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by DANIEL AUSBUN, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, MORELAND
Before Jesus ascended to heaven He told the 11 disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
What does this mean? How is someone in Moreland, Georgia supposed to make disciples of all nations? Unfortunately disciple making is regarded as an eight-week study filling in the missing word. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Discipleship isn’t an offer that man makes to Christ.”
Disciple making is the most time-consuming, hardest, and most productive work a Christian can engage in.
“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”
“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”
“If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all. … How can I possibly serve another person in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard his sinfulness as worse than my own?”
“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”
|February 4, 2006, was the centenary of the birth of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian and pastor who was executed by the Nazis in 1945 for his role in the resistance which sought, unsuccessfully, to assassinate Hitler, bring the crimes of the Third Reich to an end, and establish a new, morally legitimate, government in Germany. Bonhoeffer’s role in the resistance grew out of a theological worldview that was at once profoundly rooted in the Lutheran tradition in which he grew up and shaped by his friendships with such people as the French pacifist Jean Lasserre, an American black friend named Franklin Fisher, and the Anglican Bishop George Bell. One of the most brilliant theologians of his day, Bonhoeffer was not satisfied to pursue theology as a purely academic enterprise. He recognized that a divinity which is not homely, a theology which is not incarnate, is not Christian. The time in which he lived provided a dramatic, and costly, opportunity not only to articulate his faith, but to live it in an exemplary way.|
|In 1937, Bonhoeffer published Nachfolge, which first appeared in English translation (by Anglican scholar Reginald Fuller) as The Cost of the Discipleship, in 1949. Bonhoeffer wrote this book as he was wrestling with the competing claims of his pacifist convictions and his responsibility for his neighbor, particularly the Jews and others who were being persecuted and murdered by the Nazis. In this personal struggle, Bonhoeffer found himself at odds with the leaders of his own church who were more than willing to subordinate the demands of the Gospel to the policy of the state. For them, the peace of the church within a warring nation was more important than the peace of the world, and loyalty to the state a higher value than the protection of a neighbor in need. It was most certainly to them that the opening lines of The Cost of Discipleship were addressed:|
|“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace…. Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian “conception” of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In|
|such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God….. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
By this time, Bonhoeffer was already coming to the conclusion that he could not stand on the sidelines and that public statements were an insufficient response to the crisis at hand. He had been speaking out for years against the regime and its abuses from the pulpit and in other forums at home and abroad. But soon after the publication of The Cost of Discipleshiphe accepted a post in the German intelligence service where he became actively involved in high-risk efforts to save Jews and, eventually, to assassinate Hitler.
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The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) had a major influence on post-World War II Protestant theology. Executed because of his part in the German resistance to Hitler, through his actions and writings he called for Christian involvement in the world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on Feb. 4, 1906, in Breslau, the sixth of eight children. His father was a leading professor of neurology and psychiatry; his mother was the granddaughter of a distinguished church historian. When Dietrich was 6, his family moved to Berlin. He was educated at the universities of Tübingen (1923-1924) and Berlin, where he was awarded a doctorate in 1927 at the age of only 21.
Bonhoeffer’s doctoral dissertation, The Communion of Saints (1930), introduces some of his most characteristic emphases: a passionate concern that Christianity be a concrete reality within the real world of men; a wholly Christ-centered approach to theology, grounded entirely in the New Testament; and an intense preoccupation with the Church as “Christ existing as community.”
After a year as curate of a German-speaking congregation in Barcelona, Spain (1928-1929), Bonhoeffer spent the academic year 1930-1931 in the United States as Sloane fellow at Union Theological Seminary. In fall 1931 he became a lecturer in theology at Berlin University, and his inaugural dissertation was published that year asAct and Being. Two collections of his lectures were later published: Creation and Fall (1937), an interpretation of chapters 1-3 of Genesis; and Christ the Center, published posthumously from student notes. The latter work foreshadows the central idea of his last writings—Christ’s whole being is His being-for-man, and His powerlessness and humiliation for man’s sake are the fullest disclosure of the power and majesty of God.
Resistance to Nazism
Bonhoeffer was one of the first German Protestants to see the demonic implications of Nazism. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer helped organize the Pastors’ Emergency League, which became the nucleus of the Confessing Church of anti-Nazi German Protestants. While serving as minister to a German-speaking congregation in London (1933-1935), he sought support from international Christian leaders for the German Christians who were protesting Nazism.
In 1935 Bonhoeffer returned to Germany and founded a clandestine seminary to train pastors for the illegal anti-Nazi church. The seminary, located chiefly at Finkenwalde, continued despite Gestapo harassment until 1937. Bonhoeffer organized the seminary as a living workshop in Christian community and developed close relationships with his students. Out of Finkenwalde came The Cost of Discipleship (1937), a clarion call to active obedience to Christ based on the Sermon on the Mount, and Life Together (1939), a brief study of the nature of Christian community.
