Bonhoeffer on the Necessity of Knowing Scripture
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Life Together” in Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works vol 5 (Fortress, MN: 2005): 63.I can’t help but feel that these words from Bonhoeffer are as pertinent today as they were when he wrote them. Although there is cause to lament the growing biblical illiteracy of society, we ought to be positively depressed by that which runs rampant in our churches.
“We must once again get to know the Scriptures as the reformers and our forebears knew them. We must not shy away from the work and the time required for this task. We must become acquainted with the Scriptures first and foremost for the sake of our salvation. But, besides this, there are enough weighty reasons to make this challenge absolutely urgent for us. For example, how are we ever to gain certainty and confidence in our personal deeds and church activity if we do not stand on solid biblical ground? It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word. But who in this day has any proper awareness of the need for evidence from Scripture? How often do we hear innumerable arguments ‘from life’ and ‘from experience’ to justify the most crucial decisions? Yet the evidence of Scripture is excluded even though it would perhaps point in exactly the opposite direction. It is not surprising, of course, that those who attempt to discredit the evidence of Scripture are the people who themselves do not seriously read, know, or make a thorough study of the Scriptures. But those who are not willing to learn how to deal with the Scriptures for themselves are not Protestant* Christians.”
*Note: The German term translated as “Protestant” is actually evangelischer, which some of you will recognize from this blog’s title, and whose direct translation is “evangelical.” Although the term has wider application in Germany that justifies the translation given, the alternate translation perhaps puts a finer point on things in the North American context.