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S T E P H E N J . N I C H O L S
B O N H O E F F E RF R O M T H E C R O S S , F O R T H E W O R L D
CHRISTIAN LIVING / PERSONAL GROWTH
How I rejoice to see thinkers of Stephen Nicholss caliber applying their fine minds to the life of the inimitable Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
ERIC METAXAS, New York Times best-selling author, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
This book prompted me to pray for the kind of courage that comes only after intense communion with the living God.
RUSSELL D. MOORE, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Nichols helpfully brings Bonhoeffers Christ-centered insights to bear on issues where we need to grow in grace, such as confession, freedom, and love.
COLLIN HANSEN, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition
A wonderful mixture of fair-minded historical reconstruction and wise pastoral counsel.KELLY M. KAPIC, Professor of Theological Studies, Covenant College
STEPHEN J. NICHOLS (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College. He has written several books, including Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living Gods Word.
The Theologians on the Christian Life series provides accessible
introductions to the great teachers on the Christian life.
GAINING WISDOM FROM THE PAST FOR LIFE IN THE PRESENT
died a martyrs death at the age of 39 but
remains one of the most influential and challenging theologians of our time.
His writings teach us the value of cross-centered theology, and his courageous
actions against the Nazi regime compel us to consider the cost of discipleship.
From Bonhoeffer we learn that the Christian life is lived both alone and togeth-
er, and that there is a stark difference between cheap and costly grace. With
insight, clarity, and wisdom, Stephen Nichols guides us through the words
and deeds of this humble yet heroic pastor, whose example shows us that the
Christians life flows from the cross, for the world.
How I rejoice to see thinkers of Stephen Nicholss caliber applying their fine minds to the life and thought of the inimitable Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Theres so much yet to be written about this great man. A hungry readership awaits!
Eric Metaxas, New York Times best-selling author, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
This book will quicken your pulse as you are drawn into the story and the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Stephen Nichols brings a long and complex life to a point of ongoing personal application. This book prompted me to pray for the kind of courage that comes only after intense communion with the living God. Read and be strengthened.
Russell D. Moore, President, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Human weakness paves the way for Gods grace. So writes Stephen Nichols, using Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a guide to the Christian life. But how could a man who stood up to Hitler be considered weak? Thats what makes Bonhoeffer so fascinating, and why he deserves your attention. Nichols helpfully brings Bonhoeffers Christ-centered insights to bear on issues where we need to grow in grace, such as confes-sion, freedom, and love.
Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; coauthor, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir
Bonhoeffer was a unique man who understood the power of both conviction and compassion, clarity and ambiguity, narrative and poetry. Through this man the church is powerfully reminded that all theology is lived theology. In this book, Steve Nichols takes us into Bonhoeffers complex world and offers a rich set of re-flections on such crucial themes as cross, community, and the living Word. Here the reader discovers a wonderful mixture of fair-minded historical reconstruction and wise pastoral counsel.
Kelly M. Kapic, Professor of Theological Studies, Covenant College
Dietrich Bonhoeffers life illustrates the truth that Gods power is made perfect in our weakness. His courageous stand against the Nazi regime is a powerful testa-ment to his cross-centered theology and belief that weakness is the starting point for Christian spirituality. With insight, clarity, and wisdom, Stephen Nichols guides us through the life and work of this humble yet heroic pastor, whose ex-ample shows that all Christian living flows from Gods grace in the cross of Christ.
Justin Holcomb, Executive Director, Resurgence; author, On the Grace of God
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T H E O L O G I A N S O N T H E C H R I S T I A N L I F E
E D I T E D B Y S T E P H E N J . N I C H O L S A N D J U S T I N T A Y L O R
Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality,
Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel,
Fred G. Zaspel
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Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World
Copyright 2013 by Stephen J. Nichols
Published by Crossway 1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law.
Cover design: Josh Dennis Cover image: Richard Solomon Artists, Mark Summers
First printing 2013 Printed in the United States of America
The authors Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway. 2011 Text Edition. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked kjv is from the King James Version of the Bible.
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-4335-1188-2 Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-4335-1190-5 PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-1189-2 ePub ISBN: 978-1-4335-2398-4
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataNichols, Stephen J., 1970 Bonhoe!er on the Christian life : from the cross, for the world / Stephen J. Nichols. pages cm. (Theologians on the Christian life) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4335-1188-2 (tp) 1.Bonhoe!er, Dietrich, 19061945. I.Title. BX4827.B57N525 2013230'.044092dc23 2013000954
Crossway is a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.VP 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 1315 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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C O N T E N T S
Series Preface 11
PART 1 INTRODUCTION
1 Meeting Bonhoeffer 19
PART 2 FOUNDATIONS
2 In Christ: Life from the Cross 31
3 In Community: Life in the Church 57
PART 3 DISCIPLINES
4 Word 79
5 Prayer 99
6 Confession 113
PART 4 LIFE
7 Worldliness 129
8 Freedom 151
9 Love 167
PART 5 LITERATURE
10 Reading Bonhoeffer 185
Appendix A: A Time Line of Bonhoeffers Life 191
Appendix B: Summary of Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life 193
General Index 195
Scripture Index 203
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S E R I E S P R E F A C E
Some might call us spoiled. We live in an era of significant and substantial resources for Christians on living the Christian life. We have ready access to books, DVD series, online material, seminarsall in the interest of en-couraging us in our daily walk with Christ. The laity, the people in the pew, have access to more information than scholars dreamed of having in previous centuries.
Yet for all our abundance of resources, we also lack something. We tend to lack the perspectives from the past, perspectives from a different time and place than our own. To put the matter differently, we have so many riches in our current horizon that we tend not to look to the horizons of thepast.
That is unfortunate, especially when it comes to learning about and practicing discipleship. Its like owning a mansion and choosing to live in only one room. This series invites you to explore the otherrooms.
As we go exploring, we will visit places and times different from our own. We will see different models, approaches, and emphases. This series does not intend for these models to be copied uncritically, and it certainly does not intend to put these figures from the past high upon a pedestal like some race of super-Christians. This series intends, however, to help us in the present listen to the past. We believe there is wisdom in the past twenty centuries of the church, wisdom for living the Christianlife.
Stephen J. Nichols and Justin Taylor
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I N T R O D U C T I O N
Today Im supposed to learn how to play golf.
DIE T R IC H B ONHOEF F ER T O HIS BRO T HER K A R L-F R IEDR IC H B ONHOEF F ER ,
F ROM P HIL A DEL P HI A , 193 0
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CH A P TER 1
M E E T I N G B O N H O E F F E R
I believe that nothing meaningless has happened to me and also that it
is good for us when things run counter to our desires. I see a purpose in