We are busy working through Bonhoeffer’s book.  Today I want to rewind to the first chapter. DB writes that,

“… 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 unbelieving.  We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard. Where were those truths which impelled the early Church to institute the catechumenate, which enabled a strict watch to be kept over the frontier between the Church and the world, and afforded adequate protection for costly grace?”

This passage touches on an aspect of the thesis I am writing at the moment. It has to do with membership in the early church.  In the second century it took an average of two years to become part of the local church.  Two years! In order to become part of the new community certain beliefs and behaviours were cultivated in would-be-disciples.

Now I know that the moment the word behaviour is added to beliefs in the abovementioned passage a chill goes down our protestant spines.  Isn’t this dangerous?  Won’t it lead to legalism and works-righteousness?

DB chimes in with this sobering sentence,

“The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandments of works.”

I wonder how we can re-imagine membership in the church?