Two reasons why Dietrich Bonhoeffer has nothing to say to American Christians today (3 of 3)
|January 5, 2013||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
But, it will be said, “Bonhoeffer was trying to stop the killing.” Since Hitler lashed out in fury after the failed assassination attempt, the efforts of the conspirators led to more killing, more suffering, not less. It is not the duty of Christians to assassinate wicked rulers. Hitler’s Reich was destroyed by the God-ordained authorities of government as Paul allows in Romans 13. That does not mean we have to stay in our churches just discussing theology either. If, as has been said already, enough German Christians had fought Hitler on a spiritual basis, relying on the Spirit and the Word of God to oppose the lies of Naziism with words of truth, this could have made a difference before Hitler came to power. That failing, spiritual opponents of Hitler could at least have cleared their own souls and done their part to witness for Christ.
A second reason why Bonhoeffer has nothing to say to us today is that his actions and his beliefs were not based on belief the Word of God. I suppose I shouldn’t even bother to mention his denial of the historicity of Genesis in his book Creation and Fall , as many Christians today don’t care about that anyway. The good news is that Jesus died for sinners – who cares if God speaks to us about the creation in the language of mythology?
However, there are serious problems with basing the beginning of the revelation of God on mythology. Paul said that sin came into the world by one man. If we have mythology in Romans, in the heart of the gospel, how can we take his solution for sin seriously? Also, this attitude of unbelief never stops with the first few chapters. It extends to Jonah and to Noah. Christ spoke of them, and of Adam and Eve – if anyone thinks he was speaking of myths here, this casts a question mark over everything else Christ said and did.
Bonhoeffer did not merely deny the historicity of Genesis. A little leaven does in fact leaven the whole loaf, as Christ said, and Bonhoeffer went on to question the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ. He said, arguing that our faith was not tied to or limited to historical fact, “Is our faith then ultimately only faith in the empty tomb? . . . Empty or not empty, it remains a stumbling block. We cannot be sure of its historicity. The Bible itself shows this stumbling block, when it makes it clear how hard it was to prove that the disciples had not stolen the body. Even here we cannot escape the realm of ambiguity” .
Here is what Bonhoeffer said about the virgin birth of Christ: “The question, ‘How?’, for example, underlies the hypothesis of the virgin birth. Both historically and dogmatically it can be questioned. The biblical witness is ambiguous . . . does not it [the virgin birth] fail at the decisive point of the incarnation, namely that in it Jesus has not become a man just like us?” . In other words, if Christ was born of a virgin, then he was not really a man like us.
Speaking of Christ, Bonhoeffer wrote, “If Jesus Christ is to be described as God, we may not speak of his divine being [!!!], nor of his omnipotence, nor his omniscience; but we must speak of this weak man among sinners, of his manger and his cross. If we are to deal with the deity of Christ, we must speak of his weakness.” Elsewhere in this context he writes “The Church gazes always only at the humiliated Christ . . .” .
Many other comments could be made, but to conclude, Bonhoeffer also stated that textual and historical criticism had shown some parts of the gospel accounts of Christ to be inaccurate, that they contain sayings by Christ which in fact he never said – but, since Jesus is risen from the dead, we have no need of an inerrant scripture. “There may be some difficulties about preaching from a text whose authenticity has been destroyed by historical research. Verbal inspiration is a poor substitute for the resurrection! It amounts to a denial of the unique presence of the risen one” .
Bonhoeffer denied the infallibility (and hence the true deity) of Christ. “Simply stating the sinlessness of Jesus fails if it is based upon the observable acts of Jesus. His acts take place in the homoioma sarkos. They are not sinless but ambiguous. One can and should see both good and failure in them.” Because Jesus was truly human, he also sinned and failed at times, as we see on the previous page where Bonhoeffer says Christ “was harsh to his mother . . . he broke the Law of his people, he stirred up revolt against the rulers . . . Beyond question, he stepped into man’s sinful way of existence” .
There are numerous danger signals in Metaxas’ biography. For example, Bonhoeffer stated “I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth – genuinely loved each other – will remain together with God, for to love is part of God.” .
Did the people who praised Metaxas’ book read this part? Did they read where Bonhoeffer said that we cannot reach God with our own prayers, so we need to recite the Psalms so God will hear us? . Have people become so excited about Bonhoeffer that they do not even know what Christianity is anymore? Or is it that they just hear some nice words about God and suspend all further judgment?
I understand that hero worship of Bonhoeffer has now reached such an advanced state that people do not care if he questioned the inerrancy of scripture, the virgin birth of Christ and the bodily resurrection. Such people are easily fooled and ripe for further deception.
. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall and Temptation: Two Biblical Studies (New York1997), pp. 30, 49-50.
. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christ the Center (New York 1978), p. 112.
. Ibid., p. 105.
. Ibid., pp.104, 113.
. Ibid., p. 73.
. Ibid, pp. 109, 108.
. Erich Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville 2010), pp. 86, 84.
. Ibid., p. 368.