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(Works #6)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,560 ratings  ·  92 reviews
From one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century, Ethics is the seminal reinterpretation of the role of Christianity in the modern, secularized world.

The Christian does not live in a vacuum, says the author, but in a world of government, politics, labor, and marriage. Hence, Christian ethics cannot exist in a vacuum; what the Christian needs, claims Diet
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Touchstone (first published September 1st 1955)
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,560 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Todd Miles
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 30, 2014 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Light
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual, thinking
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 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Terribly underwhelming. Cost of Discipleship is far more profound and engaging. Ethics was not able to be completed or edited prior to Bonhoeffer's death, so some chapters remain without conclusions or fully developed thoughts. "Christ, Reality, and the Good" and "History and the Good" are decent chapters, however "The Last Things and the Things Before the Last" was painful to read. I stopped about 2/3 of the way through... maybe I'll pick it up again one day.
Terri Lynn
May 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
I had to read this for my doctorate program in my ethics class. If there is something more boring and unreadable than this, I haven't found it yet. Dry, dull, mind-numbingly boring. Run away if you see this book coming for you. It's worst than a zombie apocalypse.
Bonhoeffer's longest and quite possibly greatest work. Challenging focus on the role and responsibility of the body of Christ.
Adam Gossman
One of the best and most beautiful books I have ever read. I have saved a few books for myself to read at a later date. What an awesome gift this is to me!
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Škoda jen, že poslední autorova kniha je nehotová a že tedy mnohé myšlenky zůstávají jen v nárysu nebo nejsou dokončeny
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
Jan 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Revoir
Essay vs. Exhortation

In recent weeks, I have become enthralled by the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer--by his example that he lived out and by the wisdom shared through his writings.

Having recently read Cost of Discipleship, which had a profound effect in giving me a greater hunger for holy living in Christ, I came into the readings of Ethics with the same expectation.

to my disappointment, I found that the two works are of two distinctly different genres; while The Cost of Discipleship
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
As an ethics, this is a train wreck; as a work of Christian meditation, it might have had some potential, had it been intended as a meditation and not written in the fashion of German philosophy. To be fair, some of the difficulty in reading it no doubt stems from the fact that it was made up of an unfinished draft and working notes assembled and published posthumously. In short, Bonhoeffer’s outlook is known for being entirely Christ-centered without compromise. Therefore, Bonhoeffer tries to d ...more
M Christopher
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Dominic Foo
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
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
Jun 13, 2009 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
Tim Hoiland
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith, justice
"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
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Aaron Simms
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 03, 2007 added it
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
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 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chuck Engelhardt
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
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Timmy Dy
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished the first chapter. Can't wait to read the rest of it!
My mind is being stretched and challenged to critique Bonhoeffer's understanding of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ, which is at the heart of his ethics and worldview. So far, I only hear in him the voice of a true prophet, who will radically reorient me (and many others) back to the true and living God. Hence, the need to discern carefully and cautiously.
Amazing book, now if only we could translate it for our time.
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is Bonhoeffer's effort to create a comprehensive practical theology for the modern world. It shows him wrestling with many questions (particularly regarding politics and the relationship of the Christian to the state) that would occupy him in later life under the Nazis. His insights on human relationships (particularly marriage, family, and child-bearing) seem very contemporary, and have a lot to offer the 21st century Christian.
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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

Other books in the series

Works (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • DIETRICH BONHOEFFER BIOGRAPHY: A Brief Review Toward Understanding Bonhoeffer (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Book 1)
  • Act and Being (Works, Vol 2)
  • Sanctorum Communio
  • Fiction from Tegel Prison (Works, Vol 7)
  • Barcelona, Berlin, New York: 1928-31 (Works, Vol 10)
  • Ecumenical Academic Pastoral Work: 1931-32 (Works, Vol 11)
  • Berlin: 1932 - 1933: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 12
  • London, 1933-1935 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 13)
  • Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937
  • Theological Education Underground: 1937-40 (Works, Vol 15)
“Political action means taking on responsibility. This cannot happen without power. Power is to serve responsibility.” 17 likes
“The task of pastoral ministry, above all else, is to arrange contingencies for an encounter with the divine.” 9 likes
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