Monday, February 1, 2016

Christianity As Amoral and Irreligious Faith

“…the Christian message is basically amoral and irreligious, paradoxical as that may sound.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Christian life has two dimensions. The first is faith and the second is good work, doing God’s work on earth.

A believer should live a devout life and do what is right. But this should not be the center of one’s faith.

The first dimension of Christian life, our faith, our connection to God, is much more essential. The second dimension, or good works, is never as valuable as faith.

In today’s world, people admire Christ because He is a great teacher, the greatest ethicist. He is admired for dying for His ideals.

We take those ideals, and pay Him praise with our lips. We even go out and try to follow His lead. Doing good works for other people. Trying to make a change in our society.

But we do not take Him seriously. We don’t bring Him to the center of our lives. We don’t bring our lives into contact with the claim of Christ.

The claim that He is God. That He is the Son of God. That He existed before the time existed. That He created the world and everything in it. That He is our Lord and we must worship Him.

We don’t believe that He speaks the revelation of God. We don’t bare to believe that He is that revelation.

Do you have the courage to do it?

Do you have the strength it takes?

It is important to clarify the seriousness of this matter. To extricate Christ from the secularization process in which He has been incorporated.

We maintain a distance between Him. Take a step away from the word of Christ. And never allow no serious encounter to take place.

We live with Christ as a religious genious. As an ethicist. As a gentleman.

But when He claims our lives entirely with the full seriousness that here God Himself speaks. When He demands us to acknowledge that God once became present only in Christ.

He claims our commitment. Not relative commitment. No the church as a social club. Not the church as a social movement.

Our commitment to an absolute truth. To the absolute ruler. Our commitment to the only God.

And He has an absolute claim on our commitment.

Good works have almost always and everywhere been valued more highly than faith. They are easier to measure. And easier to see and to show to other people than abstract commitment to a “faith”.

It is true that we should go good works and respect the importance of them. There is no such thing as cheap grace.

We cannot sit still and look at our brothers’ and sisters’ suffering and claim that we have faith in Christ. That we are His children and heirs of His Kingdoms.

But in Martin Luther’s words: “…we should be careful that we don’t elevate good works to such an extent that faith and Christ become secondary. If we esteem them too highly, good works can become the greatest idolatry. This has occurred both inside and outside of Christianity. Some people value good works so much that they overlook faith in Christ. They preach about and praise their own works instead of God’s works.”

The religion is a man-made thing. It is something that people do. A building we build, so that we can sit inside, together. And feel that we belong.

But Christianity is something different. At its heart there is something different. Christ Himself – a living God. A real person.

Our faith, everything about Christianity. Is about the relationship we have with this person. This King of King, the ruler of all and everything. The creator of earth and heaven. The Father of All. The One and Only.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “Factually speaking, Christ has given scarcely any ethical prescriptions that were not to be found already with the contemporary Jewish rabbis or in pagan literature.”

Christianity isn’t about a new and better set of behavioral rules or about moral accomplishment. The religion and moral performance are the very enemies of Christianity and Christ.

They present to us the false idea that somehow we can reach God through our moral efforts. That we can be saved by our own works.

Faith should always be first.

Do not forget Martin Luther’s words: “It is faith – without good works and prior to good works – that takes us to heaven. We come to God through faith alone.”

“… a person becomes righteous by faith.”

Martin Luther


  1. From one fan of Bonhoeffer (and the God he served) to another, "Thanks for this post." "There is no such thing as cheap grace." Good to see you here, Joanna.

    1. So glad you could read my post and comment! There is no such thing as cheap grace, it's not grace at all :)
      I also just wrote a bookreview on Eric Metaxes book on Bonhoeffer if you would like to read it:

  2. Indeed it does take courage to leave the comforts of a religious lifestyle and seek after Christ with whole heart and abandon. This post is very smart and answers many of the basic questions I believe people have about Christianity. We have to be very careful as Christians not to be lumped in with religion in the sense of doing things to earn approval of God. Jesus negated that necessity. Now, we are charged to do the work of God, recognizing His sacrifice.
    Loved this.
    Happy Tuesday!!

    1. Thank you for your comment and visit, Megs! And thank you for calling my post smart :)
      We are called to look onto God and follow Him. Our fruits, or deeds, are the result of loving Him.

  3. So bold as it should be! We cannot keep domesticating Christianity or Jesus..we need to remember always the essential heart of truth you outline so well here!

    1. Thank you for your comment and visit, Kathy! I'm so glad you feel the text is bold. We need to be bold for our Lord and humble.

  4. Thanks! While it is true according to James that "Faith without works is dead" you are absolutely right about needing to put our focus on Jesus and His saving grace since it is indeed "By grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves."

    1. Thank you for your visit and comment! Yes, faith without works is dead. Like Bonhoeffer says, there is no cheap grace. It's one of our faiths paradoxes but we don't do works to be saved. We do them because we have been saved :)

  5. Beautiful words, rich with Scripture, and Joanna! Your pictures are amazing! Thanks for this Wednesday morning boost!

    1. Thank you for your visit and comment, Michele! So glad to see you here :) And thank you for your nice words and encouragement!

  6. Hi Joanna!
    I am so enriched by your website and the post you have written in its depth and power! You are so very right, very right! I also agree with Michele that your photographs are beautiful! I am intrigued when you say special education. I taught a junior high special education class for 13 years prior to becoming a clinical counselor. May God continue to bless and provide for you in every way! Visiting as your neighbor on the Women with Intention Linkup.

    1. Thank you for your visit and comment, Pam! And for taking time to look around :)
      I've been working with special needs projects here in Ecuador about ten years with different ages. It is a wonderful field of work and something God has put to my heart.