As war became increasingly inevitable, friends arranged an American lecture tour for Bonhoeffer with the hope that he would remain in the United States indefinitely. But only 6 weeks after his arrival in New York, he decided to return to Germany to suffer with his people.
Bonhoeffer became a member of the German resistance movement, convinced after much soul searching that only by working for Germany’s defeat could he help save his country. From 1940 to 1943 Bonhoeffer worked on a study of Christian ethics, which was grounded in the biblical Christ as the concrete unity between God and the world. The sections he completed were later published as Ethics (1949).
by JOE CARTER
Fred Phelps Sr., the former leader of the Westboro Baptist Church—a Christian-based family cult — died last night at the age of 84. Here are nine things you should know about the notorious religious leader and his organization.
1. Phelps was an Eagle Scout who was slated to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. But during a Methodist revival meeting at the age of 17 he “felt the call” to ministry. He was baptized and ordained by First Baptist Church of Vernal, Utah, in 1947. In 1954, the East Side Baptist Church in Topeka hired Phelps as an associate pastor, and then promoted him to be the pastor of their new church, Westboro Baptist, which opened in 1955. Soon after Westboro was established, Phelps broke all ties with East Side Baptist.
2. In 1964 Phelps earned his law degree from Washburn University and founded the Phelps Chartered law firm, where he worked as a civil rights attorney. “I systematically brought down the Jim Crow laws of this town [Topeka, Kansas],”Phelps claimed. His career as a lawyer ended in 1979, when he was disbarred by the state of Kansas for allegedly being too abusive to witnesses.
3. After being disbarred, Phelps remained prominent in state and local politics, working for years as a major organizer for the state’s Democratic Party. (In 1988, Phelps housed campaign workers for Al Gore’s first presidential run.) He ran for governor of Kansas in 1990, 1994, and 1998, for the Senate in 1992. Because of his work in politics, Phelps was invited to two of Bill Clinton’s inaugurations. He attended both—and protested the president at the second.
4. Phelps established Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas, in 1955. The church describes itself as “an Old School (or, Primitive) Baptist Church.” (The Baptist World Alliance and the Southern Baptist Convention have each denounced the WBC over the years, as have many Primitive Baptist congregations.) The church subscribes to a form of hyper-Calvinism and claims to subscribe to three confessions of faith: The First London Baptist Confession of Faith (1646), The Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order (1658), and The Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742). At its peak, the church had approximately 40 members, almost all of whom were related to Phelps by blood or marriage. (Phelps has 13 children and approximately 45 grandchildren.)
5. Phelps teaches a number of peculiar beliefs, including a form of “equal ultimacy,” in which God works equally to keep the elect in heaven and the reprobate out of heaven; that Billy Graham is the “greatest false prophet since Balaam”; and that after President Obama leads the nations in a war against Jerusalem (sic), 144,000 “elect Jews” will join WBC members in heaven.
6. Phelps and WBC claim “Jesus Christ invented picketing.” They began protesting in 1991 and picket approximately six locations every day. (One of Westboro’s followers estimated that the church spends $250,000 a year on picketing.) They claim to have picketed more than 52,000 times in all 50 states and three foreign countries. In 1997, Saddam Hussein granted Phelps and a group of WBC congregants permission to travel to Iraq. After arriving, they stood on a street in Baghdad and led a protest against the United States.
7. Because of Phelps protests at funerals of military service members, the U.S. House and Senate passed the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006. The act bans protests within 300 feet of national cemeteries from an hour before a funeral to an hour after it. Violators face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison. On August 6, 2012, President Obama signed Pub.L. 112-154, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, which, among other things, requires a 300-foot and 2-hour buffer zone around military funerals.
OPINION – Their names are unfamiliar to most of us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Sophie Scholl. Helmuth Huebener.
Their lives may have ended more than seven decades ago, but the influence of how they lived still has significance in our day.
Each of them was a citizen of a government that obtained absolute power over its people. A series of official measures to protect their nation against the threat of terrorism quickly morphed into a system of laws under which everything not forbidden was mandatory.
They were members of a society that willingly discarded its moral compass
They were members of a society that willingly discarded its moral compass. When their leaders sought to disenfranchise certain unpopular groups, most people did not protest. In time, these targeted groups were marked for destruction, first by innuendo, next by legal sanction and finally by the direct action of rounding them up and exterminating them.
By the time most people recognized what was being done, it was too dangerous to express opposition. In a time when safety was found in remaining silent amongst the crowd, these three individuals were among the very few who chose to speak up.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who recognized the subtle moral shifts taking place in German society between WWI and WWII. He refused to support Hitler or to join his military at a time when refusal could be a capital offense. His discipleship would not allow him to support the Nazi regime during a time when many German church leaders acquiesced.
He later remarked:
The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.
For his open opposition to the Nazis, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in a concentration camp and then executed just a few days before Germany’s surrender.
“Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”