Review: Costly Grace

Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship

Author: Jon Walker

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Leafwood Publishers

ISBN: 978-0-89112-676-8

Leafwood Publishers

Amazon

Review Note: I am using an advance copy of the book, page numbers may not match up to those of the final copy.

I was pretty excited when I was contacted by Abilene Christian University Press with the opportunity to review this book.  It’s no secret that I am a fan of Bonhoeffer and this was an opportunity that I could not pass up.  The main question that I kept in mind while I read this book was, “What can a non-Lutheran teach me about Bonhoeffer/Bonhoeffer’s theology?”  The answer was quite a lot.

Beginning with chapter 2 and ending with chapter 26, each chapter begins with a statement or two that is Jesus’ Objective.  This is also turns out to be the main thought for the chapter.  At the end of these chapters, there was a section on The Cost of Discipleship, how one lives out a life of discipleship.  There is also a section on Fallen Thinking and Kingdom Thinking, ways of thinking that show if the disciple is focused on the Kingdom of God. Finally, there is a section entitled  Your Choice?.  This is a question, usually worded like, “Will you…? Or will you…?”

Reading this book, I could tell that Walker has a love for Bonhoeffer and has struggled (in the good sense of the word) with The Cost of Discipleship.  Even with the theological differences between myself and Walker, I felt as if Walker was trying to be true to Bonhoeffer while still being true to himself.

The biggest issue I had with this book by far was the failure to put the page numbers for the quotes from The Cost of Discipleship.  Without the page numbers, it is impossible to go to the version of the book being used and check the context.  I’m not saying every quote needed to be cited, but there has to be something that allows the reader to go back and check the work being quoted.  I’m pretty familiar with The Cost of Discipleship but I don’t know where most of these quotes come from.  And I’m not about to spend time re-reading the book just to find a sentence fragment or a sentence.  It’s just my opinion, but to quote something and not give the reader some way to reference that quote is dishonest.  Put the page number in parentheses!

The whole chapter on suffering was a struggle for me.  Statements like “Suffering does not happen upon me; it is a part of God’s purpose for my life,” (65) give me pause.  The way I read that statement, God is the author of suffering and that suffering is a part of God’s plan for me.  That’s not something I can buy into.  I think God laments our suffering, that God suffers when we suffer.  That’s not to say God can’t take our suffering and make something good come out of it.  But suffering as God’s purpose for my life…nope, not at all. 

Overall, I had mixed feeling about the book.  I’m not sure if those mixed feelings are a result of the doctrinal differences between myself and Walker or if there is something else.  Sometimes, it is hard to separate out those doctrinal differences.  I appreciate Walker’s perspective on Bonhoeffer.  Coming through a Lutheran seminary, this particular Lutheran pastor and theologian was taught from a Lutheran perspective.  While I don’t agree with Walker’s theology, I can and do appreciate and respect Walker dealing with Bonhoeffer and still being true to his (Walker’s) theology.  That alone makes this book worth reading. 

Disclaimer:

I received this book free from ACU/Leafwood Press.  Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2 thoughts on “Review: Costly Grace

  1. I am assuming you have read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost Of Discipleship? I did a paper on him during my undergrad studies. I might have to try and find the paper on an old disk. I think suffering is a necessary part of following Christ. Sometimes I wonder if a Christian is not experiencing some sort of hostility because of his or her faith in the Gospel if one is truly living in light of it and declaring it’s truth to others in a bold enough manner. What about his participation in the plot to kill Hitler? Justified?

    • I’ve read The Cost of Discipleship several times as well as several of his other works and have made several references to Discipleship specifically in some of my past sermons.

      I see suffering as a result of living in a broken, sinful world.

      As for the Bonhoeffer’s participation in the plot to kill Hitler, I believe Bonhoeffer was very conflicted about his participation. We can get into a long, drawn out debate as to whether or not the plot itself was justified and if a pastor should be involved in some way, shape, or form. Bonhoeffer did not seek to justify his actions, so I’m not going to either. I think Bonhoeffer made a decision in a context that is so foreign to us that it’s impossible for us to put ourselves in his shoes.

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