All in all, it read much like a series of blog entries. The intent isn't to convince someone as much as to encourage and exhort those who already agree. It seems like there's a lot good there, but to be honest, I don't find him as compelling.
He has a way with words and brings up a lot of good thoughts, but I have some concerns which probably prevent me from appreciating him as much.
For example - the point about treating people not as they do or do not do, but rather in light of what they suffered.
Sounds great on paper, but I have to ask, "Is this Scriptural?" When in the Bible are Christians rebuked for looking upon people as they did or did not do? Where in the Bible are Christians encouraged to "see people as they suffered." I'm not arguing against "weeping with those who weep," but broad statements like that seem inaccurate at best, and misleading at worst.
After all, the prophet Isaiah rebukes Israel repeatedly for what she has not done -
12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
And this isn't an isolated incident, rarely does the prophet exclaim to Israel, "you are prosperous, but look how you are suffering because you're so distant to God, come, I wish show you a better way," rather, Isaiah mocks Israel and calls down judgment upon her unrighteousness and declares that only a remnant will remain of what was a great nation. Nothing about having compassion or suffering alongside. Any suffering alongside seemed to be God enforced (as my servant walked naked for 3 years...).
Again, in 1 Corinthians 11 when Paul speaks of the Lord's supper, he rebukes the church for being disobedient and their lack of love. And after laying down a hand of rebuke, he addresses their suffering and using their sins as the reason for their suffering, "30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died," essentially laying forth another rebuke.
And this issue isn't an isolated incident with the Bonhoeffer reading, I just don't feel like he's very precise with his language and his Scriptural support is weak at times.
Another example: At one point he calls for an abandonment of the conscience and of virtue - and the way he put it, I kind of agree (we can't live just by what our heart tells us, or by what society says is "right", but we must live by the commands of the Lord), but the way he put it, it would seem that one must violate their conscience (!) and throw virtue to the winds (!!) in order to obey God. That seems like he's just trying to turn a nice phrase at the cost of throwing out biblical terminology. When in the Bible is the conscience supposed to be something that we go against? I don't disagree with the point, but the usage of terminology is subpar. We should strive for biblical usage of biblical terms in all that we do.
I'm not going to say I didn't learn anything from Bonhoeffer, but I wish I could have learned more.
I also still have the question about "when should we dust off?" As I said, it's easy to dust off when we're being openly reviled, but what about the kid who never goes to small group or bible study, who doesn't care too much for true faith and for God? We invite them, take our time to reach out to them, but is there a time when we dust off our cloaks?
Labels: Discipleship Class