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

by the dread pirate Eric Metaxas

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1,400495,413 (4.28)33
Tome:Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Them scribblers:Eric Metaxas
Pearls o' Wisdom:Thomas Nelson (2011), Paperback, 624 pages
Piles o' Booty:Yer cargo
How ye liked it:*****
Pennons:persecuted church, Nazi Germany

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

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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 |
The subtitle of the 2010 biography by Eric Metaxas, "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy," only begins to define who Dietrich Bonhoeffer was. One might also add Writer, Friend, Family Man, Theologian and a few others. Metaxas gives due attention to each of these dimensions to Bonhoeffer's short life. He was executed by the Gestapo, under direct orders from Adolf Hitler, in 1945 just weeks before the end of World War II. Bonhoeffer, the devout German pastor, had played a role, however small, in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

Quite early in Bonhoeffer's career he preached a sermon in which he said, "if you want to find eternity, you must serve the times." The times in which he served were among the worst in history. He was a patriotic German, a member of a prominent family, during Hitler's rise to power. Most of his colleagues in the German church were slow to recognize Hitler for who he was, never really believing he might do any of the things, such as the persecution of the Jews, he hinted at doing. Bonhoeffer, the prophet, was among the first to warn German Christians that they would have to take a stand. It is something of a wonder Bonhoeffer survived as long as he did.

Yet he had plenty of opportunities to get out of Germany before war broke out and before it was too late. He made trips to the United States, England and elsewhere, and he was offered positions that would have kept him out of harm's way. Yet he felt his place was with his people in Germany. He cut short his last trip to the U.S. because of his eagerness to return to his friends and family.

The success of the Metaxas biography may have been something of a surprise. Long biographies of theologians do not often turn into bestsellers. That this one did is a testament both to the biographer's skill as a writer and to the power of Bonhoeffer's life. I notice that another Bonhoeffer biography has just been published, but I'm sure the man life was important enough to deserve even more attention.

The church I attend in Largo, Fla., has what is called the Cloud of Witnesses, dozens of busts of prominent men and women of the faith, from Moses to Martin Luther King, that surround the sanctuary. One of these belongs to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, martyr, prophet and spy. ( )
  hardlyhardy | May 21, 2014 |
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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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