Eric Metaxas should have written the history books I read in school.
The biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, is dense with detail, but it reads like the story it was.
Metaxas has a commanding grasp of Bonhoeffer’s life and theology, and yet he doesn’t use Bonhoeffer’s story as a platform to push an agenda. He lets Bonhoeffer’s amazing life speak for itself.
Bonhoeffer’s theology was biblical—surprisingly, in spite of the many liberal German theologians of his day. But he learned his theology in a context that required one to live it—or deny it. I wonder if the “cheap grace” idea would have matured in his mind without the Nazis.
The discussion questions at the end of the book are worth pondering. They pinpoint many of the same areas of tension I felt while reading the book. Any system of theology gets tested best when it has to face the snags of a culture. I found myself frequently uncomfortable and convicted with how little my culture demands of me—in comparison to Bonhoeffer’s day. Although the winds in America are shifting against orthodox Christianity, and some of what Germany tolerated in Hitler seems to find a contemporary pattern in America.
I’ve heard Metaxas speak more than once, and anyone who has heard him knows the guy is sidesplitting funny. I expected his book to have the same sarcastic wit. There are moments the book offers nuggets of humor, to be sure, but they are rare. They were like finding Easter eggs.
I hadn’t known that Bonhoeffer died only a week after Easter. Somehow, such a life of sacrifice and faithfulness seems entirely appropriate to be associated with Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection. (I happened to finish the book on Easter weekend.)
The genius of this book is that it puts the story in history and holds up a model of a Christian who determined to live what he believed—and also, to die for it.