(Latest thoughts on this book, 5/19/2007: I’m not really sure I trust this author. After reading THIS BLOG POST, my strong opinion expressed in the title and first sentence of this post has changed. How can I be certain that Mr. Metaxas did a true rendering of Bonhoeffer’s life, when he doesn’t seem to understand simple Biblical truths? I was always concerned about the Forward to the book done by Timothy Keller, another intellectual who has been very influential with very flawed doctrine. As it was my only concern at the time, I let it pass. I can’t let what I have recently learned have a pass. It is too important. I have left the post as it was originally. I think much of what I stated about the similarities of the times this book referred to and our times still holds true. I am saddened by the fact that many are choosing to go back to old traditions based on tradition instead of faith based on scripture. Read this post with my new comment in mind please.)
Looking for an informative and interesting read? I think the book should be read by anyone studying WW2 or by anyone who is breathing and can read these words.
The book is not about elements of the Third Reich comparable to events unfolding today. It is a Biography of a man. However, as I am reading this book, it is impossible for me not to see the similarities in our day.
First of all, the book was given to my son by my mother. It is a book with 500+ pages but STAY WITH ME!!!
You don’t have to read the entire book. I have only completed chapter 11 (Nazi Theology). There are 31 chapters. If one reads only the first 170 pages, it is enough.
I have always wondered when America began its moral decline. I know that we have never been a perfect nation. I think there was a time when we could be considered a Christian nation. Not to long ago Christian prayers and the study of the Bible began each day in public schools. There was a time when abortion was illegal. I know some Christians still think America is a Christian nation because we were founded on many Christian principles. I will not argue this. Yet, I just don’t understand how anyone can call today’s America “Christian” when its laws allow the murder of the most innocent.
I know that in the 1840’s, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously agreed that Bible study in the public schools was a good thing. So, although Christians had not yet become vocal enough about the subject of Southern Slavery, Bible reading was encouraged at the highest levels of our government, even in the Judicial Branch. Today, judicial tyranny is common, but that’s a subject for another post.
The German subject of the book writes about his experience at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. It was 1930.
“There is no theology here….They talk a blue streak without the slightest substantive foundation and with no evidence of any criteria. The students – on the average twenty-five to thirty years old – are completely clueless with respect to what dogmatics is really about. They are unfamiliar with even the most basic questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, laugh at the fundamentalists, and yet basically are not even up to their level.”
The book talks about the theological battles of 1930 and how John D. Rockefeller built a church just a stone’s throw away from the Seminary for one of the most liberal preachers in America, Harry Emerson Fosdick. Fosdick had preached an infamous sermon in 1922 entitled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” In the sermon, Fosdick questioned the virgin birth, the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, the atonement, miracles, and the Bible as the Word of God.
Since you have seen the picture above, you know that the book is about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
On page 106 he states:
“In New York they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or it is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.”
He thought this until he visited the Abyssinian Baptist Church and heard Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. The church was in Harlem and the pastor and his flock was mostly African American.
“Powell combines the fire of a revivalist preacher with great intellect and social vision. He was active in combating racism and minced no words about the saving power of Jesus Christ,” writes the author Erik Mataxis.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent the rest of his Sundays in New York at Dr. Powell’s church.
I have mentioned this brief part of the book because it helps me to see that the decline of the belief in simple Bible basics was already alive and well in America in 1930.
When one reads of the “masterful” propaganda program of the Nazi’s and the dumbing down of Christian principles in the German Churches, it seems to me that the same thing is happening before my own eyes.
Mr. Bonheoffer would disagree with the title of the Book. It calls him a prophet. Yes, Mr. Bonheoffer saw clearly when others did not, but he was not a prophet and would have been upset to know that someone had called him that. The extended title calls him “A Righteous Gentile.” You or I might call him that, but he was a humble man. I don’t think he would have ever called himself “righteous.”
I am reading this book to my 17 year old son. His grandmother gave him a great gift. It is a view of the past with strange similarities to the present.
I hope you have the opportunity to read this inspirational and educational biography which received a Christian Book Award. The chapters are 10-20 pages long; perfect for reading aloud or as time allows an individual. Some will have a bit more free time this summer and this book would be a good way to spend part of it.
I look forward to reading the remaining chapters. I know parts of it are sad as I have heard of Mr. Bonheoffer’s fate in this world. However, I know that Mr. Bonheoffer will live eternally.
What a satisfying thought.