The Penultimate

FromI Want to Live These Days With You, a book of Daily Devotions from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Translated by O. C. Dean Jr.

The thrust of the Christian message is not for us to become like one of those biblical figures, but to be like Christ himself. This comes , however not through some kind of method, but from faith alone. Otherwise the Gospel would lose its price, its value. Costly grace would become cheep. . . .

There is a time of God’s allowing, waiting, preparing, and there is a last, an ultimate time that judges and breaks off the penultimate. Luther had to go through the monastery, Paul had to go through the piety of the law, even the thief had to go through the guilt of the cross, in order to hear the last word.

A path had to be taken, a quite  long path of penultimate things had to be trod. All had to sink to their knees under the burden of these things – and yet the last word was not then a coronation but a complete breaking off of the penultimate.

In  regard to the last word, Luther and Paul were no different from the thief on the cross. Thus a path had to be trod  – though there is, nonetheless, no single path to this goal – and this path had to be traveled to the end, that is, to the place where God puts an end to it.

Thus the penultimate still remains, although it is completely abolished and nullified by the ultimate.

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