Bonhoeffer: A Chevron Ross Book Review

By March 15, 2024No Comments

Dietrich Bonhoeffer tried to save the German Christian church. When he failed, he tried to save Germany. In the end, he could not save himself.

This inspiring biography by Eric Metaxas adds an important dimension to the history of Nazi Germany. Almost eighty years since Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich collapsed, it’s easy to forget that there were many good Germans who were appalled when their nation fell into the hands of a monster and tried to do something about it. Bonhoeffer, a devout theologian and pastor, was one of them.

Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 into a family of high achievers whose influence led him to excel in academics and set him on a quest to find the true meaning of “church”. In his youth, he reproached people for limiting religion to a couple of hours on Sunday morning. “The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread,” he said. “On the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing.”

When Nazism began to infect the German Evangelical church, its leaders began to ban all Jewish references in the Bible and even cast Jesus as an antisemite, twisting His words to rationalize their arguments. Eventually they adopted rules banning all non-Aryans from the church. When Bonhoeffer could not dissuade them from their course, he became a central figure in opposing them. Though many young recruits rallied to his support, Bonhoeffer’s Confessing Church eventually crumbled under the boots of Hitler’s radicals.

In 1938, with war imminent, Bonhoeffer fled briefly to America to avoid conscription. But his conscience bothered him. Excerpts from his diary reveal the great moral struggle over his duty to God versus his duty to his country. Returning to Germany, he eventually joined a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and replace his government with a benign one.

Bonhoeffer covers in rich detail the spiritual journey that led Dietrich Bonhoeffer to place his relationship with God above everything, to the exclusion of his own personal goals. Excerpts from his sermons, his diary, and his letters reveal a man who worked tirelessly to remain true to his convictions. “Understanding Christ means taking Christ seriously,” he said. “Understanding this claim means taking seriously his absolute claim on our commitment.”

With such words, this young academic became the “moral compass” of the conspiracy. To Bonhoeffer, Metaxas says, “being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

Bonhoeffer was not the only German who died trying to stop Hitler. Metaxas tells of many others, some in high places, who perished in the effort. One cannot read this biography without examining one’s own faith. How many of us would have the courage to submit our will to God’s, to the point of sacrificing all we love? To Bonhoeffer, to do less than Jesus was willing to do would be insufficient.

Eric Metaxas’s biography is a gift to Christianity and to Christian churches everywhere, particularly in this time when the Church is under siege from forces seeking to divide Christians against each other. I give it an enthusiastic five-star rating.

Featured by Chevron Ross

Follow these links for more about the Chevron Ross novels

     Weapons of Remorse        The Seven-Day Resurrection     The Samaritan’s Patient

Leave a Reply