Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one who knew of that which he spoke when dealing with the issue of cheap grace versus costly grace. Bonhoeffer's commitment to the principles of his vocation and being cost him his life - executed in the closing days of World War II, Bonhoeffer walked a dangerous path through exercising his vocation faithfully in the midst of the twin evils of warfare and Nazi domination of Germany.
Bonhoeffer's life, from the earliest days, probably seemed like it was set on an idyllic path - the son of a professional family with strong roots in a prosperous and civilised culture, Bonhoeffer would seem to have `had it made'. His early days in school showed him to be a minister and academic of great promise. However, his experiences at Union Seminary in New York City, an academic environment very different from the German academy, and at the Abyssian Baptist Church, an African-American congregation, vastly different from his Germanic Lutheran background, prepared a way for Bonhoeffer to expand beyond his upbringing and learning to become someone striving to find God in all people, and the will of God in all that he did.
The subject of this book is grace - too often, in Bonhoeffer's day and our own, people seem to look at grace as something free, instead of something freely offered. Bonhoeffer points out that the call of God and the gift of God's grace is not to be taken lightly - `the call to follow Jesus always leads to death'. This may seem an unusual call in our day; after all, the more prosperous of our churches would seem to espouse a conventionally respectable lifestyle (far from the `death' Bonhoeffer speaks about) as the reward for following God. However, Bonhoeffer uses the example of the disciples, each of whom faced martyrdom, as did many early Christian leaders, as a touchstone for the vocation.
Bonhoeffer also gives a great deal of attention in this text to the Sermon on the Mount, providing interpretations that still speak to congregations today, but also with warnings. Bonhoeffer admonishes those who would pick and choose the parts of scripture, or indeed the parts of the Sermon on the Mount, that fit what they want to hear, disregarding the rest. Bonhoeffer writes that we are not called to interpret, but to obey, giving ourselves up to God, as the disciples did, as martyrs did, and as Bonhoeffer himself would do in the fullness of his lifetime.
This edition of Bonhoeffer's great work is prefaced by his friend, Bishop G.K.A. Bell of Chichester, a friend and admirer of Bonhoeffer, who states that, `Dietrich himself was a martyr many times before he died'. There is also a memoir provided by G. Leibholz, which puts the text in historical context. However, the real substance of the book is in Bonhoeffer's own words. Cheap grace was the deadly enemy of the church then, and it remains a dangerous foe to this day.
on 6 December 1997
This is an intense work,though not as intense as some of Dietrich's other works.This book lives up to it's title in every way,he pulls no punches as he relates the scriptures to real life and expounds upon the teachings of Jesus.He plainly teaches that there is a cost to following in the footsteps of Christ,just as Christ himself taught that Christ must be first and there is no compromise.This work is so intense,even Dietrich himself later in life,wondered if he was too blunt.Definitely not for those who enjoy sugar coated watered down messages,but if you've got the guts to read it,it will change your life!
on 31 March 2000
Every page of this book has me reaching for my Bible or praying - this book will challenge you to shake off all complacency and start taking up the cross to follow Christ. If you're comfortable where you are with God, forget it, if you really want God, then this book is a mustread!
on 3 February 1999
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man of great principle, who lived what he believed. He felt obligated to return to Germany during the war, because he felt that if he lived outside of the persecution his church was suffering, he would have no right to belong to it after the war. Jesus said unless a man take up his cross and deny himself, he cannot be my disciple. This is a book for truly counting the cost of following Jesus.
on 7 July 2010
This book does the intellectual equivalent of picking you up by the lapels and shaking you. The style is simple (though not simplistic) and straightforward. But it is also ruthlessly uncompromising. The book is littered with instances where Bonhoeffer points out the thinking of the person who wants to make excuses and worm their way out of 100% commitment. In those instances, I read my own words and thoughts coming back at me.
This was not merely an academic treatise. It is a call to action; to a life of devotion. Bonhoeffer's life and death bear the hallmarks of someone who lived out their writings in complete obedience to Christ. This is not to be read lightly, or glossed over. Read it and prepare to have your life changed.