Posts Tagged ‘Life Together’

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his little work entitled Life Together wrote about the Reformed perspective of “alien righteousness” (“fremde Gerechtigkeit”) which in Luther’s doctrine of justification was extra nos.[1] He explained the need, based upon this doctrine of “alien righteousness,” for community and the spoken Word of Christ.

If they are asked ‘Where is your salvation, your blessedness, your righteousness?,’ they can never point to themselves. Instead, they point to the Word of God in Jesus Christ that grants salvation, blessedness, and righteousness. They watch for this Word wherever they can. Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are only destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians….They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened….They need other Christians as bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of salvation.[2]

While I’ve been reading and reflecting on a recent book (Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption and the Triune God; Eerdmans 2010) by Frank Macchia I was struck by the utterly non-pneumatic presence of Bonhoeffer’s statements.  So close and yet so far away.  What Bonhoeffer has to say rings true, but it should be added that we speak as the Church by the will and word of the very Spirit of Christ.  It is not simply a speaking words from the book which is the Bible.  That would not be “God’s living Word.”

The extra nos righteousness of Luther seems to fail to do justice (pun intended?) to the inward justifying of the Spirit within the believer in the very midst of the believing and confessing community.  I believe Bonhoeffer has in some ways redeemed Luther in this (though I haven’t read Luther so thoroughly that he may in fact do so himself) by reminding the Church that we speak the Word of God as righteousness…one to another.  We confess the forgiveness of sins as fully granted.  A community that is redeemed and redeeming by the Spirit which cries aloud “Abba, Father!” that others may believe and take heart.  That we may believe and take heart…together having been justified we may also be glorified with our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer et al., Life Together; Prayerbook of the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 31fn10.

[2] Ibid., 32.


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