One of the kind women in our church somehow spied my reading wish list and saw Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas on it so she bought it for me. That is no small thing, as this is a fairly expensive book. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and told the author so by sending him an email. He actually wrote me back, which was pretty cool. I do this for most authors I read who are living, as I’ve found it difficult to do for those who are dead (oddly, much of what I read was written by dead people.) I find it interesting how a lot of authors never write back.
I’ve studied Bonhoeffer’s works in seminary and on my own, so I was familiar with his theology but I did not know that much about his life other than he resisted the Nazi’s, spent some time in America, and was eventually executed by the Nazi’s because of his role in the plot to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazis. Metaxas’ thorough book filled in so many gaps. I learned much.
- I did not know that Bonhoeffer had such a negative view of the church in the United States. He seemed to think of us as a shallow cesspool of lazy theology. Metaxas paints the portrait of him barely able to stomach the preaching of Fosdick or those like him. I was aware that Bonhoeffer was moved by the Black churches he attended, but I did not know they played such a pivotal role in his spiritual development. It was only amongst the Black brothers that Bonhoeffer was able to have authentic Christ-centered spirituality.
- The way I always understood it, Bonhoeffer did not come to resist the Germans until late in their reign of tyranny. I always thought this because of his late execution and that the failed assassination attempt was so late in the war. However, Metaxas clears up the murky early years. Bonhoeffer, as well as the rest of his family, resisted the Nazi’s from the outset. They saw them for what they were—evil thugs spawned from Hell. It was in this way that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a prophet—not just in the sense of speaking ethical truth but also in the way we usually think of. Bonhoeffer saw it coming and somehow he knew it would cost him everything.
- Pastor is a precious word to me—and it is loaded with meaning. Before reading this book I thought of Bonhoeffer as a writer—professor—theologian and even a hero who resisted evil, but I’d never thought of him as a pastor. That changed with this volume. Now I see him not as a lecturer, but as one who pastored children in Barcelona, refugees in England, and prisoners in the death camp. His last act before being executed was leading a worship service for the other prisoners. Now when I think of Life Together or Cost of Discipleship some of the power of the words is made stronger when I think of them coming from a fellow pastor rather than a theologian.
- I did not know about Bonhoeffer’s sweethearts. Apparently he had two of them, one of whom he was engaged to when he was killed. Not much to say on that front other than the extra added sadness it brings.
I may have to add Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s photo in my study to hang on the wall with the other heroes who watch me work.