A Message for the Churches From Kyle Strobel and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: God’s Power in the Lamb that was Slain

I just listened to a very convicting message by Brother Kyle Strobel. He is offering a compressed message from his co-authored book with Jamin Goggin titled  The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It to a conference being held by the Calvary Global Network (Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa — my former church from years past). He is referring people to a genuinely Gospel conditioned notion of power and wisdom; what Martin Luther might call a theology of the cross. It is this reality that gripped my heart many years ago—which I fall short of more than I want to admit—and why I wrote my master’s thesis on a key passage in this area I Corinthians 1.17-25. It’s a conception of power that flips the wisdom of the world on its head; it is power in weakness. Unfortunately just as in the cosmopolitan church of Corinth, so too in the cosmopolitan church of evangelical North America worldly wisdom, worldly power has entered into the gates of the church and subverted the genuine power that God has supplied for his church through the broken veins of his Son, Jesus Christ. Please watch Kyle’s message here.

As a dovetail and corollary with the message that Kyle has brought the churches I just finished a book where in the last chapter of that book a contributing author offered the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It fits very well with Kyle’s message; with the Apostle Paul’s message; with Jesus’s message about power, and what that ought to look like in his church. Note:

God as a working hypothesis in morals, politics, or science, has been surmounted and abolished; and the same thing has happened in philosophy and religion (Feuerbach!). For the sake of intellectual honesty, that working hypothesis should be dropped, or as far as possible eliminated…. Anxious souls will ask what room is left for God now; and as they know of no answer to the question, they condemn the whole development that has brought them to such straits. I wrote … before about the various emergency exits that have been contrived; and we ought to add to them the salto mortale (death-leap) back into the Middle Ages is heteronomy in the form of clericalism; a return to that can be a counsel of despair, and it would be at the cost of intellectually honesty. It’s a dream that reminds one of the Song O wüsst’ ich doch den Wegzurück, den wieten Weg ins Kinderland [commonly translated “Oh, I wish I knew the way back, the way into childhood”]. There is no such way—at any rate not if it means deliberately abandoning our mental integrity; the only way is that of Matt. 18.3, i.e. through repentance, through ultimate honesty. And we cannot be honest unless we recognize that we have to live in the world etsi deus non daretur [commonly translated “as if God did not exist”]. And this is just what we do recognize—before God! God himself compels us to recognize it. So our coming of age leads us to a true recognition of our situation before God. God would have us know that we must live as men who manage our lives without him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15.34). The God who lets us live in the world without the working hypothesis of God is the God before whom we stand continually. Before God and with God we live without God. God lets himself be pushed out of the world on the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which He is with us and helps us. Matt. 8.17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering. Here is the decisive difference between Christianity and all religions. Man’s religiosity makes him look in his distress to the power of God in the world; God is the deux ex machine. The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help. To that extent we may that the development towards the world’s coming of age outline above, which has done away with a false conception of God, opens up a way of seeing the God of the Bible, who wins power and space in the world by his weakness.[1]

If we look at the evangelical churches in North America, and beyond (into other movements and traditions in the churches), we don’t see ‘God’s weakness’ characterizing the type of ‘power’ that the churches seek to operate from; we see, as Strobel emphasizes for us, the demonic power that comes from below. There are plenty of good intentions operative in the churches, but it’s no mistake that the adage says ‘the path to hell is paved by good intentions.’ We ought to recognize that we are at God’s mercy in Jesus Christ in every step that we take. We ought to recognize as thinkers and leaders in the church of Jesus Christ, as everyday Christians, that we can operate with all the piety and speak with all the Christianese available; but absent the death and life of Christ in our lives, as the sustenance that serves as our ‘adequacy’ we will be injecting into the leaven of the Gospel a de-leavening agent that mitigates and pollutes the genuine transformative power of the Gospel that God intends for his church; that God desires that the world see in the guarantee of his Kingdom resident in the heart of his new creation.

Let’s be convicted.

 

[1] Bonhoeffer, “Letters & Papers From Prison,” (New York: Simon&Schuster, 1997) cited by Jospeh Minich, “Classical Theism In A World Come Of Age,” in Bradford LittleJohn ed., God of our Fathers: Classical Theism for the Contemporary Church (Moscow, ID: The Davenant Institute, 2018), Loc 4542, 4551, 4558, 4563 kindle version.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Kyle Strobel, Theology Of The Cross. Bookmark the permalink.