Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Review: Bohoeffer by Metaxas

Okay, another few words on a biography I read lately.

Eric Metaxas wrote a biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  Weighing in at a substantial number of pages, it's a long read but a good one.

The short:  Bonhoeffer was a brilliant theologian and professor and pastor in the late 1920's and 1930's.  As the son of a well-to-do family, he had access and the ability to stand against the rise of the Fuhrer and the Nazis.  He did so, even to the point of participating in an assassination plot.  He was eventually caught and executed in 1945 a few days before the camp where he was held was liberated by the Allied Forces.  In the midst of that, he had underground seminaries running and wrote two Christian classics, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.

Metaxas caught a lot of grief for this book from those who want Bonhoeffer to remain a more liberally leaning, neo-orthodox pacifist.  I don't know everything about the man, pastor, martyr, prophet, and spy, so you need to read what I'm about to write with that in mind...

I have no idea how the author caught so much grief.

Metaxas used multiple quotations from personal letters and other writings, including journals.  He had quotations from sources that knew Bonhoeffer.  It seemed every page had some sort of block quote from someone about something that was happening, and most of them were quite extensive.  Either he jerked absolutely everything out of context or others had Bonhoeffer painted in Impressionism instead of Realism.  If someone can prove something different, please contact me.  I'd love to hear it.

I don't think you can (or should) go to the ends that some would want, making Bonhoeffer a white southern Republican Evangelical.  He was a German.  He was more or less neo-orthodox.  But he sure didn't seem like a liberally leaning pacifist.

He was involved in a plot to assassinate a head of state, after all.  I don't see Gandhi getting in on that action.  And he didn't get swept up into it - he thought about it, prayed about it, calculated it, and participated in it.

The narrative did seem to get a little effusive at times.  I'll give the critics that.  But the rest of it was just plain good.  It was well-told.  It seemed to be well-researched.

I have a friend who is a Grade A history professor at Baylor.  I asked him about the book before I dropped my money on it.  He said, "Well, Trent, I'm sure you won't be the worse for reading it."

He was right.  I wasn't.  You won't be either.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

1 comment:

  1. My sentiments exactly. Excellent bio of an outstanding martyr. He was real, the times were real, the situations, real, and still he persevered to the end. Inspiring!