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The Cost of Discipleship [Paperback]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1995
One of the most important theologians of the twentieth century illuminates the relationship between ourselves and the teachings of Jesus

What can the call to discipleship, the adherence to the word of Jesus, mean today to the businessman, the soldier, the laborer, or the aristocrat? What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us today? Drawing on the Sermon on the Mount, Dietrich Bonhoeffer answers these timeless questions by providing a seminal reading of the dichotomy between "cheap grace" and "costly grace." "Cheap grace," Bonhoeffer wrote, "is the grace we bestow on ourselves...grace without discipleship....Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the girl which must be asked for, the door at which a man must know....It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life."

The Cost of Discipleship is a compelling statement of the demands of sacrifice and ethical consistency from a man whose life and thought were exemplary articulations of a new type of leadership inspired by the Gospel, and imbued with the spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty.


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"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." With these words, in The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave powerful voice to the millions of Christians who believe personal sacrifice is an essential component of faith. Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, was an exemplar of sacrificial faith: he opposed the Nazis from the first and was eventually imprisoned in Buchenwald and hung by the Gestapo in 1945. The Cost of Discipleship, first published in German in 1937, was Bonhoeffer's answer to the questions, "What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us to-day?" Bonhoeffer's answers are rooted in Lutheran grace and derived from Christian scripture (almost a third of the book consists of an extended meditation on the Sermon on the Mount). The book builds to a stunning conclusion: its closing chapter, "The Image of Christ," describes the believer's spiritual life as participation in Christ's incarnation, with a rare and epigrammatic confidence: "Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord," Bonhoeffer writes, "we recover our true humanity, and at the same time we are delivered from that individualism which is the consequence of sin, and retrieve our solidarity with the whole human race." --Michael Joseph Gross

About the Author

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau in 1906. The son of a famous German psychiatrist, he studied in Berlin and New York City. He left the safety of America to return to Germany and continue his public repudiation of the Nazis, which led to his arrest in 1943. Linked to the group of conspirators whose attempted assassination of Hitler failed, he was hanged in April 1945.

