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Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

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Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

4.5/5 (33 Bewertungen)
289 Seiten
5 Stunden
7. Okt. 2014


From the New York Times best-selling author, Eric Metaxas, an abridged version of the groundbreaking biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the greatest heroes of the twentieth century, a man who stood up to Hitler.

A definitive, deeply moving narrative, Bonhoeffer is a story of moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a young pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer become one of the first to speak out against Hitler. As a double agent, he joined the plot to assassinate the Führer, and he was hanged in Flossenberg concentration camp at age thirty-nine. Since his death, Bonhoeffer has grown to be one of the most fascinating, complex figures of the twentieth century.

Bonhoeffer brings the reader face-to-face with a man determined to do the will of God radically, courageously, and joyfully—even to the point of death. It is the story of a life framed by a passion for truth and a commitment to justice on behalf of those who face implacable evil.

7. Okt. 2014

Über den Autor

Eric Metaxas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, If You Can Keep It, Miracles, Seven Women, Seven Men, andAmazing Grace. His books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the New Yorker, and Metaxas has appeared as a cultural commentator on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. He is the host of The Eric Metaxas Radio Show, a daily nationally syndicated show aired in 120 U.S. cities and on TBN. Metaxas is also the founder of Socrates in the City, the acclaimed series of conversations on “life, God, and other small topics,” featuring Malcolm Gladwell, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, Baroness Caroline Cox, and Dick Cavett, among many others. He is a senior fellow and lecturer at large at the King’s College in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

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Bonhoeffer Abridged - Eric Metaxas


27 JULY 1945, LONDON

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.


Peace had at last returned to Europe. Her familiar face—once evilly contorted—was again at rest, noble and fresh.

The war had been over for two months. The tyrant took his own life in a gray bunker beneath his shattered capital, and the Allies declared victory.

Slowly, slowly, life in Britain turned to the task of restoring itself. Then, as if on cue, summer arrived. It was the first summer of peace in six years. But as if to prove that the whole thing hadn’t been a dream or a nightmare, there were constant fresh reminders of what had happened. And they were as awful as anything that had gone before. Often they were worse. In the early part of this summer, the ghastly news of the death camps emerged along with the unfathomable atrocities that the Nazis had visited upon their victims in the hellish outposts of their short-lived empire.

Rumors of such things circulated throughout the war, but now the reality was confirmed by photographs, newsreel footage, and eyewitness accounts from the soldiers who liberated the camps in April during the last days of the war. The depth of these horrors had not been known or imagined, and it was almost too much for the war-fatigued British public to absorb. Their hatred of the Germans was confirmed and reconfirmed afresh with every nauseating detail. The public reeled at the very evilness of the evil.

At the beginning of the war, it was possible to separate the Nazis from the Germans and recognize that not all Germans were Nazis. As the clash between the two nations wore on, and as more and more English fathers and sons and brothers died, distinguishing the difference became more difficult. Eventually the difference vanished altogether. Realizing he needed to fuel the British war effort, Prime Minister Winston Churchill fused the Germans and the Nazis into a single hated enemy, the better to defeat it swiftly and end the unrelenting nightmare.

When Germans working to defeat Hitler and the Nazis contacted Churchill and the British government, hoping for assistance to defeat their common enemy from the inside—hoping to tell the world that some Germans trapped inside the Reich felt much as they did—they were rebuffed. No one was interested in their overtures. It was too late. They couldn’t participate in such evils and, when it was convenient, try to settle for a separate peace. For the purposes of the war effort, Churchill maintained the fiction that there were no good Germans. It would even be said that the only good German—if one needed to use the phrase—was a dead German. That lack of nuance was also part of the hellishness of war.

But now the war was over. And even as the full, unspeakable evil of the Third Reich was coming to light, the other side of things had to be seen too. Part of the restoration to peacetime thinking was the ability to again see beyond the blacks and whites of the war, to again discern nuance and shades, shadows and colors.

And so today in Holy Trinity Church—just off the Brompton Road in London—a service was taking place that was incomprehensible to some. To many others it was distasteful and disturbing, especially to those who had lost loved ones during the war. The memorial service being held today on British soil and being broadcast on the BBC was for a German who had died three months earlier. The word of his demise so slowly staggered out of the war’s fog and rubble that only recently had any of his friends and family learned of it. Most of them still knew nothing about it. But here in London were gathered those few who did.

In the pews were the man’s thirty-nine-year-old twin sister, her half-Jewish husband, and their two girls. They had slipped out of Germany before the war, driving at night across the border into Switzerland. The dead man took part in arranging their illegal flight—although that was among the most negligible of his departures from National Socialist orthodoxy—and he helped establish them in London. The man counted among his friends a number of prominent persons, including George Bell, the bishop of Chichester. Bell arranged the service, for he had known and loved the man being honored. The bishop met him years before the war when the two were engaged in ecumenical efforts, trying to warn Europe against the designs of the Nazis, then trying to rescue Jews, and finally trying to bring news of the German resistance to the attention of the British government. Just hours before his execution in Flossenbürg concentration camp, the man directed his last words to this bishop. That Sunday he spoke them to a British officer, who was imprisoned with him, after he performed his last service and preached his last sermon. This officer was liberated and brought those last words and the news of the man’s death across Europe with him.

