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Bonhoeffer:Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Review

This first post will introduce a new section that will focus on book reviews.  The reviews will both be of “secular” books and of books with “Christian”themes.  All of them will be evaluated from a Christian perspectives.

I am not usually a biography reader.  My reading usually tends to do with exegesis, theology, and current culture.  However, I had heard good things about this book and a good friend of mine purchased a copy for me (thanks Tim) and so I read.  Reading the book is no small accomplishment.  This is not a biography for the weak at heart.  It is 542 pages.  That being said I couldn’t put it down (it was so good that I’m thinking I will start adding biography to my normal reading lists).  Eric Metaxas did a great job telling a fascinating story.

The book is about a Pastor during the Nazi Regime.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the son of a prominent family in Germany.  Bonhoeffer’s family connection within the aristocrats of Germany gave him particular insight into the working of the German political system.  His connections within the church allowed him to see the manipulation of the Third Reich within the National Church of Germany.

The book takes you through the upbringing of Dietrich.  His time spent in school and his travels.  But really the undertone of the book is the tough decision Bonhoeffer had to make in how to oppose the rise of Hitler.

What makes the story so fascinating is to hear the stories of Germans who understood the inherent problems with Hitler, long before others did.  It also shows the bravery of these men to put a stop to what they felt was evil.  The inward struggle of what to do and determining the right course of action also opened up my mind to the complexity of the decisions that went into resisting Nazism and Hitler.

These problems lead Bonhoeffer down the path of resistance. First, he broke way from the church structure of German, which had been co-opted by the Third Reich, and started what was called the Confessing Church.  Bonhoeffer hoped to put pressure upon Hitler and the German people through the influence of this group and other groups throughout Europe who were sympathetic to the resistance movement.

Ultimately, Bonhoeffer was forced to take action a step further.  Seeing the ineffectiveness of the Confessing Church (partially because they refused to adopt the radical strategies Bonhoeffer implored) and the militaristic plans of the Nazis, Dietrich became a double-agent, working for the Third Reich with the goal of bringing down the evil Fuhrer.

His work as a double-agent meant that he was closely aligned with a group that attempted (on at least three occasions including the Valkyrie plot) to assassinate Hitler (the stories alone on how these plots failed are worth the book).  When the plot against Hitler was discovered Bonhoeffer along with many of his compatriots were put to death at camp Flossenburg.

This review could go on to talk about other parts of the story that might the work so compelling:  Background to the generals under Hitler, the love story between Bonhoeffer and Maria, the choices Bonhoeffer made to choose suffering over comfort, the role of faith in the resistance.  All of these make this book amazing (and would make my review to long for a post).  My suggestion is read the book, the historical value alone is worth it.

Our next post will analyze the book. Read it here.

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2 Comments

  1. Good job Wesley on providing a brief and informative review. I am getting ready to read this book. I heard Metaxas did a great job. I thought you might want me to point out that you didn’t have the title or the author in the body of the post.
    I think the most amazing thing about Bonhoeffer is the decision to go home the last time, when he didn’t have to.
    His story is truly amazing.

    Thanks,
    Jim

  2. Wesley

    November 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks Jim. I agree it is an amazing story. I’m going to look at some of the key themes that I felt were interesting in the book this weekend. Thanks also for heads up on not including the author or title. I’m going to update with that information.

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