It is time to ask if Christians in North America will more effectively be salt and light than churches were in Nazi Germany.
Yesterday, Dr. Albert Mohler gave a talk at Brigham Young University with the title Strengthen the Things that Remain: Human Dignity, Human Rights, and Human Flourishing in a Dangerous Age — An Address at Brigham Young University. That piece of trivia alone, that Mohler is at BYU, should be enough to persuade you to read further.
Mohler’s point in addressing a BYU audience is not that we suddenly find we aren’t so far apart with Mormonism after all. We are! Rather, he is arguing that in light of an environment increasingly hostile to the gospel, we need to identify areas of mutual conviction. Said another way, religious persecution makes for strange bedfellows.
Mohler’s address is profound. His willingness to stand tall for truth reminds me of Bonhoeffer’s situation in Nazi Germany. When forced to consider how Nazi Germany could happen in a country with a Christian heritage, Bonhoeffer concluded it was because a false gospel had been proclaimed. In his book, Embodying Forgiveness, L. Gregory Jones summarizes how cheap grace undermines everything.
Cheap grace denies any real need for deliverance from sin since it justifies the sin instead of the sinner. As such, cheap grace offers consolation without any change of life, without any sense of either dying or rising in Christ.… Bonhoeffer concluded that…the Lutheran church in Germany had been unable to resist Hitler because cheap grace had triumphed…. Repentance and confession must be practiced in specific and concrete ways, as part of the larger craft of forgiveness, if they are to result in that truthfulness that empowers people for faithful discipleship to Jesus Christ. That is why Bonhoeffer stressed the importance of church discipline and why he insisted that forgiveness cannot be unconditional. L. Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness, 13, 19.
Listen to Bonhoeffer’s own words. Keep in mind that Bonhoeffer speaks as a German. And, this is his explanation for why the church was so ineffective in standing up against the Nazis:
But do we also realize that this cheap grace has turned back on us like a boomerang? The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and the unbelieving. We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was rarely ever heard. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom, ed. Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 310.
If we are to stand against the evil tides of our day, then we must learn to stand tall for the gospel and dispense with cheap grace. It is going to be increasingly necessary to make speeches like Dr. Mohler’s in which we stand tall for the gospel regardless of the cost. This means continuing to champion a biblical view of marriage and calling abortion the murder that it is.
The below clips are inspiring.