Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bonhoeffer: a review

I finally finished reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. It took four months to make my way through 544 meaty pages. I challenge you to take on this book; it's incredible.

In writing about Bonhoeffer, I am almost speechless. And brainless. Eric Metaxas is a brilliant writer who draws you in to the inspiring, breath-taking and martyred life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. First you learn of his idyllic boyhood in a family of eight children. His parents were highly intelligent, his mother Paula possessing and passing on her strong faith. It was likely from her influence that Dietrich's idea of "cheap grace" was born: that "faith without works is not faith at all, but a simple lack of obedience to God." (page 14)

Incredibly, it was Paula Bonhoeffer who probably contributed to her son's eventual demise in prodding and challenging him to speak publicly against the Nazis and truly live out his faith. I kept asking myself, "could I do that?"

The book's subtitle, "pastor, martyr, prophet, spy" are all detailed in the book. Bonhoeffer became an academic theologian and eventually felt called into ministry. His magnetic faith in God and love of others drew people to him. He and his family could see the writing on the wall as Hitler came to power. They had an uncanny ability to see, through Hitler's early workings, that the future of the German people was in great peril.

And so, in what he saw as obedience to God, Bonhoeffer immersed himself as a spy in a series of conspiracies against Hitler. He willingly put himself in grave danger and in fact accepted that he might lose his life in his pursuit to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for two years and never got to marry Maria von Wedemeyer to whom he was engaged. Just three weeks before Hitler took his own life and the war ended, Bonhoeffer was executed along with other conspirators, their fates sealed when documents of the conspiracy were discovered and given to Hitler. On the morning of his death, April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer kneeled and prayed fervently. Said the doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer's execution: "in the almost fifty years I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

Since I was a child, I've been fascinated by biographies. I love getting to know a real person, not a fictional character described in a novel. This one was difficult to read, the German names and intricate details and events confusing at times.

And though I knew the story's agonizing outcome, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's amazing life pulled me along and affected me like no other.

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