Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

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by Eric Metaxas, Timothy Keller

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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


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.

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Bonhoeffer Abridged

Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy


Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2014 Eric Metaxas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-1619-7




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.

—Eberhard Bethge

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. At ten he was playing Mozart's sonatas. The opportunities for exposure to great music in Berlin were endless. When he was eleven, he heard Beethoven's Ninth Symphony performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, under the direction of Arthur Nikisch, and he wrote to his grandmother about it. Eventually, he even arranged and composed.

Most of Dietrich's earliest musical experiences came in the context of the family's musical evenings each Saturday night. His sister Susanne remembered:

We had supper at half-past seven and then we went into the drawing room. Usually, the boys began with a trio: Karl-Friedrich played the piano, Walter the violin, and Klaus the cello. Then "Hörnchen" accompanied my mother as she sang. Each one who had had teaching that week had to present something that evening. Sabine learned the violin, and the two big sisters sang duets as well as Lieder by Schubert, Brahms, and Beethoven. Dietrich was far better at the piano than Karl-Friedrich.

According to Sabine, Dietrich was especially sensitive and generous as an accompanist, "always anxious to cover over the mistakes of the other players and to spare them any embarrassment." His future sister-in-law Emmi Delbrück was often there too:

While we were playing, Dietrich at the piano kept us all in order. I do not remember a moment when he did not know where each of us was. He never just played his own part: from the beginning he heard the whole of it. If the cello took a long time tuning beforehand, or between movements, he sank his head and didn't betray the slightest impatience. He was courteous by nature.

In March 1916, while the war raged on, the family moved from the Brückenallee to a house in Berlin's Grunewald district. Like most homes in Grunewald, the Bonhoeffer home at 14 Wangenheimstrasse was huge, with a full acre of gardens and grounds. It was another prestigious neighborhood, where many of Berlin's distinguished professors lived. The Bonhoeffers became close to many of them, and their children spent so much time together that they would eventually begin marrying each other.

As the war continued, the Bonhoeffers heard of more deaths and injuries among their wide circle. In 1917, their two eldest, Karl-Friedrich and Walter, were called up. Though they might easily have done so, their parents didn't pull any strings to help them avoid serving on the front lines. Germany's greatest need was in the infantry, and there both boys enlisted. Following basic training, the two young Bonhoeffers would be sent to the front.

Walter had been preparing for this moment since the war broke out, strengthening himself by taking long hikes with extra weights in his backpack. Karl-Friedrich actually took along his physics textbook. Things were still looking very well for Germany that year. In fact, the Germans were so confident that on March 24, 1918, the kaiser declared a national holiday.

Walter left in April 1918. As they had always done and would do for their grandchildren's generation twenty-five years hence, the Bonhoeffers gave Walter a festive send-off dinner. The large family gathered around the large table, gave handmade presents, and recited poems and sang songs composed for the occasion. Dietrich, then twelve, composed an arrangement of "Now, at the last, we say Godspeed on your journey" and, accompanying himself on the piano, sang it to his brother. They took Walter to the station the next morning, and as the train was pulling away, Paula Bonhoeffer ran alongside it, telling her fresh-faced boy: "It's only space that separates us."


Excerpted from Bonhoeffer Abridged by ERIC METAXAS. Copyright © 2014 Eric Metaxas. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Eric Metaxas is the author of the New York Times bestseller Amazing Grace, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask), Everything Else You Always Wanted to Know About God, and thirty children’s books. He is founder and host of Socrates in the City in New York City, where he lives with his wife and daughter. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Washington Post, Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Marks Hill Review, and First Things. He has written for VeggieTales and Rabbit Ears Productions, earning three Grammy nominations for Best Children’s Recording.

Timothy Keller is the founder and senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God. He has also mentored young urban church planters and pastors in New York and other cities through Redeemer City to City, which has helped launch over 200 churches in 35 global cities to date.

