Friday, February 17, 2012

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy - A Righteous Gentile vs The Third Reich, Eric Metaxas

I spent a few weeks engrossed in this new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

If you are anything like me, your knowledge of the rise of Nazi Germany and WWII is solely from high school history, and your knowledge of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is close to nil.  Hence I feel somewhat ill-equipped to write an informed review of this book.

Yet Metaxas has created a book that combines history, theology and a life story together into a wonderful mix. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born and raised in Germany in the early years of the 20th century, into a family that appears to have excelled in many areas - education, music, theology, philosophy and science.  The combination of his mother (a devout and intelligent Christian woman) and his father (a highly respected psychiatrist and thinker) created a man who was intelligent, analytical, academically rigorous and musically talented.  Combined with a deep and convicting faith in God and the authority of his word, Bonhoeffer was theologically astute, devout and wise beyond his years. 

Using letters, journal entries, sermons and books by Bonhoeffer, Metaxas has created a full and vibrant picture of his life.  As you read about his life, ministry, extended family and romance in those years, woven through it you also learn of the rise of Nazi socialism in Germany in the 1930s and of the inexorable climb of Hitler to power.

As he saw the Germany he had grown up in fall into madness, racism and war, Bonhoeffer was led to ask himself what true obedience to God looked like: 
Silence in the face of evil is evil itself: God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.
Feeling that true obedience to God's calling meant fighting the evil that had overtaken Germany, Bonhoeffer became involved with the plots to assassinate Hitler and as a result was executed in a concentration camp three weeks before the war ended.

Obviously, from a human perspective it does not have a happy ending.  However it rings out with the knowledge that Bonhoeffer followed his faith and convictions to the very end, convinced that it was the beginning of life for him:
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 grace, the greatest  gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him.  Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.  (p531)
A very powerful book about one man's faith and how it defined him when faced with evil. 


Erin said...

And available on Kindle. Just ordered it. Thanks for the tip Wendy. My WWII history is predominantly from high school history too.

Unknown said...

I bought this for Tim for Christmas, but am eager to get my hands on it.