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“Knowing good and evil in disunion with the origin, human beings become self-reflective. Their life now consists in understanding themselves, just as in the origin it was knowing God. Gaining self-knowledge is the essence and goal of life. This is so even where human beings seek to push beyond the limits of their own selves. Seeking self-knowledge is the never-ending attempt of human beings to overcome their disunion with themselves through thought, and, through unceasing self-differentiation, to find unity with themselves.” p. 308 Ethics

Bonhoeffer talks at length about this topic of disunion with God. I will quote more later. But here, “origin” means God in some senses, and I think in others it means the point of creation as with Adam and Eve. I could be wrong, we’ll see.

I find this very interesting. By gaining knowledge of good and evil, we separate ourselves from God, and become self-reflective. In our new state we stop reflecting on God, through which knowledge of our true selves is known, and focus instead on our self, which, apart from God, cannot be known. I can imagine we then start to formulate our own judgments about morality, and apply them to God, thereby further separating Him from us…perhaps even calling him a tyrant and hiding from Him (Adam and Eve hid from God).

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“Is God unrighteous? No; but He has His own standard! The righteousness of God is eternal! The love of God is infinite, and not finite! What does this mean? According to human conceptions such a God can be described only as a ‘Despot’, and men are bound to rebel against His tyranny. But He whom men would not naturally wish to name ‘God’ is, nevertheless, God. Through the knowledge of God which is in Christ, He whom men name ‘Despot’ (Luke ii. 29, Acts iv. 24), is known and loved as the eternal, loving Father. The God of Esau is known to be the God of Jacob. There is no road to the knowledge of God which does not run along the precipitous edge of this contradiction. If we conceive of God as conformed to our human ideas, as one cause in a series, as one factor among other factors, He is not the Cause, the Absolute, the Eternal, Personal God–but rather the ‘No-God’. And even this ‘No-God’ is the parable and image whereby we are led inexorably to the point where the contradiction occurs. For the ‘No-God’ points beyond himself, and is himself dissolved to the honour of the true and only God. The will of God is not some good thing, operating independently, to which God is subject. His will is rather the source and sanction of all good, and it is good only because it is what He wills…” p. 350 The Epistle to the Romans

In a discussion with an atheist friend of mine the character of God was brought up. He claimed God was clearly evil, and mentioned evil things in the world, and in the Bible. I said he was mistaken, and here is my reasoning, along with some of Karl Barth’s. From within the Christian perspective (and this may be a debated point) we, as finite human beings, cannot come up with a “measure” by which to judge God as evil. We have no “yard stick” of morality we can hold up to God and say “this is evil”. Instead, He is the measuring stick by which we are judged. Judgment is one way, from God to us. Thus you have Barth talking about God being perceived as a Despot, and the No-God being invented to sooth the minds of those who cannot stomach the true God. But once you can grasp what it means to be the true God, the rest falls into your understanding as well. The Eternal, loving, God the father; the Cause, the Absolute, the Personal God; all of these things become clear then.

I like to keep things short, but here’s some more. To use evil as a predicate for God means you are no longer talking about God. You have switched to some other entity and are judging it. God, by His nature, is good. Without this, He is not God, and to attribute evil to his nature is contradictory.

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