Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bonhoeffer - Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy - Eric Metaxas

The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his brave and relentless effort to keep Christian ethics and Christian life alive and well in Nazi Germany is an inspiring one. Bonhoeffer, a bright and intelligent man with strong intellectual and religious family roots, worked tirelessly to be a voice for the German people to hear when the National Socialist party of Adolf Hitler dominated the airwaves, political platforms, social scene, and German Evangelical churches of the 30's and 40's. His great concern that Hitler was becoming, for the people of Germany, a dangerous and evil idol caused him to cast aside concerns for his own safety. He began to work frenetically toward a split with the Nazi sponsored German Evangelical Church that fell to pressure by the Nazis and pledged loyalty and obedience to 'the Furhrer' instead of God. He was horrified by the Nazi state's isolation and persecution of Jewish citizens and knew that the blending of church and Nazism would create a false sense of piety and a dangerous rationalization for what the government proceeded to do to Jews, the disabled, the socially disenfranchised, and any who differed in opinions with Nazi leaders. So ... he spoke out from the pulpit, wrote articles for theological seminars, traveled extensively to communicate his concerns to other religious leaders and politicians, trained new, young German theology students in the ideas and ethics of Christianity and discipleship, and finally joined an ill-fated plot to remove Hitler from power.

His love of Germany and the German people and his family never waned; he was a devoted German. Never let it be said that he turned his back on Germany. He longed, however, for a return of the brightest and best of German ideals- love of God, honorable and hard-working life style, love for and cherishing of the arts and literature, honoring of honorable leaders who are God-fearing and good, and ethical behavior toward all citizens. The lies, evil, and self-serving superiority of the Nazi system was considered an evil to be rooted from German society. Bonhoeffer came to believe that it was imperative that German people must work toward that end. He paid the price for his resistance.

Eric Metaxas has written a deep and thorough exploration of Bonhoeffer's spiritual and ethical voyage, as he grew up and developed into one of the 20th century's most intelligent and respected theologians. It is, at times, very deep with its references to Scripture and philosophical theories. I will admit to having read the book with my Bible, a copy of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship , and my computer by my side. Researching his peers, looking back at historical texts, and reading about the history of WWI and WWII helped me to place Bonhoeffer more firmly in his world and aided in my understanding of the issues, the philosophy, and the history of the German Evangelical Church and its roots with the German people. This is a powerful book ... and it seems fitting that I have finished reading it during this Holy Week. Bonhoeffer was a devout man, a devoted patriot, a brave and resolute man - one that comes along once in a very great while who makes such a difference. He loved the Lord and placed himself firmly on the side of the good Christian - he lived his beliefs and for that, he deserves our love and respect and prayers.

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