Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Teview: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Phrophet, Spy

Title Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Author Eric Metaxas
Rating ****
Tags dietrich bonhoeffer, biography, christianity, theology, wwii, hitler, nazis, espionage, resistance 

This is a long book, and many will find the details of Germany's churches in the period between the two world wars to be rather dry. Overall, however, the story of Bonhoeffer - a brilliant theologian, committed Christian, highly-educated theologian, part of the German aristocratic class, author of a major work on ethics - who felt compelled to be part of a conspiracy to overthrow or assassinate Hitler, is fascinating. First of all, Bonhoeffer was one of the first to recognize how evil Hitler and the Nazis were. In part, it was the inside knowledge from some of his family connections that worked in the government. Another part was his willingness to say that the Nazi treatment of the Jews was wrong, and that Hitler was a part of it, while others were hoping that it was mostly due to some of Hitler's cruder advisers and that Hitler could be talked out of pursuing such policies.

Bonhoeffer lived his life believing that if he was attentive to the Bible, and open to God, dedicated to God, then God would guide him. In 1939 he came to the US, intending to pursue theological work here. But it felt wrong to him, and he was homesick, and he went back to Germany weeks before the war started. Once there he was drawn into an anti-Hitler conspiracy - there was, in fact, more than one conspiracy, with some people overlapping. There were quite a few military men against Hitler who rightly saw Hitler as insane and someone who would destroy Germany.

One of Bonhoeffer's major contributions was to meet a couple of times with George Bell, a British bishop with whom Bonhoeffer had been friends for years. Bell took word to Hitler of the conspiracies to Churchill and asked if Churchill would support their post-Hitler government and stop the war if they succeeded. Churchill did not trust them, however. The conspirators continued anyway. Bonhoeffer and several in his conspiracy, led by Admiral Canaris, were discovered and arrested, and executed three weeks before the Allies marched into Berlin and Hitler committed suicide.

There are accounts of Bonhoeffer's time in prison from some who survived. They often used the word lovable about him, that he was one of the best people they ever knew. He viewed the other prisoners as his pastorate and ministered to their needs as best he could.

This is the story of an amazing life, one that forces us to ask a lot of questions, as Bonhoeffer did, about ethics, and about confronting evil. For the most part Mataxas tells the story well. He is a bit too dogmatic at times, and the story palls a bit with all the discussion of the German Lutheran church, but it is what Bonhoeffer was involved in and a necessary part of his story. The book is recommended.

Publication Thomas Nelson (2010), Edition: 1St Edition, Hardcover, 608 pages
Publication date 2010
ISBN 1595551387 / 9781595551382

Posted via web from reannon's posterous

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