Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy | Book Review
I suddenly resolved to write a review on this book but then thought, “How on earth do I expect to sum up the wealth of information I received from this book in one small post?”
What I have written here could hardly even be called skimming off the top. However, they are my thoughts summed up — don’t ask me how I was able to do it.
My Book Review
There really isn’t enough I can say about this book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. Hands down, I loved it.
Before reading it, my idea of who Dietrich Bonhoeffer was was quite vague. A godly man that stood against the Nazi brutality. And that is true, but through this wonderful look at his life, I’ve discovered there was so much more to this man. I call him a true hero of the faith, though I doubt he would approve of the title.
Metaxas not only gives us a look at the man but walks us through Bonhoeffer’s life, the circumstances surrounding it, his family, and the politics of the era, all that made Bonhoeffer what he was.
His Family Life
What I got from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s years growing up was a great respect for the way the Bonhoeffer’s lived in general. Words that come to mind are integrity, honor, commitment. Dietrich’s parents instilled in their children a passion for learning and the ability to think and reason well, the depth of which both puts me to shame and causes me to desire a deeper sense of understanding myself. You can easily see later on why Bonhoeffer lived such a complete life — a life of hot or cold, never lukewarm.
“[Bonhoeffer] pointed out that nowadays we often ask ourselves whether we still need the Church, whether we still need God. But this question, he said, is wrong. We are the ones who are questioned. The Church exists and God exists, and we are asked whether we are willing to be of service, for God needs us.”
–Wolf-Dieter Zimmerman on Dietrich Bonhoeffer
As a Teacher
In the most thorough sense, Bonhoeffer was first a student before he was a teacher. He only taught what he had learned, tried, and found to be true. He encouraged his students with alacrity and challenged the facts about faith we often take for granted. To completely know what you believe, examine it inside and out, and to try it — that’s what he taught, and all I can say is that I envy the students who received such an opportunity to be taught by this man of God.
“…Life itself gives us enough and too many serious warnings today; and so today I must not make your prospect for the future seem harder and darker than it already is… Today you are not to be given fear of life but courage; and so today in the Church we shall speak more than ever of hope, the hope that we have and which no one can take from you.”
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer in an address to his Confirmation Class students
“What made him stand out, to some as an inspiration, to others as an oddity, and to others as an offense, was that he did not hope that God heard his prayers, but knew it.”
— Eric Metaxas on Bonhoeffer
As a Spy
And speaking of challenging what we believe about our faith, Bonhoeffer’s stance on the role of the Christian regarding the Nazi regime does not fit any prescribed mold. People tend to think a Christian is to be all about peace, and even killing in time of war or defense is murder. Bonhoeffer however, went so far as to say to not kill would be a more heinous act in an era of overrun evil. That is why not only was he involved in the plot to kill Hitler but he was one of its leaders. His cry for a holier calling that goes beyond man’s preconceived ideas should cause anyone to take another look at their commitments.
“A human beings moral integrity begins when he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions.”
— Henning Von Tresckow, before taking his life for fear of revealing the names of others in the conspiracy
As a Martyr
If Bonhoeffer’s life wasn’t proof enough of what he preached, his death certainly is.
“He always cheered me up and comforted me, he never tired of repeating that the only fight which is lost is that which we give up.”
— Sclabrendorff on Bonhoeffer, during their time in prison
“His soul really shone in the dark 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.”
— Payne Best in a letter to Bonhoeffer’s sister, Sabine
“[Bonhoeffer] was very happy during the whole time I knew him, and did a great deal to keep some of the weaker brethren from depression and anxiety.”
— Hugh Falconer in a letter to Gerhard Leibholz
Bonhoeffer’s own words is an example of the hope and purpose of his life.
“This is the end… For me the beginning of life.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Praise for the Author
I have nothing but praise for Metaxas. All his hard work in research and writing has been well worth the effort. If I could, I would shake his hand and say, “Thanks ever so much!”
I encourage everyone to read this book and watch the truths personified by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, developed in a life of total commitment to God, permeate your thinking from that point on.
What do you think? Have you read Eric Metaxas’ book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy? What were your thoughts on the book?
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