Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bonhoeffer's Questions...

In the outline for the book he intended to write, Bonhoeffer asks a very important question:

What do we really believe? I mean, believe in such a way that we stake our lives on it? The problem of the Apostle's Creed? "What must I believe?" is the wrong question.

And so what are the right questions?  Bonhoeffer had a lot of questions that were taking him from a religious kind of faith to a "to the core" kind of faith, tried and tested. 

The following quote from one of his letters from prison....

You would be surprised, and perhaps even worried, by my theological thoughts and the conclusions that they lead to; and this is where I miss you most of all, because I don't know anyone else with whom I could so well discuss them to have my thinking clarified

Yes...I know a lot about those surprised and worried reactions.  I also know how beneficial discussion can be.  It is in the discussion many times that the theological thoughts and conclusions are sorted out and understood.  Sort of a "come let us reason together" way of approaching things.  I mainly do that on EU...where anything can be discussed in a non-threatening, non-combative, nothing to prove kind of way. 

Bonhoeffer continues....

What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today.

Nothing like an easy question to get started huh?

He pondered whether man would become become religionless. Or whether man already had become religionless.  He questioned whether the foundation had been taken away from Christianity and only a few "last survivors" remained.

He pondered....

If our final judgment must be that the western form of Christianity, too, was only a preliminary stage to a complete absence of religion, what kind of situation emerges for us, for the church?

And following is a running list of all the questions he spits out...rapid one of his letters to

How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well?

Are there religionless Christians?

If religion is only a garment of Christianity - and even this garment has looked very different at different times - then what is a religionless Christianity?

What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world?

How do we speak of God - without religion, i.e. without the temporally conditioned presuppositions of metaphysics, inwardness, and so on?

How do we speak (or perhaps we cannot now even "speak" as we used to) in a "secular" way about "God?"

In what way are we "religionless-secular" Christians, those who are called forth, not regarding ourselves from a religious point of view as specially favored, but rather as belonging wholly to the world?

In that case Christ is no longer an object of religion, but something quite different, really the Lord of the world. But what does that mean?

What is the place of worship and prayer ina religionless situation?

Does the secret discipline, or alternatively the difference between the penultimate and ultimate, take on a new importance here?

The Pauline question whether circumcision is a condition of justification seems to me in present-day terms to be whether religion is a condition of salvation.

Then he says something I can so understand...

I'm being led on more by an instinctive feeling for questions that will arise later than by any conclusions that I've already reached about them.

I used to hate the questions.  I had so many of them...and they tormented me. Big questions, too. To echo one of Bonhoeffer's quotes from the beginning of this post...

What is bothering me incessantly is ____________.

Incessantly describes it well.  I could have filled in the blank with so many different questions about sovereignty, evil, suffering...inerrancy.

  I had to KNOW and  I HAD TO KNOW NOW!!!  I've heard John Gavazonni say that sometimes God gives us answers....sometimes he gives us peace. 

About many things, he's given me peace.  About a few things, he's given me answers.  But more than anything, he seems to give me questions.  Always whispering in my ear....what about this?  What about that?  Hmmmmmm.  He piques my interest and my thoughts  all the time, everywhere, in so many different ways via so many different venues.  And surprisingly, I've come to appreciate the questions as much as I treasure the answers.  

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