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The Cost of Discipleship

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  37,561 ratings  ·  1,235 reviews
One of the most important theologians of the twentieth century illuminates the relationship between ourselves and the teachings of Jesus in this classic text on ethics, humanism, and civic duty.

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?
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Touchstone (first published 1937)
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Joseph Pearman I did not take the book to have a missional or evangelistic message (in a direct sense). Rather, Bonhoeffer focuses on being a disciple of Jesus Chris…moreI did not take the book to have a missional or evangelistic message (in a direct sense). Rather, Bonhoeffer focuses on being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He is speaking to the believer (or potential believer) about the what it means to follow Christ. (less)

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Dwight Davis
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went into Discipleship thinking that I would really hate it. I love the early academic theology of Bonhoeffer, and I'm really interested in Bonhoeffer studies, but I figured that a book couldn't be that interesting and ground breaking if so many fundamentalists love it. I was so wrong.

Bonhoeffer puts forth a lot of very radical ideas here. The idea of the Church being the physical manifestation of Christ, and therefore vicariously representing Christ on earth is brilliant. Bonhoeffer completel
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: All college-educated Christians
Note, Feb. 23, 2021: I've just edited this to correct one typo.

Although I had a vague memory, when the Christian Goodreaders group chose this book as a common read, of having read some of Bonhoeffer's writings back in my early 20s, I now believe that what I read back then was his Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (which I'm currently rereading). I had no recollection, over my recent days of reading, of having read any of the text previously. If I had read it even back
Sandy Ferguson
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. Bonhoeffer challenges us to look beyond the values of this world, and asks us are we willing to embrace the true cost of discipleship? His analysis of cheap grace, and its corrupting influence reminds us that there are times that we have to challenge the powers of this world, that there are times when to be a good Christian means we can't always be a good c
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
Listened to the audio version of this book and found it very compelling. It challenged me in ways I didn't know I needed challenging, which is why it earns 5 stars from me. As a lifelong cultural Catholic and for the last twenty years (or so) actively striving-to-be-Christlike Catholic, I need books which help me to look at my faith from a fresh perspective.

Bonhoeffer's eclectic approach to the Gospels reminds me very much of his German compatriot and one of my other favorite authors, Pope Bened
Jul 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book will mess you up, and you will be better for it - at least it should. Bonhoeffer combats what he coins "cheap grace" (i.e., grace with no demand, no cost, no cross). He demonstrates that the life of discipleship is the life of crucifixion. But this is not from some pussified metrosexual pastor, wearing his tight button-down, throwing around terms like "imitatio christi." No, this is from a man who did it, who faithfully followed and bore witness to Christ until the end when he was hung ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
I have spent most of my life attending what are generally called the mainline Protestant denominations in the US. I grew up in the United Methodist Church and I'm now a PCUSA Presbyterian. I have heard this book quoted or referenced In sermons and bible studies more times than I can count. But I had never actually read it myself so I decided to as part of a Lenten discipline of reading only books on religion during Lent.

Having now finished, I am surprised at its popularity among liberal Christi
It took me about two years to read this one. I would pick it up, pause to meditate on a profound line, misplace the book, find it weeks later, read a little more, pause to mediate, lose it again...
I'm not used to reading books I cannot zip through. But this one seriously challenged me. I couldn't rush through it. I needed to stop and think about what it actually meant.
Words to describe it: Profound. Thought-provoking. Challenging. Encouraging. Motivating.
I forgot how much I missed doctrine. It
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, I finished.

It took me a long time, and I essentially have no idea what I just read, but I finished. How can I find the biography of Bonhoeffer so much more meaningful than the primary documents he wrote? Probably because I couldn't understand them.

I definitely overestimated myself with this book. If it follows other patterns of my life, if I leave it alone and let it percolate for another decade or two and come back to it, I might possible understand it the next time.

