Mark’s #26: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story is often told in bits of quotes or sermon illustrations.  Many with differing agendas have claimed Bonhoeffer as their own, for their own purposes.  In this book, Eric Metaxas masterfully puts forth the whole scope of this man’s remarkable life, his passion for God and the church, and the tragic historical conditions that came about in his generation.

This is one of the best biographies I’ve read. This is a must read for Christ followers and anyone who desires to see what it looks like for a man to stand up in the face of unspeakable evil.

The main takeaway for me as I read this book was this: For Bonhoeffer, his sound doctrine drove his strong convictions.  His understanding of the Bible, truth, theology and our human responsibility all shaped his conviction to stand up for the powerless and stand against the powerful Nazi regime.  Looking back on history, many have asked, “Why  weren’t there more men and women following Bonhoeffer’s example?”  Where were the Christians with convictions to stand up against such tyranny?  Well, as Metaxas demonstrates, the watering down of theology through theological liberalism had begun long before Bonhoeffer or Hitler had arrived on the scene.  Thus, very few church pastors and members in Germany at that time had the theological backbone to stand up for something that would cost them their lives, as it did Bonhoeffer’s.

Bonhoeffer tried, with help from God, to truly live out his Christianity.  He saw Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) as the basis for Christian living.  The result was both clear ethical thinking and pastoral compassion.  For example, Consider Bonhoeffer’s words about abortion and notice these traits coming through his writing:

Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And this is nothing but murder.

A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual. Precisely in this connection money may conceal many a wanton deed, while the poor man’s more reluctant lapse may far more easily be disclosed.

All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder (p. 472).

Reading the book, I couldn’t help but wonder; Where are today’s Bonhoeffers? We are swimming in an ocean of massive issues of injustice, genocide, and infanticide.  Who will count their life as nothing for the sake of the weak, the poor, and the defenseless? Who will stand up and lead our generation with such clear-minded sacrificial love? Will I? Will you?

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

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