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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Was Bonheffer a Born Again Christian? Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Wikipedia

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3 NKJ)


Neo-orthodox Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


Who was Dietrich Bonhoeffer?  Didn't he give his life for the sake of the Gospel in opposition to the Nazis and Adolf Hitler? And wasn't that proof that he died a saint and went on to glory?

That seems to be the opinion of modern Evangelicals and the "new" Calvinists.  Even late D. James Kennedy quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer in regards to "cheap grace" versus being willing to literally die for Jesus Christ and the Christian Gospel message. But was Bonhoeffer saved? Is he in heaven? Judging from his writings and his theology that would be questionable. This is what Wikipedia says about his doctrine:


In his prison letters, Bonhoeffer also raised tantalizing questions about the role of Christianity and the church in a "world come of age", where human beings no longer need a metaphysical God as a stop-gap to human limitations; and mused about the emergence of a "religionless Christianity", where God would be unclouded from metaphysical constructs of the previous 1900 years. Influenced by Barth's distinction between faith and religion, Bonhoeffer had a critical view of the phenomenon of religion and asserted that revelation abolished religion (which he called the "garment" of faith). Having witnessed the complete failure of the German Protestant church as an institution in the face of Nazism, he saw this challenge as an opportunity of renewal for Christianity.
Years after Bonhoeffer's death, some Protestant thinkers developed his critique into a thoroughgoing attack against traditional Christianity in the "Death of God" movement, which briefly attracted the attention of the mainstream culture in the mid-1960s. However, some critics — such as Jacques Ellul and others — have charged that those radical interpretations of Bonhoeffer's insights amount to a grave distortion, that Bonhoeffer did not mean to say that God no longer had anything to do with humanity and had become a mere cultural artifact. More recent Bonhoeffer interpretation is more cautious in this regard, respecting the parameters of the neo-orthodox school to which he belonged.
You might recognize the "Death of God" thing if you are an Episcopalian or Anglican.  John A. T. Robinson was an Anglican bishop and Thomas J. J. Altizer was an Episcopalian.  Both men were advocates of God is dead theology.

Bonhoeffer was an adamant proponent of Christianity as "religionless" and that the main purpose of Christianity is social justice on earth, not the eternal aspects of Christianity.  This is why modern Pentecostals and Charismatics will recite the mantra that Christianity is not a religion but a person.  The idea comes straight from neo-orthodoxy via Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth before him.  Furthermore, Bonhoeffer's theology has been used to justify the politcal movements of the American Civil Rights movement under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Anti-apartheid movement in South Africa led by Nelson Mandela.  Both liberals and conservatives laud Bonhoeffer because he was martyred by the Nazis because of his opposition to their oppression and genocidal tactics.  But one has to ask if social justice is the sole focus or even the main focus of the Christian faith as a body of doctrinal propositions and teachings?

Was Bonhoeffer a biblical and born again Christian who is in heaven now?  That question has to be a resounding no!  Why would I say this?

Let me say first of all, at the urging of the pastor I read The Cost of Discipleship when I was a youth minister at a Free Methodist church in south Florida.  Arminians, Pentecostals and other holiness groups love to quote Bonhoeffer.  The Lordship Salvation crowd in the particular Baptist circles advocate this book and it's emphasis on holiness and works.  Ironically, when I have attended so-called "Reformed" Baptist services I thought I was back in the Pentecostal holiness circles!  The same Pentecostal jargon is used:  "anointing of the Spirit", gifts of the Holy Ghost, total transformation, a changed life, supernatural sanctification, etc., et. al.

The degree to which personal piety and relationship have replaced solid doctrinal teaching and the central teaching of the Protestant Reformation is truly alarming.  What this really amounts to is a return to the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy of the fourth century.  My how heresy has a way of reasserting itself over and over again.  Ironically, Luther championed the Augustinian view against the semi-pelagian emphasis on works righteousness and person merits of his day as well. Martin Luther is considered the father of the Protestant Reformation.

