Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bonhoeffer, 1937. Chapter 2, "The Call to Discipleship"

Chapter 2, “The Call to Discipleship”

Bonhoeffer now articulates a call going from Jesus which demands obedience through following him. When Jesus calls people they do come and follow him. We do not know of any preliminaries. We have no evidence of a discussion or persuasion. Jesus calls and people follow. I observe here that Bonhoeffer is presenting the gospel as a proclamation rather than a proposition. When the disciple follows (Loc. 805) he leaves what he perceives incorrectly. For instance, Levi departs from what he had previously viewed as security into what seems insecure (following Jesus) but is actually perfectly safe. Through his call to be a disciple Jesus makes us completely safe. This does not happen by our mental assent but by our active obedience.

Bonhoeffer observes that our following him, as exemplified in Luke 9:57-62, begins with cutting ourselves off from our former existence. This, and nothing less, makes faith possible. Otherwise we can still depend on ourselves. He explains the concept by illustrating two propositions which he said are both true. “Only he who believes is obedient. Only he who is obedient believes” (Loc. 889). Though these two statements are in tension, Bonhoeffer says they must be held together. He spends a good deal of time illustrating their interdependence, especially using biblical illustrations.

From here Bonhoeffer moves to Matthew 19:16-22 and the rich young ruler. When he approaches Jesus he wants the teacher to tell him what to do. Jesus rather points him to his inability. while the man wanted Jesus to tell him how to become morally superior, Jesus told him only that his morality was useless and that he would be useful only if he laid down his life to follow Jesus. In fact, he would not become useful then, but perfect.

Bonhoeffer’s final conclusion is that it is by obediently following Jesus that we put ourselves into a position to believe in him. As long as we hold to our previous attachments we cannot trust God.

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