Monday, September 15, 2008

letters and papers from prison #2





ok. so, let's continue thinking-through some of the ideas found in bonhoeffer's letters and papers from prison (LPFP), by quoting a seminal passage from a letter he wrote to his friend eberhard bethge on 16, july, 1944.

[i know it may be a temptation to skip this extended quote; please don't do so.]

"and we cannot be honest unless we recognize that we have to live in a world etsi deus non daretur [as if there is not god]. and this is just what we do recognize -- before god! god himself compels us to recognize it. so our coming of age leads us to a true recognition of the situation before god. god would have us know that we must live as men who manage our lives without him. the god who is with us is the god who forsakes us (mark 15:34). the god who lets us live in the world without a working hypothesis of god, is the god before whom we stand continually. before god and with god we live without god. god lets himself be pushed out of the world on to a cross. he is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8:17 makes it quite clear that christ helps us, not by virtue of omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering." (LPFP, page 360-361)

there is much here. the language is dense and thick, and bonhoeffer's shortened life only gives us a weak and irregular pulse on his full thought.

having said that, let's unpack some ideas that flow from this paragraph:

  • people in the world come of age get along quite well without the god-hypothesis...
  • the god-hypothesis basically means that god is in control of the world, that god is the answer in morals, politics, or science. bonhoeffer thinks this must be discarded by christians because it already has been discarded in the world come of age...
  • since people have chosen to push the god-hypothesis out of the world, and god has allowed this to occur, people must now take full responsibility for the world. the cavalry is not on the way...
  • christians must now see that the way to god is the way of the cross -- the way of weakness and humility...
more on these ideas to come...