Bonhoeffer

In this blog, I am going to be focusing on Bonhoeffer’s dissertation, Sanctorum Communio. However, before that I am going to discuss Bonhoeffer because I believe in order to understand Sanctorum Communio, one must understand from which Bonhoeffer was at in his spiritual path. The spiritual development and growth in a theologian is just as important as their actual writings.  The reason this is so is that when we contribute to the theological discussion our writings as theologians will often reflect our path unto the point where we are. Sanctorum Communio was the first theological writing.  It was his dissertation he wrote when he only twenty-one when he wrote it.[1]  He wrote other pieces, which also reflect his path at various movements.  This includes Acts and Being, which was after Sanctorum Communio, but he had just begun his “vicariate”.[2]  This was his first writing that was not under the supervision of Academics.  The writing reflects a great deal, of probably what he was going through in his professional life.  He was beginning his ministry but still was working in the way of the academic life. Therefore, he quarrels with transcendental and ontological philosophic ideas.[3]

After attending seminary in New York, he went from being a nationalist to being a pacifist. Taking to heart the Sermon on the Mount.  I believe this is when you see a fire sparked in Bonhoeffer.  He begins to really look and study the bible instead of just studying and understanding what others have said theologically in the bible.  This engagement with the primary text allows him to analyze and add to the discussions of theology.  I believe this is when he starts to develop his own personal confessions in regards to how the church should be and what it is.  He worked within the Confessing Church movement in Germany trying to provide churches with the alternative to being Pro-Nazi.[4] The movement of the Nazi’s was to remove the church from its Jewish Heritage.  It essentially ignored the roots of its faith. This movement of towards being a confessing church separates themselves and the confession at the heart of the church.[5]  Bonhoeffer states in The Confessing Church that essentially the confessing church is the confession to believing in their Lord and being against their Lord’s enemies.[6]  He in this writing was going against the original teachings of his background in the Lutheran Church and was calling for the Christian Church in Germany to stand out and separate from others and remain true to the beliefs of the original church free of political and social influences.

In Sanctorum Communio, Bonhoeffer takes sociological principles and applies them to the concept of Church.  He then struggles with the concept of “the person” in his dissertation.  Bonhoeffer continues on to state that we must study the person and community in the Christian church in order to understand the concept of God.[7] This relationship of community and person is important because during this time Bonhoeffer was a Nationalist, which was preached by the Lutheran Church as being part of God.[8]  I believe he continued this in his writing of Christology in 1933 when he discusses the concept of the Church being a body and about Christ when the “Word became flesh”. [9][10] The idea of speaking about Christ means to keep silent is contrary to Christ teachings.  Christ speaks and declares that he will make the disciples fishers of men.[11] Therefore, part of this proclamation is that they are to speak about Christ and his teachings in order to teach the Gentiles how to worship him and God.  Therefore not to speak about Christ is speaking about Christ is contrary to what Jesus commanded us to do.  However, maybe it is because Mans words fail to encompass the true meaning of what Christ was teaching and therefore silence ensures that we let the Word of God speak for itself.

I believe that a theme that Bonhoeffer struggled with throughout many of his writings was the social nature of man, its identity and how it was reflected in the Church.  Essentially, we are made from God we are created in his image and likeness.  Therefore, the question I struggle with in Sanctorum Communio is the concept of the social nature of the church and God’s need for it.  Is there a social nature in God?  Would you consider the Trinity a social group?  Because we are taught that, there is only one God.  Therefore singular and one.  A group consists of two or more.  Just as Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to spread the Word of God, he sent groups of people out.  God does not have a peer and therefore is single.  Therefore, a social group cannot exist in God.  So is this why God requires and yearns for our interaction with him is because of our ability to create groups and be social?  Surely not. I also struggled with the fact that Bonhoeffer said, “it is in relation to persons and personal community that the concept of God is formed”.[12]  Therefore, what happens if there is no relations to persons or personal community of the church?  Is there no God?  This then ignores Genesis 1-3 which God on his own created the heavens and the earth. There was no one, no persons or community to think up God and create him to create us.  I find this to be a weakness in Bonhoeffer’s early work that he struggled to place the human nature of social groups in the confines of the Supreme Being and the church.  God is independent of social groups and therefore absent of human existence God is always there.

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer and De Gruchy John W., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: witness to Jesus Christ (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991). P. 7.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. p. 8.

[4] Ibid. p. 20

[5] Ibid. 136

[6] Ibid. p. 141

[7] Ibid. p. 45

[8] Ibid. p. 15

[9] Ibid. p. 17

[10] Ibid.

[11] Matt. 4:19 KJV

[12] Dietrich Bonhoeffer and De Gruchy John W., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: witness to Jesus Christ (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991). P. 45.

