Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
By Casey Hobbs
March 7, 2011
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
When the time came to speak, he spoke. When the time came to act, he acted according to his conscience. In a time that saw so many honest, good-hearted men and women fall victim to the tyranny of the unspeakably wicked Adolf Hitler, becoming complicit in his anti-human plot, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian, followed God even to his death. His writings have made us think deeply about what it means to follow Jesus. His life serves as an example to us today.
In 2010, Eric Metaxas, whose own grandfather died as a reluctant German soldier in World War II, released a new biography of the humble hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2010) has quickly been embraced by Christians and non-Christians alike, being endorsed by all manner of respected sources from Tim Keller to National Public Radio. Mr. Metaxas’ biography has not only been considered one of the Top 10 Books of 2010 by RELEVANT, but has also cracked annual top ten lists in other notable sources such as Barnes & Noble and The Gospel Coalition. Just this past week, Mr. Metaxas was awarded the John Pollack award by Beeson Divinity School for excellence in Christian biography. This praise is well-placed.
Bonhoeffer takes the reader through the journey of a young theologian from impressive means whose heart for the church of Jesus and his native homeland of Germany would collide head-on, bringing the pastor to international espionage and later assassination attempts on the Fuhrer.
Mr. Metaxas’ writing style makes the reader quickly forget that she has dived into the deep-end—and this book certainly has undeniable depth to it. The depth of the work lies not only in sheer volume with its 542 pages. The depth extends to the ethical questions: is it “Christian” to attempt the taking of an evil dictator’s life? The reader is taken on theological quandaries: what is this “religionless Christianity,” anyway? The reader also sees his own calls to action: what is our response today in the face of injustice?
Where few could make such a deep work seem so light, the quick wit and conversational style with which Mr. Metaxas floods this work leaves you turning pages and longing for more—as any good book should.
From a personal perspective, as a disciple of the teachings of Bonhoeffer, I have been extremely pleased with the question Mr. Metaxas leaves us wondering throughout the work. The implicit charge is: How would God have us live today? There can hardly be a question closer to the heart of Dietrich Bonhoeffer than the one posed by Mr. Metaxas.
The charge that this biography leads us with inspires us not only to investigate Bonhoeffer’s works further, but much more importantly, we are challenged to find our own place in God’s story for our day.
Go and pick it up.