Christian America and the Cruciform Church

January 9, 2014 By  

“Christian America” is that form of American Christianity that operates by way of seeking to show the importance of Christianity for culture at large in terms of its strength, sustainable solutions and resilience to gain and maintain control. But is this the way God in Christ always or even chiefly operates?

Perhaps we can learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s approach to German Christianity and the surrounding culture in the mid-twentieth century. Bonhoeffer wrote about being dead to the “God of the gaps” kind of Christianity. “God of the gaps” Christianity seeks to present Christianity as playing a strong savior role whereby it fills the gaps and provides the missing links for all of society’s questions and concerns. This entails the view of God riding into town and miraculously saving the day (deus ex machina). On this view, God delivers his people from their (and his) enemies—in Bonhoeffer’s case, the Nazis. In contrast, in Letters and Papers from Prison, Bonhoeffer writes that God allows us to push him out of the world and onto the cross. For Bonhoeffer, at this stage in his journey, God is weak and powerless in the world. For Bonhoeffer, “man’s religiosity makes him look in his distress to the power of God in the world: God is thedeus ex machina. The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help.”

For readers who don’t know it, Bonhoeffer’s story is what really makes the God-in the-gallows lesson come live.

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