Friday, July 30, 2010

Bonhoeffer and Schism

Charles Colson tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is a pretty amazing guy. But sadly it was a story of a schism.
The Declaration boldly declared independence from both the state and a co-opted church. It made clear that the signers and their churches were not seceding from the German church; instead, it was the co-opted German church that had broken away.

To Bonhoeffer, writes Metaxas, the Barmen Declaration “reclarified what it—the legitimate and actual German Church—actually believed and stood for.” It rejected the “false doctrine” that the Church could change according to “prevailing ideological and political positions.”
 So the German Lutheran church is facing the challenge of a Nazi government. How do they respond? They split. This weakened the church at a crucial time. Of course, the Barmen Declaration was just the opinions of men. They declared it boldly but many Christians simply rejected it. So what has been gained?

Then he brings up the Manhattan Declaration on abortion. Guess what? Same problem. Many big name protestants have rejected it. So it does more to show the weakness of the movement rather than the strength.

It comes back to the last post. Do we need grace, even as a church, or can we do just fine with our own wisdom? Now individuals on both sides in any church dispute would say they are relying on grace. I believe them. But the institution lacks any special grace. Except, of course, the Catholic church. What happens if Dietrich Bonhoeffer is in the Catholic church? He does not consider schism. He fights for what he knows is right but does it while respecting the existing leadership. He counts on the Holy Spirit to move His church in the right direction even when some leaders don't seem to offer much hope. By staying in the church he can reform it without destroying it.

Schism ultimately says to Jesus that He messed up in building his church. That the church isn't just going through a rough patch but is truly beyond repair. We need to fix it because God won't. Depending on the grace of God is replaced by depending on the wisdom of men. The intellect is darkened so they can't think of any other way to proceed.

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