The only thing I reall
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian-living
This book is chock full of wisdom and deeply profound insights, but it took me almost two months to get through it simply because its readability is quite low. Perhaps this is because of the translation, or because Mr Bonhoeffer wrote in a different era, but whatever the reason, it's a tough read. Compounding the problem of poor readability is the injection of strong opinions about non-essential Christian beliefs. Writers are entitled to their opinions like everyone else, and I'm entitled to dis ...more
Natalie Weber
Ever since reading the remarkable Bonhoeffer biography by Eric Metaxas last year, I’ve been eager to read more of Bonhoeffer’s own writings. Discipleship is of particular interest to me, so I decided to start with this book. As was alluded to in the biography, the book deals not primarily with the concept of discipleship in regards to discipling others, but primarily with the individual’s role and responsibilities as a disciple of Christ. I copied down many excerpts from various chapters, but es ...more
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
I'm not going to attempt to "review" such a classic work. Rather, I thought I would comment on what I thought were some striking themes in Bonhoeffer's work.

One thing is the theme of unqualified obedience to Christ. One of Bonhoeffer's chapters is "The Call of Discipleship" and I think that may have been an even more appropriate title for the book. The call is both a gracious call, one we need but don't deserve, and a call to implicit, unqualified obedience in following Christ, as in the case of
Amanda Geaney
Whew! My brain is mush.

It has been really helpful for me to read this book alongside my friend and mentor. We have gotten together over the past three weeks (and once more this Friday) to discuss what we've read and how our lives as disciples differ from Bonhoeffer's definition of a disciple.


UPDATE 9/14/18: I came across this article which helped me better understand Bonhoeffer's theology.
We need to be discerning readers.

A Reliable Guide?
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I’m so glad I finally “read” (listened) to this compelling book. Now I need to read my old print copy with pen- in- hand to mark up all the gems that inspired and challenged me.
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Indeed a great book!!!
Bonhoffers work is dripping and saturated with the spirit of a martyr, which hasn't loss a bit from his freshness and his relevance to the present....
The deep love to his Lord, and his genuine esteem for God's word, are without doubt the items that stand out visible trough the entire book.
Bonhoeffer explain the difference between what he calls the cheap grace versus the costly grace.
Particularly trough the light by the chapter about single-minded obedience I've been exposed
Aug 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Bonhoeffer was only a few that understood that National Socialism was godless and in my opionion stripping men of dignity, liberty and freedom. I think this is a good read because the enemy of cheap grace is so rapid in our churches today. Bonhoeffer lived in a time where cheap grace could not be afforded and so do we. The book gives a clear understanding of grace thru discipleship. Bonhoeffer goes on to say that this cheap grace is what we give ourselves instead of being given by God thru Jesus ...more
Paul Mullen
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith-vocation
Having read Eric Mataxus's brilliant biography of Bonhoeffer... 5 stars... skip this review... go read the biography... I had to read more of what Bonhoeffer wrote. It is tough reading. Good food, but vegetables when my brain occasionally wanted chocolate!

The book is divided into 5 sections:

1) Grace and discipleship
2) The Sermon on the Mount
3) The messengers
4) The Church of Jesus Christ and the life of discipleship

The book is worth your time if you're interested in deepening in discipleship. Se
Jeremiah Lorrig
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Many layers. This book is very complex and takes much contemplation and I don’t know if I agree with all he says. However, even in the cases of disagreement, I can admire his heartfelt encouragement of truth.

He doesn’t strike me as a typical theologian who expounds on the mechanics of various truths, instead he writes like a passionate youth who is earnestly seeking to find what makes his girlfriend laugh so he can hear that musical sound. He is clearly a deep thinker and tackles very complex c
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some final thoughts here after reading Cost of Discipleship. I give it 4/5 stars, but I would almost rather knock it down to 3/5. However, I suspect that its worth grows on future re-readings. I hoped for better exposition of Scripture, but I was also very taken with Bonhoeffer's theological courage and often exacting pull-no-punches arguments. For brevity's sake, I'll leave my comments as an itemized list:

What about joy and resurrection? Bonhoeffer barely develops this central aspect of the dis
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Glad to have finally gotten through this classic. The opening of the book was very edifying and I enjoyed the way how the author tackled on the problem of cheap grace theology. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is truly a Lutheran and one get that feel in the book. It is a call to believers to be disciples of Jesus Christ and to be one faithfully. An excellent book for a believer to read to count the cost and one in which the readers must keep in mind that for the author who lived in Nazi Germany had to pay t ...more
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Most Christians, especially those who were raised in the church, have heard the Sermon on the Mount time and time again...but, here, Bonhoeffer brings new life to the oft-quoted words of Jesus, as well as other parts of God's Word. For many people of the Way, this will likely come as a shock to their system...but it has a very powerful message that all people who claim to follow Jesus should not only hear, but apply to their lives as well. ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Look, I hold Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the highest regard and respect. I have no doubt in his faith.

