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Klavan On The Culture

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

June 15th, 2011 - 7:00 am

This bestselling biography of the heroic Lutheran priest who followed Christ into conspiracy against Hitler has been out for over a year but I only just got around to reading it.  If you haven’t yet, you should too.  Although it comes in at over 600 pages, it’s terrific stuff and more than worth your time.  The story is heartbreaking and life affirming at once.  And author Eric Metaxas’s experience as a sometime children’s writer has honed his talent for explaining complex historical issues in straightforward and compelling prose.

Conservatives, especially, seem to find Bonhoeffer’s tale inspiring.  Glenn Beck says he couldn’t finish the book because he found it too affecting.  At a moment when many feel the evil of anti-semitism is on the rise – or to put it more exactly, evil is on the rise bringing its twin brother anti-semitism with it – it is fortifying to read the story of a man so grounded in Biblical truth that he knew the right path to travel from the very outset and even unto death.

I particularly liked some of Metaxas’s descriptions of the Nazis who took control of a once civilized nation and turned it into a hell out of Hieronymus Bosch.   Himmler is “saurian,” Heydrich is a “piscine ghoul,” and Goebbels is a “vampiric homunculus.”  (That last is my favorite, though I wrote Eric to say I thought he had been unfair to both vampires and homunculi.)

Best of all, Bonhoeffer challenges the distorted picture many, especially liberals, have sought to paint of this martyr.  They have tried to refashion him as a humanist supporter of “religionless Christianity,” and thus made him a vehicle of the “cheap grace” he despised.  As Metaxas proves, it was Biblical Christianity and nothing else that guided Bonhoeffer’s sure and certain steps to the Nazi scaffold and upward.  That faith is the story, and it comes through on every page.

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