Across the English Channel, across France, and across Germany, in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, in a three-story house at 43 Marienburger Allee, an elderly couple sat by their radio. In her time the wife had given birth to eight children, four boys and four girls. The second son had been killed in the First War, and for a whole year his young mother had been unable to function. Twenty-seven years later, a second war would take two more boys from her. The husband was the most prominent psychiatrist in Germany. They had both opposed Hitler from the beginning and were proud of their sons and sons-in-law who had been involved in the conspiracy against him. They all knew the dangers. But when the war at last ended, news of their two sons was slow to arrive in Berlin. A month earlier they had finally heard of the death of their third son, Klaus. But about their youngest son, Dietrich, they had heard nothing. Someone claimed to have seen him alive. Then a neighbor told them that the BBC would the next day broadcast a memorial service in London. It was for Dietrich.

At the appointed hour, the old couple turned on their radio. Soon enough the service was announced for their son. That was how they came to know of his death.

As the couple took in the hard news that the good man who was their son was now dead, so too, many English took in the hard news that the dead man who was a German was good. Thus did the world again begin to reconcile itself to itself.

The man who died was engaged to be married. He was a pastor and a theologian. And he was executed for his role in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

This is his story.

97807180161_0013_001.jpg CHAPTER 1



The rich world of his ancestors set the standards for Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s own life. It gave him a certainty of judgment and manner that cannot be acquired in a single generation. He grew up in a family that believed the essence of learning lay not in a formal education but in the deeply rooted obligation to be guardians of a great historical heritage and intellectual tradition.


In the winter of 1896, before the aforementioned older couple had met, they were invited to attend an open evening at the house of the physicist Oscar Meyer. There, wrote Karl Bonhoeffer years later, I met a young, fair, blue-eyed girl whose bearing was so free and natural, and whose expression was so open and confident, that as soon as she entered the room she took me captive. This moment when I first laid eyes upon my future wife remains in my memory with an almost mystical force.

Karl Bonhoeffer and Paula von Hase married on March 5, 1898, three weeks shy of the groom’s thirtieth birthday. The bride was twenty-two. Both of them—doctor and teacher—came from fabulously illustrious backgrounds. In fact, the family trees of Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer are everywhere so laden with figures of accomplishment that one might expect future generations to be burdened by it all. But the welter of wonderfulness that was their heritage seems to have been a boon, one that buoyed them up so that each child seems not only to have stood on the shoulders of giants but also to have danced on them.

They brought eight children into the world within a decade. The first two sons came in the space of a year: Karl-Friedrich was born on January 13, 1899, and Walter—two months premature—on December 10. Their third son, Klaus, was born in 1901, followed by two daughters, Ursula in 1902 and Christine in 1903. On February 4, 1906, their fourth and youngest son, Dietrich, was born ten minutes before his twin sister, Sabine, and he teased her about this advantage throughout their lives. The twins were baptized by the kaiser’s former chaplain, their grandfather Karl Alfred von Hase, who lived a seven-minute walk away. Susanne, the last child, was born in 1909. Dietrich was the only child to inherit his mother’s fair complexion and flaxen-colored hair. The three elder brothers were dark like their father.

All the Bonhoeffer children were born in Breslau, where Karl Bonhoeffer held the chair in psychiatry and neurology at the university, and was director of the hospital for nervous diseases. The Bonhoeffer house—at 7 Birkenwäldchen—was near Karl’s clinic. It was a gigantic, rambling three-story affair with gabled roofs, numerous chimneys, a screened porch, and a large balcony overlooking the spacious garden where the children played.

Their mother presided over the well-appointed home. Upstairs was the schoolroom with desks, where Paula taught the children their lessons. It had been somewhat shocking when she chose to take the teacher’s examination as a single woman,* but as a married woman, Paula Bonhoeffer used what she had learned to great effect. When they were a bit older, she sent the children to the local public schools, where they invariably excelled.

In 1910, the Bonhoeffers decided to look for a place to spend their holidays. They chose a remote idyll in the woods of the Glatz Mountains near the Bohemian border, a two-hour train ride south of Breslau. The name of this rustic paradise was Wolfesgründ. It was so far off the beaten track that the family never saw another soul, save for a single odd character: a bigoted forestry official who wandered through now and again. Bonhoeffer later memorialized him in a fictionalized account as the character Gelbstiefel (Yellow Boots).

We get our first glimpses of Dietrich during this time, when he was four and five years old. They come to us from his twin, Sabine:

My first memories go back to 1910. I see Dietrich in his party frock, stroking with his small hand the blue silk underskirt; later I see him beside our grandfather, who is sitting by the window with our baby sister Susanne on his knee, while the afternoon sun pours in in the golden light. Here the outlines blur, and only one more scene will form in my mind: first games in the garden in 1911, Dietrich with a mass of ash-blond hair around his sunburnt face, hot from romping, driving away the midges and looking for a shady corner, and yet only obeying very unwillingly the nursemaid’s call to come in, because the immensely energetic game is not yet finished. Heat and thirst were forgotten in the intensity of his play.¹

Sisters Käthe and Maria van Horn came to the Bonhoeffers six months after the twins were born, and for two decades they formed a vital part of the family’s life. Fräulein Käthe was usually in charge of the three little ones. Both van Horn sisters were devout Christians schooled at the community of Herrnhut, which means the Lord’s watch tower, and they had a decided spiritual influence on the Bonhoeffer children.


The eight Bonhoeffer children (circa 1910) and their governess at the holiday home in Wölfelsgrund in the Glatz Mountains. Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer stand in the background. Dietrich is just to the right of the governess, who holds Susanne, the youngest.

(Art Resource, NY)

When Dietrich and Sabine were old enough to be schooled, their mother turned the duty over to Fräulein Käthe, though Paula still presided over the children’s religious instruction. Dietrich’s earliest recorded theological inquiries occurred when he was about four. He asked his mother: Does the good God love the chimney sweep too? and Does God, too, sit down to lunch?

