Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: Bonhoeffer--Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

A brilliant young man, Deitrich Bonhoeffer (1912-1944) considered a career in academia but wound up a much-loved pastor. Thoughtful, yet with a sense of humor, Bonhoeffer preached the centrality of the cross of Christ. During World War 2, this man of faith inspired all who knew him.

He and his twin sister, Sabine, two of eight children, grew up in Germany accustomed to the cultured life of the privileged. Through his studies and travels as a young man, he rubbed shoulders with many of the esteemed theologians of the day. While he disagreed with those of a liberal theological slant, he did so in ways that preserved friendships. His studies for a time brought him to America.

The beginning of this book explains the world situation and how Adolph Hitler convinced the German people that he was simply rectifying wrongs that had occurred to them as a people after World War 1. It’s hard to understand how he turned them against some of their own—the Jews.

Deitrich was not deceived, however, and spoke for those who could not speak for themselves. For a time he accepted a pastorate in England, believing that from there he could gain the ear of British leadership and convince them to stop Hitler. He eventually felt he had to return home, however, to suffer with his people and to join a resistance movement.

Once Hitler realized Bonhoeffer was part of that movement, he made sure he and other leaders were executed just before the war ended. Bonhoeffer left behind his dearly loved fiancée.

Almost 50 pages of notes, bibliography and an index closes this 576-page tome. But it’s well worth the read. The legacy of Bonhoeffer lives on to inspire all who love the Lord and hope to remain faithful to Him regardless of political conditions.

 This man’s legacy is one of faithfulness to the biblical Word of God—both the Bible and the Christ. Whether a scholar, a pastor or a member of the resistance movement that opposed Hitler, he sought God’s will and direction. And that direction led him from seminary where he stood for conservative Christianity to the pulpit where he preached the cross, from his privileged family to Flossenburg where he was executed.

Along the way he spoke truth: “Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.”

As Hitler and his cronies turned against the Jews and then against the church, he said, “A state which includes within itself a terrorized church has lost its most faithful servant.” In spring, 1933, he proclaimed that it was the duty of the church to stand up for the Jews.

Well-liked even by those who guarded him during his years spent in concentration camps, Bonhoeffer stayed true to his faith and encouraged those around him. His story encouraged me, and it will encourage you.

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