Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Metaxas on Bonhoeffer

It's a big book, over 500 pages, and I'm a slow reader but I've now finished the most recent biography of the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. It's the set book for the Theological Study Group at the John Owen Centre on Monday - and for once I am ahead in my reading. I enjoyed the book because I knew the name but not much about him. It was good to catch up, my enjoyment sharpend by having two and a half volumes of Richard Evans trilogy on the Third Reich.
I was once door knocking in Childs Hill when I came across Edwin Robertson (1912-2007), former minister of nearby Heath Street Baptist, Hampstead, and a great Bonhoeffer advocate. I guess it's the ecumenical, liberal and Barthian that make you suspicious but Metaxas (a Tim Keller fan - Keller foes the foreword) makes every effort to get you to look again and there are clearly things to learn from a man who for all his faults appears to have had more sympathy for fundamentalism than liberalism. I look forward to discussing the book.
Meanwhile one or two quotes:
Earthly bliss and humanity belong to God, not in any cramped “religious” sense, but in the fully human sense. Bonhoeffer was a champion of God's idea of humanity, a humanity that he invented and, by participating in it through the incarnation, that he redeemed. (457)
So Bonhoeffer was not "naturally" strong and courageous. His equanimity was the result of self-discipline, of deliberately turning to God. (463)
And from the man himself:
It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love. (458)
To renounce a full life and its real joys in order to avoid pain is neither Christian nor human (463)
Very stimulating stuff.
PS The start of the book is so brilliantly sparkling that it cannot be sustained and isn't but it keeps up a high standard throughout. It is a little hagiographical, perhaps.


Mostyn Roberts said...

I agree that Metaxas does give us a bit of a hagiography on Bonhoeffer. I have posted positively from Bonhoeffer's 'Life Together' recently and one can do that from that book and 'The Cost of Discipleship' but his work from prison in the last two years of his life is where the gremlins lurk and Metaxas does not dealt anything like adequately with that.
Bonhoeffer is largely drawn on in the 'Honest to God' debate of the sixties, whether fairly or not is a different matter.
In his very helpful book on that debate, 'The Abolition of Religion' Leon Morris incidentally quotes Alec Vidler's tag for 'Religionless Christianity' - 'holy worldliness'. Now what does that remind me of?

Maybe Bonhoeffer was a proto-Bradian!


Gary Brady said...

I certainly felt myself sympathising witha few things he said though whether I would have agreed in the flesh I'm not sure. Thanks for that Leon Morris/Alec Vidler quote. I should reiterate here that I am using the word worldliness as approximating earthliness and not in the usual way it used among evangelicals (though some would no doubt question it). I look forward to the discussion.