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Ethics (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works #6)

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,135 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
The crown jewel of Bonhoeffer's body of work, Ethics is the culmination of his theological and personal odyssey. Based on careful reconstruction of the manuscripts, freshly and expertly translated and annotated, this new critical edition features an insightful Introduction by Clifford Green and an Afterword from the German edition's editors. Though caught up in the vortex ...more
Hardcover, 593 pages
Published January 3rd 2005 by Augsburg Fortress Publishing (first published September 1st 1955)
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Todd Miles
Sep 12, 2011 Todd Miles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ethics
"Ethics" was a difficult book to read and desperately cried out for some editing. In Bonhoeffer's defense, the book was published posthumously, so he never got the opportunity to refine it or interact with an editor. Modern publishers are no doubt hesitant to cut any material, though other publications present the material in different orders. Written while Bonhoeffer was actively involved in the resistance and a plot to assassinate Hitler, my expectation was that he would biblically and philoso ...more
Brent McCulley
Dec 10, 2014 Brent McCulley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
"The knowledge of good and evil seems to be the aim of all ethical reflections," opens Bonhoeffer." The first task of Christian ethics is to invalidate this knowledge" (17). Written for the most part in jail as he was imprisoned by the National Socialists in Germany from 1943 until he was hanged in 1945, Bonhoeffer's work is surly incomplete, but nevertheless, stands as a staggering piece of ethical literature, and one that causes the reader to view all ethical systems heretofore, by taking a st ...more
Ben De Bono
Oct 16, 2011 Ben De Bono rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Bonhoeffer's Ethics is a challenging and fascinating read. The book is fairly dense and while it makes you regularly stop and think, I couldn't put it down.

It is worth noting that the work is incomplete. This was Bonhoeffer's final book, written while he was in prison. While much of the book is in finished form there are plenty of places where it obviously is not. Some chapters end abruptly, others are little more than a collection of notes and others are in need of some additional editing he w
Jana L.
Mar 28, 2015 Jana L. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thinking, spiritual
In this fairly radical (for a Christian ethical system) book, Bonhoeffer argues that Christians have embraced a rigid system of behavioral rules that fails to allow for truly ethical behavior. Rather than being a static set of laws to which we need to conform uniformly in every circumstance, Bonhoeffer claims that a right ethical system is dynamic, requiring responses appropriate to and fully immersed in each individual, unique situation. He argues that Christian ethics should have one hard-and- ...more
Aug 23, 2013 Chris rated it liked it
This book was a dense and difficult piece to work through. After reading it, I am still not sure that I understood much of what Bonhoeffer had to say, but I can point to some highlights. First and foremost, Bonhoeffer explains that the idea of Christian Ethics only makes sense in the context of concrete situations, and then only in relation to the gospel of Jesus Christ. By making this claim, Bonhoeffer explains that it is not possible to make generalizations that would guide the Christian's eth ...more
Dominic Foo
Oct 25, 2014 Dominic Foo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are a series of essays written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer before his imprisonment and during his imprisonment by the Nazis, I think. I think it was originally intended to be a complete book but he didn't manage to finish it before he was executed. Thus, many parts of this book have missing or incomplete sections.

This is extremely heavy reading loaded to the brim with weighty theological and philosophical considerations with one absolute centre guiding the reflection, i.e. the conviction that i
M Christopher
Apr 05, 2015 M Christopher rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
The important thing to remember about Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous "Ethics" is something that I actually didn't know before starting the book: it was never finished. Bonhoeffer's papers, retrieved by his friend Eberhard Bethge after his execution, contained years' worth of notebooks and several loose outlines for this work. From the outlines and scribbled notes, it was clear that whole sections were never written by the doomed theologian. Others were provided in very rough form. Bethge and subse ...more
Feb 15, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
This was a difficult read, but I'm glad I persevered through and finished it. This is not a work dealing with specific areas of ethical questions, but a work that explores the ultimate basis for ethics, that is the person of Jesus Christ. This centrality of Jesus in the understanding of ethics brought much clarity to the issue. As Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all, all ethics considerations needs to be made in light of that reality.

