Eric Metaxas, author of a popular, and controversial, Bonhoeffer biography, recently wrote an article on the importance of reaching cultural elites for Christ. He uses William Wilberforce’s methods for ending slavery as a key example.
He argues that elites are the next unreached people group, an idea he supports by telling a story about how Dick Cavett didn’t know where the Golden Rule came from. The importance of this anecdote, he claims, is that elites are culture-bearers and culture-creators for the rest of us.
What does this have to do with changing the world? Everything. Because, for good or for ill, it is the cultural elites who determine much of what goes on in the rest of the culture, who can set the tone and content of the cultural conversation. They can determine what we sneer at and what we ooh at and ahh at. Not that they are trying to do this. It’s just the way things are. They tend to have the tv pulpits and the Conde Nast photo spreads. And the folks in Topeka who watch them… don’t. You’ve heard of trickle-down economics? Let me introduce you to trickle-down culture.
If Christians are to change the world, apparently, they should start with the most important people and work their way out and down.
That is simply good missiology and would further the Gospel. In their way, the cultural elites of Manhattan and Hollywood are an untouched people group no less in need of hearing the Gospel than the cannibals of Irian- Jaya or the Auca Indians of Ecuador were just a few decades ago. As brave and diligent souls have over the last two millennia risked their lives and lost their lives, and have studied obscure grammars and translated the Gospel of John into the dialects of these and other vanishing tribes, so too we today ought to humbly set ourselves to the noble task of bringing the Gospel to these elites. We should think and pray about moving to those places where they gather, and we should try to communicate with them and learn their folkways and cultural shibboleths with the same diligence we have applied to obscure tribes. And if the Lord has not called us to live in those places, or to work in those industries, which are the front-lines in the struggle for the heart and soul of our culture, then we should pray about whether we ought to send money to help the ministries of those who have been called. And we all should know that we have certainly been called to support them in prayer.
To speak of Christ means to keep silent; to keep silent about Christ means to speak. When the church speaks rightly out of a proper silence, then Christ is proclaimed.
Christ must become present to us in preaching and in the sacraments just as in being the crucified one he has made peace with God and with humanity. The crucified God is our peace. He alone exorcizes the idols and the demons. The world trembles only before the cross, not before us.
The kingdom of God is not to be found in some other world beyond, but in the midst of this world. Our obedience is demanded in terms of its contradictory appearance, and, then, through our obedience, the miracle, like lightning, is allowed to flash up again and again from the perfect, blessed new world of the final promise. God wants us to honor God on earth; God wants us to honor God in our fellow man and woman - and nowhere else. God sinks the kingdom down into the cursed ground. Let up open our eyes, become sober, and obey him here.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Thy Kingdom Come”
God sinks the kingdom down into the cursed ground…
The kingdom of God assumes control in the church insofar as here the loneliness of being human is overcome through the miracle of confession and forgiveness. This is because the church, which is the communion of saints created by the resurrection, one person can and should bear the guilt of another, and for this reason the last shackle of loneliness, hatred of others, is removed, and community is established and created anew.
God intends to be Lord on earth and regards all our exuberant zeal on God’s behalf as a real disservice. Herein lies our Christian secularism, that, in our very desire to see that God gets everything that is due God in the world, we actually evade God and so love the earth for its own sake, for the sake of this struggle.
We understand Christ only if we commit ourselves to him in a stark ‘Either-Or.’ He did not go to the cross to ornament and embellish our life. If we wish to have him, then he demands the right to say something decisive about our entire life.
The mercy of Christ is not a cheap grace; it does not presume a trivialization of evil. Christ carries in his body and on his soul all the weight of evil, and all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil through suffering, in the fire of his suffering love. The day of vindication and the year of favor meet in the paschal mystery, in Christ died and risen. This is the vindication of God: he himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we draw closer in solidarity with his suffering - and become willing to bear in our flesh “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1, 24).
Vocation is responsibility and responsibility is a total response of the whole man to the whole of reality.
He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ of his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.
And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.