I just finished listening to the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was inspiring on many levels; intellectually, spiritually and on a praxis level.
Just to real how committed and intelligent Bonhoeffer was is pretty amazing. I often wish i was smarter but then i hear about a guy like Bonhoeffer and it makes me realize just how much smarter i wish i was. He was seriously committed to learning and growing and participating in intellectual spiritual conversations and growth. He did this even when his life took him the way of the pastor rather than the academic. One thing i have attempted to do every since college has been to always be reading something a little on the headier side. I’m reading a book by Andreas Andreopoulos on the Transfiguration right now. Not academic but a little beefier than your average Christian pop-culture book (i’m reading a couple of those as well). But yea, Bonhoeffer inspires in this way.
Often pastors and academics get smart and theologically robust in their thinking but lose the personal edge to their salvation. Bonhoeffer was far from this. Despite his intellect he engaged in the pursuit of God’s will for his life in a truly inspiring way. Each major decision in his life was thought over and prayed about. It wasn’t a shallow evangelical pursuit of God’s will but rather a robust, thoughtful pursuit of what and where God was leading him. I want that in my own own life. Not to worry over the parking spot i pick but also not assuming God inspired my pick of jobs or destinations when i never even stopped to pray and seek His help.
And praxis. This is putting your faith into action. Not letting blanket morals and standards govern your life but instead engaging God in a real world, letting him form thoughts and opinions and ultimately letting God shape and form all the functions and living of your life. Your living actually being shaped by the living, resurrected Christ, this is the most impressive characteristic of Bonhoeffer.
One of the questions i began to think about toward the end of the book was this, “Am i dangerous enough?” Bonhoeffer was sidetracked and eventually killed because he was dangerous to the evil in his world. His life, ministry, preaching, living and service was all a dangerous participation in the Kingdom of God. Every day he lived and every breath he breathed was a furthering of God’s kingdom here on Earth. To the evil in our world Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a massively dangerous man. I’m not that dangerous. That kind makes me sad. It challenges me to think about how i can, even if in little ways be dangerous to the evil in my world. Maybe it’s the evil of consumerism, selfishness, nationalism or business. There are evils i could be dangerous to but most times i fail. I want to find ways, small and big to be more dangerous as i participate in the prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Here are a few of the things i marked / noted as i was listening to this great book…
“Kierkegaard says, ‘man belongs either to the or the moral or the artistic type.’ But he did not know of this house (the Bonhoeffer house) because it formed a harmony of both.” [ Chapter 2 ]
Bonhoeffer disagreed with one of his more liberal friends but appreciate his pursuit of truth. “Anyone on the side of truth was a compatriot to be lauded.” This generous theology is one that i love and one that isn’t found often in the American church. Bonhoeffer thought you should be able to argue and differ both civilly and productively in the pursuit of God. I agree. [ Chapter 8 ]
“I pray that God will give me the strength not to take up a weapons.” Some people see Bonhoeffer as a pacifist and other don’t. But it was his extremely nuanced ethics that keep him from these categories. And it was statements like this that push him into the category of the non-violent for sure. [ Section 2 chapter 7 — Chapter 21 ]
“I think i am right in saying i will only achieve true inner clarity and honesty by really starting to take The Sermon on the Mount seriously. Here alone is the force that can blow this idiocy sky high like fireworks, leaving only a few burned out shells behind. The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to The Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.” Yea, that’s just good! [ Section 2 chapter 8 — Chapter 22 ]
“Theological work and real pastoral fellowship can only grow in a life that is governed by gathering around the Word morning and evening and by fixed times of prayer. Do not try and make the bible relevant, it’s relevance is axiomatic, do no defend Gods Word but testify to it. Trust to the Word.” [ Section 2 chapter 9 — Chapter 23 ]
I just think it was really cool that as he grew and thought through things he turned to a more set and liturgical way of doing things. Fixed hours of prayer and regular bible study individually and corporately. This is why his work – Life Together is so compelling.
Bonhoeffer had a friend and confessor. He trusted this person to criticize and shape his theological ideas and to share his inmost struggles. They prayed together and worshiped together daily. I guess i just think this is pretty amazing, to have a person you so throughly trust and are connected to. Many people are scared of this kind of intimate relationship. I pray i would find a person to whom i would connect with and be able to open up to in such a honest way. I think we should all want it. [ He talk about this in Section 3 chapter 2 ]
I have a few other book marks i could share but this post it long enough so this will do for now. It’s a really great book. Bonhoeffer was a really great man. It’s a pretty huge book, over 30 hours of audio but worth every minute!
Grace and peace