Mike's Reviews > Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
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Metaxas has written a compelling biography of a complex hero of the German Resistance, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was the product of two aristocratic German families. His father was a psychiatrist at the leading hospital in Berlin. His mother was a member of the von Hase family, a descendant of well known theologians. A mixture of science, logic, discipline and devotion were daily presences in the Bonhoeffer home. When Dietrich announced he had chosen to study theology at the age of thirteen, it was not a childish decision, but a very deliberate and carefully considered choice.

The Bonhoeffers lost their eldest son, Walter, in World War One. They were loyal subjects of the Kaiser and the Weimar Republic. However, the entire family recognized that the founding of the National Socialist Party would lead to drastic consequences for their country. As Hitler cemented his position of leadership, the Bonhoeffers were vocal opponents of the changes sweeping across Germany.

Bonhoeffer was a leading proponent of the Confessing Church, founded in opposition to the Reichskirche represented by the Deutsche Christians. He would be outspoken in his condemnation of the infamous "Aryan paragraph" that the Nazi party sought support for among the Deutsche Christians to remove anyone of Jewish descent from being allowed to participate in Christian worship, though baptized as Christians.

Hitler used the principles of Christianity to support his political agenda as one means of cleansing the German race. The traditional Deutsche Christians did not realize that Hitler intended to abolish the church when the time came. His openly anti-christian supporters such as Himmler, Goebbels, and Heydrich intended to replace the cross with the swastika and bring back the Tuetonic gods.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was deeply involved in the growing international ecumenical church movement. His brilliance as a theologian brought him to England and America where he developed ties which would later become outlets to the world for Bonhoeffer's revelation of Hitler's atrocities against the disabled, his political opponents and the Jewish populations of Germany and all of Europe.

From academic theologian, Bonhoeffer transformed to a committed pastor, ministering to those who found themselves without a voice as the Nazi juggernaut began to crush every opponent following the outbreak of war in 1939. Bonhoeffer transformed from pastor to spy, joining in the earliest conspiracies to remove Hitler from power. He would become a member of the Abwehr, the Intelligence Division of the German military to cloth himself in a cloak of deception to be in a position to bring about Hitler's downfall, even through assassination if necessary.

Throughout this meticulous study, Metaxas reveals Bonhoeffer's innermost thoughts through careful selections from his letters and his best known writings. And Metaxas offers a unique perspective of Hitler's rise to power from a theological perspective. To the greater extent this is a brilliant book, and would be completely so, were Metaxas a more incisive writer, resorting to his own analysis as opposed to his heavy reliance on the careful recitation of not only Bonhoeffer's own words, but those of the most significant people around him.

Whatever the reader's religious beliefs may be,"Bonhoeffer" is a book that deserves to be read. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a man whose courage, morality, and sense of justice should be remembered and practiced today.

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06/16/2011 page 105
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