Bonhoeffer identifies the four main institutions of crea

"Part IV: The Last Things and the Things Before Last" (pp120-185) delves into the big social issues and ethical foundations for dealing with such. The beginning was more time consuming to read as he developed his foundation for a social ethic (if that's the correct terminology). He starts from justification as a certain point of origin in human life, moving on to a definition of the natural. The first three sections - this foundation - required some mental acrobatics on my part, but in the end I
Jun 13, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ths book comes in just under/behind The Cost of Discipleship. The two themes that really stuck out to me had these (though the second point might have come before the first point): First, Christ did a complete redemptive work. Therefore, there is no appropriate "religious" realm and an inappropriate "secular" realm. American Evangelicals like to believe that anything secular is automatically backseat, second-best to the religious. Bonhoeffer says that is nonsense. The city clerk's work has as mu ...more
Timothy Darling
Ok, finally, this has been a marathon read, not in terms of how long it took me to read the book, but in subjective time it would take me to grasp it. The mile to the top of the mountain is still only a mile, but it is hard.

Ethics suffers from three major difficulties. One, it is unfinished. This biggest problem means that some things, especially near the end of the book, that Bonhoeffer says need further reflection do not get it and are therefore unclarified. Bonhoeffer was executed before fini
Nov 26, 2011 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
In general I find Bonhoeffer a little frustrating because he's very good at describing what he's against and why it's wrong, but when he says what he thinks I find him vague and hard to pin down. What makes this really frustrating is that as far as I can tell the problem is not that I'm misunderstanding what he says, but that he intends it to be vague and hard to pin down. In the Ethics, Bonhoeffer is true to form in this regard.

As usual, Bonhoeffer offers some fabulous insights that provide a p
Tim Hoiland
Jul 19, 2013 Tim Hoiland rated it it was amazing
"When evil becomes powerful in the world, it infects the Christian, too, with the poison of radicalism. It is Christ’s gift to the Christian that he should be reconciled with the world as it is, but now this reconciliation is accounted a betrayal and denial of Christ. It is replaced by bitterness, suspicion and contempt for men and the world. In the place of the love that believes all, bears all and hopes all, in the place of the love which loves the world in its very wickedness with the love of ...more
Jenn Cavanaugh
Mar 01, 2011 Jenn Cavanaugh rated it really liked it
In his writings collected under the title Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer radically disassociates Christian ethics from the abstract knowledge and judgment of good and evil, the dictates of conscience, and psychological reflection, all of which betray disunion with God. Jesus models and calls his followers into unity with God, who transforms us wholly in love, restoring us to a wholeness from which we may love God and others. Bonhoeffer’s primary thesis is that “the point of departure for Christian ...more
Feb 09, 2010 Thomas rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
This was my first Bonhoeffer book to read. I found his writings to be much like those of Kierkegaard, emphasizing the alienation of humanity and the radical transformation that Christianity calls for. When reading Ethics, I found myself longing to be re-united with God, with humans, with my environment, with myself-- to be rid of the disappointing and discouraging sense of "otherness" that lies at the basis of all our relationships.
This book would have been a lot better if Bonhoeffer had finishe
Matt Anderson
This is a great classic. Bonhoeffer's writing is deep and insightful.

I'm sure some things went over my head, and there were times that I felt that certain passages felt long-winded, but this was definitely worth reading.

