Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cheap Grace and Invincible Ignorance

One of Adolf Hitler’s last orders before his death in April 1945 was to hang a 39-year-old minister named Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer had opposed the comfort the German Church was conferring on believers while turning a blind eye to the inhumanity of the Nazis.

“Cheap grace,” he wrote, “is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance...absolution without personal confession.”

Ever since, Bonhoeffer has been a beacon to those of all faiths, or even none, whose beliefs lead to humility, self-sacrifice and good works rather than contempt for those who do not share their self-serving certainties.

“Invincible ignorance,” according to Catholic doctrine, excludes sin, since it leads those in that state to involuntary error.

As Sunday morning quarterbacks on “Meet the Press,” etc. try to predict what George Bush will or will not do after the report of the Iraq Study group, such reflections on religion are inspired in a secular humanist in the throes of despair about the ongoing bloodshed.

How do you get through the defenses of cheap grace and invincible ignorance?

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