Why Do We Hide Christians?

The numbers attending church are going down.  Those that go are getting older.  The fact of the matter is this. Being a Christian in the secular society is neither cool nor easy.  Those of us that are face daily prosecution for our faith.  Anywhere from the accusations of being a “Bible Thumper” or being laughed at for believing in something one has to have faith in because we cannot see it.  The news does not make it any easier to be a Christian.  It shows many intolerant aggressive Christians protesting various societal norms.  We are often defined by the actions of a few than what the majority do and see.

In many ways true embolden Christians are ostracized by the society they live in more so than any of the LGBT community or Muslims.  As Christians, our Christianity is at its brightest inside the confines of our holy sanctuaries.  Once we leave Holy Ground, we cover up our light with a basket and mask ourselves with our real world personas in order to continue on living in the crumbling society around us. Similar to the actions of the Disciples after the resurrection, we hide in fear to spread the news of salvation, freedom and everlasting life because we live in a survival like manner. Fear is not something that comes from the Lord.  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV).

Therefore, a majority of today’s Christians live in two separate worlds.  The world of our Heavenly Father when we are on Holy Ground and then the world we live in Monday -Saturday.  The thing we fail to remember was individuals have died so that our beliefs may live on and continue.  Some of these individuals include St. Stephen, St. Andrew, and St. Peter. The first martyr for the faith, however, was Jesus Christ. He was killed for his message and those that followed him often died in the same manner because of the message he spread. Our fear for how we are perceived by others should not be what forces us to put on our masks to the world.  We shall not die by showing who we are and professing our beliefs on this world.  We shall find joy in allowing ourselves be the light of the world to future Christians.

In the midst of tragedies of Orlando, California, and New York.  Those that the media focuses on are seen living out their beliefs. Right, wrong or indifferent. So why as Christians do we hide ours?  If individuals are willing to die for their sins, should we not be willing to die for our salvation?  Should we not as Christians embrace the sinner, love the person and not the sin? We should look at ourselves before we begin to judge others in a condemning manner.  (Matthew 7, KJV) Jesus ate with sinners and loved them.  He often healed them of their sins for their faith in him.   Jesus did not judge man by his sins. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:17 (KJV).

It is hard being a Christian. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (KJV). However, the Lord never ask us to do something he would not do himself.  We do not have all the answers but we must be embolden enough to share our faith with others.  Share in the salvation we have received in being in the body of Christ.  Because of the actions of a few the entire Christian world is often judged.  Should it be this way NO!! However, the Lord has given us the power of the Holy Ghost to spread his word and share our faith. Failing to be the same person you are on Holy Ground as you are in your day-to-day life crucifies our Lord again. “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (KJV).  It is time to embolden ourselves Christians and take up the sword of truth, which is the Word of God, and become proud to become a Christian again. Ephesians 6:17.

Historical-Critical Method adds complexity to the Word of God

Glory to God in the Highest.  Hallelujah He has risen! Welcome to the church season of Easter.  After a difficult and trying Lent, I am excited to say Hallelujah in church again.  I realize it has been over a month since my last posting and I apologize for that.  I have been busy with starting seminary, vestry, and sharing services from my church on iTunes.  However, today, I am going to discuss what I have been studying in my Hermeneutics class about the historical-critical method of doing scholarly biblical research.  The concept of historical-critical research is to insert doubt and probability in various beliefs of the origins of the Bible and the accuracy of what is being said in the Gospel.  The primary core belief is that the Bible has been written a multitude of authors who gathered resources of the stories and miracles of Jesus Christ and copulated them into one book.  Essential in lay person terms it’s like Aesop’s fables and contain universal truths and some of the stories are more believable that others.

Academics and the scientific method has invaded our religious thought and study in the seminary.  While Christian monks founded the primary scientific method it has been diluted into a logical pattern of probability and statistics.  There is no mystery or wonder to it any longer.  The issue with religion is that it provides for the opportunity for the impossible.  It allows for a belief in something we cannot explain.  It allows for Faith.  The bible is the reason we have faith.  The truth allows us to believe.  It allows the faith to exist and thus have churches exist. Without the knowledge and acceptance that no matter what human wrote the bible, it is still the word of God.  It contains the truth about God and the path for our salvation.  It is a part of a greater understanding of truth about God. The bible is essentially like the cliff notes to the understanding and knowledge of God.  It provides us enough for us to accomplish and understand in order to reach salvation.  If we have questions then the answers are contained in the Bible we just need to look for them.  It is the truth.  You must have faith to believe that.

