Bonhoeffer (Ethics) raises the question, What is real? His answer is the Sunday School answer: Jesus.
If this is true, then Christian ethics faces no tragic dilemmas. We are not confronted with pressure to tailor our witness or action in the name of Jesus to some given reality that is other than Jesus.
Again, he takes aim at a Niebuhrian theme:
“Even the modern Protestant ethic invokes the pathos of tragedy in its representation of the irreconcilable conflict of the Christian in the world, and claims that in this it is expressing an ultimate reality. All this unconsciously lies entirely under the spell of the heritage of antiquity; it is not Luther, but it is Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides who have invested human life with this tragic aspect.” Thus, “To contrast a secular and a Christian principle as the ultimate reality is to fall back from Christian reality into the reality of antiquity, but it is equally wrong to regard the Christian and the secular as in principle forming a unity” (228).
Which means: Secularism marks the return of tragic politics, the unhappy clash between Christian faithfulness and reality.
In contrast, he argues, “For the Bible and for Luther what ultimately requires to be considered in earnest is not the disunion of the gods in the form of their laws, but it is the unity of God and the reconciliation of the world with God in Jesus Christ; it is not the inescapability of guilt, but it is the simplicity of the life which follows from the reconciliation; it is not fate, but the gospel as the ultimate reality of life; it is not the cruel triumph of the gods over falling man, but it is the election of man to be man as the child of God in the world which is reconciled through grace” (228).
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 9:28 am
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