Bags of Bran

Evangelicals and Bonhoeffer Together
March 31, 2015, 11:58 am
Filed under: Apologioi, Destined to get me in trouble

If you’ve ever read this blog before, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t buy the evangelical shtick. I tend to think of it as a social phenomenon more than a theological phenomenon, and that this is why they struggle so mightily to maintain any kind of meaningful distinction from the world. Definitions of evangelicalism such as Bebbington’s Quadrilateral seem much more exclusive than they really are: even “conversionism,” which seems to safeguard the work of the Holy Spirit, can only account for unhatched chickens. I think that this is exactly what the book of Hebrews addresses, incidentally, in those seemingly bewildering warning passages. In a milieu of conservative evangelicalism where people are taught (or are not un-taught) to never ever ever question the eternal veracity or objective knowability of their justification regardless of the presence or absence of “fruit in keeping with repentance,” it’s hard to take it very seriously.

Add to this the evangelical tendency to try to rehabilitate and assimilate theologically aberrant historical figures. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was neo-orthodox, friends. He came at Christianity with the same anti-supernatural presuppositions; with the same steely, modernist dome overhead cutting off the heavens; with the same doubts and denials concerning special revelation; as the earlier theological liberals. Eric Metaxas didn’t cite those parts of Bonhoeffer’s writings. True, Bonhoeffer did some brave things, there is no denying that he was brave. But those evangelical-sounding things that he wrote: what did he actually mean by them? What sorts of presuppositions were they founded upon? What doubts and denials had hollowed out the centers of his words?

I commend to you this article, written by a fellow who identifies himself as “neo-Waldensian.” I also commend to you the links he provides to other articles, especially the ones on Reformed Forum. Please read carefully, knowing that I’m not necessarily advocating their conclusions so much as their observations. But as you read, understand this: there must be some reason that evangelicals are willing to overlook and even cover for the painfully clear theological deviations in these figures, while at the same time assuring you that nothing is more important than doctrine. I don’t know exactly what it is yet.


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