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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by…

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Eric Metaxas

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Title:Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Authors:Eric Metaxas
Info:Thomas Nelson (2011), Paperback, 624 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:persecuted church, Nazi Germany

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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (2010)


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In a word: magnificent. From his early beginnings in Berlin to his maturing into a true man of God, this stunning work shows Bonhoeffer's strength to stand and face, head-on, the evil of an emerging Nazi regime led by a relatively unknown foreigner, one Adolf Hitler. In spite of Hitler's persuasion of the German Church to adopt Nazi theology, Bonhoeffer remains steadfast in his commitment and his continual message of the Word of God as opposition to this growing evil. Amazingly, Bonhoeffer never wavered even as he was captured and eventually executed for his part in various assassination conspiracies against Hitler, even garnering the admiration of his executioners as a man "who was hardly ever seen so entirely submissive to the will of God". This is quite possibly the most important book I have ever read, and I was continually stunned and surprised at how much of this book applies to our situation in this country today. The similarities are eerie. ( )
  utbw42 | Dec 15, 2014 |
My first inclination was rating this biography of Bonhoeffer by Metaxas was at least a four and maybe a five; however, that was before I read about the hatchet job of revisionist history committed by Meaxas.
The positive: Metaxas is an excellent writer and has a great sense for flow. If push came to shove and you needed a beginner primer on Bonhoeffer I'd actually recommend it as a read but with a warning label.

The negative: just about every theologian/Christian historian that has reviewed this book both liberal, conservative and in between panned the work because of his shoddy work and even blatant revisionist, historical work of trying to remake Bonhoeffer into a simplistic, (political) evangelical martyr/saint. It's not that his work is 100% inaccurate, but it is like depending on the historical story of Pocahontas by watching the Disney version. ( )
  revslick | Sep 10, 2014 |
I have a new hero. This is a must read - especially for young people. If all young men possessed the fortitude and charisma if Bonhoeffer. Our world would be transformed. ( )
  the4otts | Aug 19, 2014 |
Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy is a morality tale masquerading as a biography. And herein lies the problem; it is not that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not a hero, a martyr, a man of deep conviction and profound courage and faith, a man whose faith carried him further than most people are willing to go in terms of standing up for truth. He was all of that and more. The problem is that Metaxas paints a rather simplified and one-sided portrait of Bonhoeffer as a hero for the elites and although it is true that Dietrich Bonhoeffer did come from an elite background, the book plays this up consistently and to great effect. Metaxas uses Bonhoeffer to create a hero for the educated, the hero of the upper classes fighting against the uneducated, the rude, and the crude. Metaxas also grossly oversimplifies Bonhoeffer's theology and his development as a theologian, relying heavily on Bonhoeffer's writings as a young student and as well as some late writings, neatly avoiding any indications of development and inner struggle. Of course, one would note that Theologian, is not a part of the title of the book, so it would make sense that this is no biography of Bonhoeffer as a theologian.

Now, given this litany of complaints, one might think that this is a bad book. It is not, although I would deem it rather average. It is mostly well written, with a mostly engaging style. It is however defnitely limited. If the book introduces Bonhoeffer to those who knew nothing of him, it has yielded something good. If some of those readers go on to read Bonhoeffer's actual writings and learn more of the man and his theology it might even be deemed a success. It has certainly made me want to reread Bonhoeffer, with the result that, rather than reducing the size of the old "to read" pile, this book actually served to increase it. ( )
  dooney | Aug 7, 2014 |
I cannot give this book a positive review. I believe that the author is guilty of interpreting Bonhoeffer through the lense of his own theology. In the process, he distorts--and may even misrepresent--Bonhoeffer's own beliefs. ( )
  aingealkim | Jun 10, 2014 |
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In this fine biography, Metaxas stays close to the story and refrains from any efforts at theory. All the more reason to read it: when it comes to the strengths and the limits of post-Kantian liberalism, we already have theory aplenty. But be careful what you read it for....
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His soul really shone in the dark desperation of our prison . . . [Bonhoeffer] had always been afraid that he would not be strong enough to stand such a test but now he knew there was nothing in life of which one need ever be afraid.

(Above is Payne Best's quotation, and below are Bonhoeffer's.) 

No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward to being released from bodily existence.  

Whether we are young or old makes no difference.  What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God?  And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal?  . . . Why are we so afraid when we think about death? . . . Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it.  Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word.  . . . .

Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith.  But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.
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"Bonhoeffer" presents a profoundly orthodox Christian theologian whose faith led him to boldly confront the greatest evil of the 20th century, and uncovers never-before-revealed facts, including the story of his passionate romance.

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