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Ethics Bonhoeffer

Ethics Bonhoeffer

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Published by Josh Gale

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Published by: Josh Gale on Nov 02, 2012
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04/02/2013

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Book Review of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s
 Ethics
 
Joshua GaleOctober 2012
 
Page 2
After stating brief distinction between the tasks of Christian ethics and secular 
ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Christian ethics discerns a falling away from theorigin.”
1
 
Bonhoeffer insists that, “the first task of Christian ethics is to invalida
te this
knowledge of good and evil…[which] seems to be the aim of all ethical reflection.”
2
 Being one with God, that is the aim of Christian ethics for this knowledge of good andevil, or, as Bonhoeffer writes, the concept of the moral and immoral, valuable andvalueless or of actual or proper being and not actual or proper being only signifies our separation from God. It is through this knowledge that humanity has further turned its back to God and embraced what can be proven by human means; that is by process or  procedure, or by law, or by science, or by systematics. As God says in the book of Genesis
, “The man has now
become like one of us, knowing
good and evil.”
 
3
To worry
one‟s self 
with these things means to remove God from the Judgment seat and to take his place instead.In concern with Christian ethics, Bonhoeffer bases the heart of his argumentsupon two main events, that which is referred to as the Fall and the incarnation of Godthrough Christ. It is in these events that we find substance to his writing and in these
events that Bonhoeffer fully discerns what he believes to be God‟s relationship to that of 
 the world, in which Bonhoeffer truly finds his grounding and emphasizes throughout the book. This juxtaposition between man and God becomes the life stream of his critiquesabout the church, patriotism, morality, faith, and what purposes these things have served
1
Quoted in Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Ethics
, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company,1955), 21.
2
Quoted in
Ethics,
21
3
Gn. 3:22 (NIV)
 
Page 3
through history. It is our disunion with God that Bonhoeffer interests himself in andexplores in his book 
 Ethics
.
“Instead of kn
owing himself solely in the reality of being chosen and loved byGod, he must now know himself in the possibility of choosing and of being in the
origin of good and evil…because he acquires this knowledge only at the price of 
estrangement from the origin, the good and evil that he knows are not the good
and evil of God but the good and evil against God.”
4
 This, according to Bonhoeffer, is the root of the problem. In the invalidation of this knowledge of good and evil, one must look to the source of humanity, its origin.
Through the devil‟s deceit, man sinned and became self 
-aware, displacing himself awayfrom his true origin. At our core we know one reality, and that reality is God. To beanchored in origins is to be anchored in God. In this awareness that we have come to
know outside of God, in this becoming like God, “man has become a god against God.”
5
 Bonhoeffer uses the example of the Pharisee to further illustrate this point, statingthat he thought the Pharisee to be a man solely concerned with this knowledge of goodand evil. Everyday at any point in time the Pharisee becomes concerned with more thanthat of God, and instead focuses attention on laws, procedures, and rituals. This is theepitome of a man being at odds with God, relying upon his humanistic intuitions to guidetransform his faith and to, ultimately, lead to his salvation. It is this such topic that and inthis context that Christ tells us the story of the good Samaritan and offers to us the
greatest commandment, “
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your 
4
Quoted in
Ethics
, 23
5
Quoted in
Ethics
, 23.

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