With painful irony we note the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Man has learned to cope with all questions of importance without recourse to God. . . . [God] is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without him.” The pathos of these words is that they were penned in Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison, penned after Hitler’s Gestapo, learning to get along very well without God, had imprisoned Bonhoeffer, thereby preventing the completion of his book on Ethics and resulting in his hanging in 1945. When the questions of ethics are answered without recourse to God, the following views of the state become inevitable:
The State incarnates the Divine Idea upon earth (Hegel).
The State is the supreme power, ultimate and beyond repeal, absolutely independent (Fichte).
Everything for the State; nothing outside the State; nothing
against the State (Mussolini).
The State dominates the nation because it alone represents it (Hitler).
The State embraces everything, and nothing has value outside the State. The State creates right (Franklin Delano Roosevelt).
Thus Bonhoeffer’s assertion represented the very outlook which condoned his immoral execution. The source of moral authority and law within a society will either be theistic or political; when the former is repudiated, the latter allows of no logical barrier from tyranny.
Greg Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics