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A Fascinating Perspective The Legacy Of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

November 27, 2012

The Bonhoeffer Phenomenon: Portraits of A Protestant Saint by Stephen R. Haynes (Fortress Press, 2004) provides a unique perspective on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his theological and biographical influence in todays culture. It is worth noting that the book’s publication date places it squarely before the more recent Eric Metaxa’s Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy so as such does not reference that ground breaking work. Still the first section titled Who is Bonhoeffer to us? which is a well documented exploration of how various ideologies all claim Bonhoeffer as their own was fascinating. Beginning with Bonhoeffer as SEER: The Radical, PROPHET:The Liberal, APOSTLE: The Conservative and lastly BRIDGE: The UNIVERSAL. The exhaustive citations taken from each of the schools of thought was clear and compelling as well as sometimes chilling in their odd incompatible misinterpretation of facts and quotations. The second half of the book begins with an in-depth exploration of how “Saints” in the Roman Catholic tradition are selected and by what criteria was then applied to Bonhoeffer and the general flow of his biography, The two page table on pages 140-41 compares Bonhoeffer vita with a hagiographic template is clear and compelling. Of much less help is the section on Gospel:Bonhoeffer and Jesus. Over all the book is of great value to a Bonhoeffer veteran, who is famille with the great standard biographies and original writings but desires a greater nuanced understanding of the cultural impact of this great theologian/pastor.

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