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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  26,420 ratings  ·  2,041 reviews
WHO BETTER TO FACE THE GREATEST EVIL OF THE 20TH CENTURY THAN A HUMBLE MAN OF FAITH?

As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer--a pastor and author, known as much for...more
Hardcover, 591 pages
Published April 20th 2010 by Thomas Nelson Publishers (first published August 21st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Mike (the Paladin)
Let me say first that this is a wonderful book. Congratulations Mr. Metaxas.

From an account of Bonhoeffer's life to the overlay of history I was drawn in and followed it. There is (of course) for me a sort of bittersweet sense to the book as Bonhoeffer died just before the end of WWII. He was murdered about 3 weeks before Hitler took his own life more than likely having been murdered on the orders of the mad man himself.

Some will not be as interested in the theological insights that can be found...more
Sally Wessely
This is an absolutely amazing book about a man who truly was a pastor, a martyr and a prophet. It is a must read for every Christian. We must examine our own beliefs about how we are to live as Christians in relation to the State, and to each other. The book helps the reader to understand how Nazi Germany happened and the role that the German church played in what happened in Germany after World War I. Someone said that Eric Metaxas has done for Bonhoeffer what David McCullough has done done for...more
S.
We all know history is written and it’s no use wishing for some other outcome when reading a biography or history book. Yet reading this book I felt a terrible suspense. I knew Bonhoeffer was a goner - still I bit my nails, I dreaded, I cried, I hoped, and for a while I even engaged in magical thinking, imagining if I boycotted the last 20 pages Bonhoeffer would not die!

The sense of tragedy is heightened because the end of the war almost let Bonhoeffer escape his stupid fate, death coming just...more
Mara
A note in re. my reviewerly shortcomings:
Let me preface this by saying that I am about as ill-qualified as one can be when it comes to ecumenical history. The full extent of my knowledge on the Protestant Reformation is that Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the door of a church on October 31, 1517 (and I only remember that because I remember thinking that it was weird that he did that on Halloween, and that the digits of 95 and 1517 both add up to 14...random, I know, but, hey, I was a sophomor...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
It was said that when he prays it is as if he is really conversing with a God who is listening to him.

His family was rich and influential. He had aristocratic lineage both in the maternal and paternal side. Close relatives occupied high positions in the government, including the military.

He had a real talent for music, but he chose to be a theologian and a pastor of the Lutheran church where he belonged. But he was open-minded insofar as faith and salvation is concerned. He had wanted to visit I...more
Mark I.
On a rare occasion I get so involved in a book that it becomes real to me. The characters come to life. The story envelops me with its mental imagery and emotion. And when you finish, it's like emerging from another world that existed for only a short while.

And on an even rarer occasion, a book about real people does the same.

Yesterday, I finished reading "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas. Yesterday, I lost a friend who I won't meet until eternity.

Bonhoeffer was a pas...more
Cheryl
Throughout history there have been devout Christians who admonish believers for taking their faith lightly. This is the story of one who paid the ultimate price for his beliefs in the midst of the terror that was Hitler's Germany and the Holocaust. Bonhoeffer was among the saboteurs of the plot to assassinate Hitler from the inside. He was living safely in America in 1939, had won praise for being a prominent author and theologian, but chose to return to Germany to defend the Jews against Hitler...more
Justin Evans
Yikes- this was a real disappointment, or, as Metaxas might say, a hemorrhoidal bummer. I was excited when I read reviews when it came out. Then I was wary when I learned that Metaxas is the 'founder and host' of a philosophy reading group for crazy-rich, conservative New Yorkers. Then when I saw that the blurbs for his book, rather than being by biographers or scholars, were by CEOs, ex-CEOs, former General Partners of Goldman Sachs, Kirkus journalists or people who feel the need to put PhD at...more
Dougald Blue
He gave everything for principle during WWII. The Nazis murdered him while his former fellow Lutherans, the German nationla established church, adopted Nazi liturgy and caved. Bonhoeffer and others founded an alternative denomination that was opposed to national socialism. A great lesson for today's moral relativists in the USA.
Shannon
I wish I could have taken longer to read this book. It's excellent. Like the subject's "Letters and Papers from Prison", I found myself not wanting to turn pages because I knew they would bring me to the end of his story. Bonhoeffer is one of those rare men whose close following of Christ led him to very difficult places. Yet he went, with boldness and even joy at times, knowing that following God's call was the most important thing. His story personally challenges me through his combination of...more
Melinda
Sept 2014
As excellent on the 3rd reading as it was on the first 2. Highly highly recommended.

