Dietrich Bonhoeffer's ethics of obedience and responsibility in the context of pacifism and just-war
Author(s)Kim, Benjamin H
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AbstractThe legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer has largely been dependent upon the understanding of his position of pacifism and just war in the context of the Second World War. His own writings and presentations, particularly ones advocating for pacifism, seem contrary to his actions and involvement in the resistance movement against Nazi Germany. Scholars on both sides of this debate have presented compelling evidence to sway their audience one way or the other concerning Bonhoeffer's ethical position. This debate is further complicated by Bonhoeffer's own view of his life as a "straight and unbroken course." As many have claimed Bonhoeffer's ethics to justify their own stance on pacifism and just-war, the purpose of this paper is to determine if such claims are warranted.
This paper seeks to investigate such claims by looking at Bonhoeffer's own writings throughout the course of his life. It traces his biography in attempts to place his writings in context. While many of his writings are important in understanding Bonhoeffer's worldview, this paper largely focuses on Sanctorum Communio as the basis for his theological framework, and his publications of Discipleship and Ethics wherein lies the tensions of understanding his position. This paper will attempt to show that while Bonhoeffer was not against pacifism and in fact advocated for peace, his contextual ethics serves as strong evidence that he was not a pacifist according to its most basic definition.