The place of religion in the Bonhoeffer home was far from pietist but followed some Herrnhut traditions. For one thing, the Bonhoeffers rarely went to church; for baptisms and funerals, they usually turned to Paula’s father or brother. The family was not anti-clerical—indeed, the children loved to play at baptizing each other—but their Christianity was mostly of the homegrown variety. Daily life was filled with Bible reading and hymn singing, all of it led by Frau Bonhoeffer. Her reverence for the Scriptures was such that she read Bible stories to her children from the actual Bible text and not from a children’s retelling. Still, she sometimes used an illustrated Bible, explaining the pictures as she went.*

Paula Bonhoeffer’s faith was most evident in the values that she and her husband taught their children. Exhibiting selflessness, expressing generosity, and helping others were central to the family culture. Still, their good behavior did not always come naturally. Fräulein Käthe remembered:

Dietrich was often mischievous and got up to various pranks, not always at the appropriate time. I remember that Dietrich specially liked to do this when the children were supposed to get washed and dressed quickly because we had been invited to go out. So one such day he was dancing round the room, singing and being a thorough nuisance. Suddenly the door opened, his mother descended upon him, boxed his ears right and left, and was gone. Then the nonsense was over. Without shedding a tear, he now did what he ought.²

Karl Bonhoeffer would not have called himself a Christian, but he respected his wife’s tutelage of the children in this and lent his tacit approval to it, even if only by participating as an observer. With the values that his wife taught the children, he was entirely in agreement. Among those values was a serious respect for the feelings and opinions of others, including his wife’s. She was the granddaughter, daughter, and sister of men whose lives were given to theology, and he knew she was serious about her faith and had hired governesses who were serious about it.

There was no place for false piety or any kind of bogus religiosity in our home, Sabine said. Mama expected us to show great resolution. Mere churchgoing held little charm for her. The concept of cheap grace that Dietrich would later make so famous might have had its origins in his mother; perhaps not the term, but the idea behind it, that faith without works is not faith at all, but a simple lack of obedience to God.

The Move to Berlin, 1912

In 1912, Dietrich’s father accepted an appointment to the chair of psychiatry and neurology in Berlin. This put him at the head of his field in Germany. It’s hard to overstate Karl Bonhoeffer’s influence. His mere presence in Berlin turned the city into a bastion against the invasion of Freud’s and Jung’s psycho-analysis, in the words of Eberhard Bethge, a close friend of Dietrich’s. Karl Bonhoeffer never publicly dismissed Freud, Jung, or Adler and their theories, but he held them at arm’s length with a measured skepticism borne of his devotion to empirical science. Bethge quoted Karl Bonhoeffer’s friend, Robert Gaupp, a Heidelberg psychiatrist:

In intuitive psychology and scrupulous observation Bonhoeffer had no superior. But he came from the school of Wernicke, which was solely concerned with the brain, and permitted no departure from thinking in terms of cerebral pathology. . . . [He] had no urge to advance into the realm of dark, undemonstrable, bold and imaginative interpretation, where so much has to be assumed and so little can be proved. . . . [He] remained within the borders of the empirical world that was accessible to him.³

The family’s move from Breslau to Berlin must have felt like a leap. For many, Berlin was the center of the universe. Its university was one of the best in the world, the city was an intellectual and cultural center, and it was the seat of an empire. Their new house—on the Brückenallee, near the northwest part of the Tiergarten—was less spacious than their Breslau house and situated on smaller grounds. But it had the special distinction of sharing a wall with Bellevue Park, where the royal children played.

In 1913, seven-year-old Dietrich began school outside the home. For the next six years he attended the Friedrich-Werder Gymnasium. Dietrich did well in school, but was not beyond needing discipline, which his parents didn’t hesitate to provide. Dietrich does his work naturally and tidily, his father wrote. He likes fighting, and does a great deal of it.

Hurrah! There’s a war!

With the move to Berlin, their Wölfesgrund house was too far away, so the Bonhoeffers sold it and found a country home in Friedrichsbrunn in the Harz Mountains. They spent the summer of 1914 there. But on the first day of August, while the three younger children and their governess were in the village enjoying themselves, the world changed. Flitting here and there through the crowd, until it reached them, was the stunning news that Germany had declared war on Russia. Dietrich and Sabine were eight and a half, and she recalled the scene:

The village was celebrating its local shooting festival. Our governess suddenly dragged us away from the pretty, enticing market stalls and the merry-go-round which was being pulled by a poor white horse, so as to bring us back as quickly as possible to our parents in Berlin. Sadly I looked at the now emptying scene of the festivities, where the stall-holders were hastily pulling down their tents. In the late evening we could hear through the window the songs and shouts of the soldiers in their farewell celebrations. Next day, after the adults had hastily done the packing, we found ourselves sitting in the train to Berlin.

When they arrived back home, one of the girls ran into the house and exclaimed, Hurrah! There’s a war! She was promptly slapped. The Bonhoeffers were not opposed to war, but neither would they celebrate it.

For the most part, however, the boys were thrilled and remained so for some time, though they were careful in expressing it. Dietrich’s brothers wouldn’t be eligible to enlist until 1917, and no one dreamed the war could last that long. But they could at least get caught up in the whole thing and talk about it knowledgeably, as the grown-ups did. Dietrich often played at soldiers with his cousin Hans-Christoph, and the next summer at Friedrichsbrunn, he wrote his parents asking them to send newspaper articles about events at the front. Like many boys, he made a map and stuck colored pins into it, marking the Germans’ advancement.

The War Comes Home

In time the realities of war came home. A cousin was killed. Then another. Another cousin lost a leg. Their cousin Lothar had an eye shot out and a leg severely crushed. Yet another cousin died. Food grew scarce. Even for the relatively well-to-do Bonhoeffers, hunger became an issue. Dietrich distinguished himself as especially resourceful in procuring food; he got so involved in tracking down food supplies that his father praised him for his skill as a messenger and food scout. He even saved his own money to buy a hen.

When Dietrich turned eight, he began piano lessons. All the children had music lessons, but none had showed such promise. Dietrich’s ability to sight-read was remarkable.

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  • (1/5)
    Not a reliable biography. Metaxas, true to form, is a political hack, not a historian. There are better biographies. Try the one by Eberhart Bethge.
  • (4/5)
    There were a lot of neat things I learned from reading this wonderful book about an extraordinary man. For instance, I didn't know that Bonhoeffer's trip to America and his immersion in "negroe churches" caused such a major pivotal change in both his life and his theology. His experiences with "negroe churches" would lay a foundation for his resistance against Hitler and the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. I never knew a movement amongst Christians existed in Germany called "German Christians", a tool Hitler used in attempting to reconcile Nazi beliefs with the Christian church in what would be called the Reich Church. These Christians would be the primary opponents to Bonhoeffer's Confessing Church movement. It was sad to see so many Christians jump onto the Hitler bandwagon. They supported Hitler because of what he had to offer to the people of Germany, a time when Germany was at its lowest point. It's a scary reminder what could happen when Christians take on nationalistic fervor void of any reason or religious foundation. It was also amazing to see the quick about-face Bonhoeffer made when he knew he had to conspire to assassinate Hitler. It happened on the day Germany conquered France and marched into Paris. In a cafe in Eastern Germany, Bonhoeffer joined with the crowd in cheering, "Heil Hitler!" His friend asked, "what are you doing?" To which Bonhoeffer replied, "now is the time to pretend I support Hitler". It was also interesting to note that Bonhoeffer was never arrested and jailed for his conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, rather for his association with his Jewish brother-in-law and confidant, Dohnanyi. It was also likely he was arrested from some trumped up charges with his work in the Abwehr. I was also struck by Bonhoeffer and his soon-to-be-wife Maria von Wedemeyer's long distance love affair. Their engagement remained pure and it was evident how much they loved each other by the numerous letters they wrote to one another. It seems Maria's letters and visits to Bonhoeffer while he was in jail certainly helped sustain him. It was later when Bonhoeffer was moved from Tegel prison to a Gestapo prison and later executed. Not much is known about Bonhoeffer during this time except from what we learn from other prisoners who survived. It is believed just prior to his execution he was last seen providing a sermon to his fellow prisonmates, including an atheist.In retrospect, it does appear to me that Bonhoeffer seemed like a guarded man, never wanting to speak personably with others about his own feelings. He was ultra-conservative in his theological views and at times a tad bit legalistic. Anything and everything that was liberal was very bad to him. And, it seemed he only had negative things to say about the American church in general. He was quick to point out the faults of other believers but never his own. Did he struggle with pride? Perhaps. We all do to some extent I suppose. However, I was inspired by his love for spiritual disciplines: community, prayer, and meditation. He remembered most of the Psalms and often played them to music for which he was naturally gifted. He had a penchant for writing and penned some of the most notable works of religious literature, "The Cost of Discipleship", and "Ethics", to name a few. Bonhoeffer had a rock-solid faith and never seemed to waver despite the many trials and tribulations he faced at the worst time in modern history. He seemed to make the best of each situation, as evident during his time in jail when even the guards and fellow prisonmates enjoyed his character, his wisdom, and faith. Bonhoeffer remains an inspiration to me in so many ways, primarily his unwavering faith in the midst of adversity.A tad bit too long, nevertheless I highly recommend Metaxas' biography about Bonhoeffer. From what I have been told it is perhaps the best record of Bonhoeffer's life written by someone other than Bonhoeffer himself. With this charge I fully concur. Never a dull moment, full of many quotes and letters written by Bonhoeffer and third-party accounts as well. I look forward to reading more of Metaxas' books in the future, along with Bonhoeffer's literary classics.My favorite and most profound quote taken from this book is as follows:"To renounce a full life and its real joys in order to avoid pain is neither Christian nor human." (Bonhoeffer in his letter written to his friend Bethge, 23 January 1944)
  • (5/5)
    Astonishing and enlightening biography about a man who truly fought for good. If only more Christians (people!) were like him.
  • (4/5)
    Metaxes does a creditable job of bringing us the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran pastor, theologian, nazi resister and martyr. We follow him through his privileged background and charmed upbringing, precocious college years, and work in Barcelona, the United States and England. Metaxes is at his best is making the theological underpinnings of Bonhoeffer's life accessible in laymen's terms. It is the depth of his faith that brought m back from the safety of the US in 1939 Nd brought him to participate in the plot to assassinate Hitler. That faith carried him through his lengthy imprisonment and upheld him as he was executed during the waning days of the Third Reich. I always felt as if I could understand how Bonhoeffer thought throughout this well-presented book, but always at a remove. It was much more difficult to feel connected to how Bonhoeffer felt. Seeing as many of his contemporaries found him aloof (and he even apologized in writing to his fiancée about his inability to write abut his emotions), the fault may have been more with Bonhoeffer's own character and not Metaxes' characterization. Very inspirational read during this Lenten season.
  • (5/5)
