He already had written two small volumes that have become modern Christian classics— Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship— and a collection of notes that were edited after his death by his friend Eberhard Bethge and published as Ethics. In an age of arid theology and practical unbelief, even among many self-described Christians, Bonhoeffer committed himself to live what he claimed to believe.
He saw Scripture as the restless but reliable word of God—a word that demands not only intellectual assent but also obedience of heart and submission of will in lives of active service.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
He had a passion for Jesus Christ and a deeply evangelical faith shaped by the Lutheran tradition. He could see, firsthand in Germany, where such compromises led. He returned again, briefly, in His thoughts about the country make useful reading. So did his experience of black Christian worship.
For Bonhoeffer, the same qualities that made American Christianity strong also made it prone to a unique kind of practical secularizing. Catholic readers of his work sometimes will find themselves puzzled or irritated by his perceptions of Catholic life or disagreeing with his theology or his version of historical events.
We live in a time when freedom of religion, the rights of conscience, and the integrity of Christian life and witness are once again slowly weakening. History never repeats itself. But patterns of human thought and behavior, good and evil, heroism and barbarism repeat themselves all the time. Eric Metaxas has written an extraordinary book that not only brings Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his times, and his witness vividly alive but also leaves us yearning to find the same moral character in ourselves. No biographer can achieve anything higher.
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Add to Cart. Together, we come alongside families to save marriages, equip parents, rescue preborn babies, defend biblical principles and more Focus Reviewed Every resource in our store has been reviewed by Focus on the Family to ensure that it is biblically sound. The reception of Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, and Spy met with unparalleled, resounding, and unexpected success among the Christian community and beyond in Yet, the book has caused a great deal of controversy among scholars, academics, and others who follow Bonhoeffer closely.
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This was not unexpected as Bonhoeffer was specifically intended to be a critique of those who understood Bonhoeffer to be "liberal" in his theological leaning as both evangelical scholars and non-evangelical scholars argued he was. Metaxas' book challenges this assumption by telling Bonhoeffer's story so as to demonstrate his theological orthodoxy. This was not an easy line to walk. Political involvement usually requires compromise and negotiation.
He would, one imagines, be utterly scornful of the politically tendentious piety of Pat Robertson, who sees little or no break between the teachings of Jesus and the platforms of the Republican Party. Were he with us now, Bonhoeffer would no doubt still dislike the goings-on at Union Theological Seminary; but he would be even more appalled, I think, by the religious culture of the mega-church, with its undemanding preaching and its insipid hymnology. Bonhoeffer was an accomplished musician with a passionate love of the German masters.
This man was made of stern stuff. Nearly all of them came from the highest social circles of the German aristocracy. So did Bonhoeffer. When Hans von Dohnanyi, a judge on the Supreme Court and an adviser to the supreme military command, went in search of someone who might have sufficient cover to carry resistance messages abroad, he turned to his brother-in-law Bonhoeffer.
After Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Nazis, who had become suspicious of his activities, he was first sent to the Tegel prison in Berlin, where his cousin, Paul von Hase, the military commandant of the city, made sure he was well-treated. All the aristocrats in Germany seemed to know each other, and Bonhoeffer knew them all.
That he relied on those contacts for the noblest of ends is beyond doubt. He took extraordinary risks, acting not only as a secret agent but also as a double agent. His humanitarian ideals involved him directly in dangerous missions to save Jews, some of whom he helped escape to Switzerland. Bonhoeffer used the contacts that he had developed in his ecumenical work to inform Western leaders of the existence of the resistance, and through those contacts he was able to reach Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary. Neither Eden nor Churchill was receptive to the overtures. But his most dramatic actions were still to come.
When key leaders of the Abwehr began discussing among themselves ways to kill Hitler, Bonhoeffer almost immediately entered into their conversations. When that failed, they tried again, this time through a suicide mission involving a bomb inside an overcoat. This plan, too, came to naught. In April they came to his home and escorted him to the first of his prison cells.
He was executed on April 9, , in the very select company of prominent German military officers such as Wilhelm Canaris and Hans Oster. What gives an individual the courage to act as Bonhoeffer did? In his case there were many reasons for his valor, including his love of Western culture, his devotion to his family, and his strong sense of loyalty.
The problem of evil was not one that human beings could solve. With faith as deep and obedient as this, Bonhoeffer did not fear death. Paradoxically, such a deeply spiritual preoccupation with the next world conferred upon him a this-worldly advantage: it helps, if you are engaged in serious and dangerous political deeds, to contemplate what might be in store for you, and to accept its likelihood.
We can never know who, when tested, will prove strong, and who will not.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
But anyone familiar with the theological reflections that preoccupied Bonhoeffer throughout his life would not be surprised by his bravery. If all men were Bonhoeffers, ethics might be dispensable. But they are not, and so we need Kant and his successors. This is especially the case when we seek to counter the fragility of societies containing individuals who differ radically about the God in which they believe—if they believe in any at all. In this account, liberalism, indeed the entire Enlightenment out of which it grew, lacks the depth of commitment and the sense of the tragic necessary to come to terms with radical evil in its most brutal form.
A way of thinking about politics that insists on the need for the state to remain neutral between competing conceptions of the good life, we are told, cannot find the resources to denounce a conception of life that is evil in its nature. The rules that apply for what Rawls calls a wellordered society have little or no relevance to a society in which everything that enables people to live cooperatively with others is turned upside down: even people making rational decisions behind a veil of ignorance could find themselves choosing Auschwitz.
Those who hold to this view believe that if there is any lesson to be learned from the life and times of Dietrich Bonhoeffer—and, to take another example, from the Catholic opposition to communism in the s, in the Vatican and in Poland and elsewhere—it is that a confrontation with evil demands that beliefs be anchored in the laws of nature or the laws of God. Only when convictions are absolutely secure, this line of reasoning concludes, can we know what to do, and have the courage to do it.
But nothing in liberal secularism is secure—and this is by design. For this reason, liberalism—and secularism—have no solution to the problem of evil. Confronted by monsters, a liberal instinctively wishes to reason with them.