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Bonhoeffer 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 441 reviews.
Jimmyd8466 More than 1 year ago
BONHOEFFER Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas is really, really great. This is a heavy book. Yes, the subject matter is serious, but I mean this book is heavy, like three pounds. Metaxas is so detailed in his description of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life that's it feels like you are reading every possible bit of information that could be found on him. Metaxas did all the work for us and wrote an amazing biography. This book covers Dietrich's upbringing, family life, spiritual formation, ministry and eventually his involvement in the plot to end Hitler's life and ultimately Bonhoeffer's execution. Bonhoeffer's insistence that a spiritual life is a life fully lived, in service to God and others, not a life split into sacred and secular divisions seems especially relevant in a culture where we too easily fall into the trap of a lifestyle of consumption and compartmentalization. I would definitely recommend this book. It was fascinating to read about this theological giant, and about the world he lived in, his thoughts on what it truly meant to be a follower of Jesus, and the struggles he dealt with as he saw the church sit idly by while evil men had their way. I received this book as a part of Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program.
RayShackelford More than 1 year ago
I just finished this powerful book. It's amazing how a man's entire life can be reduced to a mere 542 pages. But what a life! This German Pastor came from a prominent family. His father was an anti-Freudian psychiatrist, his older brother worked with Einstein to split the atom! Dietrich? Well, he just fought Hitler. He pastored, taught seminary and wrote extensively as well, but amazingly, he was involved in three of the fifteen attempts on Hitler's life. He was arrested on a trivial charge, but evidence was eventually discovered by the Gestapo that illuminated the true depths of his involvement in the widespread intrigue against Hitler. It is widely agreed that Hitler himself ordered his execution, which was carried out mere weeks before the Americans reached the prison where he was being held. Bonhoeffer gave us terms like "cheap grace" (forgiveness with little or no repentance) and "religionless Christianity" (in which one maintained a relationship with God as opposed to observing "religious" rules and customs). Two of his famous works were assigned to me in seminary: The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics. I also recommend them to you. The book is not light reading, but life-changing materials rarely are. Do yourself a favor, get this book and meet and get to "know" Dietrich Bonhoeffer, you'll be the better for it.
Prisca_Sapientia More than 1 year ago
As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis slummed the depths of amorality in an effort to quite literally take over, and ethnically "cleanse", the world, there were those whose faith in a greater good led them to take a stand against evil incarnate. One of these men was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who wrote The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, and Ethics. Metaxas begins this true tale from the very beginning, Bonhoeffer's birth as a twin to sister Sabine on February 4, 1906. By meticulously gathering memories and written documentation of Bonhoeffer's childhood, Metaxas paints the picture of a child that would grow into a man who would later become the recipient of a martyr's crown. We discover that Bonhoeffer knew from the age of thirteen that he would study theology. At the time he felt this was an intellectual pursuit, but as time would show, he would become not only an intellectual theologian, but a man who truly and wholeheartedly lived out his faith every day to the smallest detail. He would become as much of a model of the Christian life as a fallen human can be, and he would become humble and tenderhearted, always thinking of others, and of Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer was also a scandal to liberal theologians of his day, and in a ironic move that was quite Lutheresque, he would openly oppose and expose the growing unorthodoxy of the German state church which began to fall more in line with Hitler's ideas of racial inferiority and superiority and less in line with the biblical mandate of loving one's neighbor. This was no small argument and in fact fed into the frenzy that became Hitler's train wreck. Years before anyone openly saw the path Germany was on, Bonhoeffer seemed to have a pretty good grasp of what lay ahead and he had a Rock to stand on even though the winds of opposition blew on every side. Metaxas explains Bonhoeffer's life in such a way that readers can understand exactly what his theological leanings were and also peer into the very heart of an intensely private man - no easy feat. From the private journal of Bonhoeffer, we see a real and relatable man. We see the most private side of Bonhoeffer, that of his love for his fiance, Maria, through his and her own letters to one another. Bonhoeffer touched people in ways he likely never imagined; the statements of those who observed him and spoke about him after his death show that people were deeply affected by Bonhoeffer's utter submission to his God. The final chapters leading up to the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer are written particularly well and with quite abit of firsthand information. Bonhoeffer was always selflessly encouraging others, right down through the anxiety of regular air raids. The day before his death, he lead his fellow motley crew of prisoners through a sermon they had requested of him. Metaxas blesses us with these last pastoral words of Bonhoeffer, lovely in their manner; just right in reaching the hearts of those around him given their circumstances. Literally upon concluding, prison guards came for him...he did not know he was being led to his death, yet he knew. His final words in this group were, "This is the end, for me the beginning of life." This is one of the best biographis I have ever read, not only because of the extraordinary life it chronicles, but because of the scholarly and respectful manner in which the telling of this life is handled. Metaxas makes a solid contribution to sharing the life of Bonhoeffer.
