The age that saw the advent of Jesus Christ God Incarnate was an age rich in nature religions as well as philosophical and ethical systems encompassing the animism, polytheism and sex worship of the vast majority of the world to the Atomism (metaphysical nihilism) and pantheist Stoicism of Greek nature sages, the Roman pantheon of deities and the Greek mystery religions.
Into this stagnant pool of humanism and false mysticism came the Son of God, fully man, fully God; the supernatural Source of all being, personality, mind, and salvation (John 14:6) ; the self-consistent, unchanging standard of goodness, order, truth, wisdom, and knowledge (James 1:16-18; Rom. 3:4; Num. 23:19; Ezek. 24:14); the supernatural Creator-God Who from the beginning reveals Himself to mankind by His living Word by which He created all things ex nihilo (Gen. 1; Ps. 19; John 1:1-5; Col. 1:16); and Who through His Gospel of God's Grace, miraculous powers, death and resurrection cut through the intricate matrix of nature systems, astrology, Mystery Religions, Hermetic magic, and fatalism and across the whole web of despair and fear of death to draw men unto Him.
In keeping with His Gospel, our Lord not only announced it but foretold the trials and tribulations that would encompass His followers who have been called to be separate from the world. Our Lord even intimates how becoming and natural persecution is to His followers by placing it among His Beatitudes:
"Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.."
After the first separation, another sword entered into the very heart of the confessional body. From the first separation to the end of days it works to separate the wheat--the humble believers who self-sacrificially demonstrate His grace--- from the chaff: all who merely claim to be Christians....the weak, indecisive, lukewarm, compromisers and apostate clergy, or falling stars (Rev. 9:1):
"The natural parents of modern unbelief turn out to have been the guardians of belief." Many thinking people came at last "to realize that it was religion, not science or social change, that gave birth to unbelief. Having made God more and more like man---intellectually, morally, emotionally---the shapers of religion made it feasible to abandon God, to believe simply in man." (James Turner of the University of Michigan in "American Babylon, Richard John Neuhaus, p. 95)
It was priests---who having ceased to be ministers of Christ had become ministers of the devil--- who made it feasible to abandon God and to believe simply in sovereign man. It was fallen priests who made possible the insurrection against the God of Revelation that started many centuries ago and finally erupted in fire, brimstone and rivers of blood after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia during the October Revolution phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917 to found the Soviet Union.
And the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism, said ex-atheist Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
".....Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.”
In January 1933, just sixteen years after the October Revolution, Hitler became Reich Chancellor of National Socialist Germany. Three months later, Dachau the first concentration camp, opened its doors to Hitler's foes. Five years later the infamous Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) triggered Hitler's holocaust of Jews and other undesirable human weeds.
Even though Hitler and his SS officers were fascinated by an occult blend of Theosophy, spiritism, Nordic mythology and Aryan racial superiority, the reigning god in their pagan pantheon was the Fuehrer himself.
At first Hitler pretended to be a Christian, but his burning hatred for the God of Revelation soon terrorized the church said Eric Metaxas:
"[Heinrich] Himmler was the head of the SS and was aggressively anti-Christian...For Himmler, the SS was itself a religion, and its members, postulants in its priesthood. Many SS rituals were occultic in nature.... " (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, pp. 170-171 from "Dietrich Bonhoeffer" Berit Kjos, 2010, Kjos Ministries)
[Reinhard Heydrich said] 'You’ll see the day, ten years from now, when Adolf Hitler will occupy precisely the same position in Germany that Jesus Christ has now..." (ibid)
Though most of the German Lutheran church obediently accommodated itself to the demands of the Nazis pagan state, Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not. Instead, he helped establish the Confessional Church and encouraged pastors to refuse to sign a mandatory loyalty oath to Hitler, to not reject Jewish-Christian pastors, to speak out for the persecuted Jews, and to yield to God's Truth rather than the Nazi spirit of humanism.
Most pastors however, were too fearful. Since resistance would bring persecution, they opted for the safety of adulterated (compromised) faith. Weak, watered-down, adulterated Christianity would save their lives, secure their positions and ensure their wages and way of life.
But this is nothing more than mere "religion," said Bonhoeffer. It is cheap, false grace:
"....the deadly enemy of our Church....An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.... In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required..." (The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer)
The true grace they rejected in favor of cheap grace is costly,
".....because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son....."...one’s faith must be shining and bright and pure and robust. It must be free of... mere religiosity, [otherwise] the Christ whom one was bringing into the world and the culture was not Christ at all, but a tawdry man-made counterfeit."
Weak, indecisive, fearful, ambitious priests had dismissed man's sin and God's judgment and redemption so as to avoid the persecution that Bonhoeffer took onto himself. For him, the cost included unrelenting criticism, merciless ridicule, rejection, slander and finally execution.
