Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Eric Metaxas

My wife appreciates biographies and memoirs, whereas my feelings toward those genres are generally more indifferent. Still, when I find an interesting subject or a gripping author, I’m just as enthralled as with Tolkien or Lewis. So I was delighted when my wife read Bonhoeffer and gave a glowing referral on both accounts.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor in 1930’s Germany who wrestled with scripture and struggled to maintain the true church amidst a growing divide among his fellow Christians. This infighting threatened to tear apart his homeland as more and more believers drifted toward either nominal Christianity and the questionable ethics of early 20th century progressivism on the one hand or dogmatic Christianity and hardline nationalism on the other.

Eventually, this schism paved the way for a populist with tyrannical leanings named Adolf Hitler to manipulate many Christians into handing him the reigns. But not all Christians. Not Bonhoeffer. He and a tiny contingent saw past the tyrant’s enticing promises. Together, they were determined to hold onto truth in the midst of so much darkness.

But as Hitler tightened his grip on power, Bonhoeffer was left with fewer and fewer options as he witnessed his beloved country slowly march to war. With obstacles mounting and threats to his life looming ever larger, this peaceful pastor took an unorthodox and questionable path toward what he believed was the only hope for Germany and the Christian church of his ancestors.

Eric Metaxas does a splendid job of fleshing out the mind and motives of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Even though he occasionally detours down pointless corridors, he generally keeps his narrative tight and focused. Further, he shows formidable skill in relaying emotion and tension when they’re needed the most. His foreshadowing, too, keeps you thirsty to find out more of the pastor’s fate (dark and doomed as it is, even from the start).

The genre might not be to everyone’s tastes, but I think this biography invites new readers and leaves them satiated.

5 out of 5 stars

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