Jesus vs. religion in Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
I'm in the process of reading for review my complimentary copy of a new biography on Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. It's over 600 pages and some of the quotes are so good
Image via Wikipediathat they can't wait until I'm finished. Also, I fear there will be too many to quote in one review. Here is one on the distinction between Christianity and religion.
In this lecture, Bonhoeffer tipped one sacred cow after the other. Having dealt with the idea of Christ as no mere great ethicist, he proceeded to explain the similarity of the Christian religion to other religions. Then he came to his main point: the essence of Christianity is not about religion at all, but about the person of Christ. He expanded on the theme learned from Karl Barth that would occupy so much of his thinking and writing in the years to come: religion was a dead, man-made thing, and at the heart of Christianity was something else entirely - God himself, alive. "Factually speaking," he said, "Christ has given scarcely any ethical prescriptions that were not to be found already with the contemporary Jewish rabbis or in pagan literature." Christianity was not about a new and better set of behavioral rules or about moral accomplishment. He must have shocked some of his listeners, but his logic was undeniably compelling. He then aggressively attacked the idea of "religion" and moral performance as the very enemies of Christianity and of Christ because they present the false idea that somehow we can reach God through our moral efforts. This led to hubris and spiritual pride, the sworn enemies of Christianity. "Thus," he said, "the Christian message is basically amoral and irreligious, paradoxical as that may sound." p. 82.Bonhoeffer is unmistakably from a Lutheran culture. I doubt he would disagree with this quote attributed to Luther, "We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone." Luther, Bonhoeffer, and many evangelicals, including little old me, is what God says in Isaiah. Apart from faith in God, all our good deeds are like filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6. An ethical life apart from faith brings no one any closer to heaven. In fact, Bonhoeffer is only expanding what Paul wrote to the Galatians so tersely, 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Galatians 3:2-3.
I love this stuff. I love Jesus. It's all about him. He didn't come and say, "Here is a new way to heaven." Rather he said, "I am the way to heaven." God walked among us and asks us to walk with him in faith and love and hope.