Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
The sheer size of this book, 544 pages plus notes and errata, gave me pause. I am a wife and mother with all the daily busyness that implies, so I wondered how long it would take me to read such a thick book. I needn't have worried! From the very first pages when the reader is introduced to Bonhoeffer's illustrious forebears, the author grabs the reader's interest in such a way that this becomes a very hard book to put down.
I am not old enough to remember the Second World War or the tyranny of Hitler. Other than my horror at the atrocities committed against the Jewish people, and my mother's tales of rationing and hardship during the war years, I hadn't really given too much thought to that time period. This book is more than just a wonderful expose of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life. For one thing, it may change your idea (as it did mine) that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a martyr for his Christian principles. He was actually put to death for his part in an assassination plot against Adolph Hitler.
This book is also an excellent education in the history leading up to the Second World War, and the thinking of the German people during this time period. I especially appreciated the author presenting the religious climate of the time period and the religious influences on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the generations that proceeded him in his family. I found it fascinating to know that the same community school that educated Bonhoeffer's mother and governess, Hernnhut, founded by Count Zinzendorf in the eighteenth century, was also a force in influencing the beliefs of Charles Wesley. Being aware of the connection between Boenhoffer and one of my most awe-inducing heroes in the Church, drew me so tightly into this biography. Historical background is woven into the story very skillfully so the reader almost feels present in that time, not separated by 60+ years.
The author notes that, even while having 5 members of daily household staff to help in caring for her home and family, Dietrich's mother thought it imperative that she teach her own 8 children herself for their first 7 or 8 years. As a homeschooling mother, this really spoke to my heart of the lasting impact that can come from the simple commitment of time spent teaching our children. I would like to incorporate the reading of this biography into our curriculum covering the war years and holocaust, but I will wait until the last years of high school to do so because of the harsh realities it contains. It was heart-wrenching for me to read as an adult, but I think that seeing the soul of such a good man and the hard choices he made so willingly, has been of great benefit to me. Boenhoffer's scholarly & personal commitment to standing for what is right is so inspirational, and speaks loudly of the impact that comes from one person's commitment to stand firm and act resolutely in his or her beliefs. The book gives such a personal look at what people faced in those years also.
The inclusion of many photos in the book and the many direct quotes from Bonhoeffer's own writings were an excellent aid in making the story accessible. The story is presented with a good deal of background & very skillfully written so as to cause the reader to become immersed in the book. Eric Metaxas is an incredible writer, to be able to take subject matter so hard and a person so scholarly, born over a hundred years ago, and write the story in a way that makes it personal, gripping, and very hard to put down.
I recommend this book heartily, to anyone who wants to learn more about Germany in the war years, or to learn more about a great hero who stood steadfastly for his Christian beliefs in the face of terrible, unfathomable evil. Reading this book will build your faith and vision.
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