What struck me at this reading was how Bonhoeffer's family was privy to so much that was happening in the German government so far ahead of when the average German seemed to find out. I am reading "The Storm of War" now, and it is fascinating to see the military issues set in contrast to this much more personal view of history in Germany at the time.

******************************************************...more
Adam Shields
Full review at http://bookwi.se/bonhoeffer-pastor-ma...

Short reviews: I keep going back and forth between 4 and 5 stars. I think this was a very good biography. And it left me wanting more, which I think is a good sign. Metaxas did a good job pulling Bonhoeffer out of the boxes that he is often put into. He was more than just a theologian or writer, or part of an assassination plot. But there were some editing errors and lots of strange descriptions. I called them Dan Ratherisms in my full revie...more
J.
Just finished my thick skim of Metaxas' book. I enjoyed the flow of his narrative, though the attempt to cram the historical record--kicking and screaming if necessary--into the ideological categories of contemporary politics was troubling and a bit distracting at times. That said, I enjoyed it and may spend more time with it once I'm not quite as busy as I am now.

This paragraph from the review in Books and Culture seems particularly apt:

"What will be the impact of this heroic tale on American...more
Mark Ward
I'm hovering between three and four stars here, because I did enjoy the book. Quite a stirring narrative. But, to put it too bluntly, I don't have a fundamental trust in the theological acumen and judgment of Eric Metaxas. He's certainly a good writer who did his homework (more on that in a moment), but I've read some Bonhoeffer—and he just didn't quite speak the language of evangelical Protestantism like Metaxas seems to assume.

Even within the book there are hints that Bonhoeffer probably shoul...more
Rachel Terry
I was hoping for a great biography with this book, but it turned out to be so much more than that. In fact, I would say it's more like three books in one. Talk about overdelivering.

Book #1: How Did Hitler Happen?
I've read a lot about World War II and the Holocaust (haven't we all?), but I've never read a book that explained so clearly how Hitler rose to power and got away with so much. Because World War II and the Holocaust are such enormous topics, narratives tend to jump right into the middle...more
John
May 20, 2013 John rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012

Metaxas's biography of Dietrich Boenhoeffer is a marvelous page-turner of a biography. Metaxas portrays Boenhoeffer in a very heroic manner. He clearly admires Boenhoeffer and his life's work. It is not hard to see why, though his lack of criticism is the most striking failure in the book. Metaxas is an outstanding writer--throughout the book he enlivens the history with his turns of phrase and witty style.

The Boenhoeffer that Metaxas portrays is the kind of man that a good modern-day American...more
Lisa
This is a brilliantly written biography of a true Christian hero, martyr, and saint--if Lutherans canonized saints, Dietrich Bonhoeffer would be among the first, although he would deny that he deserved it. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany when Hitler came to power and was part of the Resistance (including the Valkyrie plot to kill Hitler). He was from a brilliant and aristocratic family, scientists on his father's side and theologians on his mother's side, and he became a theologian a...more
Matthew Lindell
There are few books that come along that are so powerful as to tilt the direction of your life. This is one of them. There were a number of significant themes that are critical for Christian of the 21st century to understand and not repeat the mistakes of the 20th.

Liberal Theology - The German church of the day was stepping away from the orthodox roots of Christianity and divorcing Jesus from the scriptures. Seminaries got lost in cold academics and lost sight of the hope of the gospel. Bonhoeff...more
William
From the start, it appears that this book, despite its length, will be most interesting and an easy read, similar to John Adams which I have recently reviewed.

At the end of the book, I have a love for this man that I could not have imagined from the beginning. A true Christian, in belief, word, action.

It was good to learn about the resistance to Hitler's regime from within Germany itself. And of course, many of these people paid with their lives, and others were aware that that could be the cost...more
Ann
This biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is incredibly thought provoking and timely. The author gives a detailed look into the conflicts that faced the German church and the German people with the rise of Hitler. The path of compromise that most of the church took was in part because the church was so closely tied to the state. In contrast Bonhoeffer's uncompromising voice was one of very few to sound the alarm re: Hitler's true character and designs for Germany and the German church.Bonhoeffer's s...more
Jerome
A fine biography, if heavily sanitized. The book's greatest strength is that it reads like a novel. Everything, from Bonhoeffer's academic lectures to his love life, is woven together into a simple but entertaining storyline. I usually have a hard time finishing a biography, but I read this one easily. If you're just looking for an engaging book, this one fits the bill.

