The Lord is the strength of his people;he is the saving refuge of his anointed.Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!Be their shepherd and carry them forever. —Psalm 28.8-9 (ESV)
Contrary to what some of you might have supposed, I think that good theology and good doctrine matter. And of course I think my own theology and doctrine is correct because–well, I mean, what’s the point of believing something if you don’t, right?
I still maintain the value of crossing theological cultures, and I still maintain that not one of us has ever thought about God 100% correctly, so that ultimately it’s up to Him and not to us whether we are, to use an already coined term, “saved.” But I also believe there is such a thing as “saved” and what’s more, I am in the middle of a two-semester-long class in which I have to–somehow–codify my theological views and back them up, so I’ve been thinking and reading about these things a lot.
On Sunday during “Energy Shot”–the time we talk about God and the Bible and Life with the Youth Group on Sunday, one of them asked a question that essentially meant, “Wouldn’t God want us to become mature enough not to need Him to do everything for us?”
This is an important question, but parents were already arriving to pick kids up, and I like to teach by asking questions rather than correcting or pontificating if possible (though I dare say I do enough of the other two as well), so I tabled it until a later date. Then, as I was readying to write a statement about what I believe salvation means for my seminary class, I read something that startled me. According to a theology textbook of mine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed essentially the same thing as the Youth was asking about. So I guess she is in good company. But . . . Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
I mean, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I mean, I guess, if that’s true, I fundamentally disagree about something with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
I’m still trying to decide if I’m more stunned that a guy who seems to be laudable across the theological scope of Christendom (including with Evangelicals like me, who might be considered to be more picky) was developing such an unorthodox view, or that I’m in my early 40’s having grown up in a very “Christian-schooled” context (all the way up until now), having read his works and having a mother who just read his very extensive biography, and this is the first I’m hearing of this.
Admittedly my theology book calls Bonhoeffer a “forerunner of this view” that “secularism [is] not a competitor but as a mature expression of Christian faith,” and that “The human race’s coming of age is not rebellion against God, but is God’s educating his highest earthly creature to be independent of him” (Christian Theology, Millard Erickson, Baker Publishing Group: Grand Rapids, 1998). Also admittedly, we could talk about the historical context surrounding Bonhoeffer (mainly, how he stood up against the German state church’s capitulation to Nazism for his whole life and was executed for his work) which kind of explains why “religion” wouldn’t have been a high value to him even if God/Jesus was.
But I still disagree with him. I don’t think that the Bible leaves room for us to grow up to independence of God. I think it’s the root of the human problem to begin with: “You shall be like God”–without God–didn’t go so well. Jesus told us to become like little children, and New Testament writers who followed Him did talk about maturing in our faith, but it was always about growing into God through Christ, not growing independent of Him. Even Jesus (who I would argue–and am in the process of figuring out how to argue–is God Himself) is said to have “learned obedience” to the Father. Plus there’s all that stuff about children and sheep, and God being our Father and Shepherd.
Nobody these days wants to be a sheep.
I guess Jesus didn’t want to be one either, exactly, but He loved us, so He went there. And I think, for His sake, Bonhoeffer did, too.