While I’m away Dan is guest blogging through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics (part of the new Dietrich Bonhoeffer Series which I recently reviewed). Dan has served with Wycliffe in Papua New Guinea and is currently spending some time with us in The Crowded House.
Church and World I (339-351)
This manuscript explores how suffering results in the recognition of the origin of things. Values like reason and humanity ‘come back home’ (to be recognised as originating in Christ), as do those people who Christ calls to himself.
Reason, culture, humanity, tolerance and autonomy used to be used against the church but now (in the Nazi era) these ‘children of the church who had become independent and had run away now returned to their mother.’ They ‘found new meaning and new strength in their origin [Jesus Christ]’. (341)
Bonhoeffer explores the two verses, ‘Whoever is not against us is for us’ (Mk 9:40) and ‘Whoever is not for me is against me’ (Mt 12:30) and explains how he has experienced both to be true. ‘When the exclusive demand for an unequivocal confession of Christ caused the band of confessing Christians to become smaller and smaller, then the saying, “whoever is not for me is against me,” became a concrete experience for the Christian community.’ (343) On the other hand, ‘Wounded justice, oppressed truth, humiliated humanity, violated freedom—all these now sought the Christian community, or rather its Lord, Jesus Christ. And thus it came to know the other saying of Jesus as a living experience; “Whoever is not against us is with us. Both sayings necessarily belong together, one as the exclusive claim, and the other as the all-encompassing claim of Jesus Christ. … The more exclusively we recognize and confess Christ as our Lord, the more will be disclosed to us the breadth of Christ’s lordship.” (343-344)
Going back to the origins of values awakened through suffering, ‘It is not Christ who has to justify himself before the world by acknowledging the values of justice, truth and freedom. Instead, it is these values that find themselves in need of justification, and their justification is in Christ Jesus alone. It is not a “Christian culture” that still has to make the name of Jesus Christ acceptable to the world; instead, the crucified Christ has become the refuge, justification, protection, and claim for these higher values and their defenders who have been made to suffer.’ (345-346)
On the Possibility of the Church’s Message to the World (352-362)
The German editors call this manuscript a rough draft. The paragraphs are numbered, with sub points. Bonhoeffer explores the issue of the Christian message to the world: What do Christians have to say to the world, to its problems, its questions?
Although it isn’t the task of the church to answer all social and political questions, Christianity does have something specific to say about worldly things (353-356). Bonhoeffer has four points: Continue reading