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Summer Reading Group: The Cost of Discipleship

The summer is well underway and once again we’re planning to blog through a book together. This time around we’ve selected a modern classic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Written in Germany in over 75 years ago by a Lutheran pastor and theologian, readers might be surprised to find the problem addressed by our author to be so contemporary and relevant. Bonhoeffer diagnoses the challenge of his day in his introduction to the work:

The real trouble is that the pure Word of Jesus has become overlaid with so much human ballast—burdensome rules and regulations, false hopes and consolations—that it has become extremely difficult to make a genuine decision for Christ.1    

Yet, he holds out the hope that the voice of Jesus can be heard through the fog. Jesus still speaks and calls people to liberation and joy by taking on his “yoke”; he calls them to be his disciples.

For Bonhoeffer, being a student of Jesus involved making public denunciations of National Socialism (and subsequent loss of an academic career), breaking with the state church (and instead taking leadership in the Confessing Church), a refusal to take up arms by serving in the German army and subsequent escape to America (Friends secured a position for him at Union Theological Seminary in New York, but Bonhoeffer soon returned to his homeland, reasoning, “I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people…”2), and active resistance against Nazism (he was involved in an assassination attempt on Hitler), which resulted in his imprisonment and, eventually, his premature death at the hands of the S.S. Black Guard. He was 39.   

Bonhoeffer’s life vividly, and controversially, illustrates what it might look like to take Jesus seriously in his own day. What might discipleship look like in our own time and place(s)?  

We’ll be exploring the compelling possibility and challenge together over the next few weeks. Our bloggers include past contributors, as well as some new friends. Each will guide our discussion of the book through a series of nine posts. The reading and posting schedule will be as follows:

1. July 11: Preface, Chapters 1 - 2 - Zane Yi

2. July 18: Chapters 3-5 - Charles Scriven

3. July 25: Chapter 6 (Part 1 to Matthew 5) - Brenton Reading

4. August 1: Chapter 6 (Matthew 6) - Michael W. Campbell

5. August 8: Chapter 6 (Matthew 7) - Michaela Lawrence Jeffrey 

6. August 15: Chapter 7 - Lisa Clark Diller

7. August 22: Part II, Chapters 8 - 9 - Matthew Burdette 

8. August 29: Chapters 10-12 - Maury Jackson 

9. September 5: Chapter 13 - Jeff Gang

So we hope you’ll grab a copy of the book and join us in a few days for a discussion of the first section. Feel free to invite friends and write a short comment below if you plan on participating. We look forward to you sharing your insights, experiences, and comments in the upcoming weeks.  

Endnotes

1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R.H. Fuller (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 35. In subsequent posts, bloggers will be using and referencing this edition of the work from Fortress Press.

2. Ibid., Cited in “Memoir” by G. Leibholz”, 17-18.

Zane Yi, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the School of Religion at Loma Linda University, where he teaches courses in philosophy and theology. He currently serves as the president of the Society of Adventist Philosophers.

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