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The 100th Post Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

April 24, 2012

Bonhoeffer:Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy By Eric Metaxas (2010, Thomas Nelson) is a book worthy of a milestone 100th post. The work is impressive in terms of its size (over 600 pages with reading group guide), its impact (New York Times Best Seller) and its subject (one of the most influential Christians of the 20th century). With all this going for it one would  expect to open the first page with high expectations and then not be disappointed, such was my response to this book. Eric Metaxas’ writing style makes the book flow like a novel and the thought entered my mind a couple of times, “You couldn’t make elements of Bonhoeffer’s life up like this and expect people to suspend disbelief if it were presented as fiction” but the fact that it is very well documented biographical history makes it a compelling “page turner”. Several times I had to make a decission to slow down so I could savor, reflect and apply what I was reading. I felt I knew a bit about Bonhoeffer but every page provided new insights not only on Deietrich, but on prewar Germany, World War 2, the Ecumenical Movement and Karl Barth. The greatest insight I am taking from the book was the impact doing ministry with youth in Germany, Spain, and the US had on Bonhoeffer as I developed as a minister and theologian. I had no idea of youth ministries forceful impact on his entire life, perspectives on community, and ecclesiology. If the size and scope of the book is too intimidating start with Chapter 7 Bonhoeffer in America 1930-31 which records Dietrich’s ministry and lessons learned in Harlem. Be warned the book begins with a great deal of information on Bonhoeffer’s family background and context. This all comes into play later and aids in understanding why and how Bonhoeffer responded to his place in history, just don’t get discouraged or bogged down in the first pages. In my mind this book is the rare contemporary volume worthy to be labeled an instant classic. If you read only one biography this summer of 2012 make it this one, you will be glad you did. I also wait eagerly for the next work by Eric Metaxas who after this and his earlier work on William Wilberforce is establishing himself as his generations biographer extraordinary.

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