    The first time I saw this book was when my husband gave it to several of us in the family for Christmas. It would be good for all of us to read it, he said. It is a large book and I put it on my shelf for later. It is also rather intense and requires much mental energy, so I have yet to quiet down for the experience of reading it myself. One day my adult daughter discovered my copy and read the book within a week. She couldn't put it down or stop talking about it. So having read the book [twice] vicariously, I am confident in recommending it. To avoid a too lengthy review here, I suggest you look at some of the others posted on Librarything to get the gist of what it's about. I daresay it is awesome and you will be caught up into it's biographical history.
  • (5/5)
    Theologian, writer, discipler, teacher, musician, inspirer, undaunted, charismatic, truthful, gentle, likeable...these are the qualities that powered his ministry. What would it have been like to sit at feet and hear his voice? Metaxas gives a detailed account of the nazification of the apostate church versus the determination of the true German believers who not only engaged in civil disobedience but also joined the resistance movement. Pastor Bonhoeffer's commitment to establish and strengthen the Christian church while foregoing personal safety is spellbinding.Metaxas also includes much about both Bonhoeffer's trips to New York City. His disillusionment with Union Theological Seminary and Riverside Church strike a personal chord, as I have entered that church. He quickly discerned the apostasy that is still present today.His tragic death in some ways feels like loss for the world. If he had not been martyred, Bonhoeffer would have blessed the world with more teaching and writing. Why the Lord allowed his death at a young age can never be explained, but the good news is he made use of every moment to serve God, and much of his story was preserved in his formal work and personal diaries. The storehouse of his writing is life changing.Metaxas is great storyteller -- great narrative and no preachiness. I will be reading more of his books.
  • (5/5)
    This is not your typical, boring, self-obsessed autobiography.It follows the life of an important defender of the faith in Nazi World War 2 Europe. There is even intrigue relating to the resistance movement against the Nazis.This is the definitive book on Bonhoeffer's life.
  • (5/5)
    This is the most amazing book. the writer was very skilled at touching on events of that time without glorifying or detailing the atrocities but still keeping it very real. i don't want to say to much because it is in experience to question. it is bit of a hard read and took me a week but well worth it. it makes you think and gives you a side view of things and the dedication of the reich long before it even began.
  • (1/5)
    Metaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010.This latest biography about Deitrich Bonhoeffer is a pile of crap. Badly written, badly researched, a novice Bonhoeffer reader like myself could tell that there were aspects that were off about this book in which a minimal amount of research showed that Metaxas is a hack writing under the auspices of providing scholarly work. Don’t read this book unless you choose to read a book that misrepresents and lies about its subject matter.After reading this book, I wanted to make sure that I was not coming to a conclusion that was untrue. Therefore, I shall not repeat what a number of other reviewers have said. Most notably the review by Clifford Green. I would point out this review as Dr. Green is the director of the translation of Bonhoeffer’s complete writings into English. Anything I write would just be a pale comparison from what has to be considered to be the foremost scholar of Bonhoeffer in America. So read his review.However, I will just like to point out what made me first question Metaxas’s scholarship. Metaxas wants to point out that progressive Christianity is a bad thing and Bonhoeffer would be very much against it. One of the ways he does that is by showing Bonhoeffer’s disdain for Union Theological Seminary. He quotes o number of letters in which he points out a number of disagreements with other professors and flaws within the student body. With this information one would have the impression that Bonhoeffer held Union in a rather low disregard. This path of argument did not fit well with me. So I started doing some research on what Bonhoeffer thought of Union. As it happens, I had recently purchased the volume of Bonhoeffer’s works in which the letters Metaxas quoted was a part of. I looked to see if there was other places in which Bonhoeffer wrote about Union. There was. In a later essay, he writes that Union is the foremost seminary in the United States and is the only seminary seriously examining a number of continental theologians. In reality, Bonhoeffer saw both the strengths and shortcomings of Union, as any institution would have, and commented about both in different situations. However, in Metaxas’s hands Bonhoeffer only has negative things to say about Union which would further Metaxas’s agenda but not illuminating the thought of his subject.I had further problems also with the book. The writing was rather awful. In a number of sections in the book it was as if he discovered that Microsoft Word had a thesaurus and he was going to see how many new words he could use. I think it can be presumed that I cannot recommend this book. Don’t waste your money.
  • (4/5)
    If you are looking for a book that gets to the heart of Dietrich Bonhoeffer than you will find it in these 542 pages for sure. Bonhoeffer was truly a complex man, yet courageous and devote. Eric Metaxas did his homework and left no name, place or time out. His use of history, story telling and written letters between Bonhoeffer and his family and friends captured the his struggles, wants and beliefs. In this book you learn who Bonhoeffer was not just from the perspective of others, but from he himself.
  • (4/5)
    This is a solid biography and a look at the Third Reich from a contemporary Christian's point of view. I haven't ever read anything like it. Bonhoeffer was something of a saint as we commonly think of saints. His faith was fervent and unwavering. He was also a scholar; also a musician and a very likeable man, always ready to laugh. He and his family quickly saw through Hitler's appropriation of the German church, and Bonhoeffer was a moving spirit in the Confessing Church that sought to worship Jesus rather than Hitler. He was ecumenical in outlook and took pastorates in Barcelona and London as well as visiting Union Seminary in New York. His concern quickly extended to the plight of the Jews. He was involved as a member of the Abwher in the plots to assassinate Hitler. Just before his arrest, he became engaged to an 18 year-old woman. When he was arrested, the Gestapo didn't realize how involved he was. He was hanged two weeks before the prison at Flossenburg was liberated by the Americans.Metaxas spends some time discussing his theology and gives plenty of quotations from his writing, sermons, and letters. All of this makes for a grand introduction to the man and his thought. This sometimes has the characteristics of a hagiography, but I didn't find the idealization over-bearing in a book of this length.Metaxas spent way too much of his time over-writing. His characterization of individual Nazis is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, an inappropriate response, I'm sure..... "...pursuing a strategy of double-barreled flatulence..." "In the avuncular tone of an iconic chain-restaurant pitchman..." "...a triple-jointed sycophant..." "Heydrich, the piscine ghoul..." On the other hand, he also too often resorted to cliches - "Hitler had to have his cake and eat it too." Anyone who has an interest in the time or in Bonhoeffer and who can ignore or tolerate these flaws should profit from reading the book.
