Friday, March 25, 2011

Quote of the Day: Bonhoeffer

In an earlier blog post (here), I alluded to multiple reviews of this biography of Bonhoeffer. Some of the reviews have been questioning just how "evangelical" Bonhoeffer was, and how some biographers might have in some ways "evangelicalized" Bonhoeffer to make him appear to be more palatable to the Christian Right. Personally, I don't think either labels are very helpful (whether he is "evangelical" or "not") because reading through his works shows a kind of depth in theology, ethics, philosophy, etc., that moves beyond simple categorical caricatures. I don't think I would label him as a "liberal" but I don't think I would straight label him as an "evangelical" (as the term is widely used today) either. Further, the term "evangelical" seems to change in definition from group to group, some using it almost pejoratively, while others wear it as a badge of honor, etc. It's just very difficult to pin down exactly what anyone means when he/she says "____ is an evangelical."

I'm currently reading through Bonhoeffer's Life Together, and he also has some words about what an "evangelical" is (not?):

"What we call our life, our troubles, our guilt, is by no means all of reality; there in the Scriptures is our life, our need, our guilt, and our salvation. Because it pleased God to act for us there, it is only there that we shall be saved. Only in the Holy Scriptures do we learn to know our own history. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God and Father of Jesus Christ and our Father. We must learn to know the Scriptures again, as the Reformers and our fathers knew them. We must not grudge the time and the work that it takes. We must know the Scriptures first and foremost for the sake of our salvation. But besides this, there are ample reasons that make this requirement exceedingly urgent. How, for example, shall we ever attain certainty and confidence in our personal and church activity if we do not stand on solid Biblical ground? It is not our heart that determines our course, but God's Word. But who in this day has any proper understanding of the need for scriptural proof? How often we hear innumerable arguments "from life" and "from experience" put forward as the basis for most critical decisions, but the argument of Scripture is missing. And this authority would perhaps point in exactly the opposite direction. It is not surprising, of course, that the person who attempts to cast discredit upon their wisdom should be the one who himself does not seriously read, know, and study the Scriptures. But the one who will not learn to handle the Bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian."

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