Failure to over analyze and bring in logic and the scientific method into faith is that basic human processes and understanding do not allow miracles to occur.  Even chaos has a mathematical anomaly, which can at times be predicted through statistics.  Faith is a belief because of what it is not because of any evidence that we can prove it.  Failure of the scholarly academics to understand this has resulted in an over analysis of the basics.  Believe because we have faith.  Understand because you believe.  Share because you understand. Sometimes we must remember individuals do not need the complexities of our faith because it justifies it through numbers but they need the simple understanding because everything else in our world is so complex.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:1-3 KJV)

Devotion Time – Mark Of A Christian

The readings being examined is chapter 45 in Genesis. As Joseph was the head of the disbursement of grain in Egypt, his brothers came to visit him.[1]  He kept the revelation of being their kin from them as a secret.[2]  Until they came to eat with him in the Pharaoh’s house.  He wept openly as he reviled the truth to them.[3]  Forgiving them for selling him to the Egyptians. [4] The revelation he gave to his brothers is prophetic and important.  God was the reason for his position and status.  All the reasons and explanation for everything was because it was part of God’s divine plan.   In Job, it says to Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee. [5]

Fr. Homer Rodgers discusses in The Romance of Orthodoxy, how it is only when we have no answers to the question, we fall back on God made it that way as our response.[6]  This response is a result of the questioner finding a personal dogma of ours.  Dogma is a set of thoughts and principles presented by an authority as an incontrovertible truth.[7]  These personal dogmas can periodically change throughout our life. [8]  They change because we develop more knowledge and seek further understanding to having a deeper insight into what we accept to be undeniable.

The growth of Joseph and final acceptance that it was God’s divine plan is the reaching of his personal dogma.  He could not explain why his brothers sold him to the Egyptians other than the divine acceptance that it was God’s divine plan.  With that acceptance he found peace and comfort crying loudly reveling himself to his brothers as a member of their kin.  [9]

How do we wear the mark of a Christian today in modern times?  How to show that we accept that it is, just the way it is, because God made it that way? This revelation has forced me to force myself to look and sometimes just accept my situation because it is part of God’s divine plan.  I can also go back into my life and my experiences and understand why God had me go through those experiences.  It assists me in helping others in those same struggles and showing them that God is there no matter how bad life gets.  I want to know more and have a deeper understanding of what leads people to the situations they are in and to provide them a sense of comfort in the basic explanation through science or reasoning for their situations.  However, that is not the mark of a true Christian.  The mark of the Christian is the acceptance of life’s trials and praying with those in despair for peace and understanding.[10]

Our constant and consistent dogma should be because it is the will of God.[11] No further explanation should be needed if we accept the word of God because it is through the word of God and understanding of God we can find a true sense of peace as found in Job.[12]   Fear is not the will of God but of Satan.[13]  Fear to show your mark as a Christian is on that believes the lies of the enemy.  The Lord protects His people for His divine purpose.[14]  Therefore believing in his word is the only true facet of peace, just as Joseph found peace in speaking his revelation to his kin in Egypt.

Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth,

Thank you for your Word and for making me an instrument in your divine plan.  Please provide me with the strength, understanding and will to show my Christian mark as a symbol of honor and glory to you.  Although we might not always understand your plans or the reasons for our circumstances, may we make them a glory and honor to you in however they fit for your purpose.  Please allow me to find peace like Joseph in this great understanding of your divine nature and that nothing I do is without purpose or reason to your ultimate guide and plan.  In your name we pray, world without end.  Amen.

 

[1] Gen. 42:6 (KJV)

[2] Gen. 42:8 (KJV)

[3] Gen. 45:1 (KJV)

[4] Gen. 45:5 (KJV)

[5] Job. 22:21 (KJV)

[6] Homer F. Rogers, The Romance of Orthodoxy, ed. Mary P. Tuck (Dallas, TX: Mrs. D. Rogers/ St. Francis’ Episcopal Church], 1991), 6.

[7] Rogers, 2.

[8] Rogers, 4.

[9] Gen. 45:14 (KJV)

[10] John 17:21 (KJV).

[11] Rogers, 6.

[12] Job. 22:21 (KJV)

[13] 1 Cor. 10:13 (KJV), 1 Pet.5:8 (KJV)

[14] Ps.37:38-40 (KJV).

Power of Prayer Challenge

May the Lord bless you and keep you this day; may His light shine down upon you.  In a world full of technology, information and gadgets we as Christians get caught up sharing on social media our beliefs and engaging in the evilness of the world around us.  Now while we are called to stand out and preach His word, we are not called to spend an average of up to nine hours a day on our social media sites copying memes or responding to prayer requests.  Not every request for prayer needs a response on social media.  God rather hear from you directly that read it online.  So the question becomes why do respond online to prayer requests?  Do we do it for the selfish nature of wanting others to see that we are praying for them?  If this is the case is then not the true intent behind the prayer not about the prayer for resolution and comfort from God but about yourself and your charity?  Some of the most faithful people may not respond to your request for help or prayer but it is not because they are not caring for you.  It is because they may be on their knees communicating with God beseeching favor in behest of you.

