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Monday, August 19, 2013

Bonhoeffer On The Christian Life

Stephen J. Nichols (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College. He has written several books, including The ReformationFor Us and for Our Salvation, and Welcome to the Story. He lives with his wife and three children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
On June 27th of this year, Stephen was announced as Ligonier Ministries' newest Teaching Fellow.  Combining a passion for church history and a love for the Reformed tradition, Dr. Nichols compliments Ligonier's existing group of Teaching Fellows with his expertise in American Christianity, New Testament and Systematic Theology.
Stephen is also a visiting professor for Reformation Bible College and has served as a lecturer in church history for Westminster Theological Seminary since 2004.
Dr. Nichols is a prolific writer who has written, contributed to or edited more than a dozen books on church history, biblical doctrine and practical theology, and is currently the co-editor for the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer died a martyr’s death at the age of 39 but remains one of the most influential and challenging theologians of our time. His writings teach us the value of cross-centered theology, and his courageous actions against the Nazi regime compel us to consider the cost of discipleship. From Bonhoeffer we learn that the Christian life is lived both alone and together, and that there is a stark difference between cheap and costly grace. With insight, clarity, and wisdom, Stephen Nichols guides us through the words and deeds of this humble yet heroic pastor, whose example shows us that the Christian’s life flows from the cross, for the world.

If you have about 15 minutes, you might find this discussion between Dr. Nichols and Justin Taylor insightful.  In this time, they discuss the importance of the series Theologians on the Christian Life, and then more specifically this newest addition by Dr. Nichols on Bonhoeffer:

My Thoughts:
The goal of the series is to "provide accessible introductions to the great teachers on the Christian Life."  The tagline of the series is:  Gaining wisdom from the past for life in the present.  I was blessed to have Crossway send me a complimentary copy of Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life:  From the Cross, For the World for the purpose of this review.  I've been reading through the book...slowly as part of my devotional times each day.  
Dr. Nichols has provided for his readers an indispensable and rich resource for Christian living.  He has written an essential guide for the application of Bonhoeffer's theology.  The book is divided into five parts:  Introduction, Foundations, Disciplines, Life and Literature as well as two appendices that cover a time line of Bonhoeffer's life and a summary of Bonhoeffer on the Christian life.  
After reading Dr. Nichols' biography, one might think this book to be just another stuffy and boring "lecture" by a professor.  That would be a tragic assumption to make.  I found Dr. Nichols' writing to be thoughtful and thorough, but certainly not boring or stuffy.  He unpacks Bonhoeffer's theology, rich as it is and then helps the reader to apply that theology to his/her everyday life.
Here are a few quotes from the book to give you a taste of the subject matter and of Dr. Nichols' writing style:
"If you are looking for the line of demarcation between what the Greco-Roman worldview had to offer and what Christianity has to offer, this is it.  Either hope and redemption reside within human beings so we become the object of our own faith, or hope and redemption reside outside us, alien to s, so we look beyond ourselves to the object of our faith.  Only when we come to the end of ourselves do we see our true need.  That is the Christian view."
"Something more profound lies beneath both weakness and power.  Behind our weakness lies sin, and behind divine power lies holiness.  The true problem consists not of our weakness.  Weakness is a symptom, merely pointing to our true problem:  sinfulness.  And the great gulf between us and God is not merely measured by finite weakness compared to infinite strength.  The great gulf consists in our utter sinfulness compared to God's incomparable holiness."
"Bonhoeffer reminds us that since the church is made of people, who happen to be sinners, it can be messy and inconvenient and feel unfulfilling.  Thinking like a consumer when it comes to the church robs us of genuine Christian community.  Community - which at its foundational and essential nature is composed of other people - consists of burdens and suffering, challenges, and difficulties.  None of these makes for good advertising.  But you bond the deepest with those you suffer with." 
This book is deeply theological but profoundly practical and I can not recommend it enough!  It will be one that I return to many times and plan on passing down to my children dog eared, tattered and marked up.

You can order the book from Crossway by going HERE.