Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Book of the Year 2010 (Eric Metaxas's "Bonhoeffer")

TITLE: BONHOEFFER - Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
AUTHOR: Eric Metaxas
PUBLISHED: Thomas-Nelson, 2010, (591pp)

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyWhile others are fighting for their survival, he is fighting for the gospel. While others takes flight toward safer pastures and positions, he brings light and hope to the weak and the persecuted. This is the kind of life that Dietrich Bonhoeffer epitomizes.

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

A) What the Book is About
This is the second best-selling biography by Eric Metaxas, whose earlier work on William Wilberforce (Amazing Grace) has garnered many favourable reviews. Based on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Metaxas traces his family origins and childhood beginnings, to show readers how much this man is shaped by his growing up years, and his family discipline. His family links gives him the political and ecclesiastical connections needed at crucial moments of his struggle. His household discipline develops in him a keen and sharp mind for academic brilliance. Most importantly, it is the faith inculcated from young, that makes him this century's Christian hero.

With 31 chapters and more than 500 pages of pulsating narrative, Metaxas reveals the tender moments of Bonhoeffer's inner thoughts, without diminishing his explosive moments of anger and frustration at the tactics and deceptions of the Third Reich. Using actual dates and places, the reader is ushered into a chronological adventure of this young man's short but outstanding life.

In 40 short years, Bonhoeffer serves faithfully as a pastor, a seminarian, a crusader for the purity of the faith, a prophetic voice against the evils of Hitler's regime. He masquerades as a spy for the Confessing Church and utilizes his unique connections both inside and outside of Germany to defend the innocent and to expose the treacherous. He died on April 8th, 1939, a martyr fully burnt out for God.

B) My Comments
This is definitely my book of the year (2010). In fact, this book is a unique combination of history, theology, biography, and story all rolled into one. Eric Metaxas has given the literary world a Christmas present, one that is wrapped with the precious testimonies of faith. After reading this book, my respect for Bonhoeffer has been raised many levels. My hope and faith has been encouraged. Applause to Metaxas.

For those who curse Germany then for producing a villain in Hitler, they ought to praise God for the war heroes like Hilderbrandt (a German Jew), Niemueller, and many others who fought for the Confessing Church.

Metaxas writes in a manner that honours this fiery preacher and earnest teacher. Most of all, he shows us that spiritual warfare is still very real. Spiritual downfall begins with apathy, that leads to helplessness. From helplessness, it soon turns into liberal interpretations and twisted theologies which ultimately fueled Hitler's evil causes. Bonhoeffer sees through the evils of Hitler. He speaks up against the twisted theologies trumpeted by the "German Christians" and the established but lame German Church then. What he fails to do inside Germany, he continues overseas. For Bonhoeffer, discipleship is costly grace, that must be accompanied by seeing with eyes of faith, and moving with acts of courage.
"To see that it was against God's will to persecute the Jews, one must choose to open one's eyes. And then one would face another uncomfortable choice: whether to act as God required." (p278-279)
From reading the book, I feel energized that it is our calling to obey Christ, even if it means to die. Like Bonhoeffer's words:

"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." (Cost of Discipleship)

This biography sheds light on Bonhoeffer's best works, like "Life Together," "Cost of Discipleship," "Ethics," "Letters and Papers from Prison," and many others. Metaxas has written a valuable book for students interested in Bonhoeffer's life, faith and theology. More importantly, this is a precious testimony of one who practices true discipleship.

I hope that the next edition of the book will have a handy chronological timeline to help readers recall and refer easily to the highs and lows of Bonhoeffer. This book deserves to be read in its entirety. It builds one's faith and hope for the gospel, that spiritual warfare is not fought using guns and bullets, but through sheer faith and willingness to die. Hitler dies tragically by taking his own life. Bonhoeffer dies heroically by surrendering his final breath. If you are intending to buy a good book to keep and be encouraged, buy this. If you are thinking of a Christmas gift for anyone who loves books, this is it. It is worth it.

Here's a video preview of the book.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, IncAvailable now at your favourite bookseller. "

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