Now that said I have to disagree with his understanding of Faith and Grace. So, my low rating may not be agreed with by others who agree with his views.

I don't suppose this is the place for a discussion on Christian Theology so all I can say is "study to show yourself approved" and consider this with other teachers. Possibly read along with some C.S.Lewis and possibly some Torrance.
Becky Pliego
2020: Liked it better this second time. But I have to say, the first part is the best.

2018: Good.
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could have read this book in its original language - German - because I'm just just a bit of the brilliance is lost in translation. However, the necessary content has remained well intact and it is the content which makes it a book for all seasons, nations, and peoples. In Bonhoeffer's work, he describes the many ways in which the Christian will have to sacrifice himself in order to follow Christ. He deals seriously with topics such as "the Enemy," speaking of the time which is "coming ...more
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I'm rating this a 5 mostly due to the personal significance I derived while reading, as well as for the enormous theological insight Bonhoeffer's book gave me, in particular about what the Beatitudes actually mean. I put this in the 'life-changing' heading of my personal library, and I'd estimate that about 25% of my copy is now underlined. As for readability, it was a bit of a slog at points as Bonhoeffer's style is quite academic, though his insights are broadly relevant. Overall I found his e ...more
Tim Chavel
Nov 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
What is the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Well that is what this book explains. Bonhoeffer makes nit plain that the price is high. Ther cost means we must die to self! I few quotes from the book:

Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it. His commandment never seeks to destroy life, but to foster, strengthen and heal it. p. 40

"Ye are the salt." Jesus does not say: " You must be the salt." It is not for the disciples to decide whether they will be the salt
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."

As a Christian this book was deeply challenging and moving to me. It's difficult to put into words the effect that this book has. Someone of another faith or belief system may find it hard to sympathize, but reading the text will have a similar effect on anyone. Bonhoeffer lived out the radical faith he preaches in this work, and proved it with his life. This forum is too short a medium to convey everything unique and valuable about this work,
Jonathan Woodward
Oct 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Within the first few pages of the first chapter, I fell in love with this book. The first chapter, entitled “Costly Grace,” caught me hook, line, and sinker. This is not to say, however, that Bonhoeffer keeps me fastened to his words. Actually, quite the opposite happens. I find that his thoughts become repetitive, and unnecessarily provocative. Themes are repeated over and over. This is not to say that The Cost of Discipleship does not offer a good read, rather it was unnecessarily repetitive i ...more
Emily Woodham
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
I loved this book! Some passages were more difficult than others, but I found it to be time well spent to think through what Bonhoeffer had to say.

I disagree with some of Bonhoeffer's pacifist views. He mentioned that he differs from the Reformers on those points, and I think I'd side more with them. Considering that he was a part of the plot to assassinate Hitler, I'd be interested to know how he reconciled the plot with what he proposes in The Cost. I am reading his biography by Metaxas, and
This book begins with a devotional and challenging coverage of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew's Gospel. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was jailed in World War II because he resisted Nazi influence in the Church and elsewhere. He was hung just before the prison camp was liberated by the Allies.

I used to read this book once per year, especially the material about what Bonhoeffer calls "Cheap Grace." As a New Testament Professor, I also assigned it as part of a seminary course on Matthew's Gospel, so th
Brent McCulley
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
What is the cost of discipleship? What is cheap grace? What is the Christian walk wherefrom we have stolen what is most holy and subsequently profaned? Bonhoeffer tackles such tough issues that were prevalent in Lutheran Germany previous to National Socialist Germany and WWII in his 'Cost of Discipleship.' Hung in the gallows as a prisoner of the Nazis at the end of the Second World War, Bonhoeffer alone stands as a testament - this book is living proof. "When Christ calls a man, He bids him com ...more
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, a founding member of the Confessing Church. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, sho ...more

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