“Without God, all seeing and percieving of things and laws become abstraction, a separation from both origin and goal. All questions of our own goodness, as well as the goodnes of the world, are impossible unless we have first posed the question of the goodness of God. For what meaning would the goodness of human beings and the world have without God? Since God, however, as ultimate reality is no other than the self-announcing, self-witnessing, self-revealing God in Jesus Christ, the question of good can only find its answer in Christ.
The source of a Christian ethic is not the reality of one’s own self, not the reality of the world, not the reality of norms and values. It is the reality of God that is revealed in Jesus Christ. This is the demand, before all others that must be honestly made of anyone who wishes to be concerned with the problem of a Christian ethic. It places us before the ultimate and decisive question: With what reality will we reckon in our life? With the reality of God’s revelatory word or with the so-called realities of life? With divine grace or with earthly inadequacies? With resurrection or with death? This question itself, which none can answer by their own choice without answering it falsely, already presupposes a given answer: that God, however we decide, has already spoken the revelatory word and that we, even in our false reality, can live no other way than from the true reality of the word of God. The question about ultimate reality already places us in such an embrace by its answer that there is no way we can escape from it. The answer carries us into the reality of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ from which it comes.
The subject matter of a Christian ethic is God’s reality revealed in Christ becoming real among God’s creatures, just as the subject matter of doctrinal theology is the truth of God’s reality revealed in Christ. The place that in all other ethics is marked by the antithesis between ought and is, idea and realization, motive and work, is occupied in Christian ethics by the relation of reality and becoming real, between past and present, between history and event (faith) or, to replace the many concepts with the simple name of the thing itself, the relation between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The question of the good becomes the question of participating in God’s reality revealed in Christ. Good is no longer an evaluation of what exists, for instance my essence, my moral orientation, my actions, or a state of affairs in the world. It is not longer a predicate that one can apply to something that exists of itself. Good is the real itself, that is, not the abstractly real that is separated from the reality of God, but the real that has its reality only in God. Good is never without this reality. It is no general formula. And this reality is never without the good. The will to be good exists only as desire for the reality that is real in God. A desire to be good for its own sake, as some sort of personal goal or life vocation, falls pray to an ironic unreality; honest striving for good turns into the ambition striving of the paragon of virtue. Good as such is no independent theme for life. To take it as such would be the craziest Don Quixotry. Only by participating in reality do we also share in the good.”
(Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 49-51)