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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2010)

by Eric METAXAS

Other authors: Dietrich BONHOEFFER (Associated Name), Timothy J. Keller (Foreword)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,505943,015 (4.32)59
"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.
  1. 40
    The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (GRB)
  2. 10
    Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (AmishTechie)
    AmishTechie: Get the real inside story of being a Pastor, Theologian and sometime resistance fighter, facing death. What does he do? He ministers to others! A soul stirring companion volume to Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
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» See also 59 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
There is a lot to say about this book. I'm always impressed by authors who write full biographies on people. The amount of research they have to do, facts to check, saved documents they have to read, people to interview. Metaxas does all these things. It was interesting that he was able to find so many saved letters from Bonhoeffer or diary entries about him, etc. He really did the research. I read a couple of negative reviews on Metaxas from other Bonhoeffer scholars and it seems like they have two main complaints about this book. One is that nothing new is added that other Bonhoeffer scholars didn't already know and two, that Metaxas only seemed to make Bonhoeffer popular. Hmm, ya, how dare an author make a subject/person of others studies more known to the general public?

I was really interested in Bonhoeffer especially after a "Focus On The Family" audio drama done on him that I have previously reviewed. I wanted a deeper look into the man and this book delivers. Metaxas covers pretty much everything you could want know about Bonhoeffer. He covers Bonhoeffer’s family history, immediate family, childhood, teen and adult life, theology, and, of course, his involvement with the secret German anti-Hitler movement. This book can really appeal to two main types of people. One being World War II buffs and the others being people who like reading about people of Christian faith in action. I guess I straddle both those worlds. I really wanted to know about Bonhoeffer and especially the contribution he made to late 19th to early 20th century theology and from what the books claims to cover I would get that. I was also really interested to see how a man of faith could give a reason to try and overthrow a government leader like Hitler.

This book made me feel like I got to know who Bonhoeffer was really – the man vs. the myth. Metaxas does a great job of humanizing Bonhoeffer from his history and documents surrounding the theologian. It covered areas that made me think from a theological perspective, to a faith-in-action perspective, to a history perspective. I really enjoyed following the life of Bonhoeffer and found myself really rooting for him. I really enjoyed how Metaxas wrote and the care he gave in presenting Bonhoeffer’s story.

There are a few problems I have with the book though. One of the biggest complaints I have is that Metaxas can spend a bit too much time on the events surrounding Bonhoeffer. For example, I found myself really zoning out about the events of the Reichstag fire. I know a bit about the events of the false flag operation and this was one example where I felt Metaxas spent too much time giving unneeded context that didn’t really advance Bonhoeffer’s story. There were a few instances of this happening and I felt that if you wanted to know more about it that it’d be up to the reader to further investigate.

Another issue I had was I really wanted Metaxas to better fully explain the rationale that Bonhoeffer had when he decided to help in overthrowing Hitler – what from God’s Word or from his faith did he use? It is covered but I don’t think it was covered all that well. Along the same lines, I understand that Bonhoeffer played a big role in standing up for a true Christian church against the Nazi machine, but I didn’t really get a full sense of how Bonhoeffer played a role in furthering theological understanding. I understood from this book on the subjects he wrote on and the books he wrote but what made him special from the others that could have been chosen to write about. I do have to admit that covering Bonhoeffer’s time with the American churches, especially minority churches pre-WWII was very interesting. The descriptions that Bonhoeffer gives on the low theological standards of the American churches of the time can almost be said of today and gut check you just as much.

I really enjoyed this book. Metaxas does a great job in collection and laying out the life of Bonhoeffer and really making you feel as if you know the man. Reading biography books, I believe this is the biggest key in making an excellent character study on a person. There are some parts that tend to be drawn out, especially historical details (important, but at times, unnecessary) and the ending seems to end kind of abruptly. The book is pretty long and you forget he’s trying the beginning of the book to the ending because you’ve just spent the time reading 40ish years of personal history and development and drama. But those can’t take away from the masterful work that Metaxas has crafted for a man who should garner respect from Christians today. Bonhoeffer was a man who was forced to show if a man of faith can live up to that faith in difficult times. Can a Christian be tried and tested in one of the darkest moments of world history and not fold – even to the point of death? Bonhoeffer was that man and he’s now become a personal hero of mine and I can thank Metaxas for introducing a giant on whose shoulders I stand upon. Final Grade – A- ( )
  agentx216 | Aug 1, 2022 |
Bonhoeffer could easily have been a forgotten figure of the Second World War, except for the role of his friends and colleagues in promoting his contributions to theological thinking.

