Monday, April 30, 2012

Dietrich Bonhoeffer On The Exclusivity of Christ

Photo Credit: Bob AuBochon
I'm currently reading Eric Metaxas's superb biography on the German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Probably most known for his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, and for his involvement in an attempt to kill Adolf Hitler, Bonhoeffer lived a faith that was not limited to the four walls of a church building.

His active opposition of the Nazi regime and sympathetic approach to the Jewish people of his day forces us in the 21st century to question what is appropriate behavior for the Christian who wishes to oppose the evil of her day.

I'm still in the early parts of the book but one passage struck me as profound as Metaxas quotes Bonhoeffer on the exclusiveness of Christ:
"One admires Christ according to aesthetic categories as an aesthetic genius, calls him the greatest ethicist; one admires his going to his death as a heroic sacrifice for his ideas. Only one thing one doesn't do: one doesn't take him seriously. That is, one doesn't bring the center of his or her own life in to contact with the claim of Christ to speak the revelation of God and to be that revelation. 
One maintains a distance between himself or herself and the word of Christ, and allows no serious encounter to take place. I can doubtless live with or without Jesus as a religious genius, as an ethicist, as a gentleman - just as, after all, I can also live without Plato and Kant... 
Should, however, there be something in Christ that claims my life entirely with the full seriousness that here God himself speaks and if the word of God once became present only in Christ, then Christ has not only relative but absolute, urgent significance for me... 
Understanding this claim means taking seriously his absolute claim on our commitment. And it is now of importance for us to clarify the seriousness of this matter and to extricate Christ from the secularization process in which he has been incorporated since the Enlightenment."
A powerful challenge from a man that believed in Christ so strongly that he ended up giving his life because of his commitment to living out his faith as he understood it.

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