"Only he who knows God knows what love is; it is not the other way round; it is not that we first of all by nature know what love is and therefore know also what God is. No one knows God unless God reveals Himself to him. And so no one knows what love is except in the self-reve
Jul 02, 2014 Alan rated it really liked it
Alternates between brilliant and tedious. Agree with other reviewers that it could have used some editing, but for obvious reasons that was not to be. Still it is hard to quarrel with what you get from Bonhoeffer in the raw.
Lauren Sheil
Jan 31, 2014 Lauren Sheil rated it liked it
The first half was excellent as it spoke mainly of the relationship between the individual and God. The second half spoke mainly of the interaction between the church, state, government and God. Bonhoeffer showed his true colours as a supporter of state religion and just war in this section and followed very closely the traditional Lutheran and Catholic position on the subject. As a result he lost me.
Kim Berkey
Nov 10, 2015 Kim Berkey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the only tenable Christian ethics I've ever come across. Bonhoeffer recognizes that a genuinely Christian ethic must be grounded in a genuinely Christian ontology, and the resulting degree of thoughtfulness and rigor here is remarkable. I have yet to determine whether I find his ethic convincing, but it is certainly compelling. I'll be returning to this again.
Oct 24, 2010 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was Dietrich Bonhoeffer's last book, largely written while he was in prison and not completed.
It is without doubt one of the most significant books of Christian theology of the 20th Century. It's also mostly over my head, stunted as my brain is by 60-second sound bites and status updates. The sentences that I understood I liked a lot.
But what is one to make of a sentence such as this? (from Page 133):
"There is, therefore, no penultimate in itself; as though a thing could justify itself in i
Mar 24, 2016 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bonhoeffer
What a brilliant man and so filled by the spirit of God. On the realistic side, way too far from my thought process, did not understand a large portion of the book.
Feb 19, 2016 Dgschunk rated it liked it
Not an easy read. Some parts were great, others where very difficult to get through. Overall, worth the read for any serious student of Bonhoeffer's writings.
Mayowa Adebiyi
Nov 06, 2015 Mayowa Adebiyi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To be judged on the basis of the fact that is an unfinished work pieced together after Hitler did what he did to the Author. Highly quotable.
Nov 08, 2012 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Leads to serious reflection and reminds the reader of what living as a free human being before God can and does mean. Grounded in the love of God, which is first and foremost truth, as presented to the world in Jesus Christ...demands critical thinking and meditation while also offering a deliverance from the ever present demand of our conscience to guide our every action (it has it's time and place...i.e. a time for laughing and mourning, life and death, and debating the "ought" versu ...more
Oct 03, 2007 Cindy added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: shannon,kim
Just started this book, the second time I have read Bonhoeffer, and he is way too smart for me, but thinking about what Shannon said about "covering" today, I thought you all might like this quote...(he is referring to the origin of separation from God) Instead of seeing God, man sees himself. "Their eyes were opened" Gen 3.7. Man perceives himself in his disunion with God and with men. He perceives that he is naked. Lacking the protection, the covering, which God and his fellowman afforded him, ...more
Paolo Fernando C.
Aug 15, 2014 Paolo Fernando C. rated it it was amazing
an attempt to be "real" despite the alienating condition of inconsistency, disruption, and inner contradiction...
Aaron Simms
Aug 24, 2013 Aaron Simms rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book that changed my thinking in a number of areas. For one, Bonhoeffer talks about how the study of "ethics" is a symptom of humanity's fall into sin. That is, the fact that we can judge what is right and wrong is a result of the fact that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and "knew evil." We have fallen away from God, fallen away from the "origin," as Bonhoeffer states. Bonhoeffer also discusses the concept of "taking sin upon yourself," just as Christ took our sin upon himself. Th ...more
Aug 31, 2014 Brenda rated it it was amazing
This is really not a book to love or hate. Instead, it is a book to think about and reread. More than once, I had to go back to fully comprehend what he was saying. There are sections that I have marked to read again, because the truth of Bonhoeffer's writing still rings today. He had a great deal of insight into people and their actions. All authors are influenced by the times they live in, it is obvious in this book that Bonhoeffer was not in favor of the Nazis and their programs. That would b ...more
Chuck Engelhardt
Feb 22, 2011 Chuck Engelhardt rated it liked it
I finally finished this book. Man-o-man was it a difficult read. So much of the book was way over my head and I trudged through just so that I could say I finished it. There were some absolutely brilliant parts that I thought very interesting and Bonhoeffer provided a fresh perspective for me in some areas, such as the original sin and telling the truth. When he turned to undefined Latin references, I was lost. The book is an unfinished work and the footnotes helped fill in some gaps there. If y ...more
Nov 07, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it
the first half of the book is brilliant--extends and goes way beyond 'discipleship'--it's cool to see someone get a great idea, but then to see him move forward from it.
then got bogged down with weird lutheran things i don't understand and very specific delineation of the role of the church, gov't, family culture (which appears like it would be fascinating but it kind of wasn't to me.) ended with a neat look at "what is truth", and addresses the good old "is it a lie to tell the nazis you aren't
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, a founding member of the Confessing Church. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, sho ...more
More about Dietrich Bonhoeffer...

Other Books in the Series

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • Sanctorum Communio
  • Act and Being (Works, Vol 2)
  • Creation and Fall Temptation: Two Biblical Studies
  • The Cost of Discipleship
  • Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
  • Fiction from Tegel Prison (Works, Vol 7)
  • Letters and Papers from Prison
  • Young Bonhoeffer Dbw Vol 9
  • Barcelona, Berlin, New York: 1928-31 (Works, Vol 10)
  • Ecumenical Academic Pastoral Work: 1931-32 (Works, Vol 11)

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