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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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1,370465,593 (4.29)32
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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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 |
This book is absolutely inspiring! It is an amazingly interesting read about the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is the story of a Christian, German man who saw that he needed to speak out against what was happening to the Jewish people during Hitler's reign of terror. Because of his outspoken views, he gave up his life.This book was written in such a way that Christians and unbelievers alike will be convicted to action against wrongs in the midst of conflict. This book could change your life. ( )
  sadiekaycarver | Apr 10, 2014 |
OK--I have heard the complaints that this book is not "factual" enough but I still enjoyed it immensely which I was surprised about.
Enough unknown history about Germany and how it got the way it did, including the German Christians, and yet still not mean spirited. Just presenting the facts and you decide. ( )
  carolvanbrocklin | Feb 20, 2014 |
Yikes- this was a real disappointment, or, as Metaxas might say, a hemorrhoidal bummer. I was excited when I read reviews when it came out. Then I was wary when I learned that Metaxas is the 'founder and host' of a philosophy reading group for crazy-rich, conservative New Yorkers. Then when I saw that the blurbs for his book, rather than being by biographers or scholars, were by CEOs, ex-CEOs, former General Partners of Goldman Sachs, Kirkus journalists or people who feel the need to put PhD at the end of their names, I was really put off.

Then I started reading, and I went back to excitement. Metaxas writes very clear, Hemingway-gone-effeminate sentences for the most part. It's very soothing... and then suddenly you realize that he's just lulling you so he can smack you over the head with a patented word-couple like 'hemorrhoidal isometrics' or 'vampiric homonculus.' In one sentence he describes Hitler as having both 'canine sensitivity' and 'lupine ruthlessness.' In *one sentence*. Theologians are accused of building 'diminutive Ziggurats.' It reads like a high-school student trying to impress her teacher.

And then there's the big problem with the book: despite the fact that almost everyone in Germany refused to take a stand as firm as Bonhoeffer's, Metaxas is unwilling to consider that anyone then alive wasn't either a black-hatted varmant or a white-hatted hero. Once Hitler takes the stage, the book becomes a morality-tale rather than a biography. *Real* Christians never supported Hitler, and Bonhoeffer can do no wrong- but even *he* admitted that he rubbed people the wrong way and had a knack for making enemies. True, true, Metaxas admits, Bonhoeffer could get a bit too high-brow in the pulpit. But such a criticism is doubly ironic: first, because Metaxas' primary complaint about 'Bishop' Mueller is that he's an 'uneducated Navy chaplain' of lower-class origins (this is particularly jarring when you realize how privileged Bonhoeffer was, and that Metaxas doesn't seem to care). Second, despite its sneering at the uneducated, this book is determinedly middle-brow. I imagine Bonhoeffer and Barth sharing a smirk about it before they got back to reading something incomprehensible.

I should have been tipped off by the sub-title, of course, that there wouldn't be much attention paid Bonhoeffer's ideas here: it's not called 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Theologian.' But I still found the lack of intellectual analysis disappointing, especially given that Metaxas has his own theological axes to grind, primarily against those who are attracted to the idea of religion-less Christianity. Who are they? We're never told. What should we put in place of their (as he sees it) flawed interpretation? We're never told.

It's a shame, because this is a great subject for a biography, and he obviously did a great deal of research and excellent synthesis. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
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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