Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bonhoeffer and the Under-Estimated Human Example

Earlier this week, I reached mentally for the source of a passage I’d recently read on the importance of example. I could not remember where the bit of writing came from, but tonight I stumbled across it in a seminary class forum. Of course, the passage came from Bonhoeffer.

The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating [as in the past], but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others. In particular, our own church will have to take the field against hubris, power-worship, envy, and humbug, as the roots of all evil. It will have to speak of moderation, purity, trust, loyalty, constancy, patience, discipline, humility, contentment, and modesty.* It must not under-estimate the importance of human example (which has its origins in the humility of Jesus and is so important in Paul’s teachings); it is not abstract argument, but example, that gives its word emphasis and power. (I hope to take up later this subject of ‘example’ and its place in the New Testament; it is something that we have almost entirely forgotten.) Further… revision of Christian apologetics; reform of the training for the ministry and the pattern of clerical life. (Letters and Papers from Prison, 382-3)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

N.T. Wright on the Vocation of Prayer

In his Evil and the Justice of God, N.T. Wright lists prayer as one of the ways Christians are called to anticipate the Kingdom:

Prayer: In Romans 8 Paul indicates that prayer is a key, central anticipation of the eventual redeemed world order. In that world, redeemed humanity will take its rightful place, worshiping the Creator and set in stewardship over the world, sharing God's sovereign rule (Romans 5:17; Revelation 5:10). The new life of the Spirit, to which Christians are called in the present age, is not a matter of sitting back and enjoying spiritual comforts in a private, relaxed, easygoing spirituality, but consists rather of the unending struggle in the mystery of prayer, the struggle to bring God's wise, healing order into the world now, in implementation of the victory of the cross and anticipation of the final redemption. In prayer we are invited -- summoned -- to become more truly human, to worship the God in whose image we are made and so to find ourselves interceding for the world he loves. the start of God's address to the world, following the death and resurrection of his Son, is the creation and vocation by the Spirit of a people, drawn from every family, who will live consciously out of tune with the world as it presently is and in tune with the way God intends it to be (Romans 12:1-2: "Do not be conformed to this present age, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds" -- a statement that might serve as a title for this chapter), and who by bearing that tension in themselves and turning it into prayer, become agents of that new world beginning to break into the present one in healing and hope. Prayer thus lies at the heart of the task of God's people, their glorious, strange, puzzling and ennobling vocation. (Kindle ed., Ch. 4)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bonhoeffer: The Mystery of Love

This Advent season I'm reading God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas. Compiled from various works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this small devotional has been a means of light and peace for me in the bustle of seminary finals and holiday festivities. This week, the reflections focus on mystery. One such mystery is love.

The mystery remains mystery. It withdraws from our grasp. Mystery, however, does not mean simply not knowing something.

The greatest mystery is not the most distant star; on the contrary, the closer something comes to us and the better we know it, then the more mysterious it becomes for us. The greatest mystery to us is not the most distant person, but the one next to us. The mystery of other people is not reduced by getting to know more and more about them. Rather, in their closeness they become more and more mysterious. And the final depth of all mystery is when two people come so close to each other that they love each other. Nowhere in the world does one feel the might of the mysterious and its wonder as strongly as here. When two people know everything about each other, the mystery of the love between them becomes infinitely great. And only in this love do they understand each other, know everything about each other, know each other completely. And yet, the more they love each other and know about each other in love, the more deeply they know the mystery of their love. Thus, knowledge about each other does not remove the mystery, but rather makes it more profound. The very fact that the other person is so near to me is the greatest mystery. (20-21)

Monday, October 6, 2014

When I Don't Know What to Say About My Singleness

Sometimes the only thing worse than being single is thinking about singleness. Or talking about singleness. Or reading about singleness.

Or writing about singleness.

For the past three years, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to write for a Christian relationship service. I’ve learned so much about myself and about relationships through the process. I’ve read more articles than I can ever count, and my already overcrowded bookshelves have been overwhelmed by the additional volumes on dating, courtship, engagement, and marriage perspectives. I have tirelessly studied this topic.

In my love life, I have tried to apply all the principles the experts suggest. When something hasn’t worked, I have adjusted my methods. I have been strict, and I have been relaxed. I have ignored my heart, and I have been guided by it. I have prayed for marriage, and I have let the topic rest.

Sometimes I’ve taken breaks from thinking about relationships at all. I have wondered if being called to singleness wouldn’t be so bad—at least I could cancel my dating service subscriptions, throw away my relationship books, and pretend to be fulfilled in every way.

But the reality is, I’m not fulfilled...

Read more at Single Roots.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Yesterday's Injustices Tomorrow?

From my class reading in Stassen and Gushee's Kingdom Ethics:

A holistic character ethics needs to develop a self-critical understanding of how we perceive authority, change, threat and truthfulness in our society. Without that, Christians will not understand how to act effectively to "seek the shalom of the city where you dwell" (Jer. 29:7). They will emigrate inwardly into small enclaves of self-fulfillment. Their ethics will ignore powerful influences in the society that shape people's character and will lack the antidotes with which to correct secular ideologies. They will not know how to share in God's compassion for he mistreated. They will naively support an unjust status quo. They will have an ethics that focuses only on philosophical or theological generalities, or only on individualistic virtues, and act as if God is Lord only of theological doctrines, or of the private, individual life and not of the power structures and struggles for justice. Those who do not understand the causative forces in society are condemned to repeat yesterday's injustices tomorrow. (75-76)