Church Life Theology

Top 10 Bonhoeffer Quotes

In honor of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — arguably the greatest theologian-pastor-prophet-preacher-martyr of modern times — here are SC’s top 10 Bonhoeffer quotes. 

[1] “Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it costs God the life of God’s Son – ‘you were bought with a price’ – and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live. God did, indeed, give him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God” (DBW 4, 45).

[2] “The meaning of history is tied up with an event which takes place in the depth and hiddenness of a man who ended on the cross. The meaning of history is found in the humiliated Christ” (Christ the Center, 62).

[3] “The church is the church only when it exists for others….It must tell men of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others” (Letters and Papers from Prison, 382-283).

[4] “There are so many experiences and disappointments that drive sensitive people toward nihilism and resignation. That is why it is good to learn early that suffering and God are not contradictions, but rather a necessary unity. For me, the idea that it is really God who suffers has always been one of the most persuasive teachings of Christianity. I believe that God is closer to suffering than to happiness, and that finding God in this way brings peace and repose and a strong, courageous heart” (Meditations on the Cross, 46).

[5] “If Jesus Christ is to be described as God, we may not speak of this divine being, nor of his omnipotence, nor his omniscience; but we must speak of this weak man among sinners, of his manger and his cross. If we are to deal with the deity of Jesus, we must speak of his weakness” (Christ the Center, 104).

[6] “Only because God became a destitute, miserable, unknown failure of a man and because God will now let Himself be found only in this destitution – in the cross – for this reason alone we can never be separate from the world, and for this reason we love our brothers” (DBW 15, 113).

[7] “The world is not overcome through demolition but through reconciliation. Not ideals, programs of action, not conscience, duty, responsibility, virtue, but simply and only the consummate love of God is capable of encountering reality and overcoming it. Nor is it a generalized idea of love, but God’s love truly lived in Jesus Christ, which accomplishes this. This – God’s love for the world – does not withdraw itself from reality in a rapture of noble souls foreign to the world, but instead experiences and suffers the reality of the world in all its harshness” (DBW 6, 69).

[8] “Because God’s love for man is Jesus Christ become man, He is not a proclaimer of abstract ethical ideologies but rather the concrete executor of God’s love. Our call is not to the practice of ethical ideals but to life in God’s love, and that means – in reality (DBW 6, 231).

[9] “God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us….Christ helps us, not by omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering” (Letters and Papers from Prison, 361).

[10] “In the humiliation, Christ of his own free will, enters the world of sin and death. He enters it in such a way as to hide himself in it in weakness and not to be recognized as God-Man. He does not enter in kingly robes of a morphe theou (Greek, ‘form of God)….He goes incognito, as a beggar among beggars, as an outcast among outcasts, as despairing among the despairing, as dying among the dying” (Christ the Center, 107).

Josh is an award-winning faith and culture writer and the author of the upcoming book, God Incognito: Bonhoeffer's Theology of the Cross for the Trump Era and Beyond. He holds a master's degree in theology from Tyndale Seminary in Toronto and is the recipient of the Dr. Ross and Carol Bailey Theology Award. He lives in Murillo, Ontario with his wife and their two adorable daughters and has a column at ChristianWeek.org.

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