The book also makes for easy reading--maybe even too easy at times. I don't think that things were really as straightforward as...more
Philip
Over the past few years this reviewer has encountered few works outside of the Holy Writ that are able to accomplish such a profound effect on the heart. There were moments where the deepest of emotions were evoked and a profound empathy was extended to the likable scholar turned pastor who devoted his life to what he knew to be right. Metaxas provides the reader with an in-depth look at the life of one of the great saints of modern Christendom, who with the progenitor of the faith of his father...more
Angela
I give the man Bonhoeffer 5 stars. I know the rating system is for the book, but without the man, again, we would have no book. Jew,Gentile and Christian alike should all take time out for this courageous and prophetic person, esp.in these times.
From this book one can learn how to Be.
Bonhoeffer used everything that was given him in his life to the betterment of all.
Lillie
Bonnhoeffer inspires us because he lived out his faith. I tend to think that liberalism started taking over the mainstream denominations in the 60s, but Bonnhoeffer was taught liberal theology in the 1930s. However, he didn't accept everything he was taught—he studied the Bible and thought for himself. He focused on Scripture and putting faith into practice, and he believed that doing God's will was more important than following specific rules.

That is how he came to the decision that Hitler had...more
Cori
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of those names that shows up a lot in Christianity; for instance, he seems to get quoted a lot in church bulletin notes (he’s very quotable). But, as Metaxas lays out in his biography, Bonhoeffer was so much more than just a theologian with a penchant for proverbs. Bonhoeffer was an incredible man.

Although this book is weighty and long (600+ pages — it took me months to work my way through it), I highly recommend it. Bonhoeffer is a remarkable example of what it means...more
Michael Lee
Eric Metaxas has done for Dietrich Bonhoeffer what David McCullough did for John Adams. This book is enthralling, inspiring and illuminating, and it provides the context to better understand Bonhoeffer and his views. I started reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy this week and have not been able to put it down.

Metaxas takes us on an engaging, chronological journey through Bonhoeffer’s life. And what an exciting and meaningful life it was. Metaxas’ portrait reveals a bright, athletic
...more
Marialyce
While I did admire the man and the book, I did find in the middle that I skimmed the information. There was a glut of information on the back and forthing of the Christian church and its stance with Hitler which was to say the least infuriating. Bonhoeffer and some others stood up for the true logical Christian way and went against Hitler' teachings and ideology. He was a brilliant man from a prestigious, intellectual German family who used his brilliance to wage a war of right and words against...more
Jo Franz
I found myself immersed in Metaxas book and couldn't wait to get back to reading it. The combination of Bonhoeffer's family history, his own life, and the rise of Hitler's Nazis Germany rendered the book more like a novel than a biography. And interweaving Bonhoeffer's personal letters to his best friend and confidant were more like journal entries into his soul, (which I so appreciate--having used the same tool in my memoir and knowing others appreciated the vulnerability). By including his ser...more
Haelie
Where do I start?

Some have heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (pronounced Bahn-hoofer) and even studied his writings in seminary. Others, like myself, have never heard of him until hearing about this biography of him.

Oh, how I wish I had known of him sooner.

Eric Metaxas does an amazing job of recounting the facts of Bonhoeffer's life---and death---in his biography entitled Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Without telling you everything of the life and legacy of Bonhoeffer, since Metaxas does i...more
Joshua D.
A splendid and thorough biography of German theologian and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Metaxas might be best known for his biography of William Wilberforce (which spawned the movie, Amazing Grace). But many Christians will have come across his work without knowing it - as he wrote for a number of years for Veggie Tales.

Most know the basics on Bonhoeffer. German theologian-pastor who taught briefly at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and pastored churches in Germany, London, and Spain. Bo...more
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In a decidedly eclectic career, Eric Metaxas has written for VeggieTales, Chuck Colson, Rabbit Ears Productions and the New York Times, four things not ordinarily in the same sentence. He is a best-selling author whose biographies, children’s books, and works of popular apologetics have been translated into Albanian, Portuguese, Spanish, Korean, and Macedonian.
More about Eric Metaxas...
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness It's Time to Sleep, My Love Socrates in the City: Conversations on "Life, God, and Other Small Topics" Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving

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“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.” 280 likes
“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God's word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer” 25 likes
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