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on 30 January 2011
I have been inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's example since I first heard about this remarkable German pastor who consistently opposed the Third Reich and I have read other shorter biographies. So I was very pleased to get this book for Christmas, if a little daunted by its size - its nearly 600 pages, from cover to cover. But any misgivings I may have had about the size of the book were quickly swept away, as this is an engrossing account that really held my attention from start to finish. It's a very thorough account of Bonhoeffer, his times and his country: you get an insight into his thinking and his struggles and the very real difficulties faced by Christians who were patriotic Germans who felt the injustices of the settlement imposed on Germany after the First World War. But it was Bonhoeffer more than anyone who saw clearly what was at stake and so courageously stood up for what was right. As he put it in a letter to Reinhold Niebuhr in July 1939:

"Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose, but I cannot make that choice in security."

After reading the book, I also feel I understand the horrors of the Nazi regime as experienced by Germans themselves better than I did before - the book manages to be more than a simple biography, almost a commentary on the times. Its also a fascinating account of Bonhoeffer's own spiritual development and faith.

All in all, this is such a good read and such an important book. I cannot recommend it too highly.
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on 26 May 2012
I have recently finished reading 'Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy' by Eric Metaxas ( Thomas Nelson ). This is a long ( over 500 pages ) biography which contains a full survey of Bonhoeffer's life, theology, and resistance to Nazis - this cost him his life at the age of only 39. Bonhoeffer was the first Lutheran pastor to forcefully condemn discrimination against the Jewish people, years before the Shoah. He also rejected replacement theology, teaching on the true relationship between Christians and Jews as set out in the Bible. This was unpalatable to the Nazi regime and the main denominations. The book is full of challenging material and covers universal issues that apply not just to the 1930s and 1940s but to our generation too. It is also readable and took me only a few sessions to progress through it.

Bonhoeffer was a rare person - he combined spirituality with a brilliant mind but above all, he had the courage to obey God. Highly recommended.
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on 19 February 2012
Bonhoeffer - pastor, theologian, martyr - if I were to describe this book in two words it would be `mammoth' and `captivating'.

The book itself is one of the best researched books on Bonhoeffer I have ever come across. It includes numerous quote sections from his letters, books, sermons and personal testimonies. It includes writings from other parties, who wrote about Bonhoeffer and a story narrative that never fails to draw the reader on. Despite the size of the book I cannot recall ever feeling like my interest began to wane whilst reading it.

Bonhoeffer came from an aristocratic and noticeably scientific German family. At a young age he decided to defy tradition and become a theologian. His most noticeable writings are: Life Together, Cost of Discipleship and Ethics (all of which of fantastic). Together these books are his opus maximus (great life's work). Every theologian has heard of Bonhoeffer and studied his writings at some point or another. The depth of his writings are awe inspiring and thoroughly thought provoking.

What is probably less known about Bonhoeffer is his role in Nazi Germany, or the fact that because of this there is today a statue of him on the side of Westminster Abbey. At an early point in the history of Nazi Germany Bonhoeffer decided that the regime was evil. Originally he preached against it, but after Hitler experienced numerous military successes, he resigned himself to bringing down the beast from within. To this end he joined the Abwehr and began smuggling Jews out of Germany. Because of the interplay between the Gestapo and the Abwehr Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested and detained for 18 months at Tegal Prison.

After the failed Valkyrie attempt, of which Bonhoeffer was later linked to, he was detained by the Gestapo for 4 months of torture and integration. He was eventually transferred to 3 different concentration camps and hung 3 weeks before Hitler took his own life in 1945. Throughout all of his he never failed to act out in accordance with his faith, and whilst in a difficult predicament, continued to effect and influence the lives of those he touched right up until the end of his life. The saddest part of his story is that it was not even the Germans who notified his family of his demise but rather the BBC radio some months after the end of the war.

The usual memos of my reviews are long and fully explanatory:- but in this instance what is there for me to say? The book was excellently written! The subject written about thoroughly affected me! Bonhoeffer's experiences played on my thoughts and despite the mammoth size of the book I kept reading this book until the early hours of numerous mornings. I have also come to the conclusion that I could not have done what Bonhoeffer did and for this reason he deserves Saint status. In total I cannot recommend this book enough!

I read numerous books written by Bonhoeffer whilst I studied my Masters in Theology - however, I'd like to personally thank Eric Metaxas for writing such a well written and thoroughly researched book about this individual. I fell like in a way you have allowed me to meet the individual on a personal level rather than on a purely theological level. Also, modern authors are frequently inclined to down play Bonhoeffer's religious side and talk about his faith as if it were an oddity to be shy of. Your book highlights how seriously Bonhoeffer took his faith and how everything he did was because of it. For this I would sincerely like to thank you.

In the end your book as become the best Biography I have ever read! Thank you for writing it.
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on 3 October 2011
Opened my eyes to a period in history I have always seen from the British perspective. A really good story as well as being a description of how be a Christian in an ungodly world. Had a very profound effect on my thinking and made me think about the meaning of life.
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on 23 August 2010
I became interested in this book when I heard an interview with its author on the Gospel Coalition website. He explained how, having come to faith, the fact that he had German blood opposed to Hitler in his family tree had caused a fascination with the figure of Bonhoeffer.

