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Book Review: Bonhoeffer by Metaxas

Happy 2Ba Homemaker received this book from Family Christian in exchange for an honest review. Please read our full disclosure policy HERE.

This week’s book review is a guest post by The Theology Nerd. Their blog is not light reading, but it is very educational. For those with interest in church history, conservative doctrine, reformed theology, or a host of related topics, I am sure you’ll love them. I hope all of you will follow the links at the bottom of the post to connect with them on social media.


Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy is a recent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. It is available both in an abridged form as well as a longer, detailed version. Most people will probably prefer the abridgment, unless they are using the material for academic research. This is an excellent treatment of Bonhoeffer’s life as it preserves the drama, intrigue, and suspense of his experiences.  His life was an example to many in terms of service to God and devotion at all costs.

Bonhoeffer is greatly respected for his role as a martyr. He was a young Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany. As he looked on at events transpiring around him, he resolved to do something about the tragic happenings and became one of the first to speak out against Nazi atrocities. He felt that the grace of God was significant enough to not just slide by with an easy life. Out of a love for God and his fellow human beings, he got active in a campaign against Adolf Hitler and his government. Bonhoeffer’s theological grounding sparked him to action and his beliefs took him all the way to being part of the plot to assassinate Hitler.  This eventually led to his imprisonment and subsequent execution by hanging, but these trials produced our story as well as the many writings that Bonhoeffer penned. The title gives a glimpse into the story line. How many men have been a pastor, prophet, spy, and martyr? He stands as an example of dramatic godliness in a wicked day filled with horror.

Metaxas spins the story with wonder. His is not the collection of dead historical facts; rather, he craftily takes those facts and brings us directly into the narrative. Without being rushed, we enter the fast-paced turmoil of events. With his delightful verbiage, we see the colors, smell the smells, and hear the sounds of Hitler and his Nazi Germany. This book tells the story of one man’s brave action of faith. However, it does more. It tells the story of one of the most important periods in western history. We come away from this book with a knowledge of the holy as well as insight into events. This book stands as a landmark. Landmarks can function as a warning, lest we return this way again. It is a beacon to faith, trust, and love.

The author makes splendid use of primary sources including very personal family anecdotes. The book presents a sequence of years in a chronological manner. However, we are quickly drawn into the narrative. One example from the earlier part of his story comes to mind. “In the early part of this summer, the ghastly news of the death camps emerged along with the unfathomable atrocities that the Nazis had visited upon their victims in the hellish outposts of their short-lived empire.” Though the story is terrifying and repulsive, Metaxas invites us in and makes us a part of history.

This book allows the reader to know history in a vivid manner. It introduces us to a man with whom we should be familiar. We should know and remember the life of faith that Bonhoeffer lived. Hopefully, this book will kindle in all of us a desire to read Bonhoeffer’s own writings and to ignite a desire to gain the ethics, integrity, faith, and grace that motivated his extraordinary acts of devotion. Metaxas gives us that opportunity.


Based on The Theology Nerd‘s review, Happy 2Ba Homemaker awards Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy the 5-spool rating.

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