A Voice from History: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There are times when the significant voices of the historical church must ring in our ears.  If we forget the lessons of our past, we lose touch with the heart of our heritage and that is a shame.  This reminder from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the twentieth century theologian, pastor, and spy, was spoken in his youth about the divide between the Lutheran church in which he flourished and the Roman Catholic Church that he was exposed to as a teen.  Nevertheless, if we hear these words they can apply every bit as much between the Free Grace Alliance and Lordship Salvation.  Hear the words!  

Has this world [of the Catholic church [sic]] really remained the church of Christ? Has it not perhaps become an obstruction blocking the path to God instead of a road sign on the path to God? Has it not blocked the only path to salvation? Yet no one can ever obstruct the way to God. The church still has the Bible, and as long as she has it we can still believe in the holy Christian church. God’s word will never be denied (Isa. 55:11), whether it be preached by us or by our sister church. We adhere to the same confession of faith, we pray the same Lord’s Prayer, and we share some of the same ancient rites. This binds us together, and as far as we are concerned we would like to live in peace with our disparate sister. We do not, however, want to deny anything that we have recognized as God’s word. The designation Catholic or Protestant is unimportant. The important thing is God’s word. Conversely, we will never violate anyone else’s faith. God does not desire reluctant service, and God has given everyone a conscience. We can and should desire that our sister church search its soul and concentrate on nothing but the word [1 Cor. 2:12-13]. Until that time, we must have patience. We will have to endure it when, in false darkness, the “only holy church” pronounces upon our church the “anathema” (condemnation). She doesn’t know any better, and she doesn’t hate the heretic, only the heresy. As long as we let the word be our only armor we can look confidently into the future.[1]


I love this idea: “as long as we let the word be our only armor we can look confidently into the future.” Let us allow Bonhoeffer’s words to sink deeply into our ethos of discussion with our friends and family and acquaintances whose heritage and confession is committed to Lordship Salvation.  We stand upon God’s word, desire for our brothers and sisters to search their soul, and recognize the similarities we share and rejoice in them.


That, my friends, honors Christ, stays true to our confession, and builds bridges of dialog that are far more fruitful than any amount of bickering or arguing can ever hope to do.


[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as quoted in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Nashville, TN. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2010. Page 57. The bracketed text is original, except for the [sic].