooks, Goodreader, Inking, Olivetree, and, of course, Logos on my iPad. I like the versatility electronic editions give me as well as the cure for my inability to write in books. With the Logos Bible Software program, I have the ability to not only have an extensive library by my side, whatever my travels, but I have the ability to keep all of my notes and highlights as well. Further, whether I make a note on my iPad, iPhone, or Mac, the note is synced across the library. Of course, this is the same with Kindle and Olivetree, but Logos does something better. With Logos, I can copy and paste into my word processor and expect the correct footnote, with correct page number, to show up.

Logos also provides the timeline feature. For instance, if I am building a timeline of 20th century Christianity, I but need to find the flags next to each mentioned date (available in all resources) and pin them to the timeline. There are existing timelines, but by doing this, I can create a specific one. Not only this, Logos has the excellent search feature, not just for this resource, but so too for all resources. Note, when I search for anything in my library, this will now be among the resources searched.

All in all, if I was going to buy this book, I’d buy it in Logos. As a matter of fact, my first instinct is to always go to Logos because there I have not just the ability to always have it, but the ability to really make use of it.

I have a video review posted:

Here are some pictures from the Mac version:

timeline logos bonoeffer

bib sources bonoeffer logos

Search bonoeffer logos

Inside “Bonhoeffer the Assassin?” by @BakerAcademic on the @AcademicLogos Platform

Logos sent along a nice review copy of a new book: Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking. The focus of the review is not so much the argument, which I will get to, but why Logos.

I have Kindle, iBooks, and Logos. As one who does a lot of reading, as well as research, I like to keep all of my notes and scribbles on one platform. Kindle is fine, but if I had my choice, it will always be Logos. And here is why. Attached are three photos of the inside of the book. The Logos version, if you have the other books mentioned herein, will include links to other books in your library. This is extremely helpful given the amount of books I have.

Further, I really like the set-up of this one in Logos because of the footnotes. The footnotes are honest-to-goodness footnotes. Anyway, have a look:

20140203-111700.jpg

20140203-111708.jpg

20140203-111714.jpg

In the email via @logosacademic and @bakeracademic, Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking

Most of us think we know the moving story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life—a pacifist pastor turns anti-Hitler conspirator due to horrors encountered during World War II—but does the evidence really support this prevailing view? Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking carefully examines the biographical and textual evidence and finds no support for the theory that Bonhoeffer abandoned his ethic of discipleship and was involved in plots to assassinate Hitler. In fact, Bonhoeffer consistently affirmed a strong stance of peacemaking from 1932 to the end of his life, and his commitment to peace was integrated into his theology as a whole.

Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking – Logos Bible Software.

Can’t wait to read it!

Just Arrived From @fortresspress


Thanks to Fortress Press for sending along copies of Interpreting Bonhoeffer: Historical Perspectives, Emerging Issues by Clifford J. Green and Guy C. Carter and Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 14. I’m excited to start reading both of these books.

Just Arrived: Bonhoeffer the Assassin?


Thanks to Baker Academic for sending along a copy of Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking buy Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist and Danie; P. Umbel. I’m looking forward to diving into this book!

Review of @IVPress’s Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture


It is no secret that I enjoy reading Bonhoeffer. I first stumbled across Bonhoeffer during my first year of seminary. We had to read Discipleship as part of our Church History class. I was hooked from page one. I have read several other of Bonhoeffer’s books, including Act and Being, Creation and Fall, Life Together, and Prayerbook of the Bible. I also have several volumes of the English edition of Bonhoeffer’s Works. All that said, I am by no means a Bonhoeffer scholar.

The theme for the 2012 Wheaton Theology Conference was “Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture.” I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get to go, but was excited to see this book was put together. All the contributors to this books were presenters at the Conference that year.

I’m just going to jump in and say that I loved this book as a whole. For the most part, I found the book easy to read and yet well researched. The vast majority of the chapters were enjoyable to read and I even learned more than a few things. The authors themselves come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of these authors have previously written on Bonhoeffer (Lori Brandt Hale, for example, is the secretary for the International Bonhoeffer Society).

There were a few chapters that stood out to me, most notably Chapter 3, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Christ” by Reggie L. Williams. I will admit, the fact that I enjoyed this chapter as much as I did came as a shock to me. On first glance, I honestly thought this would be one of those chapters that didn’t stand out in one way or another. I’m glad to admit that I was wrong. This was the chapter that I read and reread in the same night because I thought I might have missed something in my first read through. Williams talks about how Bonhoeffer’s exposure to the Harlem Renaissance affected his witness later in Nazi Germany. I found the whole chapter to be fascinating.

The one chapter that I had any real issue with was Chapter 2, “The Evangelical Reception of Dietrich Bonhoeffer” by Timothy Larsen. My biggest complaint with the chapter is not so much the Evangelical reception of Bonhoeffer itself. My biggest complaint is Larsen seems to shake off the charge that Bonhoeffer has been hijacked or co-opted by Evangelicals. The whole discussion of Evangelical co-opting of Bonhoeffer usually involves a book written by Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Larsen cites a review by Clifford Green as just one example of those that charge that Bonhoeffer is being hijacked. What Larsen doesn’t tell you is Clifford Green is the “[f]ounding president of the International Bonhoeffer Society, English Language Section” and that he currently “serves as Executive Director of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Translations Project.” He has also edited several volumes of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series. Victoria J. Barnett, another editor of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series, has also reviewed Metaxas’ book and comes to the conclusion that the Bonhoeffer Metaxas presents is not the real Bonhoeffer. There are other reviews out there that state something similar.

I also find it very disingenuous when Larsen writes, “Evangelicals have been able to provide valuable correctives that present a more accurate picture of a complex man and theological legacy. Rather than thinking in terms of co-opting, I would argue that the evangelical attitude towards Dietrich Bonhoeffer is analogous to the evangelical attitude of Augustine of Hippo. Evangelicals like and admire Augustine’s life, thought and writings, but they do not pretend that he was an evangelical in the contemporary American sense of the term.” (51) In what ways have Evangelicals provided “valuable correctives?” Sadly Larsen does not give any examples.

Again, overall, I really enjoyed this book. I’m sure it is one that I will be referring to over and over again.

Just Arrived

Thanks to Adrianna Wright for sending along a review copy of Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture.  I will be reviewing the book here in the next few weeks. Looking forward to reading this one!

The Revolution against Violence – Bonhoeffer @theird

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Conference Announcement: Bonhoeffer, Christ, and Culture

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was one of the most compelling theologians of the twentieth century. Moreover, his life and writings continue to fascinate and challenge Christians worldwide. The Wheaton Theology Conference will explore Bonhoeffer’s thought and ministry, focusing particularly on his views of Jesus Christ, the Christian community, and the church’s engagement with culture. In the twenty-first century, Bonhoeffer’s legacy is as provocative and powerful as ever.

Go here. You can register and see previous conferences