The Cost of Discipleship

I'm trying to decide whether I can be a disciple of Jesus (that is to say, a Christian). I don't think I agree with him about everything. Can I be a real disciple and think he got a few things wrong? (I don't like the idea of Jesus being fallible, but if I'm honest with myself, I guess that's what I believe.)

Which things do I think he got wrong, you say? I couldn't tell you off the top of my head. But I plan to look through the all the red text in my Bible this week and see if there's anything I really can't agree with. If I can pry myself away from Harry Potter.

I've been reading The Cost Of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer says that you can't have faith without obedience, nor obedience without faith. There's a brand of Christianity, which seems particularly popular in camp ministries, that emphasizes "faith" at the expense of obedience (this is what James denounces). Conversely, I'd rather practice obedience without faith. I would be content just to be obedient to Jesus (or just to try to be) but maybe obedience sans faith isn't true obedience. (Because faith makes obedience possible, or because believing is part of obeying?) So I'm trying to figure out whether I agree with Bonhoeffer, and if so, whether I'm capable of true obedience, or just a faithless facsimile.

Bonhoeffer complicates things by saying that we cannot choose to be disciples out of the blue; we must be called. I don't know what he means by "called" (it sounds very Kierkegaardian*) but it seems that (as with all spiritual experiences I'm supposed to have had) either I've failed to recognize God's call to me (how? and what do I do to correct this?) or I've not been called at all. Or maybe my conviction that I ought to pursue a life of servanthood and selflessness constitutes the call, but then why would Bonhoeffer make a big deal about the impossibility of obedience without a calling? Who tries to be a disciple without this conviction? I don't know. Anyone understand Bonhoeffer?

*Kierkegaard says that we each choose one of three life-governing principles: desire, reason, or faith. But the last is only open to those who have been called by God to do something crazy, like Abraham sacrificing Isaac. If you want to choose faith but you haven't been called, you're basically hooped. Similarly, Bonhoeffer seems to be saying that you can't possibly be a disciple of Christ if he hasn't called you (because of our sinfulness and inadequacy) although what the call looks like and how prevalent it is is unclear.


BruceA said...

Interesting thoughts. I'm wondering about this question:

Can I be a real disciple and think he got a few things wrong?

Personally, I think Jesus got this wrong: "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom," (Matthew 16:28) assuming he is referring to his second coming. But maybe he wasn't. Elsewhere he says, "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father," (Mark 13:32) which argues against his making predictions about the day or hour. But then, if he didn't know, is is any less fallible?

BruceA said...

is is any less fallible?

That should be, is he any less fallible?

Filth- Man said...

Personally, I remind myself that some of the really wierd stuff Jesus said, if it wasn't meant to screw with people's heads in the first place, has been summarized, stripped of context, and double-translated (Arameic-Greek-English).

Perhaps that's being intellectually dishonest? I dunno.

Anonymous said...

Debating the fallibility of God in the person of Jesus Christ is to put our own intellect on a par with God's. All you and I have to go by are some selected statements made in a context that we for the most part have to reconstruct. Anyone's statements taken out of their context can appear erroneous. Infallibility is a human concept that we have attributed to God. We achieve that concept from the claims of God to perfect knowledge. I do not mean to discredit God's claim but admittedly judging His perspective from an imperfect one is hardly fair. Infalibility can be supported by God's inability to lie, to sin or do wrong. The holiness of God demands that the omnipotent One is unable to violate the very essence of His own character and character quality traits.

Any time that we think we see some discrepency in the character of God or the integrity of His statements it is a much better idea to calculate on the basis of our not fully understanding than to fault God. We have been promised that we will give account to Him for every thought word and action when all is said and done!

I am convinced that we have a view of God that is far too small. We have humanized God, thus in our minds lowered Him to our level or raised ourselves to be His equals.

Lucifer got thrown out of heaven for such thinking!


Forsaken said...

This is reponse to "JR Camp Sucked" (Or whatever you really titled it).

Of course it had some flaw that made it suck. You go into things thinking they'll suck Joel, so you can blog about it. Lol.

Whatever, dumb. Laters.

Jacob said...

Bruce: Sure, it looks like he got it wrong. But if you've ever taken a look at the prophecies that Jesus "fulfilled" the first time around, you might think that God takes some perverse pleasure in not doing what he seemed to have said he'd do. The disciples, of all people, should have known not to take prophecies at face value - they (at least a couple of them) are the ones who believed Jesus fulfilled "prophecies" like "Out of Egypt I have called my son".

Jacob said...

FM: It's a good point. It's a hell of a task to follow someone based on double-translated snippets of sermons preached in another time and culture. Even with the stuff we think we do understand, we're probably wrong a fair bit. Still, if we're going to follow, we have to try to understand.

Jacob said...

Dr. D: Only if we presuppose that Jesus was God.

Anyway, I guess it would be more accurate to say I'm debating the fallibility of Jesus as understood by me, through the representations of him in the Bible. I'm not all that interested in the real Jesus that lived 2000 years ago. I can't know anything about him, and hence I cannot be his disciple. I have no interest in the infallibility of the real God - about whom I know nothing - only the infallibility of the Gods (that is, the concepts of God) to which I have access.

But that's a bit misleading... what I'm really talking about here is determining whether I agree with Jesus (the Jesus I know). As you rightly note, I am not infallible, thus if Jesus (tJIk) disagrees with me, it doesn't necessarily mean he's fallible. What it does mean, I think, is that I believe he's fallible. But I think I can believe he's fallible without believing that I'm necessarily right. If that makes sense.

Filth- Man said...

Pardon my ignorance, but what's the deal with the "Egypt" prophecy...

To brucea, I suppose one could argue that the Apostle John saw the 2nd coming (albeit in a vision).

Jacob said...

FM: The "prophecy" is quoted in Matt 2:15 as "out of Egypt I have called my son." The original is in Hosea 11 and says (in context):

"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images."

Interesting idea about the second coming thing. That's just the kind of thing He'd do.

Filth- Man said...

Wow... they must have had some wierd prophecy interpretation rules in those days. Can't imagine Matthew woulda purposely made himself look stupid, it's not like the deity of Christ is hinging on the Egypt prophecy.

In regards to your creationism comment, I agree completely. Had I gotten a job with a Christian school, I would have had to deal with this. I'm kind of glad I didn't get it.

BruceA said...

Wow... they must have had some wierd prophecy interpretation rules in those days.

What I think Matthew was trying to show with all his references to prophecy was that Jesus' life paralleled the entire Old Testament. The same idea is developed a bit further in Hebrews 8-9: The Jerusalem temple is a "sketch and shadow" (Heb 8:5) of the heavenly one from which Jesus reigns.

If "prophecy" is understood as "parallel" or "foreshadowing," it makes sense to apply any verse to Jesus, regardless of its original context. I think that's what Matthew was doing.

Jacob said...

Good point Bruce.