Phileo More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating story of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The story is different in that we see the life of a prominent German Aristocrat Theologian from inside Nazi Germany during the time and trials of Hitler and his evil regime. It is an honor to learn of the life of Bonhoeffer, as he stays true to God, no matter his circumstances, or situation. He endures many hardships, trials, and tribulations, and remains true to the Gospel and to God throughout his life. Even more fascinating is the attitude which is portrayed of Bonhoeffer throughout this book. This book is carefully crafted, and painstakingly detailed to where the story is given great light and credibility to the reader. This is a story of encouragement in the face of grave danger and peril. Eric Metaxas does a great job in portraying this martyr for Christ, and every Christian who is serious about their faith should read this great work of nonfiction. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Jerry_Haas More than 1 year ago
Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood on God's word as he stood against and was martyred by the fascist regime of Hitler's Nazi Germany. Like many, I knew what Bonhoeffer did, but I did not know who he was. Metaxas allows us to see how God had prepared Bonhoeffer for the greatest test of his life. A life he would give in order to stand on the absolute truth of God's word. However, it wasn't the Bonhoeffer that went against the wishes of his parents and older brothers by studying theology that would be martyred for his faith, it was the Bonhoeffer that came to America and was transformed by his time worshiping at Abyssinian Baptist Church and Community House in Harlem - an African American church led by Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., the son of slaves. In fact, Bonhoeffer was such a transformed man upon his return to Germany that some believe it was during his time at Abyssinian that he was born again. This is a great book for not only obtaining a historical perspective about one of the giants of our faith, but to be encouraged by the example of how God can use anyone who is willing to, by faith, obey Him. Thomas Nelson provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my reviewing it, but with no obligation as to whether or not I would recommend it to others. I wholeheartedly give it my recommendation.
RevJG More than 1 year ago
We throw phrases around so easily these days, especially in the sphere of gushing blog reviews. I know that, but I'm about to write a gushing review and there's a phrase I'm in need of that has been overused, but that applies so perfectly to this book. The book I'm referring to is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (which I'm reviewing as part of Thomas Nelson's program). The phrase I'm needing to use is "the author weaves a rich tapestry", which Metaxas really does. Though the central figure of Bonhoeffer shines brightly from the 542 pages of biographical writing, there are multiple threads that flow throughout the narration. There is an overview of the Third Reich, a history of the Confessing Church, a great section on Luther and the abuse of his later writings, and much in the way of family relations. The vision of early 20th Century Germany is much more complex than the movies have often made out, and we see Metaxas evaluate how Germany came to be under the authority of an evil dictator. The author does a solid job of informing without condoning, but neither does he blindly condemn all of Germany. Instead, I found myself immersed in the confusion and disturbance of a nation torn. It really was a quite remarkable experience! Most compelling to me was the tracing of Bonhoeffer's theological path, and the centrality of his devotion to the Word and prayer. That, in the midst of suffering, confusion and upheaval, a man could maintain his discipline, and even be sustained by it is inspiring and convicting.The writing itself is fluid, with both beauty and truth expressed clearly. I love how the excerpts of letters and other varied writings are used within the narration, letting people tell their own tales but maintaining the flow. Metaxas is a skilled and passionate author, that is for sure! Ultimately, the proof of this text is twofold: firstly, at a practical level, I've never been much of a history buff, nor one to read biographies, but I could not get away from Bonhoeffer; secondly, reading about the man's life and thought compel me to read his own works, and I am sure that I shall gain that much more from them having read Metaxas' book. Highly engaging, expertly crafted and destined to take a top spot in my reading list of 2010.
D_Nare More than 1 year ago
