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Bonhoeffer's Ethics

ST572 Presentation

Brant Himes

on 2 November 2011

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Transcript of Bonhoeffer's Ethics

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics "What Does It Mean to Tell the Truth?" 'Pacifism and Tyrannicide: The Will of God Ethics as Formation Christ, Reality, and Good Casuistic vs. Contextual ethics The Question of ethics "Those who wish even to focus on the problem of a Christian ethic are faced with an outrageous demand – from the outset they must give up, as inappropriate to this topic, the very two questions that led them to deal with the ethical problem: “How can I be good?” and “How can I do something good?” Instead they must ask the wholly other, completely different question: what is the will of God" (Ethics, 47). The Sermon Discipleship Willingness to take on guilt What is the will of God? Based on principles Legalism No attention to context Antinomianism Context is everything Utilitarianism End justifies the means Contextual Ethic DANGER Context is everything Virtually no attention to rules Moral chaos EMPHASIS Context and Relationship Descriptive rather than prescriptive nature of moral law Character of moral agent Responsible Action "After Ten Years" 1. "The failure of reasonable people is appalling; they cannot manage to see either the abyss of evil or the abyss of holiness." 2. "More appaling is the bankruptcy of all ethical fanaticism." 3. The failure of conscience: "Those whose sole support is their conscience can never grasp that a bad conscience can be stronger and healthier than one that is deceived." 4. "... those who limit themselves to duty will never venture a free action that rests solely on their own responsibility." 5. The failure of ethical freedom: "They will easily consent to bad, knowing full well that it is bad, in order to prevent the worse." 6. The failure of private virtuousness: "Only at the cost of self-deception can they keep their private blamelessness clean from the stains of responsible action in the world." "Today we have villains and saints again, in full public view" (76). Single-minded obedience "Only the person who combines simplicity with wisdom can endure." "Whoever looks at Jesus Christ sees in fact God and the world in one. From then on they can no longer see God without the world, or the world without God" (82f). "Not ideals or programs, not conscience, duty, responsibility, or virtue, but only the consummate love of God can meet and overcome reality." " occurs only by being drawn into the , by being conformed to the unique form of the one who became human, was crucified, and is risen" (93). A Concrete Ethic "Thereby we are turned away from any abstract ethic and toward a concrete ethic. We can and should speak not about what the good is, can be, or should be for each and every time, but about how Christ may take form among us here and today" (99). Cf. Ethics 78-80 "The source of a Christian ethic is not the reality of one's own self, not the reality of the world, nor is it the reality of norms and values. It is the reality of God that is revealed in Jesus Christ" (49). "To participate in the indivisible whole
of God's reality is the meaning of the
Christian question about the good" (53). "What matters is participating in the reality of God and the world in Jesus Christ today, and doing so in such a way that I never experience the reality of God without the reality of world, nor the reality of the world without the reality of God" (55.) "In Jesus Christ the reality of God has entered into the reality of this world" (54). "In Christ all things exist (Col. 1:7). From now on we cannot speak rightly either of God or the world without speaking of Jesus Christ" (54). "... the will of God is nothing other than the realization of the
Christ-reality among us and our world. The will of God is therefore not an idea that demands to be realized; it is itself already reality in the self-revelation of Jesus Christ... ... The question of the will of God is not asking about something
hidden or unfulfilled, but about what has been revealed and fulfulled.
It remains, however, a genuine question insofar as I myself, together
with the world around me, am placed into this question by the answer
given by the revelation and fulfillment" (74f). The Call to Simple obedience History and Good "The moment a person accepts responsibility for other people - and in so doing does the person live in reality - the genuine ethical situation arises... ... The [ethical] action's norm is not a universal principle, but the concrete neighbor, as given to me by God. The choice is made no longer between a clearly recognized good and a clearly recognized evil;
instead it is risked in faith while being aware that good and evil are hidden in the concrete historical situation... ... Responsible action is neither determined from the outset and defined once and for all;
instead it is born in the given situation" (221). Situationalism? "Only God's becoming human makes possible an action that is
genuinely in accord with reality. The world remains the world.
But it only does so because God has taken care of it and declared
it to be under God's rule" (224). This is not relativism or situational ethics because of the reality of the world reconciled to Jesus Christ Coup d'etat? "The deed that is done, after responsibly weighing all circumstances in light of God's becoming human in Christ, is completely surrendered to God the moment it is carried out. Ultimate ignorance of one's own goodness or evil, together with dependence upon grace, is an essential characteristic of responsible historical action. ... Those who act on the basis of ideology consider themselves justified by their idea. Those who act responsibly place their action into the hands of God and live by God's grace and judgment" (226f). on the Mount and Ethics "The Sermon on the Mount is the word of the very one who is the lord and law of reality. The Sermon on the Mount is to be understood and interpreted as the word of God who became human" (231). "The sayings of Jesus, for example, those in the Sermon on the Mount, can then only be understood as words of the one who lives in concrete responsibility for all human beings, really standing in their place and acting on their behalf (and not by confronting them with ideals they cannot fulfill), as words of the one whose responsibility consists in freely given love for the real human being (and not in the realization of some kind of idea of the human), as words of the one whose pure love manifests itself by entering into the guilt of human beings (and not by isolating itself from this guilt)" (235). "The truthfulness of our words that we owe to God must take on concrete form in the world. Our word should be truthful, not in principle, but concretely. ... 'Telling the truth', therefore is not solely a matter of moral character; it is also a matter of appreciation of real situations and of serious reflection upon them" (DBWE 16, 603). "When the various orders of life no longer respect one another, then words become untrue" (605). "How does my word become true? 1) By recognizing who calls on me to speak and what authorizes me to speak; 2) by recognizing the place in which I stand; 3) by putting the subject I am speaking about into this context" (608). "The Natural Life" Four Mandates "What truly defines [the mandates] is not the continuity of unchanging 'orders', but their structuring of our existence so that it is for one another. When they do not do this, they are no longer God's mandates" (Larry Rasmussen, Cambridge Companion, 222). Bonhoeffer's Christian Peace Ethic' (Clifford Green) Bonhoeffer's peace ethic is an ingredient and implication of his theology as a whole Speak deliberately of tyrannicide, not assassination or murder Not a vigilante: not an individual on a self-appointed mission
a judgment shared by international consensus of governments and church leaders
the coup was an absolute last resort
background of established moral tradition, allowed tyrannicide under certain strict criteria
- Barth, Aquinas, Calvin, Beza, and Knox Bonhoeffer describes the 'tyrannical despiser' of humanity in Ethics, 85-87 Free, responsible action, from the christological foundation "... before God, he only hopes for grace" "Basic Questions of a Christian Ethic" existing as church-community Formation form of Jesus Christ
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