Ironically, Bonhoeffer rejected Luther's theology of two spheres of God's law:  spiritual and natural.  For Luther we are always obligated to obey the civil and criminal laws of the local government.  But in Luther's time state and church were united in a theocratic union.  It was assumed that the nation in which one lived would live according to the decalogue or ten commandments as the basis for a summary of the moral law.  Luther said that in regards to nature we are to obey the law or suffer temporal consequences.  In regards to the spiritual aspect of the moral law Luther consistently said that no one will measure up to the standard required by God, namely absolute, perfect sinless obedience from birth and after conversion to Christianity.  That standard cannot be met because all are born guilty of Adam's original sin (Romans 5:12-21), all are born with total inability to obey God perfectly (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10-23), none are able turn to Jesus Christ in faith (John 6:37, 44, 65, and all commit actual sins from birth (Psalm 51:3, 4; 58:3) 

Moreover, neo-orthodoxy was an attempt to mediate between liberal theology and traditional and orthodox Reformed theology.  In the end neo-orthodoxy repudiated all five of the solas of the Protestant Reformation and ended up as liberal as the liberals.  Liberal theology demythologized Christianity and reduced it to sociological, political and morality/ethics in regards to social justice and the here and now.  When Hitler combined Nietzsche's atheism with dominion theology in the guise of social justice and a syncretism of liberal theology with theonomy the result was the national Evangelical churches accomodated to the culture and the political agenda of Hitler.  Moralism led to genocide.  Neo-orthodoxy tried to recover traditional values by appealing to the theology of Soren Kierkegaard and before him, Friedrich Schleiermacher.  Basically, a mystical and personal encounter with God through an existential revelation centers in the subjective aspects of revelation posing as objective according to Barth's theology is the focus of neo-orthodoxy.  Barth did not actually believe that Jesus existed in real history as we know it but only from the point of view of an "inspired" history or "inspired myth", much like modern neo-Calvinist views of folks like Michael Horton, R. Scott Clark and other "Evangelical" men who have really sold out to the moralism of the liberal left.

Bonhoeffer's answer to the cultural accommodation of theological liberalism and Bultmann's demythologization of the Bible was to repudiate "cheap grace", i.e. the law and Gospel distinction and justification by faith alone of traditional Lutheran and Calvinist and Protestant theology.  For Bonhoeffer the Gospel of free grace is "cheap grace".  Evangelicals unwittingly jump on the same bandwagon of "religionless" Christianity that rejects all propositional truth claims of Scripture in favor of an existential encounter with an ahistorical Jesus Christ, a Christ that is of mythological proportions.  The theology of neo-orthodoxy does not believe in the historical reliability of the inspired and inerrant Bible but rather in a history that is "inspired myth" or "inspired story".  Recently even Mike Horton, who paradoxically claims to believe in the historicity of Adam and Eve as real person in time and space, has endorsed the view that Scripture is an "inspired story", i.e. myth, drama, act.  (See The Christian Faith).

The modern Lordship Salvation crowd is basically preaching Wesleyan entire sanctification but the difference is that their entire sanctification takes place at the point of conversion and they make a decision to "make Jesus Lord" of their lives.  The idea that the Gospel is transformative is to confuse justification by faith alone with sanctification.

Needless to say, pietism rears its ugly head again.  Arminianism lowers the bar of God's absolute commands, commands which no one is able to meet with the 100% requirement of obedience (Matthew 5:17-48).  Modern Pharisees love to boast about how obedient they are and pray on the street corners and even how they are willing to be martyred like Christ (Matthew 6:5).   But even Peter failed that test!  (Matthew 26:34).  The disciples determined to follow Christ even to His death but were unable to even stay awake for prayer on the last night in Gethsemane!  (Matthew 26:41-47).

