I’ll be returning to my comments on the chapters of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics in the next couple days. But, to get things rolling I thought I’d share an excellent quote from Bonhoeffer’s chapter, “Ultimate and Penultimate Things”.
Compromise always arises from hatred of the ultimate. The Christian spirit of compromise comes from this animosity against the justification of the sinner by grace alone. The world, and life in it, must be protected from this invasion into its domain. One must manage the world only by worldly means. The ultimate is to have no say in the formation of life in the world. Even to ask about the ultimate, is regarded as radicalism, as a lack of love toward the given orders of the world and toward those who are dependent on them. Freedom from the world, which is Christ’s gift to Christians, and renunciation of the world (1 John 2:17) are accused of being unnatural and opposed to creation, and estrangement from, or even hostility toward, the world and humanity. Instead, accommodation to the point of resignation, or to a trite worldly wisdom, is passed off as genuine Christian openness to the world and love.
Radicalism hates time. Compromise hates eternity.
Radicalism hates patience. Compromise hates decision.
Radicalism hates wisdom. Compromise hates simplicity.
Radicalism hates measure. Compromise hates the immeasurable.
Radicalism hates the real. Compromise hates the word.
To contrast radicalism and compromise like this makes clear enough that both attitudes are equally opposed to Christ; for the concepts that are here set up against each other are one in Jesus Christ. The question about the Christian life, therefore, will be answered neither by radicalism nor by compromise; Jesus Christ himself decides and answers it. The relationship between the ultimate and the penultimate is resolved only in Christ.