Bonhoeffer on compromise between the Church and the World

“…there is in truth no such thing as harmonious coexistence between the church and the world, for where there is no conflict it is because the world has taken over.” ~M. Wilcock

We read that quotation in our church small group last night – it was referenced in a Tim Keller Bible study on lessons from the life of Samson. But appropriately enough, I’m also reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship at the moment, and as you might imagine he has much to say about Christian compromise with the world, at one point describing the Christian life as nothing but “hand-to-hand combat” with the world. (Do we feel that?) And “the world” is not only outside our churches – he spends much time speaking against the proclamation of “cheap grace” from the pulpit, a sort of message that says “God will forgive you, so don’t worry too much about your sin”.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness with requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.

Because it is unconcerned with obedience, it becomes a message that justifies the sin, instead of the sinner. He says,

…do we realize that this cheap grace has turned back upon us like a boomerang? The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized Church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving. We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard. Where were those truths which impelled the early Church to institute the catechumenate, which enabled a strict watch to be kept over the frontier between the Church and the world, and afforded adequate protection for costly grace? What had happened to all those warnings of Luther’s against preaching the gospel in such a manner as to make men rest secure in their ungodly living? Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this? What are those three thousand Saxons put to death by Charlemagne compared with the millions of spiritual corpses in our country today? With us it has been abundantly proved that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. Cheap grace has turned out to be utterly merciless to our Evangelical church.

8 thoughts on “Bonhoeffer on compromise between the Church and the World

  1. Very good post. When you don’t see any difference between the church and the world, then you know that something is very wrong with the church. “The love of the world is enmity with the Father.”

    “The wisdom of this world is precious in the eye of the world; and the wisdom of God in His poor, weak, despised earthen vessels is still foolishness with them; but the Lord so orders it, that He still justifies his despised wisdom in his despised vessels, and makes the wisdom of the world appear foolish to all the single and uprighthearted, who thirst after and wait for the revelation of His truth.”
    –Isaac Penington

    “Life without war is impossible in nature or in grace. The basis of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual life is antagonism. This is the open fact of life.”
    –Oswald Chambers

    “Overcome with Great Sorrow”

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