bonhoeffer by eric metaxas

A couple of years ago, an old professor of mine introduced me to the idea of ‘theological heroes’, and, over time, I have come to realize that there if I were to sit down and write out a list of my own, Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have to be at the top.

So when BookSneeze presented me with the opportunity to read/review the first major Bonhoeffer biography of the past 40 years, I wasted no time in clicking on the request button. And what followed was two weeks of inspiring, heartbreaking and though-provoking reading, courtesy of Eric Metaxas.

First of all, it would be a disservice to say that this book is simply the biography of one man, because apart from offering the reader a very detailed examination of the personal and professional life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Metaxas also carefully outlines the global, national, ecclesiastical and family context within which Bonhoeffer developed his theological thinking and, most importantly, acted upon his convictions that “theology must lead to the practical aspects of how to live as a Christian“.

It was this conviction that would lead Bonhoeffer down a path that few feared to tread – one which would lead him not only to question the dominant powers around him and to call the church to behave like the church even in extremely trying times, but also to answer the call to follow Christ by submitting only to the will of God, even as it led him to a tragic and untimely death.

This was how Bonhoeffer saw what he was doing. He had theologically redefined the Christian life as something active, not reactive. It had nothing to do with avoiding sin or with merely talking or teaching or believing theological notions or principles or rules or tenets. It had everything to do with living one’s whole life in obedience to God’s call through action. It did not merely require a mind, but a body too. It was God’s call to be fully human, to live as human beings obedient to the one who made us, which was the fulfillment of our destiny. It was not a cramped, compromised, circumspect life, but a life lived in a kind of wild, joyful, full-throated freedom – that was what it was to obey God.

While making your way through 542 pages might appear to be a daunting task, this book is well worth the time. It is not a biography that simply recites fact after fact, but rather places the central figure within a grander narrative that only serves to highlight the true greatness of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the brilliance of the theological works that he was able to produce.

This is an incredibly important book for anyone who is questioning what it means to follow Jesus in the 21st century, and what it means to be the church in a broken world. I would highly recommend it, but please, don’t stop there; be sure to get your hands on a copy of Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship, Ethics, and Life Together.

*Note: This book was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program.

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