The further irony is that the very theology that Bonhoeffer was refuting, namely atheism, rears its ugly head up through Bonhoeffer's own influence on the liberal theologians in the Anglican church and the Episcopal church.  For Bonhoeffer, like Pelagius, obedience and doing the right thing--even to the point of martyrdom for a political cause or social justice--trumps the Protestant Reformation principles of sola gratia, grace alone, and justification by faith alone or sola fide.  John MacArthur, Paul Washer and a host of modern followers of Cornelius Van Til have sold out to a form of works righteousness and semi-pelagianism posing as Reformed theology.  Theonomy and dominion theology commit the same error by confusing civil and criminal aspects of the application of the moral law in society with the spiritual side of the imposition of the moral law.

Basically, the moral law does keep peace in society, even a society that is not predominately composed of born again Christians.  But to confuse natural law and the absolute demands of the moral law of God in the spiritual realm is to cross the line back from Augustinian theology into semi-pelagianism and even outright Pelagianism.

Of course the Christian does not have a right to sin or a license to sin.  But that is different from saying that Christians can attain some sort of supererogatory status of holiness by making a decision to "make Jesus Lord" of their lives.  Phoebe Palmer of the Free Methodist Church actually started this view when she made the logical connection between entire sanctification as potential and possibility (Wesley's view) to the view that entire sanctification can be claimed by faith and rests on a decision.  That decision is based on libertarian free will and for all practical purposes denies that sin remains even in the converted.  The dichotomy between "carnal" Christians saved by the skin of their teeth and sanctified Christians, who have reached a level of "total surrender" and the "higher Christian life" (reformed or Keswick holiness movement) and the Wesleyan doctrine of reaching a state of Christian maturity or a state of entire sanctification, is a false dichotomy.

The reason is that the first use of the moral law, that is the pedagogical use, never ceases.  The single purpose of the moral law is to convict sinners of their spiritual position before God as miserable sinners without hope of God's mercy or forgiveness.  God does not owe anyone mercy or forgiveness.  He owes us all justice, a justice that requires an eternity in hell for even one sin.  That's why grace is not "cheap".  Grace cost God the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ who died for all the sins of all His elect such that not one of their sins is not paid for and not one of the elect will be lost (1 Peter 1:17-21).  The idea that the price of redemption could be forfeited would mean that God could change who He is or renege on His promises.   That will never happen.  In fact Jesus was ordained for the redemption of the elect and it was never God's plan that salvation would be merely a potential based on our level of discipleship, obedience, sanctification, or any other personal accomplishment.  (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 1:3-4, 7, 11).

The cost of discipleship is not what it costs you personally to follow Christ.  Rather the cost of discipleship is the price Jesus paid on the cross to purchase your forgiveness, pardon, justification, and sanctification.  What Jesus accomplished on cross guarantees not only the regeneration and conversion of the elect.  It guarantees their position as sanctified in Christ and their progress in dying more and more to the corrupt nature, albeit that progress is never enough to merit anything whatsoever.  This is why those who teach that sanctification is synergistic are in fact selling out to semi-pelagianism through the back door.

Anyone who thinks Arminianism is  anything less than than false religion and heresy is on some level compromising with heresy.  Modern neo-Calvinists and theonomists are inconsistent with Luther, Calvin and the Canons of Dort by their compromises with the semi-pelagians and even Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics as "brothers in Christ".  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Any so-called Reformed person who thinks Dietrich Bonhoeffer or C.S. Lewis believed the Gospel of grace and was saved is deceived and out of touch with both the Protestant Reformation and the biblical doctrines of grace, law and Gospel.





Sincerely in Christ,

Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

See also, Tim Challies' weak critique here: Counterfeit Bonhoeffer

11 comments:

Ezekiel Smith said...

I marvel at your confidence that Bonhoeffer isn't in heaven.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I marvel at your liberalism. If denying the essential doctrines of Scripture guarantees heaven, then you might as well become a universalist.

It's about Chances said...

Wow I did not know you have the power of the Holy Spirit to say who is in Heaven and who isn't.

P.S. I am far far from a Liberal. Next will I hear from you that the Trinity isn't true??? I ask you to study a little harder on this subject also remember just because Martin Luther said it doesn't make it True. I don't see his name anywhere in the Gospel.

Luke Gamble said...

