Cyber Book Club: Chapter 15–A Separation and a Purge

 

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer–1944

Faithful Christians like Bonhoeffer tried desperately to free the German church from Nazi control but to no avail. Eventually, the moment no one wanted to see, arrived. On June 4th a group of Christians announced in the Barmen Delaration their separation from the Reichskirche.

On June 4— again, thanks to Bishop Bell and Bonhoeffer— the full text of the Barmen Declaration was published in the London Times. It was incendiary, announcing to the world that a group of Christians in Germany had officially and publicly declared their independence from the Nazified Reichskirche. When one read it, it was easy to understand why they had done so.

Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 226). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

We must shake off our fear of this world— the cause of Christ is at stake, and are we to be found sleeping? . . . Christ is looking down at us and asking whether there is anyone left who confesses faith in him.

Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 219). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

 

Only a few weeks later, Hilter would enact his “Night of the Long Knives”–an action that must surely have trebled the mounting sense of desperation among Christian Germans.

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Not even Ernst Rohm, one of Hitler’s top servants, escaped the purge.

Cyber Book Club–Chapter 14 Suffering Faithfully is Fighting Too

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Bonhoeffer’s London apartment http://www.dietrich-bonhoeffer.net/leben/london

In Chapter 14 of  Bonhoeffer: A Biography, Dietrich heads to London to take on the pastorate of two German congregations. He desired to keep his hand in practical ministry. While there, many concerned British and German thinkers wondered how to fight the Nazi take-over of the German church with the appointment of Muller as it’s leader or Reichsbischof.

In the midst of their concerns and plans, Dietrich seemed to foresee a time when the only work in the fight against Nazism would be the work of suffering faithfully.

While Hildebrandt, Niemöller, and Jacobi were thinking about how to defeat Müller, Bonhoeffer was thinking about God’s highest call, about the call of discipleship and its cost. He was thinking about Jeremiah and about God’s call to partake in suffering, even unto death. Bonhoeffer was working it out in his head at the same time that he was thinking about what the next move should be with Heckel and the church struggle. He was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, wherever that might lead. In the letter to Sutz, he said, Simply suffering— that is what will be needed then— not parries, blows or thrusts such as may still be possible or admissible in the preliminary fight; the real struggle that perhaps lies ahead must simply be to suffer faithfully. . . . [F] or sometime [the church struggle] hasn’t even been about what it appears to be about; the lines have been drawn somewhere else entirely. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Bonhoeffer was somehow thinking prophetically, that somehow he could see what was ahead of him, that at some point he would be able to do nothing more than “suffer faithfully” in his cell, praising God as he did so, thanking him for the high privilege of being counted worthy to do so.

Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 196). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

When has suffering been the chief work of your life?

Is there someone you know suffering right now?

How can we come alongside fellow Christians who are called to a time of suffering so that they can be faithful and comforted in their struggle?

The Paradigm Shift You Should Consider Making–Book Club Week 2

Photo credit: Robbie Ribeiro

Photo credit: Robbie Ribeiro

How profound is your connection to the Church universal, and for that matter, to your local Christian fellowship?

Not much?

Is it because we don’t really take the time to appreciate that we are redeemed as a people, to be a people for Christ? When we identify strongly with our brothers and sisters in faith and see ourselves, above all, as part of a bigger whole, we gain unique comfort and perspective which will serve us and others well in this earthly life.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9

“This reorienting our minds from ‘individual first, common next’ to ‘common first, individual next’ is difficult and not readily grasped, but is highly beneficial to the church and to the individual as well, because it undermines self-centeredness, criticism, division, and pride. It underscores humility, service, and love toward one another….In Chapter Two, “The Day with Others”, Bonhoeffer provides a model for how we can spend the day in Christian fellowship with one another in the Lord.  He walks through a full day; morning, noon, and evening, exhorting and offering practical helps, and sometimes personal preferences, pointing to how common-life (fellowship) revolves around common worship. Common worship, both family and corporate, is the staple for “life-together” fellowship.

Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Continue reading with us as we move into Chapter 3 of “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer! Join or local discussion group if you live nearby!

EBH

The Surprising Secret to Fellowship–Cyber Book Club begins Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together”.

friends-1439264-1279x849Thankfulness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer brilliantly lays out the foundation of our fellowship with Christ. In the first section of his book, “Life Together”, he discusses the way we can live together and love together, flaws and all.

We thank God for giving us brethren who live by his call, by his forgiveness, and his promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what he does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of his grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together—the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship….

If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2012-06-20). Life Together (Kindle Locations 196-199). Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Our book club moves on to Chapter 2 this week. Please read along! If you’re near the Clovis area, please join us as we meet on Wednesday nights 6:30-8:00 p.m. We would LOVE to see you there!!! Visit clovisevfree.org for location details.

