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Bonhoffer, Buchman & the Threat to Religious Liberty

Eric Metaxas, the author of Bonhoffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson 2010) offers some great perspective on the current debate in America on the role of the pastor in the public policy arena. On the one side of the issue you have pastors like Dietrich Bonhoffer who recognize the Lordship of Jesus over all of creation. The Nazis were trying to squeeze the church into the very narrow box called “religious stuff.” Hitler told the Church to deal with spiritual issues and he’d take care of everything else. Bonhoffer recognized this as a serious threat to both the freedom and mission of the Church and began to rally fellow believers to stand with him in resisting the Nazi government.

On the other side of the issue was a prominent American evangelical named Frank Buchman, who headed an organization called The Oxford Movement. He embraced the popular mantra promoted by many evangelical pastors today who avoid the cultural skirmishes because they “just want to preach the gospel.” Buchman worked hard to schedule lunches with Nazi leaders with the hope that he might share the Gospel with them. Buchman believed if he could lead Hitler to Christ it would solve everything.

Buchman’s approach is alive and well in America today. Many pastors believe that if we will pray for ungodly leaders the Lord will sovereignly change their hearts. Others think the way to transformation is by being “nice” and serving the community. Still others believe there is no hope at all for America, so they hide in the four walls of the church and wait for the second coming. While there is an element of truth in the first two options, these strategies are woefully inadequate for the perilous times in which we are living.

According to Bonhoffer, when one’s ability to speak the truth is itself under attack, your ability to be a Christian is itself under attack. We end up trying to preach the good news while are liberties are being ripped out from under us. Neighborhood clean-ups are of little value when your ability to say that a certain sexual behavior is sinful or that taking unborn life is wrong. According to Metaxes, “Bonhoffer struggled to get his fellow Christians to see that if one didn’t stand up for religious freedom, every possibility to preach the true Gospel would soon be gone.”

We are currently experiencing an unprecedented attack on our religious liberties. We are calling all Christians to draw the line in the sand and to make a bold stand against government tyranny before our ability to share the Gospel is severely limited.

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  1. Kerry Drake
    May 20th, 2012 at 12:53 | #1

    Again, well said and well received. The message in most all of your blogs is pretty much the same: When will the church wake up and act? The clarion call is out there from so many other ministries, yet by and large it “seems” to be falling on deaf ears. I am amazed in just my sphere of influence in teaching 4th to 5th grade boys, how many are surprised to hear for the first time so many of the basic Christian belief standards I had been taught from an early age and onward. Is there so much darkness that it is clouding even the parents ability to get through to their own children, or is the curriculum in school these days so anti-God that basic truth is non-existent? Most every story I tell of the heroes of the old testament is met with some unbelief and surprise. I thought it would be a staple of their Christian faith in their family life that they would know about most of these men and women. I am glad of the position I have taken that we need to influence these great men and women of God, of the future, from the early years so the hope and truth of the gospel can be taught in their homes when they have kids.

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