Prior to his death, his theology was not widely read. As a pastor, his congregations we relatively small. As a spy, he was employed by the Abwehr but appears to simply been a messenger. As a member of the German resistance, his role was peripheral. And as a martyr, his death numbered amongst the millions who the Nazis killed. Indeed, it is still a mystery why, as the war was drawing to the close, he shared the gallows with Admiral Canaris (former Abwehr chief) and other much more senior resistance figures.

Yet, Bonhoeffer's life was fascinating. The account helps cast light on a deep mystery of the period - how did a civilised and Christian country like Germany create so much misery. ( )
  dunnmj | Mar 10, 2022 |
This is a well-written biography of a famous man. I’ve wanted to read the book for several years now, and I was thankful when I finally got the chance. It is very long—longer than I thought it was!—but overall, I found it to not be too hard to get through. Metaxas knows how to write an interesting story.

In saying that, though, I don’t agree with Bonhoeffer’s conclusions and the way he went about doing things, and I also didn’t appreciate the condoning/explaining away attitude I came across at times. I firmly believe that God had a plan even for Hitler’s life, and though he did unspeakable horrors, he wouldn’t have died any earlier than God had planned. Bonhoeffer did his part in trying to assassinate Hitler, and it seemed like just about anything was fine in his eyes (including blatant lying) to reach that goal…that isn’t Christ’s way, in my opinion.

As far as a biography goes, I feel like I learned a lot from this book. I don’t know if all the history in here is correct, but most of the parts I am familiar with lined up with other things I’ve read. Some have cast doubt on the truthfulness of the history in here; I just don’t know. If you want to get a good overview of Bonhoeffer, his family, and the times he lived in, this could be a good choice for you. Just be warned that there are atrocities spoken of here, and sin is shown as it was—so this isn’t a book for children. ( )
  EstherFilbrun | Nov 4, 2021 |
This is a hard book to review.

Bonhoeffer was average, a nobody. Nothing special. Except that he lived in a time when average and nobodies didn't exist. Every person who lived in those times had the opportunity to make a difference and Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of many who became extraordinary through his refusal to deny what he knew to be right. He was brilliant and, again like many, exemplified the humanity at a time when animals made headlines.

This book gave me a different view of pre-war Germany, and pre-war America, from an insider's perspective. It drew extensively from his writings. I LOVED that he loved Spirituals and Harlem. I loved that he went back to Germany when he didn't need to. And I loved his way with words and his thoughtfulness

This book also told me too much about Hitler, his generals, his methods, and prisoners. I saw a book today that was entitled "Making sense of the Holocaust" and I was angry. Anyone attempting to "make sense" of those horrors, seems an affront to all those who didn't survive and those who did. I guess those scenes from [b:The Chosen|187181|The Chosen|Chaim Potok|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1403191327s/187181.jpg|1336083] with the father and the trauma make sense.

In some ways, I think we are all products of the trauma of world events.

The book struggled at the end, though. Like some of Metaxas' other books he will quote at length and then summarize the quote. I think you should pick one or the other. Like the Luther bio, at the end there were so many names, locations, and writing that I couldn't keep track of them. And the story, for the last 3 chapters, was disjointed. But there are few biographies on Bonhoeffer. It was a huge undertaking, for he was very prolific. I would recommend it. Worth reading about everyday acts of courage.

*This book was recommended to my by my tax guy. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
An extrordinary book about an extrordinary man. ( )
  jsabrina | Jul 13, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (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....
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
METAXAS, Ericprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
BONHOEFFER, DietrichAssociated Namesecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keller, Timothy J.Forewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hillgartner, MalcolmNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Peace had at last returned to Europe.
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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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