One of the most important parts of the book deals with the distinction
which Bonhoeffer makes between "cheap" and "costly" grace. But what is "cheap"
grace? In Bonhoeffer's words: "cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness
without requiring repentance, baptism without church
discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is
grace without discipleship,
grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ." Or, to put it even more
clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: "Of course you have
sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the
consolations of forgiveness." The main defect of such a proclamation is that it
contains no demand for discipleship.
In contrast to this is costly grace:
"costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a
word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly
because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is
grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." "
After his return from America, Bonhoeffer would play a large role in the
Confessing Church. Although Bonhoeffer was originally a Lutheran, he
became frustrated with its "liberal theology" after discussions with Karl
Barth, an eminent theologian. Barth believed that "liberal theology"
(understood as emphasizing personal experience and societal development)
minimized Scripture, reducing it to a mere textbook of metaphysics while
sanctioning the deification of human culture. Barth and Bonhoeffer often debated
rationalist and Hegelian-derived theology
against Reformation doctrine, and Barth won over Bonhoeffer. Although Bonhoeffer
would never totally abandon liberal theology, he did feel it was too
constraining and responsible for the lack of relevance in the church. Bonhoeffer
and Barth became main figures of the "neo-orthodox" movement
mid-20th century in German- and English-speaking Protestantism.Bonhoeffer
lectured on theology in Berlin and wrote several books. Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller, Karl
Barth and others established the Confessing Church. In
August 1933, he co-authored the Bethel Confession
with Hermann Sasse and others.
Between 1933 and 1935, he served as pastor of two German-speaking Protestant
churches in London: St. Paul's and Sydenham.
He traveled to India to study non-violent resistance with Gandhi, and returned
to Germany to head a seminary for Confessing Church
pastors, first in Finkenwalde and then at
the von Blumenthal estate of Gross
Schlönwitz, which was closed at the outbreak of World War II.
The Gestapo first
banned him from preaching, then teaching, and finally any kind of public
speaking. During this time, Bonhoeffer worked closely with numerous opponents of