I Have No Idea What Bonhoeffer, Chesterton, Or Augustine Are Talking About Half the Time

There, I said it. Seriously, I don’t understand these guys.

I am currently reading Ethics, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’m about 70 pages in. I have very little concept of what he’s talking about.

I have read other stuff by Bonhoeffer and liked the parts I understood and the parts that weren’t crazy Lutheran.

But, in all honesty, I have a hard time tracking with Mr. Bonhoeffer. I have analyzed myself in this issue: Why do I not follow him?

My answer is the same as when I ask myself why I don’t follow other famous theologians that everyone says they like: he is a philosopher and thinks like one. I am not and I do not think like a philosopher.

Augustine thinks like a philosopher. I do not like Augustine. G. K. Chesterton is a philosopher. I have no idea what he’s talking about.

I feel bad that I don’t understand them. I wish I did, I just don’t. People keep telling me how great these guys are and I’m not seeing it.

I used to think it’s because I was too stupid. These authors are smarter than me and anyone who likes them must be smarter than me.

But I’ve read a lot of books and gone to seminary and I know a thing or two. I still don’t get these guys. It’s possible I’m still a moron, that door will never be closed.

But the genius in me decided no, it must be the authors who are morons. If you understand something you should be able to communicate it so a kid can understand you. If these guys can’t make me understand their point, they must be bloviating.

I also believed (and kind of still do), that most people who like these authors just say they do because they know it makes them look smart. I’m guessing I’ve read more of these authors than most people who say they like them! Maybe the reason I don’t like them while others do, is because I’ve actually read them!

Kind of like Shakespeare. People think it’s awesome to read Shakespeare because it makes you look intellectual. However, I’ve read Shakespeare. A lot of Shakespeare. I took a college class on Shakesperean Literature. Everyone dies. He might be good with words, but he’s as creative as a brick.

But now I have a new theory.

My mind is different from other people’s minds. Chesterton, Bonhoeffer, and Augustine think in a different way than I do. They like to pontificate about how things stick together. They like to try to explain things that aren’t explained right out in the Bible.

I don’t! I figure, if God doesn’t explain it, I don’t care. I can think about it all day long, I can develop theories, but even after all that, I will have no way of knowing if I’m right. So, hey, why bother?

Therefore, when Augustine tries to explain original sin and the Bible makes no effort to explain this, I just have no interest in reading some guys idea about how it happens. I don’t care because I have no way of knowing if he’s right or not.

When Chesterton bloviates on whatever it is he’s bloviating on, or when Bonhoeffer parses the nature of Christ as God and Man as consistent with the difference between the nature of the Church and the World, and how ethics come out of that, I just, my mind, just, glazes over.

Some people’s minds like to ponder the unanswerable problems of life. Mine doesn’t. If there’s no solid basis for an answer, I’d rather skip it.

Therefore, I have no interest in reading your theory about the timeline of how salvation occurs in an individual. The Bible doesn’t explain it, so I don’t care.

I have no interest in knowing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Can’t be answered, so I don’t care.

I don’t know why God allowed sin, or why He created the world, or how God relates to time. The Bible doesn’t explain it. There’s no way of knowing. So, I don’t care.

I used to think all this proved that either people who think about this stuff or I were stupid. In the end, I don’t think it has anything to do with anyone’s stupidity, it just has to do with different kinds of intellects.

I’m glad there are philosophical types. I can appreciate their sincere efforts to know things, their concentration abilities, their obvious time and energy put into these issues. I get it. I just don’t get it to the point I want to do it!

So, in the end, think about whatever you want, just know that when my eyes glaze over and I give a short, stunted answer to your philosophical question you think needs a 637 page explanation (with footnotes), it’s not that I’m being rude, it’s that I have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s not you; it’s me.

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3 thoughts on “I Have No Idea What Bonhoeffer, Chesterton, Or Augustine Are Talking About Half the Time”

  1. I also believed (and kind of still do), that most people who like these authors just say they do because they know it makes them look smart. I’m guessing I’ve read more of these authors than most people who say they like them!

    Maybe the people who say they like those authors have the same relationship with their work as many have with scripture. They are familiar with a selection of QUOTES from their work, but haven’t really addressed the whole of what they’ve written.

    The Bible doesn’t explain it, so I don’t care.

    :)

    In my opinion, a wise attitude.

  2. I’d actually never read any Bonhoeffer. I just know him as one of the few who wouldn’t allow Hitler to dictate what the church should teach. And unfortunately, his protest also involved some use of force, which was discovered and resulted in his death.

    So your article perked my interest and I found a book on archive.org called “Communion of Saints”. I took a look and…WHEW! I was quickly wading neck-high in murky philosophical terms…not my preferred diet either.

    There is a point to be made that the early church went astray by getting involved in worldly philosophy.

    Isn’t this, the use of philosophic arguments, also what the apostle Paul found so ineffective in Athens that at his next stop he “determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified”?

  3. Onesimus: Yes, these guys are good for a quote from time to time and that is why they are best known. Wading through their stuff to find the quotes is the tough part! Google, thankfully, can let you skip some work!

    Frank: Bonhoeffer’s best book is The Cost of Discipleship. Although you will hit some Lutheran stuff, that is his best work by far. I would recommend it and think you would like it. The rest of his stuff is pretty thick.

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