  • (5/5)
    This biography of Bonhoeffer was interesting look inside Germany during the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, and how one man struggled to defy the rulers throughout their rule and ultimately costing his life. It is a wonderful insight on a man who was very devout and steadfast when many gave into the Nazi party.I was disappointed after reading the end there was no wrap up of what happened to the rest of the family! The coverage of Maria von Wedmyer is also lacking. For as through as this book is in the beginning the ending even paperback is lacking. I mean what is another ten or so pages to tell us what happened to many of the survivors and associates of Bonhoeffer and what they did or did not do after his death.Another minor issue that I had was that sometimes some of the German phrases or sayings are not translated or footnoted. I found this difficult and annoying when it happens.Overall a good biography
  • (5/5)
    This is a powerful book. I learned a great deal about Nazi Germany from the perspective of those involved in the attempt to kill Hitler. the author's description of the last few days of Bonhoeffer is the best I have ever read.
  • (4/5)
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the towering figures looming over modern Christianity. His seemingly prophetic perception of the evils of National Socialism and his principled stand that led to his execution remain a powerful witness against the evils fostered upon the world through the unbridled excesses manifest in Nazi Germany.Much more has been written about Bonhoeffer than Bonhoeffer ever wrote; nevertheless, Eric Metaxas has written an accessible if long biography of him entitled Bonhoeffer: Pastor. Martyr. Prophet. Spy. Through it one receives a rather comprehensive view of Bonhoeffer: his family, his upbringing, the theological climate in which he worked, descriptions of the historical events that led to the circumstances in which he found himself, and a decent attempt to synthesize the theology Bonhoeffer developed. As an introduction to Bonhoeffer's world, work, and theology, Metaxas' work succeeds admirably. He does well at contextualizing Bonhoeffer as a brilliant twentieth century German whose "practical," more Barthian theology challenged both the "liberal" and the "conservative" viewpoints, and who seemed to above all seek to live the life exemplified in Jesus. In a mostly anti-Semitic world, he and his family would stand with the right of the Jews to live and exist as they had previously. When other "Christians" attempted to accommodate and/or appease National Socialism, he perceived what it was all about and called for rejecting it. Bonhoeffer perceived, to some extent, Jesus' goal for the transnational Kingdom of God beyond most of his fellow Germans. And then there was the conspiracy against Hitler: the most controversial aspect of Bonhoeffer's life and work.There is a reason why I have said that it succeeds admirably as an introduction: especially in his historical analysis, Metaxas has a tendency to oversimplify and even become a bit too apologetic for both Germany and Bonhoeffer. Furthermore, Metaxas' admiration for Bonhoeffer seems to be a bit overmuch; the work does not seem to suggest much criticism of Bonhoeffer for any reason. This is understandable to an extent: since the book is directed mostly at Americans, it is useful to get a chance to see the "other side" and try to see why the Nazis took over. Nevertheless, the apology provided throughout--"we did not take Hitler seriously; we could not imagine that he could be that evil"-- is a catch-22. It sounds as if something someone would say to maintain a final last shred of dignity after being presented with the clear culpability and thorough evil taking place at that time, a kind of historical revisionism to feel better. If it is actually true and legitimate (and it seems to be to some extent, at least in terms of the view of other nations toward Hitler), then it is in many ways even worse: people come out looking much more foolish, stupid, and naive this way. A more nuanced position would be more frank about the German predilections toward all of the things that ended up happening based upon the entrenched nationalism, Social Darwinism, and memory of the humiliation of WWI still very much alive at that time. Metaxas demonstrates how Hitler and his companions were more influenced by Nietzsche than Christianity and the outright hostility toward Christianity felt by many of the Nazis in high command. Their own words confess their adherence to many scientific dogmas of the day and how they used those dogmas to justify their actions. Ultimately, this level of evil cannot be easily explained, and to that end it is easy to sympathize with Metaxas: how can you explain how Hitler came to be? That same surface treatment also causes difficulty in terms of the discussion of the conspiracy. For me, this has always been the most vexing challenge of Bonhoeffer: one wants to sympathize with his cause, understanding the great evil being perpetrated by Hitler, and one wants to sympathize with his arguments about how all of the deception and work done in an attempt to kill Hitler is justified because of the greater good of getting rid of him. But the conspiracy does not succeed. Most of those who participated were executed. Ultimately, all would have been better off had they not attempted the execution; the Allies were already on the ground in France when the attempt was actually made, and the war would be over within the year. Yes, it is easy to make that declaration in hindsight, but when we are being faced with a theological question like this, it is worth consideration: whereas Bonhoeffer's ultimate goal perhaps was right, did that justify his methodology?These are major challenges, and easy answers do not help. The tone of Metaxas' biography assumes Bonhoeffer is right in believing that what he is doing is what God wills and wants him to do. To challenge that premise is made out to be dangerous; after all, it is easy to play "armchair quarterback" and criticize his actions and thought process in peace and security when he was in great danger and acting boldly. But this may be the ultimate difficulty of Bonhoeffer's