Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Life Together

I spent the weekend at a retreat in the St. Francois “Mountains” in southeastern Missouri with the members of my church, Christ Community Church in St. Louis. Our speaker was Glandion Carney, an Anglican priest and conference speaker with Renovaré.

The theme of the retreat was All in: “All in” for discipleship and spiritual formation, “all in” for fellowship, and “all in” for missions. Glandion quoted extensively from Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who was executed by the Gestapo shortly before the end of World War II. Being that this is one of my top-ten favorite books, I’d like to share some quotes (which I have done before):

Chapter 1 — Community

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.

He [the Christian] knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel that he is righteous at all.

If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness.

…the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.

Chapter 2 — The Day with Others

Christian prayer takes its stand on the solid ground of the revealed Word.

It is not in our life that God’s help and presence must still be proved, but rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today.

Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ.

It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word.

Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer.

Chapter 3 — The Day Alone

But silence before the Word leads to right hearing and thus also to right speaking of the Word of God at the right time.

The most promising method of prayer is to allow oneself to be guided by the word of the Scriptures.

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.

Chapter 4 — Ministry

Only he who lives by the forgiveness of his sin in Jesus Christ will rightly think little of himself…. Because the Christian can no longer fancy that he is wise he will also have no high opinion of his own schemes and plans.

The beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.

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. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps–reading the Bible.

Chapter 5 — Confession and Communion

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone…. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship…. The fact is that we are sinners!

The misery of the sinner and the mercy of God–this was the truth of the Gospel in Jesus Christ.

We must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God…. And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness?

Grace and Peace

P.S. I have some reservations about the Renovaré/Richard Foster/Dallas Willard approach to the Christian life, as it is a bit too mystical and subjective for me at times. Bonhoeffer’s approach is more focused on external realities, continually re-directing our focus back to what God has done outside of us at the cross. The mystical approach often directs our eyes inward, which can take us to all sorts of places other than Christ. Perhaps my preference for Bonhoeffer over Foster is an INTP thing. Having said all that, I was richly blessed by the retreat.

One thought on “Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Life Together

  1. Carol K

    I have not read any Bonhoeffer. I really resonate with Dallas Willard’s approach. I grew up in a church setting where it seemed that, while salvation is by grace alone, the whole process of sanctification was up to me and my willpower to wrestle the sinful nature to the ground. I found Willard a breath of fresh air with his focus on sanctification working from the inside out, with God being the One working on the inside (which flows to the outside) to conform me to His image. I’ve only read “Renovation of the Heart” by Willard. I read Foster too long ago but don’t remember resonating with it at the time. I think I’m I?TJ.


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