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What Might Bonhoeffer Say?

As my friends and I discussed the Bonhoeffer biography we were studying not too long ago (see my thoughts here), we got to talking about Bonhoeffer’s insistence that the Reichskirche was no longer “the (true) Church.” Bonhoeffer framed the issue in terms of the church’s actions: excluding Christian Jews. Deeper than that, however, Bonhoeffer and the rest of us could have pointed to a false Jesus, an Aryan (non-Jewish) Jesus. This, indeed, would be heresy.

Since then, God’s Church has similarly been able to point to South African apartheid as a heresy. I propose that progressive ideology in today’s church is likewise a heresy, on at least 4 counts:

  1. While to deny that “black lives matter” is indeed heretical based on a fundamental understanding that we all equally bear the image of God, it is just as much a heresy to deny that all lives matter.  God judges all claims of racial supremacy.
  2. Transgenderism: Not even surgery can change our DNA. To claim otherwise is the most breathtaking of lies. Jesus says that “God made them male and female.” (For my thoughts on Jesus and gender, see “Gender Identity in Biblical Times.”) And how serious an offense must it be to reject our sexuality, which is so integral to how God has created us?
  3. Abortion: Who are we to define the “least of these” to exclude those who are made in the image of God who are the smallest and most vulnerable to oppression?  One may argue that the same doctrine that leads us to reject racism also applies to the sanctity of unborn life as well.
  4. Much of today's progressive church denies that Jesus is the unique Son of God who gave his life as a substitutionary atoning sacrifice for our sins (see my previous post).  If this is not heresy, what is?
  5. (While it does not rise to the level of heresy, cancel culture contradicts its own “Judge not” mantra by wholesale condemnation and cancellation of anyone it despises, often without trial. As Jesus taught in his original statement, those who do so can expect to be cancelled themselves someday.)

Germany suffered for believing its heresy. The nation was bombed into becoming a virtual parking lot.

We are suffering a much milder judgment, for the moment. Whether we will trigger World War III by colossal mistakes made by the current government in Washington remains to be seen. While it is definitely a mistake to heap praise and devotion of Messianic proportions on the former President, it appears to have been a greater mistake to put the nuclear button into hands guided by unelected advisors who have a current track record like the ones in charge at the moment.

What might Bonhoeffer say about the extent to which today's church is no longer the church?  One might argue that Bonhoeffer overstated his case when he said what he said about the apostasy of the Reichskirche.  So how bad does false teaching have to be, to make a church no longer a part of the church? However we answer that question, I suspect that Bonhoeffer would treat the errors of today's church as being just as inexcusable as the errors of the Reichskirche of his day.