Eric Metaxas's "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" is the best biography I ever read. It consists of many facts about Dietrich Bonhoeffer I was unaware of. This book contains a lot more than Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the greatest theologian in the history, a believer of God and a Hero. Metaxas takes us from the early childhood of Bonhoeffer to his martyrdom in a sequence of chronological events which erects in front of us the complete world of that time. The author has done a tremendous research work which is portrayed in the book by involvement of Bonhoeffer's letters to the family and friends and interviews of the people who lived at that time and experienced such an influential personality in the history. Bonhoeffer's life sets an example to know the will of God through the medium of world and making a true sense out of it. In a world of evil and sins he stood against the Hitler and Nazis and sacrificed his life for the path of truth on which he believed. He was accused of involvement in a conspiracy against Hitler but he was stood against the evil at the time when the church failed to sustain. Every aspect of Bonhoeffer's life is beautifully pictured in these 544 pages, giving all the events that mould his character and beliefs. Whether you are a fan of biographies or not, this is truly a must read.
lsrom828 More than 1 year ago
I must be honest and say that I have NOT read this bood as of yet. HOWEVER: I was listening to a radio program in which they were interviewing Metaxas and when I found out the subject matter of the book, I immediately became excited! When I graduated from a Mennonite High School- 27 years ago- the commencement speech had many quotations from Bonhoeffer himself. He was the subject matter in many of my faith classes. This mans life, lived out by his sincerely held beliefs in the standards set forth in the Bible, by God- made a HUGE impression on me! At 44 yrs. of age, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the life I have chosen to lead, has been based in my faith, but has also gleened from the examples of the saints that have gone on before me- for example Bonhoeffer. I am MOST excited about reading this book! In listening to Metaxas' interview, I was taken by his enthusiasm and explanation of his years of study and digging up information re: Bonhoeffer. The fact that Metaxas seemed to not be able to get enough and was so impacted by this man- well- it's rare that one finds that in a biographer. That fact alone made this a book I can't wait to pick up! Based on my knowings of Bonhoeffer and what I learned from this interview- I highly suggest that this be a read for your summer- it's sure to be a winner! A review upon reading will follow!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello, there! I've just received a new book from booksneeze called "Bonhoeffer" by Eric Metaxas. Before I get started, however, I simply must let you all know that I have received this book for free from the booksneeze blogging program through the Thomas Nelson publishing company. I am under no legal obligation to give this book a positive review, and anything I say is my honest, legitimate opinion in regards to the book. Now, on with the show! So, anyway, I've heard of a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer in passing- but I've never really known who exactly he was. When I got this book, I was astounded at this man. His story, his testimony, and the way God used him just amazed me. I quite literally rejoiced at his victories and cried at his death. This is one man that I honestly look forward to meeting when I meet him in heaven. This book was extremely well written and I would suggest it to nearly everyone, especially those who love history, who find World War II interesting, or who love hearing a good story or learning about Christian martyrs. I give this book a solid five out of five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bonhoeffer was a martyr, yes. That much is obvious. But behind the martyr was a man. A human being. A guy with feelings, with family dedications, with a propensity toward love. A man who loved greatly and lost just as much. What surprised me about this lavish volume was that it was not a boring history book, studded with facts and dates repeated. It began with the beginning -- with Dietrich Bonhoeffer's birth and childhood -- with his relationships with his siblings. Reading about his childhood would make anyone pine for such an idyllic upbringing -- he had the best of many worlds. It is this solid foundation that granted him the strength, wisdom, and fortitude to endure what his future would bring. Following is a natural progression into his academic life. I did find the extensive descriptions about his theological research, thesis, and dissertations a bit over my head. It was nice to see the timeline of his written works, though, and see how his current life situations led to each of them being written (or paused and later completed). The book began to grow more exciting as it told of Dietrich's involvement in the resistance against Hitler in his homeland of Germany. He as partly spurred ahead into this movement due to a short visit to the United States where his faith was ignited and vision for the church was vastly expanded. Bonhoeffer's subtle influences within the famed Valkyrie plot are also unpacked. Love letters between he and his fiancee (which somehow I knew nothing about) and hopeful letters to home are also included in this excellent timeline of Bonhoeffer's life, including his subsequent stints in prisons and concentration camps. Though I knew what lay at the end, my heart still ached when I got to the finish of his life's story. It is inspiring to read about someone whose convictions and faith held so strong to the very end, even to that final day on earth. I have much more knowledge of and respect for Bonhoeffer, his family members, and close friends now that I have read this account of his life.
sunshineTH More than 1 year ago
