Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2011) is a long biography not easily summarized in a few paragraphs. What I will do instead is mention some of my takeaways.
1. What a marvelous and unusual thing to see someone from an elite home who couples all the culture, education, and family resources with a deep and vital Christian faith.
2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s (1906 – 1945) visit to the United States in the 1930s was eye-opening in its portrayal of the vacuousness of liberalism. His visits to black churches was significant in his recognition that the vital core of Christian faith was found in Christ.
3. Bonhoeffer stood out as a beacon of moral clarity even within the Confessing Church in recognizing that there was no place of compromise with Hitler. Anyone who could suggest that a particular group such as the Jews must be first excluded and then ultimately exterminated could not possibly be compromised. This was utterly alien to the gospel.
4. Bonhoeffer loved Germany even while loving Christ ultimately — unlike much of the German church who put Germany first. Which is more important to us? Nevertheless, will we love a country determined to destroy itself. This may in fact be the call of American Christians in coming decades.
5. I have questions about Bonhoeffer’s choice to pursue a relationship to engagement while part of a plot to kill Hitler. This was treated as an act of hope — I question the judgment of drawing Maria von Wedemeyer into the potential danger and deep pain that his involvement brought upon her.
6. Perhaps most striking is the unself-conscious character of Bonhoeffer in prison. On his last day, he was leading worship when to German officers came. His last words: “This is the end . . . for me the beginning of life.” When taken to the gallows he said a short prayer and mounted the gallows with composure.
From the desk of the editor . . .
If you have not already done such I encourage you to check out the new ESN Blog series on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prayer life. Note: You may remember that Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship was reviewed by Bob Trube and reached the Final Four of ESN’s March Madness.
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Bob Trube is Associate Director of Faculty Ministry and Director of the Emerging Scholars Network. He blogs on books regularly at bobonbooks.com. He resides in Columbus, Ohio, with Marilyn and enjoys reading, gardening, choral singing, and plein air painting.