execution: he was denied the opportunity to sit down in peacetime, reflect upon his behavior and how everything eventually took place, and try to make sense of it all. We will never know whether he would confess that in the heat of the conflict he went too far or whether he would stand by everything he did until the bitter end. Therefore, we are left with his theology as it was tested in the middle of intense conflict, and its condition is argued in that situation. This is not an attempt to besmirch Bonhoeffer. He perceived the great challenge to historic Christianity that was afoot in the twentieth century, and he stood firm against it. He can be embraced as the conscience of a nation that almost entirely lost it in the war. His challenge to Christian organizations and individuals to take what Jesus said and did seriously and attempt to live similarly in their own day and age is exactly what needed to be declared, and much that is good in theology has developed in his shadow. But Bonhoeffer was not perfect; of all people, he would be the first to admit that. Therefore, his theology and actions, especially in terms of resistance against the state, are things to be discussed, questioned, challenged, and debated, and not necessarily to be wholeheartedly embraced. A good dose of "Lincoln's theology" might present an entirely different view of the matter, viewing Hitler and WWII in similar terms as Lincoln viewed the Civil War. Until the cup of wrath was fully drunk, perhaps, there was not intended to be relief for anyone. Ultimately, only God knows.Could Bonhoeffer have engaged in resistance against the Nazis without the deception and the conspiracy and not just remain in God's will but be better aligned with it in order to see the ultimate end as God was establishing it? This is the question; it has always been the question; it will remain the question. Yet this is beyond the scope of the book, which remains a good introduction to Bonhoeffer, and hopefully many will read it and go on to consider his other books.*--book received as part of early review program
  • (5/5)
    I really liked this book and found it inspiring. Some favorite quotes from the book:No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence. . . .Whether we are young or old makes no difference. What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? . . . Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word. . . Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death. (Dietrich Bonheffer]Payne Best: His soul really shone in the dark desperation of our prison. . . [Bonhoeffer] had always been afraid that he would not be strong enough to stand such a test, but now he knew there was nothing in life of which one need ever be afraid.
  • (4/5)
    This book is absolutely fascinating! I knew nothing about Bonhoeffer except his name, and I had only a vague idea about the plots to assassinate Hitler. Nor did I realize how completely Hitler tried to dominate the German Lutheran churches, or that Churchill refused to help the Germans who were tying to destroy Hitler so I learned a lot in the book. I did get bogged reading some Bonhoeffer’s theological writings but I did enjoy reading parts of his sermons. Some of his writings remind me of Catholic spiritual literature.
  • (5/5)
    Outstanding. What is the church? More Bonhoeffer in my future.
  • (3/5)
    It's a big book, over 500 pages, and I'm a slow reader but I've now finished the most recent biography of the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. It's the set book for the next Theological Study Group at the John Owen Centre - and for once I am ahead in my reading. I enjoyed the book because I knew the name but not much about him. It was good to catch up, my enjoyment sharpend by having two and a half volumes of Richard Evans' trilogy on the Third Reich.I was once door knocking in Childs Hill when I came across Edwin Robertson (1912-2007), former minister of nearby Heath Street Baptist, Hampstead, and a great Bonhoeffer advocate. I guess it's the ecumenical, liberal and Barthian that make you suspicious but Metaxas (a Tim Keller fan - Keller foes the foreword) makes every effort to get you to look again and there are clearly things to learn from a man who for all his faults appears to have had more sympathy for fundamentalism than liberalism. I look forward to discussing the book.Meanwhile one or two quotes:Earthly bliss and humanity belong to God, not in any cramped “religious” sense, but in the fully human sense. Bonhoeffer was a champion of God's idea of humanity, a humanity that he invented and, by participating in it through the incarnation, that he redeemed. (457)So Bonhoeffer was not "naturally" strong and courageous. His equanimity was the result of self-discipline, of deliberately turning to God. (463)And from the man himself:It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love. (458)To renounce a full life and its real joys in order to avoid pain is neither Christian nor human (463)Very stimulating stuff.PS The start of the book is so brilliantly sparkling that it cannot be sustained and isn't but it keeps up a high standard throughout. It is a little hagiographical, perhaps.
  • (4/5)
    Excellent historical build-up for understanding Bonhoeffer's choices. Great addition for anyone interested in this unique theologian.
  • (4/5)
    I can’t imagine being a German, staunchly opposed to Hitler’s regime, during WWII. I frequently hear people wonder why no Germans stood up against him when he was ordering such horrific acts to be committed, but in reality, some did, and they were persecuted because of it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life was a fascinating one. He’s one of the few people I’ve ever read about who truly lived by example. Friends, family and colleagues unanimously agreed on that point. He was kind, generous and incredibly talented as both a minister and musician. He took his beliefs seriously and lived his life according to what he preached. This biography gives an in-depth (seriously, more than 600 pages) look at the man behind the book “The Cost of Discipleship.” I had no idea Bonhoeffer was involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. I also didn’t realize he was engaged while imprisoned. He and his fiancée corresponded through letters when they weren’t able to see each other. If Bonhoeffer has ever sparked your interest or you’re a WWII junkie like me, then definitely read this one. If you’ve never heard of him and you’re sick of reading about the 1940s in Europe, then skip it. “In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things, the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity.” -Bonhoeffer“A human beings moral integrity begins when he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions.” 
  • (5/5)
    As Adolph Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a samll 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 dlassics as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, as for his 1945 execution in a concentration camp for his part to assassinate Adolph Hitler.
