During the Third Reich true Christians saw a problem emerging: the Nazis tried to rule the German Evangelical Church (DEK, today EKD). Regrettably a lot of the members of the DEK welcomed the Nazi-rule both over the DEK and the state. When the faithful Christians noticed that the Nazi-rule over the DEK grew more and more, they decided to establish the Confessing Church. The Confessing Church was the real Church of Jesus Christ in Germany during the Third Reich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the most gifted theologian of the Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer was very straightforward, and sometimes his “speed” was too high for other members of the Confessing Church. (Note: The Confessing Church broke away from the DEK: members of the DEK which wanted to be faithful to Christ, subordinated themselves under the leadership of the Confessing Church; thus, the Confessing Church was no Free Church, but the faithful part of the DEK which did not accept Nazi-rule)
However, the Third Reich is over, but the German Evangelical Chruch (EKD) still exists, and has a lot of problems. Of course there are evil powers, not wanting that the problems of the EKD are solved. This powers don’t want that Bonhoeffer becomes well known as a theologian and try to turn publics gaze on the “agent” Bonhoeffer. They know the theology of Bonhoeffer would mean their sure downfall and destruction, and would bring disaster upon them.
What is the special thing of Bonhoeffers theology?
The basis of the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the Holy Scripture and the Confessional Documents of the German Evangelical Church. Bonhoeffer was never a member of a Free Church, but of the Confessing Church. The Confessing Chruch was not a Free Church, but the lawful Protestant Church of Germany during the Third Reich. Bonhoeffer never discarded the sacraments, and he called Baptism and Lord’s Supper sacraments. Bonhoeffer was far away from seeing the sacraments as mere symbolic acts. Bonhoeffer was convinced, that God is acting during the celebration of the sacraments. Bonhoeffer had a profound knowledge of the Early Church, and knew that the sacraments had always been part of the ecclesiastical life. There is a big problem that today some Free Churches suppose that Baptism and Lord’s Supper had not been sacraments, but mere sombolic acts in the Early Church and that the Roman Catholic Church had later invented the sacramentel character of Baptism and Lord’s Supper. Free Churches should be carefully, not to see Bonhoeffer as their special man, because he is not.
Is Bonhoeffer the special man of the current EKD? Not at all. Although the EKD keeps the true doctrine about the sacraments, she abuses them. How? The EKD baptizes children in a sphere of unbelievers. On principle the infant baptism is allowed and was practised in the Early Church. But in the Early Church all people around the child were believers, so that the child could have faith before he or she was baptized (the Holy Spirit dwells within the community of the believers; he causes the faith). Furthermore faithful parents teached the gospel to their children and took them with themselves to worship service and other activities of the Church. Bonhoeffer strictly rejected the infant baptism in a sphere of unbelievers, although basically he favoured infant baptism.
Bonhoeffer said, the basic problem of the EKD is that they preach the “cheap grace”. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship. The people want to have forgiveness, but they don’t want to follow Jesus. Bonhoeffer said, one cannot seperate forgiveness and discipleship from each other. It is not possible to receive forgiveness without discipleship.
What is the connection between abuse of infant baptism and cheap grace?
Unbelievers will never teach the gospel to their children, even when they are baptized and will never go to church with their children. Gods call by baptism is upon the children, but nobody explains it to them. On the contrary, they maintain the fiction that baptism is all about Christianity and discipleship is not necessary. The EKD should never baptize children in a sphere of unbelievers, because the sacrament will be mocked. By mocking the sacrament, God is mocked. (Note: the Holy Spirit is present in the community of baptized people which daily follow Jesus, according to the call which is upon them by baptism; the Holy Spirit is not present in a community of baptized people which don’t follow Jesus)
Even when people go to Church, they don’t hear the true gospel, and that they are called by baptism to be disciples of Jesus Christ. By baptizing children of unbelievers, the cheap grace is preached, baptism would mean sole forgiveness. And even when the people go to Church, they will hear the gospel of the cheap grace. Thus in both cases the sacrament is mocked and remains ineffective.
Bonhoeffer made a great discovery: By baptism Jesus calls people to be his disciples. Baptism is a supernatural call which must be responded by obedience. The call of God is very powerful. By the power of the call someone is able to be a follower of Jesus, but not by his natural power. The call is the mystery of successful discipleship.