Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bonhoeffer on Cheap Grace

The Cost of Discipleship
Anybody that has followed this site is well aware of how influential Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book The Cost of Discipleship has been in my life as we have walked through the Sermon on the Mount.  I find many of Bonhoeffer's words timely and desperately need to be heard for Christians today.
Perhaps this isn't more true when it comes to Bonhoeffer's chapter on cheap grace.  The first chapter of this Christian classic (written about 80 years ago) discusses the problem with accepting a cheap gospel, what Bonhoeffer calls cheap grace.  He defines cheap grace as:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.  -44-45

I can think of no better definition than that.   We all want forgiveness, but few of us want to live forgiven.  We all want baptism, but few of us live as if we have been washed.  We all want grace, but few of us want discipleship.  We all want the cross, but few want to die to ourselves.  We all want grace, but we want a cheap grace whereby we deny the incarnation of Christ (and act as if His life and example mean nothing), Hid death (and act as if Hid death meant nothing calling on us to sacrifice all like Him), and His resurrection (and act as if His resurrection meant nothing calling on us to live a new life differently from the old self).

Bonhoeffer begins his book with the following:

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy f our Church.  We are fighting to-day for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.  The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices.  Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost!  The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.  Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite.

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system.  It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God.  An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins . . . no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.  Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial o the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.  Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything an remain as it was before. -43

Let Bonhoeffer's words pierce through our souls.  Have we bought into cheap grace, or a cost grace?  A grace that says everything about God's love and nothing about His holiness?  A grace that says everything about grace and nothing about repentence, regeneration, or conversion?  Or will we accept a more costly grace?  A grace that may cost us our reputations, our desires, our dreams, our wants, our plans, and even our very lives?

One is salvific (the costly grace) the other is damnable (cheap grace).  Bonhoeffer, and I believe Christ, is calling us to reject cheap grace that magnifies the soul over the Savior and accept a more costly grace that humbles the soul and magnifies the Savior.

For more:
Bonhoeffer on Anxiety  
Bonhoeffer on the Golden Rule 
Bonhoeffer on Treasures in Heaven  
Bonhoeffer on Matthew 5:7-9 
Bonhoeffer: The Meaning of Poor In Spirit and the Joy of Being Spiritual Bankrupt
Bonhoeffer:  "By Willing Endurance We Cause Suffering to Pass" 
Weekly Recommendation: "The Cost of Discipleship"
Bonhoeffer: Truth and the Cross

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