Bonhoeffer on being a change agent
There so many great quotes to pull from Eric Metaxas's biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know this man. He was incredibly bold to break away from the state church, it's Nazi compromised form calling themselves "German Christians". He also had many sympathizers who wanted him to help them change it from within, but Bonhoeffer had no hope for that approach.
He had become convinced that a church that was not willing to stand up for the Jews in its midst was not the real church of Jesus Christ. On that he was quite decided.He was far ahead of the curve, as usual. Some wondered whether he was just kicking against the goads, but when someone asked Bonhoeffer whether he shouldn't join the German Christians in order to work against them from within, he answered that he couldn't. "If you board the wrong train," he said, "it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction." pp. 186-7
He was part of a polite and submissive Christian culture weakened by it's theological liberalism and pride in it's historical place in Christian history. Bonhoeffer grew up liberal but became more conservative through university and after experiencing the black churches, specifically the Abyssinian Baptist Church, of New York City while taking classes at liberal Union Theological Seminary. As he sought to distinguish the true church in Germany from the Nazi-compromised one he wrote a confession.
The chief goal in writing the Bethel Confession was to spell out the basics of the true and historic Christian faith, which contrasted with Ludwig Mueller's facile and inchoate "theology." Bonhoeffer and Sasse had the task of making the distinctions between the two sides crisp and clear.After three weeks of work, Bonhoeffer was satisfied, but then the document was sent to twenty eminent theologians for their comments. By the time they were through, every bright line was blurred; every sharp edge of difference filed down; and every point blunted. Bonhoeffer was so horrified that he refused to work on the final draft. When it was completed, he refused to sign it. As would happen so often in the future, he was deeply disappointed in the inability of his fellow Christians to take a definite stand. They always erred on the side of conceding too much, of trying too hard to ingratiate themselves with their opponents. p.185
I think it is a lesson all american believers have to pay attention to, whether conservative or progressive. Hitler was hailed as a savior for the country. The same has been claimed by many presidential cheerleaders in America. All disappoint. There is only one savior. There is only one faith. Like healthy food, it can be presented in many ways, but eating compromised food is dangerous to anyone's health. The ways it can be compromised are legion, but it is possible to be constantly reforming and reexamining the expression of our faith against the text of our faith, God's word to us, and comparing everything against it. If it results in persecution without deviating from its historical expressions, then we may be closer than ever to our persecuted Lord. If it results in the partnership of politicians with small compromises, then we may have moved further away from the good news.