Dietrich BonhoefferI was reading a friend’s dissertation (I’ll identify the friend and the work in a later post) and came across a great statement from an essay by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, with which I was previously unfamiliar. Bonhoeffer remarked that American Protestant denominations were marked by the tragic tendency to be more concerned about “faithfulness to [their] own church history” than to Christian truth or the Word of God in its fullness.

In Bonhoeffer’s mind, this tendency is distinctively American and quite contrary to the original spirit of Protestantism, which sought reform, not out of any sectarian agenda, but in pursuit of the fullness of the gospel. Bonhoeffer’s critique is just as salient today as it was when he first offered it, since this peculiarly American protestant pathology remains strong in traditions, such as my own Baptist tradition, where church historians and denominational leaders continually strive to “identify” what it means to be “Baptist,” “Quaker,” “Disciples of Christ,” etc .