So it seems in my random musings that I have at least two threads of thought started, both of which I promised to continue to develop in coming posts. That said, I’m not thinking linear at all lately in any aspect of my life, so why should this place be any different. My wife has picked up the analogy of traffic lights to describe her current state of being… In that vein, my life, my thoughts, my world seems to be analogous to a traffic circle–I’m in it, I’m going around, but there’s no signs to mark the streets that branch off the circle, and I’m not sure what my destination is anyway. (If I still haven’t convinced you, just look at the total disconnect from the previous posts, to the title of this post, to the totally unrelated analogy above).
My post today is nothing more than grabbing a quote from a book I’m reading: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I’m only vaguely familiar with Bonhoeffer’s work, and have been wanting to read this biography for a couple of years now. For those of you who, like me, don’t know much about him, here’s the short version: Born around the turn of the 20th century to an elite German family; afforded the most privileged upbringing and education, this genius chose to pursue theology, wound up as an amazing scholar who also turned out to be a great pastor (an uncommon pairing), who lost his life as a result of his participation in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler.
I’m still early in the book; the excerpt below is from a lecture he delivered in his early 20s, to a high-school aged crowd on a Tuesday night (says something of his pastoral abilities to be able to get high-schoolers to church on a weeknight).
“One admires Christ according to aesthetic categories as an aesthetic genius, calls him the greatest ethicist; one admires his going to his death as a heroic sacrifice for his ideas. Only one thing one doesn’t do: one doesn’t take him seriously. That is, one doesn’t bring the center of his or her own life into contact with the claim of Christ to speak the revelation of God and to be that revelation. One maintains a distance between himself or herself and the word of Christ, and allows no serious encounter to take place. I can doubtless live with or without Jesus as a religious genius, as an ethicist, as a gentleman — just as, after all, I can also live without Plato and Kant…. Should, however, there be something in Christ that claims my life entirely with the full seriousness that here God himself speaks and if the word of God once became present only in Christ, then Christ has not only relative but absolute, urgent significance for me…. Understanding Christ means taking Christ seriously. Understanding this claim means taking seriously his absolute claim on our commitment. And it is now of importance for us to clarify the seriousness of this matter and to extricate Christ from the secularization process in which he has been incorporated since the Enlightenment.”
80 years ago Bonhoeffer spoke to something that has become even more significant today. Too often I compartmentalize Christ. I fail to acknowledge through my priorities, my thoughts, and my actions his “absolute claim” on me. I was somewhat shocked to see him calling out the failing of the “Enlightenment” almost a century ago. And this isn’t some uneducated religious rube; by the time of this particular writing, he’d already earned his doctorate (at 22), studying under some of the preeminent liberal theologians of the modern era.
I am more certain than ever that my first response inside the pearly gates will be “Forgive me for underestimating you so completely.”
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Good observation. You will enjoy getting to know Bonhoeffer. His theological works really make one think–which, of course, was exactly what he intended.