It really is a quite fascinating biography. Metaxas says that the fact that Bonhoeffer has become associated with the phrase 'religionless Christianity' has made many misrepresent him as a figure for a godless 'theology'. In fact, the very reverse is true - commitment to God's will is what motivates his life and opposition to Adolf Hitler. Having come from a cultured, privileged and academic background, he was thrust into perception of suffering's effect on Christian faith (e.g. among the black Christians of America) and to seeing opposition to Nazism as the only real consequence of understanding the Gospel. The story of his doomed love for Maria and of all the coded letters from prison is moving, and it is alarming to think of how the German opposition's attempt to contact Churchill were dismissed.

I commend this book most highly.
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on 24 May 2011
This is a work that should be read by everyone - religious or not. Although one of the myths the book does refute is the idea that Bonhoffer was not a believing Christian - he must certainly was (in the most traditional way). Bonhoffer was indeed a philosopher and a highly educated person - but he was NOT a "social gospel" (a Progressive in theology) in the American sense. Indeed he regarded such people with dismay - Progressives (in theology)in Europe he sometimes respected and admired for their learning (although he did not share their opinions), Progessives in the United States tended to upset Bonhoffer with their mixture of ignorance and arrogance. Their lack of serious study both of scripture and of theologians over the centuries, and their belief that they were better than other people - particuarly "fundementalists". A belief that was not validated either by their knowledge or by their conduct.

Bonhoeffer certainly did not despise the uneducated (or confuse lack of education with lack of intelligence - not that he despised lack of intelligence either - after all some clever people do terrible things, and some very ordinary people do outstandingly good things), but he clealy did have negative feelings towards people who made a big show of their education (boasting that they knew more than everyone else), but actually (under their big talk and long words) turned out to be both ignorant and rather stupid.

However, this book is a lot more than an account of theological disputes.

It tells the story of a fight against evil, but also of a man's inner life.

What is it to be good? What does this specifically mean in practice?

Should one always tell the truth, or can it ever be right to lie or decieve?

To oppose evil one must be prepared to risk one's own life - but should also be prepared to kill another human being?

The history of the events (the struggle against Hitler and National Socialism) is only part of this book - certainly the context of Bonheffer's internal spiritual and ethical life, but Bonhoeffer faced questions that (in a far less extreme way) we all do.

For those of us (such as myself) who have a strong "dark side" (or have been weak enough to give in to it) this work is particularly valuable. The example of how a man can be good - and that to be good does not mean to be weak, or stupid, or seeing the world via illusions, is very important.

I have two minor critical points to make.

The John D. Rockefeller who supported the Progressive (and supporter of appeasing Hitler) "liberal" preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick (a man who was more likely to preach a sermon based on William James than any James from the Bible) was John D. Rockefeller JUNIOR - this point should be made clear, the old man (the Rockefeller who made the money) was still alive in the 1930s, but he was not really in control of how the money was being spent (Junior and his friends were).

Also the "Will To Power" (with its revolting racism and so on) was not really written by Nietzsche - it was a distortion of the opinions of Nietzsche (especially as regards Jewish peoople) put together by his sister.

Minor points perhaps - but Bonheffer (with his profound scholarship) would have been careful to get these points right.
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on 24 December 2010
At 591 pages it was worth every word! It is hard for me to describe this book without doing some injustice to it. The book truly opened a window to a dark era of human history in which one light shown brightly before all others. One quote sums up Bonhoeffer's life : "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil : God will not hold us guiltless. Not 2 speak is 2 speak. Not 2 act is 2 act". May we know the full meaning of these words!
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on 5 January 2016
Eric Metaxas gives you fly-on-the-wall access to one of the most remarkable Theologians of the 20th century. Although a daunting 600-odd pages, you'll never want to put it down. A helpful biography of a man who served an even more remarkable God than he, I've heard of many scholarly criticisms but Metaxas didn't intend to write academic drivel. He wanted the general public to hear the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and he has done that extremely well.
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on 5 April 2013
Utterly fascinating! I thought I knew a fair bit about the man and the times but I learned so much more.

I came away feeling I'd had a chance to get to know Bonhoeffer as a person, rather than just as a figurehead. His family background that very much shaped him. His theological thinking, some of it too complicated for me, but always grounded in a very personal faith. The clarity with which he saw through the Nazi propaganda, and was able to express the dangers to the nation and to the church. His courage in standing up for what he believed in. His very personal struggles when the opportunity presented itself to escape danger. His relationship with his fiancee. His frustrations with others, who were willing to enter into dangerous compromises. His

It took me from Christmas to Easter to get through the book but not because it was boring! There was so much to think about, to reflect on, to be challenged by. On the one hand, the book is a real page turner. On the other hand you want to linger on every page and savour the richness.

Read it!

Metaxas' writing style was at times annoying, and some incorrect details were a bit irritating, but overall those are minor things.
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on 24 March 2013
This book arrived with me ahead of the anticipated time - great!
It was in perfect condition and is a delight to read.
This book really gives us an in depth portrait of Bonhoeffer as a man and a theologian who while having very definite views as to how to read the Bible and act out his faith, nevertheless was a very tolerant man who greatly respected the thoughts and attitudes of others, provided they were "truthful" and honest. He had a great relationshio with many young people and very close friendships with colleagues and former students. Laothing all that the Nazis - Hitler in particular - stood for he unreservedly committed himself to the overthrow of Hitler and his regime and did not shy away from making the ultimate sacrifice and approached his subsequenrt execution with dignity and with an indestructible faith in his God.
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