(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.
Thank you for educating us! I will get the book! I know that certainly certain churches do not preach Jesus Crucified, Risen, At the Right Side of the Father, but I thought that more of it was coming from our schools and colleges. The things that I have of the teachings rend my heart!
It just shows us we need to be praying more-and more specifically-not generally-Lord help our nation! But Lord, talk to the Justices, work in their hearts to make decisions that YOU want made that are right and just for our country. Don’t just pray for our president, pray specifically-whatever you want to pray specifically for him. I know that God answers specific prays! lets all band together and be praying for this.
I’m so glad you somehow stumbled upon the blog. I’m curious how you did that, and I am very happy to meet you.
I really like your comment about praying specifically. Abraham is a good example: He kept on asking for the salvation of those two wicked cities. He was even so bold as to ask God to save it if there were 10 Godly people left. Now that’s specific.
The only thing that can balance me as I watch things like public education is Jesus. He is our hope.
I live in Arkansas and just attended a High School graduation this evening. The young man who spoke for the class talked about how important Jesus was to him, and both prayers were Christian prayers. It is the same school that begins teaching macroevolution (a faith based idea) earlier than 5th grade. The faith based idea that God created man isn’t even mentioned as a possibility from kindergarten through college in any public school throughout the nation. Is it a wonder our children are very confused?
I am fortunate to live in one of those “pockets” where there will be no complaints about the prayer said “In Jesus Name” at the public graduation tonight. There will be no lawsuit. At the same time, I have family members who met some folks who just moved here from California (as I did 17 years ago before my kids started school.) There are rumors that public school teachers there will begin to teach that homosexuality is just another normal family lifestyle.
If this is true, and I believe it is coming, how can Christians teach it? I know that I couldn’t and I’ve spoken to a few of my Christian teacher friends who would be forced to leave their teaching jobs because of their convictions. I’ve read enough of this book to know that the Great German theologian would have been one who couldn’t deny the Word of God over the word of man.
It is scary to see what is happening in many churches. Many kids still attend church three times a week throughout the South. Yet, they can’t answer simple Bible questions. I could go on about the new age ideas that are creeping into every Protestant denomination, but I’ll refrain.
Someday there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Our tears will be wiped away and there will be no more suffering and no more pain. I think of this day often and it fills me with the hope described in the book of Galatians.
I am praying with you and you have reminded me to be specific.
So glad to hear from you and I hope you are able to find the book easily and at a reasonable price.
Wow, enticing review of what you have read so far. The mark of a great work is the lingering thoughts that are still present many years after a book is read. Pastor Bonhoeffer is indeed a great study in a man of character and action. Having read his book The Cost of Discipleship 30 years ago. The things i read and admired about this man has helped me in my walk. I am excited about reading this 500 plus page book.
Thanks Chris for sharing.
I have heard of The Cost of Discipleship, but have never read it. I’ve read a few more chapters of this book and it continues to strike me how Pastor Bonhoeffer had to make decisions that we may have to make in our lifetime. If we haven’t made it clear where we stand on God’s Word, we had better do it now. The term “German Christians” is used to describe a group that could be identified with many in America. At this point in the book (I think we’ll be starting chapter 15 next), Hitler already has control of many of them.
I’m going to have to get a copy of that book you read 30 years ago. It sounds inspiring and instructional. I know our hero is Jesus, but where are our role models? Here is a man that we can point our young people to and tell them “your life has meaning and purpose.”
Always a pleasure to hear from you Manny. Thank you also for sharing.
Chris, despite the fact that Eric Metaxas spoke glowingly about Peter Kreeft’s ecumenical book, you gleaned a lot from Metaxas’ bio of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You made helpful comparisons and offered insights into America’s sad pre-war and present day churches. Your comments are instructive too. Thank you for involving me in your thinking and writing!
You’re more than welcome, Maria. I’m always thankful for another saint’s assistance in my education. Thank you for your kind review of my review. Also, thanks for helping to complete two posts for me. This ecumenism thing continues to grow at an alarming pace. Did you hear about Hank Hannegraaff, the current “Bible Answer Man” going Orthodox? I wonder what the great Walter Martan, the original “Bible Answer Man” would say to this?
I didn’t realize how similar Orthodox churches were to Catholicism until I heard this recent story and did a bit of research.
Metaxas, Kreeft, and particularly Keller are seen to be intellectuals and, therefore, many will follow them only because they are “smart.” The sad thing is that there are more and more like them all of the time. I see a one world religion nearing. As this happens, blogs like yours become increasingly important. Please keep up the good work!
Thanks for the encouragement, Chris! It means a lot right now.
Yes, I’ve heard about Hank Hannegraaff. Orthodoxy holds a lot of appeal if you want an old venerable institution, and has avoided the heartache and scandal of celibate priesthood. Yes, people follow clever people, people like Kreeft who now has the weight of a millennia’s old institution behind him. Things are in a mess. Maranatha, Lord Jesus!
Amen. Come Lord Jesus. Things are in a mess, big time. As my dad used to tell me, “One day at a time.”