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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  61,264 ratings  ·  3,907 reviews
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 such spiritual classics as "The Cost of Discipleship "and "Life Together," as for hi ...more
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published April 18th 2010 by Thomas Nelson (first published August 21st 2009)
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Robert Irish The "conservative/liberal" divide probably means something different today than it did in Bonhoeffer's time. Despite Eric Metaxas's best attempts, I d…moreThe "conservative/liberal" divide probably means something different today than it did in Bonhoeffer's time. Despite Eric Metaxas's best attempts, I don't think Bonhoeffer would be a card-carrying Republican, but he has a profound love for Jesus as saviour and redeemer, which is usually seen as central to conservative theology today. Yet, he's much deeper than most, without being inaccessible in his writing. Sometimes in reading the Cost of Discipleship, I found I could read a single line and stop. It was enough. I think every Christian (conservative, liberal, whatever) should take some time to wrestle with Bonhoeffer. (less)
Karen Williams I don't believe that Protestants name saints, but he is a saint in my book.
I don't believe that Protestants name saints, but he is a saint in my book.

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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
Kimba Tichenor
Jul 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
I will be honest it scares me to see the many positive reviews of this book, as it contains numerous historical errors, not to mention it grossly oversimplifies Bonhoeffer's theology. The historical errors include locating Bonn in Switzerland and asserting that Germany was not yet an authoritarian state in 1934 -- one year after Hitler seized power. But of greater concern than these factual errors and the misspelling of German concentration camps (both Buchenwald and Dachau are spelled incorrect ...more
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
Sally Wessely
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Justin Evans
Oct 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history-etc
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
Mark Sutherland
Dec 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All serious Christians; anyone interested in World War II or the German resistance
Recommended to Werner by: It was a common read in one of my Goodreads groups
Shelves: biography, history
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian hanged by the Nazis at the age of 39, shortly before the conclusion of World War II, for his role in the plots for Hitler's assassination. His dramatic death has served to make him a semi-legendary figure in some circles, though his name isn't a household word to the general public; but even in the circles where his name is recognized, it's a fair assumption that many more people know of him vaguely by hearsay than have ...more
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Note in re. 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 sophomore in
Brad Lyerla
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an inspiration and a revelation. I do not know anyone who does not find much to admire in Bonhoeffer. Even those who find Christian doctrines to stretch plausibility can admire Bonhoeffer's courage as a moral and principled man standing up to authoritarianism at the risk of his own life.

When the Nazis co-opted the Lutheran Church in Germany, he helped to organize a new church, called the Confessing Church, to oppose the Nazi's attempted corruption of German Christianity. W
Ross Blocher
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
I have always been curious about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He's a theologian well-respected by Christianity's more intellectual set, was a principled man who stood up to Hitler's Third Reich, and yet represents for me a major theological conundrum: how a man of God involved in a plot to assassinate one of the most evil men who ever lived could not only fail, but be captured and executed by the Gestapo mere weeks before the war's end.

Eric Metaxas's Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy tells the st
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is one of those times I curse my own ignorance. This was my first introduction to Bonhoeffer and I regret not meeting him some other way. Because this book has some freaking problems.

They're not Bonhoeffer's problems though; they're the author's.

Let me start with the easiest. It's the last thing in the book, but it confirmed a lot of what I'd been suspecting. The About the Author section, which for most writers runs a paragraph or two, and even for the likes of Dostoevsky or Faulkner runs
Mark Jr.
Nov 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, 2011
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
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
Rachel Terry
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Perkins
Aug 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
I read a good deal about and by Bonhoeffer when I was in college. I did not recognize the Bonhoeffer the author presents here. The author tries to turn Bonhoeffer into a tool for his political agenda.

I was born and raised Roman Catholic and went through an evangelical phase in college and a bit after. I know the Bible and church history well. Categorically and without apology, I consider evangelicals intellectually dishonest. Down deep they know their beliefs are indefensible, so they lie and c
Dougald Blue
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jul 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Deacon Tom F
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Without a doubt, I really loved this non fiction account of a great man. This huge volume of work is truly the definitive Bonhoeffer biography for our time.

It is clearly a book providing a entirely new dimension to World War II. The emphasis is on the internal struggles of the German Church in the face of Nazi control. It shows how people’s faith is truly tested In the face of evil.

However, running parallel to the faith portion is an in-depth treatment of the horrendous action of the Third Rei
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
The problem of evil. The origins of morality. German culture. Twentieth-century Protestant theology.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a more conservative thinker than I'd assumed. I've never read Cost of Discipleship or Ethics, so this long biography filled in my knowledge of his life and career while at the same time introduced me to his actual writings and sermons. (One challenge of listening to the audiobook was tolerating the lengthy sermon-excerpts that Metaxas offers. But I also had the print editi
Mar 11, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I saw early on what Metaxas was trying to do here but stuck with it. Then I got to page 124, where he asks whether or not Bonhoeffer had been "born again", and I couldn't take it anymore. This book is a poorly-concealed attempt to cast Bonhoeffer in the role of a 21st-century American Fundamentalist preacher without actually stating it in a complete sentence. That may be fine and dandy to people who walk that way. But for an open-minded and critical history nerd who just wants to read a decent b ...more
Jun 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
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 wa ...more
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.

Adam Shields
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
Full review at

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
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, 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
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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, 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.
Matthew Lindell
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fresh take on a largely unknown backstory of WWII Germany that involved Dietrich Bonhoeffer. All in all a well researched biography and well written. This time on a minor figure in Germany who saw the evils of Nazism and anti-semitism earlier than others, then split from the National Church of Germany which had been co-opted by the SS. Finally when he realized he could not stop the Nazi party and subsequent holocaust through normal clerical and political channels he helped conspire to assassin ...more
Sally Ewan
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A very interesting book about an interesting man. I appreciate hearing about people who lived through Hitler's reign and saw him for what he really was. Bonhoeffer was a brave and determined man with great focus. The German church at that time was a mess, but it was sad to read about the liberal theology weakening American Christianity also.

Metaxas' writing style was jarring. He tended to throw in colorful phrases that derailed my concentration rather than enhancing the narrative. For instance,
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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 more than 25 languages.

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