In "Accommodating the Culture" Pastor Larry DeBruyn writes that the Apostle John warns against compromise, saying that whoever compromises their Christian faith with the reigning culture’s system is guilty of adultery via the lust of the eyes (materialism), the lust of the flesh (eroticism) and the pride of life (egoism):
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4, KJV)
Despite whatever musical ecstasy and other sensory feel-good passions might be "ginned up" during the worship celebrations in compromised churches said DeBruyn, adulterated worship:
"... does not love the Father—let it be repeated, does NOT love the Father! (1 John 2:15-17) James tells us that the Christians’ snuggling-up with the pagan culture (And there’s no question that we’ve become a pagan nation.) is hostility toward God (James 4:4)." (Accommodating the Culture, DeBruyn, Herescope, March 21, 2013)
Like Bonhoeffer before them, many discerning Christians have been trying to warn America's compromising contemporary and Emergent evangelical church that it is dancing on the edge of a cliff. It is following the same broad smooth highway to destruction previously taken by Russia's and Germany's compromising church.
Decades ago Francis Schaeffer noted the spirit of compromise already at work amongst new-evangelicals. In The Great Evangelical Disaster he wrote:
"Accommodation, accommodation. How the mindset of accommodation grows and expands. . . . For the evangelical accommodation to the world of our age represents the removal of the last barrier against the breakdown of our culture. And with the final removal of this barrier will come social chaos and the rise of authoritarianism in some form to restore order. " Schaeffer then adds, “To accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is the most gross form of worldliness in the proper definition of the word.” (Schaeffer, “Evangelical Disaster,” 401)
In "Hitler's Cross: the Revealing Story of How the Cross of Christ was Used as a Symbol of the Nazi Agenda," Erwin Lutzer meticulously traced the history of Germany's accommodating church during the rise of Hitler and the Reich, and said Pastor DeBruyn, the characteristics look eerily familiar.
Despite Yahweh’s warnings to Israel not to allow the surrounding culture to “Canaanize” them, Russia's church and then Germany's church committed adultery with the pagan culture of their age. Now the contemporary evangelical church is following suit:
"The face of evangelicalism has changed, but so too, I believe, has the movement’s heart. It is my view that in evangelicalism’s attempt to keep up with a debased and debasing culture, there will come a reckoning when the “relevant” church will be irrelevant to Christ. That will be a dangerous condition to be in, and for that matter, we may already be in that state as the ministry of the Word is under siege." (DeBruyn, Herescope)
Rather than being separate from the surrounding culture, the contemporary church is more interested in making a name for itself, of being people-pleasing and relevant, thus from Willow Creek to the Purpose Driven and their thousands of look-alike satellites, the contemporary church brings our degraded culture right into the church and like the compromised German church, preaches a watery gruel punctuated by jokes and the tossing of footballs, with a time-out for donuts and coffee and book-ended by mind-numbing drums and electric guitars.
Like the Russian and German church before it, today's compromised contemporary church cannot influence the world when it’s under the influence of the world. The resulting mess is an increasingly irrelevant, dying church and sinners left,
“...having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
Bonhoeffer mourned the fate of sinners without hope due to the adultery of the German church, and despite his best efforts, an offended compromised church turned a deaf ear to him. In April 1943 he was arrested and imprisoned at Tegel Prison in Berlin. For the next 18 months, like the Apostle Paul, he had plenty of time to read and ponder his Bible, write letters, and encourage guards and fellow prisoners with God's grace and gospel. Among the sources of his comfort were some spiritually uplifting hymns he had committed to memory.
The central axis of Bonhoeffer's life and theology was the Sermon on the Mount. In "The Cost of Discipleship" he explains what it meant to him:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". For His sake they have lost all, said Bonhoeffer, "They have no other hope but Him who called them."
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Refusing to accommodate themselves with the world they mourn for the compromised church and "... for the world, for its guilt, its fate..."
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." They renounce every earthly right of their own and "...live for the sake of Jesus Christ."
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for [God's] righteousness, for they shall be filled." Rather than earthly bread (stones), "....they are sustained by the Bread of Life."
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." They go out and seek all who are "...enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt..."
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." They are the humble and contrite in spirit who "have surrendered their hearts completely to Jesus that He may reign in them alone."
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." They overcome evil, disorder and lies with good, order and truth and "...establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate."
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3-11 By them will the compromised church and the world "...be offended..." (Bonhoeffer, pp. 120-127, 213)
"Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 7:21
This parable said Matthew Henry, speaks of two kinds of builders. Those who repent of sin, strive daily to live holy lives, and love one another no matter how much suffering and rejection they must endure: "This is his will, even our sanctification." The mere religion of the other builders rests in bare hearing and "it goes no further; their heads are filled with empty notions (and) worldly prosperity." Upon these they build, "but they are all sand" that will fall in the storm..."coming that will try every man's work. When God takes away the soul, where is the hope of the hypocrite? The house fell in the storm, when the builder had most need of it, and expected it would be a shelter to him. It fell when it was too late to build another. May the Lord make us wise builders for eternity." (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, 7:21-29)
Bonhoeffer was a wise builder, and the day before his execution he delivered his last sermon and shared God's saving message with the other prisoners in his cell. The next day, he walked calmly to the gallows and facing death said his last farewell:
"This is the end...For me the beginning of life." (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr p. 528)
One witness to Bonhoeffer's death was the camp doctor who later wrote::
"Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. "
"At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God." (Metaxas, p. 532)