The new Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography by Eric Metaxas is one of the most comprehensive biography's written on the man. It is also a fast and fascinating read. The scope of research that plays into this biography is vast, it needs to be in order to understand the moment in time into which Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived. This book includes church history, politics, psychology, and interesting personal anecdotes from Bonhoeffer's life. Most other biographies seem to cover only one aspect of Bonhoeffer. But, as the subtitle of this book indicates, he was a pastor, martyr, prophet, and spy. I can not recommend this book enough. If you take one look into the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer you will provide yourself with enough questions not only to get through book club but to get through life.
sdrain More than 1 year ago
Eric Metaxas delivers an extensive biography of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Metaxas chronicles Bonhoeffer's life from childhood, through his academic years, his pastoral years, time spent with the German Resistance against Hitler, and finally ends with his execution. Throughout the biography, Metaxas inserts letters and writings that further help us to understand the thought process behind Bonhoeffer's actions. Additionally, Metaxas includes a lot of history to help the reader understand the culture and times in which Bonhoeffer lived. I LOVED this biography. I would HIGHLY recommend it to everyone I know. I haven't read much Bonhoeffer, but reading about his life and the small snippets of his writings makes me want to immediately go out and read everything he's ever written. This work was inspiring and often quite convicting. There were times when Metaxas was very wordy and he really enjoyed using clichés, but I was willing to look past all that because of how incredible the story was. And the fact that Bonhoeffer actually lived and did all these things rather than just being some made up hero figure is what really makes this biography so great. It shows us that we can live truly powerful lives if we completely commit ourselves and our wills into God's hands. Don't be daunted by how long this book is. Every once in awhile it seems to drag, but it is truly worth the time. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255
RynO39 More than 1 year ago
Read through the Bonhoeffer book. Funny thing is I actually had this book in my hand to buy a week before it was sent to me. What an incredible story. What an incredible man. I wish this was made into a movie. Some of the junk that comes out today... this would be a great break from the stuff that hollywood puts out. I was struck that, though Bonhoeffer's theology was sometimes a little bit suspect, and at times slightly exaggerated, it seems clear that he was the right man at the right time. Metaxas does a very good job of explaining the cultural and religious context in which Bonhoeffer grew up and in which he ministered. With such a background it was almost inevitable that some of his beliefs would seem strange to us; and yet it's difficult to see how he could have arrived at any other beliefs. He was a product of his time, of his culture, of his church. There are some who can see only what Bonhoeffer got wrong, but such people are not being fair to all of this context. From all I could see in this book, Bonhoeffer knew and treasured the gospel. And what's more, he shared it unapologetically at a time when to do so was to put oneself at odds with the nation, its church and its government. I recommend this book wholeheartedly!
Shoeless_Joe More than 1 year ago
As other reviews have noted, this is an outstanding biography of a 20th century theologian who battled Nazi Germany. Eric Metaxas provides a gripping account of Bonhoeffer's efforts to fight the influence of the Nazi regime on the German Lutheran church. For the most part, the narrative flows like a gripping novel. Even knowing Bonhoeffer's fate, I found myself hoping for (and almost expecting) a different end. But this book functions as so much more. It provides a historical glimpse of Hitler's and the Nazi regime's propaganda machine; the German conspiracies to assasinate Hitler; and the struggle for the German Lutheran Church's soul. It is a sociological study that touches on both a nation's struggle with its pride and shame and the struggle of individual citizens of that nation as they come to terms with the evil that was Hitler and the Nazis. It presents both theological and philosophical discussions on the nature of religion, God and Christ, and their relationship with man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book immensely! It gave an insiders view of what went on in Hitler's Germany - and of Hitler himself. At times the reading was difficult because of the way the author was brought up (to thoroughly think through what one wished to say before speaking) and, because he had to think through any repercussions there might be. It was a beautiful portrait of a man who loved the Lord, and who, selflessly, helped many people. The author quoted many sources of information that were relevant to the subject of the book.
terdsie More than 1 year ago