The moment any Christian hints that Christ did not call us out of the world, call us not to be escapists, but to work and “love our neighbors” here on earth now, he is called a legalist. We think he is proposing salvation by works alone. This is exemplified by the constant questioning of the canonicity of James. Bonhoeffer was proposing no such salvation by works and our belief that he is doing so is primary evidence that we exemplify those that would receive “cheap grace,” that slave is the reason of passion, that we do not want to pick up the “light yoke.”

Charlie J. Ray said...

Anyone who denies the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture cannot claim to be an Evangelical Christian as that term is defined by Scripture and by the Protestant Reformation. Bonhoeffer no only did not believe in the physical and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, but he also rejected the literal incarnation of God in Christ. Bonhoeffer was no conservative Christian. Those who think otherwise most likely either ignorant of Bonhoeffer's background or they are simply theological liberals who do not believe the miracles of the Bible or the inspiration of Scripture.

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

Since I'm not an Anabaptist or a Pentecostal, I do not believe anyone has the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, I do not believe that mystical or subjective "discernment" is the basis of determining who is and who is not a Christian. What I do base my determination of who is a Christian or not a Christian upon is that they have a valid profession of faith. A valid profession of faith would include at least a basic understanding of the Gospel message, the doctrine of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, and a solid belief in the physical and bodily resurrection of Christ, the virgin conception/birth, the doctrine of particular atonement, the incarnation and deity of Christ, etc. Since Bonhoeffer rejected the majority of those biblical propositions/dogmas, I don't see a problem with rejecting his "profession" of faith as invalid. Bonhoeffer was not a Christian any more than any other theological liberal is a Christian.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Since I am a Christian, I do believe in the Trinity. Bonhoeffer did not. He was a modalist like Karl Barth.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Bonhoeffer did not believe that Scripture tells us how Jesus is both God and man, nor did Bonhoeffer believe that the Trinity is taught in the logical propositions of Scripture:

"the God-man Jesus Christ, is the holy mystery which theology is appointed to guard. What a mistake to think that it is the task of theology to unravel God’s mystery, to bring it down to the flat, ordinary human wisdom of experience and reason! It is the task of theology solely to preserve God’s wonder as wonder, to understand, to defend, to glorify God’s mystery as mystery. This and nothing else was the intention of the ancient church when it fought with unflagging zeal over the mystery of the persons of the Trinity and the natures of Jesus Christ. . . .

Bonhoeffer on the Incarnation and Theology

Dr. Gordon H. Clark, on the other hand, advocated that both the Trinity and the Incarnation are plainly taught in Scripture and both doctrines can be logically deduced from Scripture.

See: The Auburn Heresy

Charlie J. Ray said...

I just rejected another comment on this page where the person did not interact with anything substantial in the article. If you want to have your comments posted, please think clearly and say something meaningful and thoughtful about the subject matter of the article.

Adam Gilbert said...

I am genuinely confused by your position. Do Christians have no responsibility to seek holiness on earth? Do we ignore Christ's model? How do we take his teachings such as the parable of the talents? Are we to take his practical teachings and not actually apply them? Why are we made made Imago Dei if we are not even to make an effort for reconciliation? Are we not to actively care for the poor as Jesus did? Do we just wait for death as hermits in a hole? (I know there are a lot of questions, but I am truly trying to understand where you are coming from. I don't get it.)

Charlie J. Ray said...

Adam, I am a confessional Reformation Anglican. You might also call me a prayer book Presbyterian. I follow the 39 Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as my system of confessional and propositional theology. The Westminster Standards are also my confessional basis for biblical theology. If you think either of these systems of theology endorse antinomianism you would be wrong. But you should know that Pelagianism is not saving faith.

Man is unable to believe or save himself. No amount of good works could justify you before God. I would suggest that you study the Westminster Larger Catechism with proof texts and the Heidelberg Catechism with proof texts. Both of these catechisms adequately explain the Reformed views on justification by faith alone, conversion, repentance, sanctification and assurance.

Charlie

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