Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bonhoeffer - Eric Metaxas

Every once in a while I like to walk into my local Christian book store and just poke around.  I usually compare the process to the equivalent of clothing shopping at Ross.  You usually have to stop by five or six times before you find a shirt you like that also happens to be in your size.  On one such trip I decided to inquire of my favorite lady behind the counter (Pam, she rocks), asking "Any 'must reads' come out lately?"  Without blinking she reached behind the counter, and brought out the book "Bonhoeffer".  My immediate reaction was, "What's a Bonhoeffer??"  Pam's answer?  "Trust me...just read it."  So after paying her, I took my newly purchased book of which I knew absolutely nothing, and proceeded to my local coffee house (shameless plug for Rogue Coffee Roasters on G Street...check it out!).

From the moment I read the first line of this book I was captivated.  I have been a long-time fan of biographies, and Metaxas' work only succeeded at further solidifying my opinion.  I would rank it as undoubtedly my new favorite in the genre.  As I soon discovered, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a key leader in the Confessing Church during Nazi era Germany.  The Confessing Church was formed in direct opposition to the "German Church" the Third Reich formed and supported and which preached a perverted version of Christianity.  Bonhoeffer continuously put his life in danger as he spoke out against the Nazi party and Hitler, fought the teachings of the German Church, and even reported  to Allied leaders in England as a spy.  He also founded and taught at an illegal seminary in Nazi Germany,  training many young men who would later contribute to the work of the Confessing Church, and in some cases to the fight against Hitler.  Bonhoeffer himself also became a very important part of several conspiracies to kill Hitler, although none were successful.  The most notable of these conspiracies was the Valkyrie plot that was recently made into a movie.  Bonhoeffer's greatest legacy was his writings on theology that are highly acclaimed to this day.  The most famous of these was his life work entitled "Ethics".  Although he was eventually martyred for his work, his legacy continues on through his writings, many of which have been preserved through colleagues, family, and friends.  These writings make up a very significant portion of the book.

The book is a fantastic mix of life story, Germany history, and sound Biblical theology.  The three work together quite well.  The theology of Bonhoeffer is frequently a bit complicated and sometimes required a few readings to fully comprehend, but overall you cannot help but be drawn in to his paths of thought about Christ and the discipline of living out your faith in a very real and faithless world.  The book does an expert job of surrounding Bonhoeffer's theological thoughts and writings with a very detailed account of his life, and how the daily challenges he faced directly contributed to his theology.  The realities of life in Nazi Germany forced Bonhoeffer to make tough decisions concerning Christian responsibility in the face of evil.  Is it wrong to oppose a human government that God has established even when they are instigating unfathomable evils?  Is is a sin to kill a man responsible for genocide?  Does God always desire His followers to "turn the other cheek" no matter the injustice?  For Bonhoeffer theology was not simply knowledge, it was real life.  He did not write for the sake of writing, instead he documented the real moral dilemmas he himself faced on a daily basis, comparing those thoughts to the thoughts of His creator and the writings of scripture.  His theology comes to life as we read it through the lens of his life experience.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I need to go get a copy. Thanks for the review!