by Eric Metaxas Thomas Nelson Publishing This story is a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer - A theologian from Germany who came of age during the rise of the Third Reich, played a part in the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and died wholly devoted to the God he served with all of his heart. I have never read a biography of such an incredible man before, and the task seemed daunting at first. The size of this book is tremendous and, despite all of the work that went into this story, I have no doubt that even more could have been written. A two and a half page bibliography and 20 pages of notes simply add to the flavor and rich texture that was Bonhoeffer's life. Eric Metaxas has compiled a vast amount of information and put it together in a very well written story that flows as though you are reading a novel. As you read through the pages you will find yourself immersed in the life of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of intense devotion, determination, and tragedy. I highly recommend this book. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"bonhoeffer" is a very new and exciting bestseller that I found very hard to put down. I had always enjoyed reading about his life and the many books that he had wrote but had always wanted to read a very detailed bio of this brave patriots life . the arthur eric metaxas has done a wonderful job on the life of dietrch bonhoeffer it is so richly detailed there are even alot of never before seeen photos and writings included in this book also. this book gives details of bonhoeffers ministry and challenge to the nazi movement and his life in the underground and his family and I really got to know this very special patriot as well as showing what I do with my faith . this book would make a great gift for a friend family member or pastor friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Superb biography, but be forewarned that the nook edition contains none of the many photographs included in the print edition. This can be especially frustrating for a biography. Please: can BN list this information in advance of purchase?!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book and held my attention throughout. However I was extremely disappointed that the e Book failed to include the photogaphs and writings that are in the hard copy particularly the beautiful Who Am I?.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overall, this was a great book with many things to ponder, struggle with, debate, and share. I personally did not prefer the author's style of writing (very biased & the order I felt was jumbled), but once you get past it, you discover that that is a minor detail in regards to the topics it covers and the abundance of discussion this book brings. I enjoy books that challenge me to think outside of my preconceived box and this one did just that. I would recommend this for: - anyone 13 on up who enjoys a good read - small groups as this is sure to produce discussion
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recently read Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy to Eric Metaxas. I had never heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so I was enthralled to read his story. His newly-discovered faith led him to plot against Hitler (a certain death sentence if it were discovered). This book is hefty, but reads so easily, for a biography. (Not those dry and boring types you've suffered through before, and *not* like the history book you last used to study the holocaust. I found this story amazing, and inspiring. While I hope to never be in such circumstances, I hope that I would have the faith and God-given strength to stand up for what is right, regardless of the personal consequences. You will not be disappointed with with book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book answered many of the questions that I have had for many years. Questions about how the German people were so taken in by Adolph Hitler? Why were the Christian Churches so silent during this era? Where were God's men and women? "Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet" answers those questions and much more.
barry2B More than 1 year ago
A great read for a biography! It really tells the story of Hitler's rise to power and many of the things that were occuring under the radar in Germany before America was involved with the war. It was good to know that at least some of the citizens were aware of what was going on and tried to help the persecuted as well as remove Hitler from power. It also details the struggle for the German Christians who tried to oppose the Nazi party.
jd234512 More than 1 year ago
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.
Michael_Lee_Stallard More than 1 year ago
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 Dietrich Bonhoeffer who loved life, was curious, open-minded, generous and courageous. Bonhoeffer had a passion for seeking God's will through studying Scripture and prayer but also through exploring the world to make sense of it. He was learned in art, music and literature. He persevered in seeking God and once he felt God's will for his life was revealed to him, he acted upon it. Time and again I was surprised and delighted reading Metaxas' accounts of the events that shaped Bonhoeffer's character. For example, while attending Union Theological Seminary in New York City during the 1930s, Bonhoeffer, a bespectacled, patrician German, attended an African-American church in Harlem where he discovered spiritual depth and powerful worship. He came to love African-American spirituals. I won't say more for fear of spoiling it for you. Suffice it to say, by the time I reached the account of the concentration camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer's final moments of life and his execution, I loved this man and was heartbroken by his martyrdom yet inspired by his tremendous faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a new hero for me, thanks to Metaxas' book. To be honest, it has shaken me up, and inspired and challenged me to examine my faith and life. Many thanks to Eric Metaxas for the remarkable job he has done bringing this extraordinary man's story and legacy to life in a way that applies to each and every one of us today.