Tag Archives: theology

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

This weekend I finished reading Eric Mataxas’ biography about Dietrich Bonhöffer, a German pastor and theologian who was eventually executed for his role in a plot against Hitler.  If you’re looking for an incredible story of sacrifice, faithfulness, and leadership by example, you really ought to read this book.

Bonhöffer is probably best known for his classic little book, The Cost of Discipleship, and if I had to pick one quality about Bonhöffer’s life that most stuck out to me as I read his story, it would be his dogged determination to find God’s will and follow it as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.  Though he strived to promote Christian unity, he was a man who was willing to stand alone against fierce opposition when he was convinced that it was the right thing to do.

In this respect, it’s easy to trace a common thread back from Bonhoeffer to Metaxas’ first biography, Amazing Grace, which tells the story of William Wilberforce and his opposition to the slave trade.  Both works focus upon great men who held firmly to their convictions against the majority of people in their own nation.  In both cases, history has served as vindication of their work.

A second aspect of Bonhöffer’s life that really stuck out was his seemingly prophetic ability to see the full implications of nascent ideas and policies.  Metaxas never spells out the source of Bonhöffer’s clarity of thought, though it seems to me that Bonhöffer’s prophetic gift likely arose from a mixture of intellectual brilliance and a pious devotional life.

I guess the last thing I would say about this biography is that it resonated with me at a very personal level.  I think I could have been friends with Bonhöffer.  There was something about his thought process, his sense of calling, and his general disposition that reminded me of aspects of my own personality and interests.

The biography is very well written.  It’s entertaining – intense at some points, humorous at others, inspirational throughout.  Pick it up and give it a read if you get the chance!