I am about a third of the way through a new book by Eric Metaxas, titled Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I enthusiastically recommend the book. It is well written, well researched, and an easy read, even though it is almost 600 pages. During his trip to America in 1930 and 31, Bonhoeffer made the following observations about the church. He wrote,
This is quite characteristic of most of the churches I saw. So what stands in place of the Christian message? An ethical and social idealism borne by a faith in progress that—who knows how—claims the right to call itself “Christian.” And in the place of the church as the congregation of believers in Christ there stands the church as a social corporation. Anyone who has seen the weekly program of one of the large New York churches, with their daily, indeed almost hourly events, teas, lectures, concerts, charity events, opportunities for sports, games, bowling, dancing for every age group, anyone who has heard how they try to persuade a new resident to join the church, insisting that you’ll get into society quite differently by doing so, anyone who has become acquainted with the embarrassing nervousness with which the pastor lobbies for membership—that person can well access the character of such a church. All these things, of course, take place with varying degrees of tactfulness, taste, and seriousness; some churches are basically “charitable” churches; others are primarily a social identity. One cannot avoid the impression, however, that in both cases they have forgotten what the real point is (107).
It is hard to believe he wrote these words 80 years ago. Things have not gotten better either, and this disease is spreading. You should read what he wrote about the seminaries!
Categories: Bonhoeffer, Books, Church, Church history, Culture, Seminary, Theology
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