Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) wrote this to his friend Eberhard Bethge from prison the year before he was executed by the Nazis:
“I find all this talk about human limits questionable. (Can even death, since people hardly fear it now, or sin, which people hardly even comprehend now, still be called genuine “limits?”) I always have the feeling we are merely fearfully trying to save room for God; I would rather speak of God at the center than at the limits, in strength rather than in weakness, and thus in human life and goodness rather than in death and guilt.
As far as limits are concerned, I think it best simply to remain silent and to leave the unresolvable unresolved. The belief in resurrection is not the “solution’ to the problem of death. The “beyond” of God is not the “beyond” of our cognitive capacity. Epistemological transcendence has nothing to do with God’s transcendence. God is “beyond” our lives. The church is found not where human capacity fails, at the limits, but rather in the middle of the village. This is the sense of the Old Testament, and we still do not read the New Testament enough from the perspective of the Old Testament.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Eberhard Bethge Tegel prison, April 30,1944)
I read this as a call for the church to be fully engaged in the life around it, and not be a conventicle that separates itself from the “world.” Certainly Bonhoeffer himself engaged his times and society, and gave his life for doing so. But it is so hard to be “in the world and not of it.”