Sunday, November 09, 2008

"What we find abominable in man...the real man, the real world, this is for God the ground for unfathomable love, and it is with this that He unites Himself utterly...

"God loves the real man. God became a real man."

-- Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

12 comments:

Ben said...

So God loves what's bad in us? I'm confused.

Kenny said...

I think what he's saying, Ben, is that the stuff you and I would typically despise people for, God has looked at that very same thing and its evoked in him compassion and love. Obviously, Bonhoeffer's not saying God loves sin. But you may remember from reading this book that Bonhoeffer is strongly opposed to abstract visions of ethics and good. So, he wants to make the point that what God has embraced in man is not some idealized version of him, but real men you and me. God loves you and me, actually, the people who we really are.

Don't know if that helps.

You'll also, of course, remember, Ben, that Bonhoeffer can sometimes be cryptic.

Ben said...

Ah, I see. Now that the passage has been explained to me, I really like it.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Good explanation, Kenny, and right on the money.

I've never thought of Bonhoeffer as cryptic, just extremely rigorous on the thinker in us: he really makes our brains, and sometimes our hearts, pull out all the stops.

kennyching said...

I think you're probably right, Romanos, that Bonhoeffer is not actually unclear. But most minds, including mine, are so weakly trained that his rigor makes it hard for us (me) to follow. This is my third time through Ethics, and it's starting to make sense.

That said, Ethics was never finished and maybe never edited to completion, so I do think it's not as clear as Cost of Discipleship.

Anyway, always a joy to find people who want to talk about what Bonhoeffer wrote, as I think he was one who was completely fixated on the Gospel of Christ.

kennyching said...

Let me add that I think Romanos, you were making a strong point. Bonhoeffer's thinking makes us pull out the stops in our head and hearts.

Another way I've heard this put, I think, is that if when you preach the Gospel, you're not accused of preaching scandal and license, then you're not going far enough. In other words, the Gospel is such good news, (God really love Ben, Romanos, Kenny...He actually, truly, really does love us) that we're tempted not to believe it, both in our heads and hearts. Bonhoeffer's writing often forces us to the logical conclusions that follow from the Gospel, but they're so extreme (extremely good) that our hearts and minds resist accepting the good news.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Regarding your last comment, Kenny, again I think you've hit the nail on the head. That is how I found Bonhoeffer when I was 24 years old; that's still how I find him now. Only now I know that the call of Christ must be followed at all costs, even if that means everything and everyone we hold dear. Could I do that at 24? Can I do that now at 57? Well, let's say I'm probably not trying any harder. It's just that Christ has cut away most of the obstacles that were holding me back. The pruning sometimes feels as if it will kill me, but I keep waking up each new day with, "What now, Lord? Show me!"

Kenny said...

Amen, Romanos. Thank you for this encouraging testimony.

Ben said...

From Bonhoeffer to Tolkein:

This reminds me of a scene in the Lord of the Rings. Eowyn declares her love for Aragorn and he sadly tells her that she doesn't really love him. She loves her ideal of him. And that turns out to be the case. She later gets over her infatuation with idealized Aragorn and marries Faramir.

I like this Bonhoeffer passage, now that you've explained it to me, because it shows us the radical, piercing love of God. We've all got a dark side that we hide for fear that we are unloveable if that is known. (I wrote a song called The Perfect Scam which you can find on my blog which is all about that act of hiding.) But, while we were still God's enemies, Christ died for us. Knowing full well who we really are, He thought us so worth loving that He died for us. More, He endured separation from the Father....for us!

Hallelujah! Or, in modern parlance, AWESOME!

Jason said...

God loves the real man. God became a real man

The only thing I don't like about that comment is the danger that it could be read simplistically. Yes, God became a real man but he was not a real man like we are "real men" today. No one seems to be taking his comment simplistically, but it is worthwhile to note that, in context, he did not become what is abominable.

Christ was a perfect man. Christ was what Adam should have been. Furthermore, a "real man" need never have been a bad thing. I am blessed the more I realize that Scripture speaks of the beauty and goodness of physical creation. The problem with creation is not that it is physical, but that it is fallen. Common thought today would lead us to believe otherwise, that God intends us to separate the good/spiritual from the bad/physical. It is a glorious thing that Scripture tells us to hope in the resurrection and glorification of our physical bodies. We anticipate not an escape from this world so much as its redemption, not some ephemeral spiritual existence but a new heavens and a new earth to come.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I didn't imagine that anyone could take the phrase "God loves the real man. God became a real man," any other way than its literal meaning, which is quite simple: Christ became a man in every way that we are men, except for sin.

And the Word also says, that Jesus became sin for us, even though He Himself is without sin.

What we find ultimately abominable in man is physical death. Anything else, we could put up with it, but not this. Death spoils everything about us and the lives we so briefly live. That's part of the testimony of Solomon writing as Qoheleth, Ecclesiastes. It is for this that Christ came and by means of which He unites Himself utterly to us, through accepting voluntarily, not mandatorily as we must accept it, death. And by tasting death He became in all ways what we are, so that He could be what He is, our Great High Priest, as is written about in the letter to the Hebrews, interceding for us with the Father.

That really is a lot to think about.

kennyching said...

Thanks, again, Romanos, for the great comments.