  • (5/5)
    Very readable biography of an amazing life lived during an especially difficult period of our recent history. The author is especially able to communicate the theology and ideals that formed and informed this man who was able to stand against Hitler and the Nazi regime. Not a dry or dull moment in the book!
  • (5/5)
    An outstanding biography richly portrays a compassionate and deeply moral mind struggling against the overwhelming "anti-Christianity" and immorality of the Third Reich. Reading about Deitrich Bonhoffer, I found myself inspired and, yet somewhat saddened that our public figures today so lack the depth of though and the moral compass that Bonhoffer struggled so hard to define.
  • (5/5)
    Inspirational story of a man who would sacrifice anything and everything for the high principles derived from his faith in God.
  • (5/5)
    This is a great biography of a great man, who gave his life to God as a pastor and was killed for his role in the plot to assasinate Hitler in Nazi Germany. It traces his life from before his birth to his death. This a large book (600 or so pages), but well worth the read, both as a biography and an insight into the church struggles worldwide during WWII.
  • (5/5)
    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 to be killed and that he would be part of the plot to accomplish the death. Bonnhoeffer came from a prominent and affluent family, many of whose members were highly placed in science, government, and the church. As a result of his insider connections, he recognized the evils of Nazism long before most Germans had any idea of what was happening. He was in his late 20's when Hitler came to power, and he was speaking out against the Fuhrer a few days after Hitler's election.He joined Military Intelligence as a front for being part of the conspiracy to kill Hitler and end the Nazi regime. "Bonnhoeffer was pretending to be a pastor—but was only pretending to be pretending, since he really was being a pastor. And he was pretending to be a member of Military Intelligence working for Hitler, but ... he was in reality working against Hitler. Bonnhoeffer was not telling little white lies. In Luther's famous phrase, he was 'sinning boldly.' He was involved in a high-stakes game of deception upon deception, and yet Bonnhoeffer himself knew that in all of it, he was being utterly obedient to God."During all this, he was a faithful pastor, especially to pastors he had trained in the illegal seminary he ran, and he wrote prolifically. After learning so much more about this inspiring man's life, I want to read The Cost of Discipleship and other Bonnhoeffer writings. Metaxas said of Bonnhoeffer: "His strength was borrowed from God and lent to others." Bonnhoeffer borrowed and lent that strength all the way to his execution. Even the Nazi camp doctor said that in his 50 years as a doctor, he had never seen anyone die "so entirely submissive to the will of God."I saw similarities between the state of the German church before and during World War II and the state of many of the mainline denominations in the US today. The German church allowed itself to become a political arm of the Nazi government and swore loyalty to Hitler instead of to God. Bonnhoeffer was a leader in the Confessing Church, the pastors and churches who resisted the Nazis. However, even many of the Confessing Church eventually succumbed to assimilation into the Nazi world. No, we don't have a single national church as the Lutheran Church was in Germany, and I don't see churches pledging fealty to an evil, murderous dictator. However, many of the churches are failing to stand up as God's militant church and are accepting and promoting the values of the world more than the truth of God. Tolerance is a higher priority than God's laws. The Bible isn't believed as God's infallible Word. Churches are more concerned for members' comfort and prosperity than for their souls.May Christians everywhere dedicate themselves to God's will above all else, as Dietrich Bonnhoeffer did—even when it cost him his freedom and ultimately his life.
  • (5/5)
    A truly great book about a truly great man. From other sources, I was determined to read about this man. Imagine my surprise when I was at my local library recently and this book was prominently displayed. The book is more than I expected but it is everything I wanted. Describing Bonhoeffer as a great man is understatement. I truly believe if Bonehoffer had appeared anywhere else in the history of the world but as a citizen of the worst civilization in history, his fame would be magnified to be one of the great thinkers of humankind. As it is, his thoughts are the stuff of sainthood. I've been told by a Lutheran Pastor that some of his thinking is "embarrassing." That's alright. There is much that Jesus said that is embarrassing too if you want to look at it that way.
  • (5/5)
    I would agree to jds review and add that we could learn a lesson by the people in the church sitting back doing nothing,we have abortion and no prayer in schools. How many times did we hear during the presidential election we just want change,so did Germany.
  • (5/5)
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer is someone that is widely recognized(and surprisingly largely uncontested) in the catholic church as being extremely influential and a pillar of true faith. I have read a couple of his books and have been extremely challenged by his call to community(before it was popular!) and costly grace. In this biography by Eric Metaxas, we are given an extremely thorough look into his life, from growing up in a house of extreme intelligence and pressures all the way to the days leading up to his eventual death as part of the plot to kill Adolf Hitler.Metaxas did a fantastic job of having just the right amount of information that while still a pretty long book, I never felt bogged down by it at any point. It was extremely apparent that he spent large amounts of time before compiling this book and it really helps as a fantastic supplement to his works. We are able to see the silly side of Bonhoeffer as well as many letters of correspondence between him and others are shared in great detail throughout the book.Overall, I am quite happy that this was the first and only biography that I have read on Bonhoeffer. It truly seemed so comprehensive and well-researched that no other would be able to compete in providing more information about the remarkable man Bonhoeffer was.P.S. As full disclosure, I must not that I reviewed this book as part of Thomas Nelson's book review program and so received this for free. I am not required to write a positive review, however, and would certainly do so if necessary.
  • (4/5)
    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, 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 taled out of pursuing such policies.