Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review: Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life. Stephen J. Nichols. 2013. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life is one of the books in the Theologians on the Christian Life series published by Crossway Books. While this book offers details on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life, the focus is on his theology and his contributions to the Christian community as a preacher, professor, and writer. The book isn't  arranged chronologically. Things are arranged topically after the introductory chapter. Chapter titles include: "In Christ: Life from the Cross," "In Community: Life in the Church," "Word," "Prayer," "Confession," "Worldliness," "Freedom," and "Love." The book answers questions like how did Bonhoeffer see the church? what role did Bonhoeffer think the church should play in community? how important are disciplines in daily life? how did Bonhoeffer define grace?

The book is certainly informative and well-organized. It is a scholarly book, complete with plenty of footnotes. It gives readers a hint of Bonhoeffer in context with his times.

To understand Bonhoeffer, we must understand, on the one hand, the limits of oneself and, on the other hand, the utter absence of limits of God. Bonhoeffer saw himself as limited in his understanding, limited in his experience, limited in his resolve, limited in his strength. To trust in himself would be purely--and merely--sanctimony, the religion of Pharisees. But to trust in God would be altogether different. To understand Bonhoeffer, we must first and foremost understand living by faith. (21)
These three propositions--the holiness of God, the sinfulness of humanity, and the person and work of Christ--form the essence of the gospel. They also form the backbone of spirituality, since they leave room for only one thing, grace. (41)
Since we can't grasp grace, it grasps us. Grace grasps us at salvation and at every waking moment of our lives thereafter. (42)
"We are the church beneath the cross." (Bonhoeffer, Meditations on the Cross, 8)
His approach to reading the Bible may be summed up in these five ways: 1) we read the Bible directly--it is God's Word to us; 2) we read the Bible prayerfully and meditatively; 3) We read the Bible collectively; 4) we read the Bible submissively; 5) we read the Bible obediently. (93)
In the Word we find the gospel. In the Word we find comfort. In the Word we find challenge. In the Word we find the Word, the incarnate Logos. We find Christ and his call upon our lives. (97)
Prayer starts and ends with God. Praying rightly disciplines us to move our orientation away from self and toward God. (104)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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