Posts Tagged ‘Bonhoffer’

When Evil Screams at Silence

November 26th, 2013 No comments

nooseIn September of 2000, Dr. Laurence White, the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, delivered a stirring, prophetic warning to the pastors gathered at Midwestern Theological Seminary entitled, “The Sin of Silence: A Defining Moment.” In his message he demonstrated the tragic results that were allowed to take place in Nazi Germany largely because pastors and the people they lead were passive and silent in the face of growing tyranny and outright evil.

Reverend White writes,

In 1940 Nazi Germany was near her zenith, the nation’s power, prestige, prosperity unparalleled in history, her armies invincible on every front. The Jews had been systematically excluded from the life of the nation, deprived of the protection of the law and citizenship, gradually disappearing into a spreading network of concentration camps.

In that year 1940, at the height of Hitler’s power and popularity, a courageous young pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer denounced the church’s failure to speak out against the evil. In 1940 that lonely voice of truth proclaimed,

“We the Church must confess that we have not proclaimed often or clearly enough the message of the one God, who has revealed Himself for all time in Christ Jesus and Who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself. She must confess her timidity, her cowardice, her evasiveness and her dangerous concessions. She was silent when she should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent was crying aloud to heaven. The Church must confess that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force, the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people, oppression, hatred, and murder, and that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid. The Church is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers of Jesus Christ. The Church must confess that she has desired security and peace, quiet, possessions and honor, to which she has no right. She has not borne witness to the truth of God. And by her silence, she has rendered herself guilty because of her unwillingness to suffer for what she knows to be right.”

White further adds, “Bonhoeffer’s warning went unheeded. He was dismissed by most of his colleagues as a single-issue fanatic. In less than 5 years, he was dead, hung naked from a piano-wire noose in Flossenberg concentration camp. Germany lay in ruins, her great cities bombed out of existence, cathedrals that had stood for a thousand years reduced to piles of broken brick and rubble.”

It doesn’t take an exceptional amount of discernment to recognize the same symptoms in the American pulpit and church today. Instead of courageously bearing witness to “the Truth,” we have become intoxicated with “security, peace, quiet, possessions and honor.” We need to be absolutely clear about one thing: If we fail to suffer for what we know is right, we will eventually suffer under the evil that will inevitably overwhelm us.

As we pause this Thanksgiving holiday to give thanks to God for His goodness and faithfulness, let’s examine our hearts to make sure we love Him and His Truth more than we love the blessings we currently enjoy. Our forefathers gave their lives in the service of Truth; we must be willing to do the same.

Cheap Grace & Same-Sex Marriage

April 10th, 2013 8 comments

cheap grace 1

As I watched and read the social media banter surrounding the recent Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, I was appalled by the theological shallowness and simplistic moralizing coming from the hearts and mouths of those in my relational circle who profess to follow Christ. Much of the sermonizing was simplistic in that it failed to make the important distinction between personal ethics and public policy. On a relational level we are called to love everyone, including our enemies (Luke 6:27).

While this is often easier said than done, I think all Christians would agree with the principle. Are we called to love those who are trapped in a homosexual lifestyle? Yes. Is their sin any different from the person committing adultery, fornication or any other sexual sin? No. God opposes all forms of sexual anarchy. But let’s be certain about one thing – it’s all sin. And sin dishonors God and destroys people.

The good news is Jesus died for sin and sinners (Romans 5:8). If we confess our sin, He has agreed to forgive us, cleanse us, and free us (I John 1:9). That is the good news of the gospel. Unfortunately, I wasn’t seeing much life-giving, gospel advice on Facebook; just a lot of what Bonhoffer called “cheap grace.”

Best selling author and pastor, Tim Keller, explains this phrase with great cultural clarity:

“By the time of Hitler’s ascension, much of the German church understood grace only as abstract acceptance – ‘God forgives; that’s his job.’ But we know that true grace comes to us by costly sacrifice…Many Christians want to talk only about God’s love and acceptance. They don’t like talking about Jesus’ death on the cross to satisfy divine wrath and justice…Yet if they are not careful, they run the risk of falling into the belief in “cheap grace” – a non-costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are. That will never change anyone’s life.”

In the words of German pastor and Nazi martyr, Dietrich Bonhoffer,

“cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

So what does all this have to do with the current public policy debate on same-sex marriage? I tried to connect the dots in my recent Facebook post:

When you claim to “love Jesus” but you promote a lifestyle which He condemned and you seek to re-define something which He already defined you are deceived. In doing so, you make a mockery out of the faith you profess.

What America needs is not a “cheap grace” that comfortably fits within the politically correct parameters of moral relativism and religious pluralism. As Tim Keller wisely noted, “This will never change anyone’s life.” On a relational level, we need Christians to return to the message of “amazing grace,” pointing the sexually confused and addicted to the powerful, life-changing message of the cross. On a public policy level, agree with Jesus’ definition of marriage and hold your elected representatives accountable to honor God’s transcendent laws over and above the evolving opinions of those who have no moral compass.