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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Reality is a central idea in Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. Ethics must deal with real human problems and choices. Bonhoeffer learned this as a participant in the German resistance to Hitler, but he believed the lesson applies to all conditions of modern life. People seek concrete direction for their choices and find abstract ethics irrelevant. The contrast between concrete reality and abstraction found in the philosophy of Hegel thus provided an important resource for Bonhoeffer’s theological understanding of Jesus Christ as the reality of God in human experience. Because we cannot separate God from the world or understand either apart from Christ, responsible action is always a venture undertaken on behalf of others, and it involves a risk of guilt. Despite the uncertainty that accompanies all responsible action, the four ‘divine mandates’ of church, family, culture, and government provide contexts in which it is possible to hear the concrete commandment of God.

Keywords: reality, concrete, Hegel, responsibility, guilt, mandates, resistance

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