Bonhoeffer traces
how the church lost the treasure of costly grace. He notes that,

“As Christianity
spread, and the Church became more secularized, this realization of the
costliness of grace gradually faded.”

It has become
very fashionable to put the blame of this secularization on Emperor
Constantine’s conversion.  I think
it is naïve to place all the blame on him.  Even the internal evidence of the New Testament itself shows
that the costly grace was contested from the beginning of the church. 

On an aside note
I sometimes imagine writing a play where the missional/emergent folk enter
heaven and that the first person to welcome them is none other than
Constantine!  The emperor has
become the scapegoat of what went wrong with the church … let’s acknowledge his
part but critically reflect on our own as well.

Now back to the
book.

He suggests that
a segment of the church managed to keep costly grace intact.  The “outer fringe” that kept it alive
was monasticism.  But the emergence
of monasticism, tolerated by the church had an unfortunate consequence,

“Monasticism was
represented as an individual achievement which the mass of laity could not be
expected to emulate. By thus limiting the application of the commandments of Jesus
to a restricted group of specialists, the Church evolved the fatal conception
of the double standard – a maximum and a minimum standard of Christian
obedience”.

A few weeks ago I
mentioned that in South Africa this manifests itself in the phrase “groot
Christen” which is Afrikaans for “big Christian”.  The implicit assumption is that there are people who really
follow Jesus and then the small Christians.

DB narrates
how God used Martin Luther, who was part of Monasticism himself, to bring the
concept of costly grace back to the Church. In one of my favourite passages DB
writes that Luther had to move back to the world in order to break the divide
between the “restricted group of specialists” and the rest.  He writes that,

“Luther’s return
from the cloister to the world was the worst blow the world had suffered since
the days of early Christianity. The renunciation he made when he became a monk
was child’s play compared with that which he had to make when he returned to
the world.

This passage
shows the exciting possibility of breaking the divide between the cloister and
the world; the sacred and the secular. 
We are now all invited to follow! 

“Now came the
frontal assault.  The only way to
follow Jesus was by living in the world. Hitherto the Christian life had been
the achievement of a few choice spirits under the exceptionally favourable
conditions of monasticism; now it is a duty laid on every Christian living in
the world. 
The commandment of Jesus must be accorded perfect obedience in one’s daily
vocation.