EBH

Introducing Our Cyber Book Club’s Special Read! Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” Begins July 19th!

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If you are following along with our regular reading schedule, you will know that we are nearly halfway through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography by Eric Metaxes. Hitler now has firm control of Germany and German Christians are in a crisis. The national church stance is pro-Nazi and anti-semitic. True followers must regroup, define and defend their ideas. Part of the work that followed was the establishment of what would be known as the “Confessing Church”. Eventually, Dietrich would begin an underground seminary dedicated to sharing and teaching Biblically faithful doctrines. There, among other believers seeking to follow Christ faithfully, Dietrich would pen one of his most beloved writings, “Life Together”.

We are going to delve deeper into this period of Bonhoeffer’s life by reading his book, “Life Together” before we continue on with the increasing horrors of World War II. When we are done we will better understand Dietrich and his struggle for the church under the terror of the Third Reich.

We begin reading on July 19th. If you live within driving distance of Clovis Evangelical Free Church, we would love to invite you to join our “Life Together” book discussion on Wednesday nights, 6:30 p.m., beginning July 22nd. Whether online or in person, let’s read together! So get the book…and get ready!

EBH

Cyber Book Club Week 13: Chapter 13–Imagine the Supreme Court Running Your Church

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Ebenese concentration camp.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his like-minded brethren are facing that the church in Germany has been strong-armed by the political powers that be and is now fully under the control and patronage of Nazi sympathizers. To make matters worse, those who disagree with the new anti-semitic church laws can’t agree on how to disagree. It seemed that nothing could be done to fix things from the inside.

The result? Bonhoeffer and his friends decided to write a position, the Bethel Confession, outlining where they stood on anti-semitic rulings and what they believed should be the stance of true Christians. Out of the gate, 6,000 pastors from across Germany aligned themselves with the Bethel Confession and the seed of what would become the Confessing Church was sown.

Throughout history, Christians have been faced with the problem that occurs when culture diverges in behavior from God’s standards. That’s when we become salt and light. And not very popular. It will always be so. At times the issues are different but what is required of us is the same. We must hold to truth, share it, and take the consequences. Whether it’s slavery, embryonic stem-cell research, jihadism, human trafficking, pornography, extortion, organized crime, Naziism, the KKK, we have to say “I will not go there. I love you, but you’re wrong. You have the power to do as you will, but ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'” It has gotten us crucified, beheaded, impoverished, burned, ridiculed, slandered, and more…but we cannot be made to abandon what God has taught us.

For the rest of this book, Dietrich’s persecution for holding to Christian doctrine intensifies. Bonhoeffer and, indeed, most of the world, will find how heavy the price of resisting evil will be.

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Questions for discussion:

Do you think you are brave enough to kindly and respectfully share you’re religious beliefs with others?

Can you give them the right to disagree without being rude?

Practice sharing your thoughts kindly and respectfully this week.

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EBH

Cyber Book Club Week 12–State and Church Collide

SA troopers outside a pro-Nazi church service in July 1933.

SA troopers outside a pro-Nazi church service in July 1933.

I can’t and won’t even try to pretend that I entirely understand the relationship between the German church and the German state during Hitler’s regime. But this chapter depicts how important it was to the Nazis to consolidate the church and control the messages from the pulpit. Hitler eventually strong-armed Nazis into church leadership. Perhaps the laity could have resisted this but hind sight is 20/20 and enough people were afraid to challenge those in charge and eventually the church fell under Nazi control.

Two days later it was all moot because the state intervened and all hell broke loose….Now the real church struggle would begin. On June 28, Müller ordered SA troops to occupy the church offices in Berlin. On July 2, an SA commando arrested a pastor. Those in the opposition held prayers of atonement and called for prayers of intercession. In the resultant chaos, Bodelschwingh met with Hindenburg to explain his side of the situation, and Hindenburg said he would convey Bodelschwingh’s concerns to Hitler. Bonhoeffer began to see that the opposition to Hitler and the German Christians was weak and divided, and he was gradually losing hope that anything positive could be done.

Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 179). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

This was a crisis for Christians who didn’t want to accept the Arian Paragraph and Nazi theology. In the next chapter we see Bonhoeffer and his fellow Christians create their confession of faith and their response to Nazi ideas. People who supported the Nazis became known as the German Christians and those who opposed Nazi ideas became part of the Confessing Church.

Pastor Martin Niemöller joined the Nazi party in 1934. However, later he protested and became head of the ‘Confessing Church’.

Pastor Martin Niemöller joined the Nazi party in 1934. However, later he protested and became head of the ‘Confessing Church’.

Questions to Consider:

How does separation of church and state protect the church?

Who and how is church leadership decided upon in your church/denomination?

Why are confessions of faith important?

What do you think your family might have done if you in Germany at the time?

EBH