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DIETRICH BONHOEFFER was born in Breslau on February 4th, 1906, the son of a university professor and leading authority on psychiatry and neurology. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The price to be paid Dec 5 2005
By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one who knew of that which he spoke when dealing with the issue of cheap grace versus costly grace. Bonhoeffer's commitment to the principles of his vocation and being cost him his life - executed in the closing days of World War II, Bonhoeffer walked a dangerous path through exercising his vocation faithfully in the midst of the twin evils of warfare and Nazi domination of Germany.
Bonhoeffer's life, from the earliest days, probably seemed like it was set on an idyllic path - the son of a professional family with strong roots in a prosperous and civilised culture, Bonhoeffer would seem to have 'had it made'. His early days in school showed him to be a minister and academic of great promise. However, his experiences at Union Seminary in New York City, an academic environment very different from the German academy, and at the Abyssian Baptist Church, an African-American congregation, vastly different from his Germanic Lutheran background, prepared a way for Bonhoeffer to expand beyond his upbringing and learning to become someone striving to find God in all people, and the will of God in all that he did.
The subject of this book is grace - too often, in Bonhoeffer's day and our own, people seem to look at grace as something free, instead of something freely offered. Bonhoeffer points out that the call of God and the gift of God's grace is not to be taken lightly - 'the call to follow Jesus always leads to death'. This may seem an unusual call in our day; after all, the more prosperous of our churches would seem to espouse a conventionally respectable lifestyle (far from the 'death' Bonhoeffer speaks about) as the reward for following God.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why did Jesus die for you? May 3 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I agree with the others who have praised this book; even their minor criticisms I share. I have read it through very carefully twice (once in my 30's; later in my 50's) and have moderated a Sunday School discussion class who took on Bonhoeffer and read him very carefully and critically against the Bible. Bonhoeffer (who, amazingly, wrote this book at age 31) did his Lord proud.
This is not an easy book to read. It is meat, not milk. Yes, you do have to be a saint, i.e. a believer, i.e. a disciple in order to be a Christian. Having faith means being faithful. Having faith means bearing fruit. Having faith means being a disciple. Calling Jesus, "Lord" means obeying Him. Jesus, not Bonhoeffer, not the RC Church nor Luther nor Calvin nor whoever else may "speak to you" is the One Who says, "Take up your cross and follow me." Pastor Bonhoeffer leads the reader through some fairly profound meditations on discipleship. One does not simply read this book as though it were a magazine story; he must read and re-read and re-read again passage after passage as he works his way through it.
If you are quite comfortable in knowing you are "saved by grace through faith," and freed from the tyranny of the works of the flesh and the Law, wonderful. But ask yourself whether Jesus suffered and died on the cross just so you could be comfortable in your "faith." If it occurs to you that there may be more to faith than creeds, confessions, and church attendance, that you were given the gift - and gifts - of the Spirit for some purpose other than as a voucher for your personal ticket to Heaven, you may find this book very helpful. In any event, should you read it, it will challenge you in many marvellous ways.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cost of Discipleship April 20 2004
Format:Paperback
The exposition of the Sermon on the Mount is fantastic. Boenhoeffer is straight-forward and leaves you no wiggle room in terms of conviction. He has a gift for communicating our thought processes as we try to justify sin in our lives, and I was amazed that his insight was written decades ago in a different country, because they perfectly described the way I think today.
The last fourth of the book was a little "thicker" to me, and I did not get as much out of it. The author's thoughts were not as lucid once he got out of the Sermon on the Mount passage, and they did not communicate as much to me personally. However, the first 3/4 of this book is so powerful that I would recommend it to anyone.
Be prepared to face your comfortable habits and ways of thought in a new light if you read this book. The Word is a sword, and Bonhoeffer uses it to penetrate us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Reading for All Christians March 22 2004
Format:Paperback
This book is a must read for anyone who calls himself a Christian. I particularly like Bohnhoeffer's concept of 'cheap grace' and how it is our mortal enemy.
Cheap grace? To quote Bonhoeffer himself, "It is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." In contrast, 'real grace' will cost a man his life.
This concept of grace, as Bonhoeffer showed by the example of his life and just as importantly his death, stands in stark contrast to the pop Christianity 'Happy Church' movement we so often see on Sunday morning TV - or just down the street.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Teaches us what the discipleship of Christ is.
Teaches us about the Cross of Christ.
Dietrich showed us how to carry the Cross of Christ.
Published 2 months ago by Sieg
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cost of Discipleship
WOW! this book is eye opening to all who lean in that direction - which should be most of us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quite a person - read his Letters from Prison. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lou Mattson
5.0 out of 5 stars Costly Grace
This is a most powerful theological examination of the challenging truth we find in James: "Faith without works is dead. Read more
Published on Oct. 12 2011 by T. A. Mcknight Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, Christ-Centered, & Convicting!
This book, written over 60 years ago, speaks directly to the needs of the church today.

In the first section Bonhoeffer deals with "grace and discipleship". Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2011 by Eternal Decree
5.0 out of 5 stars You Won't Go Wrong With Bonhoeffer
WWII gave us a new definition of evil, but it also gave us some bright spots. I've always heard that light shines brightest in the darkness. If you have not read this book . . . Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2004 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Theological Work of the 20th Century
Whether you are a conservative or progressive Christian, there is something for you in this amazing work. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004 by Jim Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that will change your faith!
Where does one begin?
This is a book that will profoundly change your understanding about what it means to be a person of faith in the world. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2003 by N. Sandy Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Life Example
The Cost of Discipleship should be read by all Christians and theological students. I have found this book marked down and away. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2003 by Mark
4.0 out of 5 stars More than Surface Christianity
The Cost of Discipleship covers several topics, all of which touch on basic Christian doctrine. It centralizes around whom Jesus is and his relation to us. Read more
Published on May 4 2003 by John
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