Book Review – “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas

I don’t even know where to begin on this one. I finished this book three entire weeks ago and haven’t written a review yet because I literally can’t figure out where to start. I’ll just be blunt and openly editorial.

This book is one of the best I’ve ever read. Book, was your word there. Not biography. Not war history. Not Christian nonfiction. Book. Granted, for me it was the perfect storm from the word ‘go’ – I love biography, war history, and Christian nonfiction. I also love learning about pastor-theologians. So I was admittedly predestined to love this book. Regardless, I would suggest this book to anyone. It’s a compelling story, and it happens to be true.

For those not in the know concerning the man about whom the book was written (like me, prior to reading it), Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who did his best to sabotage Adolf Hitler during the 1930s-40s. Sometimes his tactics were in secret; sometimes they were in the open. Whatever the action, Bonhoeffer moved against the Nazi government with smart, calculated plans that included no element of self-concern whatsoever.

But Dietrich Bonhoeffer was more than just a political activist. He was a Christian first, and I don’t mean your everyday Joe Schmoe Bible-believer (not that we don’t love Joe Schmoes). He was a theological genius, undoubtedly (he carried on a close personal friendship with Karl Barth, to illustrate). But he was more than just a scholar. See, theological geniuses are a dime a dozen – they wrap themselves up in the ivory tower of intelligentsia and are far too important to be bothered by little old things like people. But Bonhoeffer was made of a little different mix, one that you don’t find every day. He was a lover of God and a lover of people…all of em, I think. He pastored, led, shepherded, and influenced international events to the glory and praise of God at a crucial time in history. He put his faith into action, and was killed for it in a concentration camp on a personal order from Adolf Hitler…three weeks before the Nazis surrendered and the war ended.

To illustrate his bravery, consider one his better-known remarks. After being asked why he had ceased to act as a double agent and had come out to square off against the German government in the public eye, he answered:

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.”

And to illustrate his passion for the church, hear of the time that his older brother, upon hearing of Dietrich’s decision to study theology, criticized the Christian church as a “boring, petty institution”. Dietrich’s bold response, spoken at a young age:

“…Then I shall have to reform it!”

Quotes like these are often found in the book, framed eloquently by Eric Metaxas, who writes with sophistication and tact. Telling of the incredible way he pulled this book off would be well-worth another blog post alone, as would his address at the National Prayer Breakfast back in February.

So pour a cup of coffee. Grab a pillow. Pick up a highlighter if that’s your thing. And read about the guy who gave the last full measure of devotion for the sake of the Jews, for the sake of his country, and most of all, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

And the next time you speak of Germany, speak a little lighter.


3 Comments on “Book Review – “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A fantastic man with a fantastic’s amazing to me how this man has shaken my inner core and touched my heart. I was very sad when I had 3 pages left to finish the book..thank you Eric Metaxas for writing such a great book.

  2. James Rankin says:

    Absolutely excellent. A one-stop shop of Bonhoeffer’s theology, and a lesson for America (and believers) in modern times. (I’ve read it twice, too… and used a highlighter a LOT.)

  3. Linda Cooper says:

    Good review, I too loved this book. I’ve read it twice, and still feel like I’ve missed something.

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