I’ve often heard folks recommend reading living and dead authors. Lewis in the previous generation and now Piper seem to be two who have trumpeted this advice. Why do we need to do this? Well, because there is nothing new under the sun. Though it may be new to us, it isn’t new to mankind. It seems that Church History is one long story of heresies being recycled again and again and re-dealt with by the faithful.
So, to deal with Muslim rejections of the Trinity, you need to look at the orthodox writings just pre and post Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, though you can look at what others in other times have written as well. Peter Kreeft suggests giving Pascal’s Pensees to your agnostic post-modern friend as Pascal’s exhortations to those of his own age are once again ringing true for today’s unconvinced unbeliever.
I hope to tackle the Pensees soon, but I have just started a book by another dead author, though a little more recent than Blaise Pascal. I have to confess that I’ve never read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. I think it is by the grace of God that I am just encountering it now. I’m not sure that I would have been able to receive it rightly earlier in my walk. In truth, I still tend to make quick judgments, and only later come around to a more full understanding. So, with TCOD, I would have probably taken in the intense, challenging parts and forget all about the balance of grace, love, and Godliness. So, you would have seen a 20 year old ME walking around condemning everyone for their lack of commitment to Christ.
Anyway, what I wanted to share from the intro and chapter one is this: I believe that some of the concerns that folks have today about the emergent movement (EM) are spoken to by Bonhoeffer. Let me say really quickly that I know not all emergent folks are the same, so I am speaking of that area of the movement in which coming to definitive conclusions on important Biblical doctrines is discouraged (including the Trinity, the sinfulness of man, the deity of Christ, etc) because it might scare off certain seekers. Having said that, I was so surprised in the Intro to see Bonhoeffer saying quite passionately that we ought not to allow our “manmade” doctrines and rules to keep unbelievers from finding Jesus. You hear very similar things from some of the champions, and often debated leaders, of the EM. Of course, what Bonhoeffer means by “manmade” and what some emergent folks mean by it, I’m willing to bet my left pinky, are very different things.
But it is certain, the idea of NOT keeping people out of the Kingdom seems to be a mantra for some in the EM. Yet, as we’ll quickly see, where they go from there as compared to Bonhoeffer is like boarding a boat for Tarshish when you’re supposed to end up in Ninevah. Whereas EM folks make that statement in order to dissuade making definitive statements about the truth of Christianity, Bonhoeffer actually rushes headlong into the necessity of those definitive statements. Whereas the EM folks seem to water down requirements for entering the Kingdom, Bonhoeffer is about to challenge us to throw wide the doors to the Kingdom by requiring much more from those we seek to reach. We all need to be concerned with whether we are in fact inhibiting folks from entering the Kingdom, but there are strikingly different philosophies circulating regarding how this ought to be done.
What I found odd was this: not that Bonhoeffer encourages us not to put up walls to men and women entering into the Kingdom (Jesus himself rebukes the Pharisees for doing just this thing in Matt 23:13). But that this was the beginning to a book that I KNOW from others is about to lay out a terrifyingly difficult plan for following Jesus. Of course that difficulty is in the eyes of man, not from the eyes of one walking in the Spirit. An EM book starting with this intro, I can only guess, would have ended up in a completely different hemisphere from where Bonhoeffer takes it.
And so, after reading the Intro, I thought to myself, “How can Bonhoeffer talk about not erecting barriers just before he seemingly does that very thing?” The answer is given in Chapter 1 which I hope to blog about within the next day or two, and it is summerized by the difference between cheap grace and costly grace, or as the chapter title describes it, it all depends on how we see the relationship between grace and discipleship. We can answer the question of “How do we keep from blocking folks’ entrance into the Kingdom?” in a cheap grace way or a costly grace way. One removes all barriers, including the truth, so that folks can enter, while the other emphasizes the beauty and worth of the truth so that standards aren’t lowered, but that the journey becomes a joy, a pearl of great price or a treasure worth selling everything for. One doesn’t actually open wide the doors of the Kingdom, but actually closes them. The other charts a hard, but joyous course by which one may find the Kingdom doors thrown wide.
More coming soon…