Bonhoeffer's Birthday

The Relevance of Costly Grace

What would Dietrich Bonhoeffer make of the state of religious liberty in America today? I’ll attempt an answer, next on BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

Today is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday. Since my book on him was published three years ago, fascination with the young German pastor continues to grow. The interest is so great I’ve recently been asked to do a ten-city Bonhoeffer tour.

I have to ask myself: Why are so many people intrigued by Bonhoeffer? The answer, I believe, is that the message of Bonhoeffer's life is hugely relevant today—especially when it comes to the growing threats against religious freedom.

Thoughtful people see the handwriting on the wall: First there's the HHS mandate, which demands that religious organizations buy insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs.

Then there's the case of Pastor Louie Giglio, who was forced to step down from giving the benediction at President Obama's inauguration. Why? Because many years ago, he preached a sermon saying homosexual practice was wrong.

If you work in corporate America and hold to the traditional Judeo-Christian view of marriage, you'd better keep your mouth shut. Or you might be fired or have your business boycotted.

And now, the Boy Scouts may finally be yielding to the enormous pressure put on them to allow openly gay men to participate in Scouting—including as Scout leaders.

In effect, the state and the culture at large are seeking to compel us to put aside our religious beliefs. If we don't do something now, it will be too late.

And this is why Bonhoeffer is so relevant today. Please listen to these words from my old boss and dear friend Chuck Colson:

Under persecution, Bonhoeffer discovered that, even though God's grace is freely given, it also extracts a high cost. It was costly grace that led Bonhoeffer to continue teaching and preaching the Word of God even though the Nazis tried to suppress his work. Costly grace led Bonhoeffer to stand against a turncoat church that mixed Nazi doctrine with Christian truth....Costly grace led Bonhoeffer to attempt to smuggle Jews out of Germany, even though it led to his arrest...Along with other faithful believers, Bonhoeffer signed the Barmen Declaration, which boldly declared their independence from both the state and a co-opted church.

As I said, today is Bonhoeffer's 107th birthday. And were he alive today and living in America, costly grace for him would likely mean preaching what the Word of God teaches about human sexuality--even when activists and their allies in government try to suppress his work and attack his church. Costly grace would mean standing against churches that mix radical new doctrines about marriage with Christian truth. Costly grace would mean standing up to a government attempting to force him to buy health insurance that violates his beliefs—even if it led to his arrest.

And costly grace would, I believe, lead him to sign the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious liberty, just as he signed the Barmen Declaration, which I quote at length in my book.

Now I must say that Chuck Colson had the Barmen Declaration in mind when he co-authored the Manhattan Declaration. Chuck saw many parallels between what the church faced in Nazi Germany in the thirties and what faithful Christians are facing today in America.

So let me ask you—are you willing to count the cost and sign the Manhattan Declaration? If you visit BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary, you'll find links to both the Manhattan Declaration and to my Bonhoeffer tour where I’ll have the opportunity to unpack a lot of these ideas.

Today—68 years after his death—will we, like Bonhoeffer, call on the Church to wake up and be the people of God, no matter the cost?

Further Reading and Information

Sign the Manhattan Declaration

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Eric Metaxas | Thomas Nelson | August, 2011

Bonhoeffer: Evening with Eric Metaxas
Tour schedule, February-April 2013


Spurgeon was mentioned above. He certainly spoke cleartly to the issues of the day. And his comments are just as relevant for us evangelicals, today:
I find the objections on the piouseye.com site--and the underlying "logic"--to be, frankly, ridiculous. I guess we'd better not use the word "love" either, since I've heard liberals use it too!

I have no qualms about having signed the Manhattan Declaration.
Signing Manhattan Declaration
Re: "So let me ask you—are you willing to count the cost and sign the Manhattan Declaration?" Yes I am, provided signing does not constitute an endorsement of all the wording: http://piouseye.com/eyesite/2013/02/manhattan-declaration-not-perfect-but-worth-signing/.
I too read the book and loved it. I was inspired and motivated to be more vocal and not sit by and allow the truth of Gods word to go unchallenged in my arena. When a topic is being discussed I engage in the conversation and always bring Gods word into the conversation in one way or another. Not to act-Is to act. I love that statement. I dont want to be guilty of not acting. I think Bonhoffer was an extrodinary human being and I find myself wondering could I have endure for a day what he endured for years.....I pray I would be worthy.
Bonhoeffer's prophetic voice speaks on
First, thank you, Eric, for researching and writing your amazing biography of Bonhoeffer, which I am engrossed in at the moment, too. He has fascinated and inspired me for years. It is so enlightening to read more of the history and his letters, etc.

I was compelled to do a little research myself recently, when I came across Bonhoeffer's reference in your book (p. 118) to Matthew 11:12 in a letter he wrote to Henry Louis Henriod, head of the ecumenical World Alliance. Like many Christians, I have wondered about what Jesus meant when he spoke of "violent men" seeking to take the kingdom by force. The context of Bonhoeffer's use of that verse was pretty clear. It led me an 1859 sermon of Spurgeon's, called "Holy Violence." What a delightful read it was! And how perfectly in tune with what Bonhoeffer was saying in that letter. Just one of many rewarding moments that have already come to me through reading the book.

It is my hope and prayer that you will encourage hosts of people to reignite the prophetic vision of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I signed the Manhattan Declaration a few years ago, by the way.

I'm glad there will be a live simulcast on March 4 of your upcoming tour since you will not be near my area (Lynchburg, VA).

On another unrelated note, it was neat to see your endorsement of my friend Karen Swallow Prior's book, "Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me." She taught both of our daughters at Liberty University, and her book is a delight to my English major's heart. Hers is another contemporary voice with God's anointing, I think.
I am reading the Bonhoeffer Book at the moment and have just yesterday been thinking, that the church here in Germany might have been worse since then.

There has been so much damage been done on the german self esteem, that it is really sad to watch.

Abortion is hugely done in Germany (more than 100.000 babies killd each year since dacades), homosexual Pastors are living in the homes provided by their (our) church and then pastoring their congergation and the children (of course) as well. And lots and lost of divorced pastors are there as well.

While reading what you are writing here, it seems to me, that the church in Germany and America might be very similar. In America you might be more "religious" than here in Germany, but there are not more believers than here, I suppose (proportionally).

So there are lots of work to do to tell the people, who Christ is and what kind of freedom he has in mind for us.

Be blessed