The power of prayer is the strongest weapon we have as Christians.  It alone can move mountains.  And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matthew 21:22). Yet many Christians today do not use this power.  Many of those that do use it only use it to ask for help.  Giving praise in prayer is extremely important not just requesting help but to give thanks.  Like the lepers healed by Jesus will we be like the Samaritan that comes back to give thanks for the grace that God bestows upon us?  (Luke 17) Often Christians forget that the goodness that is bestowed upon them is not by their will and actions but through His and His alone.  Yet we continue to post on Facebook in our selfish ways to seek the acknowledgement from our brothers and sisters for the prayers we provide.  If this is so how are we any better than those that collected money at the temple? (Matthew 21).

Prayer should be conducted as Jesus instructed in Mathew 18.  In small groups both in silence and out loud. Praying alone can be done but a greater emphasis on prayer must be placed on doing it when two or more are gathered in His name.  By sharing we are able to afford people the opportunity to listen which often does more good to the person hurt than anything else.  Listening is one of those skills my generation is failing to learn or accomplish.  Reading tweets, blurbs and status changes is not the same as listening.  More information can be obtained when we listen to someone share their message.  Their nonverbal ques, their voice pattern, and their facial expressions this information can impact the need and emphasis we place on those requesting us to pray with them.

While social media will never go away, I understand as Christians we will always go there to update and see who needs someone to comfort them.  But least we not forget to communicate verbally with one another to share our praise and burdens so we together can lift them to the Lord.  But if we go on social media to share in each other’s burdens remember to pray first about it and then to follow up in a verbal conversation so the Holy Spirit can move you to comfort each other as you share each other’s burdens.

So this is the challenge I set before all my Christian brothers and sisters:  Formally pray with someone everyday for 30 days for both the good and bad in your life.  See how the Lord comforts you and brings you peace.  If praying out loud makes you nervous pray with someone you trust.  Let them lead you a couple of times.  Pray with your family at every meal even when you go out.  Let the Holy Spirit dwell within you by inviting Him in and see what wonders He will do for you in the next 30 days. Feel free to contact me with your experiences and I will share mine with you.

Prayer for the Human Family Book of Common Prayer 1928

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

#BreatheFire For What The Lord Has Set Forth For Us

#BreatheFire is an internet meme that was started by a women who was upset at the situation for Anna Duggar. At the end of her open letter to Anna Duggar she vows to teach her daughters to think they breathe fire. Her complaint is not with Anna Duggar but those that raised her. She believes that Anna was raised to be chaste and holy. She was raised to be devout to her husband and be a good mother. The issue becomes as the mother points out that for everything she was taught she was now bound to a man, Josh Duggar, who was not honorable to what he was taught. We all have heard over the past year the hits the Duggar family has taken in the media for the less than Christian actions that have taken place in their lives separate from their TV show which expresses their deeply rooted Christian values.

As a Christian woman I live in two worlds under the oppression of the feminist movement. As Christian women we are obligated to live out our Christian values and fight the feminist agenda. The feminist agenda was not all bad. It gave me the opportunity to wear jeans and pants without being judged. It allowed me to take a technological job which is often dominated by males. It also allowed me get a higher education. Most importantly it also allows me to stand up and #BreatheFire for my Christian beliefs and values. I would like to imagine I #BreatheFire for God and Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Similar to Joshua.

Joshua 10: 10-12
10 And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms.
11 And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.
12 And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD commanded.

I can be a servant to the Lord and be strong. I can be a strong women and put on the armor of the Lord and still serve the Lord and my husband (Proverbs 31:10-31). As I see the Duggar situation, I see Anna as being strong. She stands by the head of her household. She is represents the true idea of the #BreatheFire movement at this moment in time. How many of us Christian ladies would stay? How many of us would stand by our husbands in the face of his sins? As Christians we must remember in these times we must stand together and pull up our brothers and sisters and assist them in repenting for their sins. For it is the sin we hate not the individual committing the sin. Sin is real and hurtful to families and individuals alike.

As a parent I am in charge of assisting in the raising of a four year old little girl. I will teach her to #BreatheFire. Not for the feminist movement but for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To be a warrior for Christ. I will teach my son the same thing. Although we are all sinners  it was through His death we are able to be saved and forgiven. We shall be warriors, my family, for the Lord. Therefore we #BreatheFire in being warriors for our Lord. How will you raise your children? Shall the Word guide your life and its decisions? As parents we should teach our children to #BreatheFire. #BreatheFire not for the ideas of what our society teaches us but what for the Lord has set forth for us.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15