Monday, October 27, 2014



Chaplain Mike quotes one of Bonhoeffer's letters to Bethge:
I often ask myself why a “Christian instinct” often draws me more to the religionless people than to the religious, by which I don’t in the least mean with any evangelizing intention, but, I might almost say, “in brotherhood.” While I’m often reluctant to mention God by name to religious people — because that name somehow seems to me here not to ring true, and I feel myself to be slightly dishonest (it’s particularly bad when others start to talk in religious jargon; I then dry up almost completely and feel awkward and uncomfortable) — to people with no religion I can on occasion mention him by name quite calmly and as a matter of course. Religious people speak of God when human knowledge (perhaps simply because they are too lazy to think) has come to an end, or when human resources fail — in fact it is always the deus ex machina that they bring on to the scene, either for the apparent solution of insoluble problems, or as strength in human failure — always, that is to say, exploiting human weakness or human boundaries. Of necessity, that can go on only till people can by their own strength push these boundaries somewhat further out, so that God becomes superfluous as a deus ex machina. I’ve come to be doubtful of talking about any human boundaries (is even death, which people now hardly fear, and is sin, which they now hardly understand, still a genuine boundary today?). It always seems to me that we are trying anxiously in this way to reserve some space for God; I should like to speak of God not on the boundaries but at the center, not in weaknesses but in strength; and therefore not in death and guilt but in man’s life and goodness.
and then opines:
Bonhoeffer notes that religious people tend to focus on matters of sin, guilt, and death — the “boundary” matters which only God can take care of. I wouldn’t deny that such things must be addressed, nor can I imagine that he as a Lutheran pastor would do so. But I hear him saying that perhaps we Christians spend so much time at the boundaries that we are missing God’s presence in “man’s life and goodness.”
I think it a reflection of me leaning Calvinist, not Lutheran, but I do not view sin, guilt and death as "boundary" matters. They are, in fact the core. I love Bonhoeffer, but I must disagree here. People that avoid topics like sin, guilt and death are the ones that make a deus ex machina of God - invoking God to explain the unexplainable, fix the unfixable. My sinfulness may be only God's to repair, but it is the very core of my being - not it's boundaries.

What I find fascinating is that Bonhoeffer wrote these words when he was suffering, and about to be executed, by one of the most barbarous, murderous, and hate-filled regimes in history. He is correct in noting that in the place he was fear and sin were no longer genuine boundaries - they had been rejected and the results were horrific beyond imagination, inclusive of the execution of Bonhoeffer himself. That is, I believe becasue those things were viewed as boundaries instead of what they really are - signposts.

Chaplain Mike, and Bonhoeffer, seem to think that we miss God by focusing on "the boundaries." And indeed we will if we view those things as boundaries. But how can we look at the horrors of Nazism and not see them as signposts? - Things that say "look for God here, for without Him here it's going to get real ugly real fast!" Such despair on Bonhoeffer's part, given his circumstance, is understandable. But those are the places I find God, because those are at the core of my being, they are expelled to make room for the Holy Spirit. I must empty the bucket of dung before it can be filled with water.

I am not talking about self-flagellation or things of that sort. I am simply talking about the fact that when the church in Germany forgot those "boundaries" Hitler arose. We'll probably never see the likes of Hitler again, but if we take our eye off the ball we could see something equally as evil.


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