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Excerpts from a Catechism by Bonhoeffer

March 29, 2014

DBW 11In 1932 Dietrich Bonhoeffer co-wrote a draft for a catechism called, “As You Believe, So You Receive.” The catechism is “for students in a confirmation class and yet is intended not only for them.” Bonhoeffer and his co-writing friend Franz Hildebrandt wrote it as a Lutheran catechism, but almost all of it is ecumenically appropriate.

Here are a few excerpts:

What is the gospel?

This is the message of God’s salvation that has appeared to us in Jesus Christ and has been conveyed to us through his Spirit. This is the message of the kingdom of God that is contested in the world and intended for God’s righteous. This is the message of God’s will, which speaks today and decides over life and death.

How does Jesus of Nazareth help me today?

To know about Jesus does not yet mean to believe in him. Merely considering him to be true is, of course, lifeless. Faith depends not on lifeless letters but rather on the living Lord who stands commandingly before us, above all doubt about the Bible and its stories.

Why is actually Jesus the Lord?

He is the answer to every human question. He is the salvation in all the sufferings of the world. He is the victory over all our sins. In him, you have God himself in his power and the human being in complete powerlessness.

Does the church, then, act according to the will of Christ?

The church knows today more than ever how little it obeys the Sermon on the Mount. Yet the greater the discord in the world becomes, the more Christ wants to have proclaimed the peace of God that reigns in his kingdom. The church still continues daily in prayer for the return of its divine Lord, and he lays his hand upon it, until he leads the church to its fulfillment.

What do we know of eternal life?

Whether we want it or not—as truly as God lives—our life has come under God’s judgment and has been sustained by God’s hand. Not flesh and blood, but rather spirit, soul, and body are to rise up from the dead. We know not when the hour will come, but the church looks forward with all creation to a new earth and a new heaven.

The catechism is short–barely 10 pages in volume 11 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. (This particular catechism is also included in The Bonhoeffer Reader.) But even in its brevity there is much to take in, and the “carefully focused reading” that the introduction to the catechism calls for is greatly rewarded.

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