Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Bonhoeffer’s title suggests that one must pay to be a disciple but I read the book as more of a guide to being a good person while living by Christian values – whether or not subscribing to the belief system as a whole.

In the first section, he warns of the distinction between cheap and costly grace outlining that cheap grace is that without discipline or practice.  His main example is to ask forgiveness and enjoying the consolations of forgiveness without really following the gospels that grant this forgiveness. He has a greater esteem for the costlier grace and refers to it as a more hidden treasure.  This seems to be, and in doing a little research is found to be, the backbone for many church-promotion groups.  This is another way that the Church uses fear as a motivating factor to recruit members. (Read: Job)  And it is even a way to motivate already-committed Church-goers to be more adherent to Church laws.  It seems a lot to me like saying, “Well, you may be a Christian, but you’re just not Christian enough.”

Bonhoeffer argued the secularization of the Church claiming that it doesn’t demand the requirements of absolution that are found within Christ, however he blames this on monasticism because it seemed to be an indication to all non-Monastics that they didn’t need to follow such regiments.

I liked his section (24) on The Suffering of the Messengers, it seemed very prevalent today as we live in a society where religion is almost seen as a mental illness in extreme cases.  Very bluntly, Bonhoeffer say that “the messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time” (215).  This is probably sad but true.  Anyone who considers himself a “messenger” or a “martyr” or “invincible” will be hated by the masses.  I don’t agree that we should hate these people, because I think that hate has no beneficial place amongst humans, but I definitely think that we need to take some people with extreme beliefs with a grain of salt.  I even found myself sporadically scoffing at Bonhoeffer’s extreme statements such as, “The fact [that the return of Jesus will take place suddenly] is more certain than that we shall be able to finish our work in his service, more certain than our own death. This assurance that in their suffering they will be as their master is the greatest consolation the messengers, as Jesus have.” (216) I find myself adhering more to the faiths which don’t push suffering forth so prominently as a way to serve your lord.

I’m trying to figure out whether Bonhoeffer thinks that we all need to be disciples to Christ, or if he is just offering suggestions as to how to become so.  Claiming that, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son…. There is trust in God, but no following of Christ.” (64) seems to suggest on his part that being a Christian without obedience is time wasted because trusting God is useless without following Christ.

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