Considered one of the greatest works on Christian ethics, Ethics was the name given to a book written by the theologian and philosopher Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was born, lived, and died in Germany at the height of Nazism. He was hanged because of his opposition to Hitler’s Nazism. In 1934 he wrote:
“Jesus Christ, and not any man or the State, is our only Savior.”
Being this one of the reasons he was arrested and hanged. In his book, Bonhoeffer describes when talking about reality, that the origin of Christian ethics is not the reality of the self, nor the reality of the world, nor the reality of norms and values, but the reality of God in his revelation in Jesus Christ. This is the requirement that, for the sake of honesty, must be made, before anything else, to anyone who wants to care about the problem of Christian ethics.
In this sense, Bonhoeffer seeks to emphasize that any effort for an ethics that is not centered on Christ, that is, the whole view and knowledge of things and laws without Him, becomes an abstraction. In this way, Bonhoeffer points out that if anyone wants to understand the problem of Christian ethics, he needs to give up in advance the two questions that ultimately led him to deal with ethical problems:
– “How will I become good?”
– “How will I do something good?”
For Bonhoeffer, the correct question would be about knowing the will of God. God, then, is the true reality for a Christian ethic. Furthermore, only to the extent that the ultimate reality is revelation, that is, self-testimony of the living God, is his claim grounded. The general idea that I must become good and do good things so that the world becomes better, has a problem, since my action would then be on a different plane from what God has already established. In this sense, more important is not that I become good, nor that the situation in the world is improved by me, but that the reality of God is manifested everywhere as the ultimate reality. So, the ethical concern is then, God reveals himself as the good. In this revelation, there is a risk that the world and I will not appear as good, but entirely bad. Therefore, one believes in God as true reality. All things are distorted when they are not seen and understood in God.