Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


The Legacy of Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Part Three
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When I read World Magazine’s July 2010 article on their runner-up Book of the Year, I was immediately intrigued. So I asked for Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy for my birthday and was ecstatic to receive it, but also surprised to unwrap a hefty, nearly 600 page book. Could there really be so much to say about a man whose name I couldn’t even pronounce?

This book, which has since reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List, is one of those great tomes that is not content to describe only the main subject, but must sprawl into dozens of other foundational subjects as well. Without ever straying from his main purpose, Eric Metaxas manages to cover German history, the Reformation, theology, doctrine, racial tensions in America, culture, the Church in Germany, the financial crisis of the thirties, the rise and fall of the Third Reich, and so much more. Bonhoeffer’s life intersects with all of these details, and so with a greater understanding of these subjects comes a greater understanding of Bonhoeffer himself.

While Dietrich Bonhoeffer can be a most controversial subject, and many liberals have contorted his “religionless Christianity” into a call to postmodern humanism and the “Death of God” movement, Bonhoeffer makes the convincing case that this man was a serious-minded, Biblically-based Christian. Bonhoeffer lived a life centered around Christ: "There arises a more determined quest for him who is the sole object of it all, for Jesus Christ himself. What did Jesus mean to say to us? . . . What we want to know is not, what would this or that man, or this or that Church, have of us, but what Jesus Christ himself wants of us[1].” 
On the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, they have this to say about Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Over the past 50 years, many Christians have been engaged in the process of reexamining the role of the Church in Germany during the Nazi era. What has become evident in this undertaking is the depth of the chasm between the ideals the Church had always set for itself and the way it responded to the brutalization of the German government under Adolf Hitler. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the few church leaders who stood in courageous opposition to the Fuehrer and his policies[2].”
Bonhoeffer redefined the Church with his part in the Barmen Declaration, which affirmed Christ to be the head and center of the church. This, during a time when the State was exerting itself to control and censure the church, Scripture, and Christians. Bonhoeffer asserted the inerrance and infallibility of the Word of God amongst academia who studied Scripture for its historical value only. Most importantly, however, Dietrich Bonhoeffer resolutely pursued a life centered on, based on, and led by Jesus Christ:

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds: we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?...Who stands firm?...Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action: the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call[3].”
This is the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Not a perfect legacy, by any means, but a legacy that brings one irresistably and constantly back to Christ Jesus our Lord. And this is the legacy that Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy so honestly portrays.

[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Discipleship, John D. Godsey (editor); Geffrey B. Kelly (editor). Fortress Press, 2000.
[3] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “After Ten Years,” in Letters and Papers from Prison. Enlarged Edition, Eberhard Bethge, ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company), 1971, 5, 16-17.
 Photo Credit: Bob AuBuchon


  1. Thanks so much for the great post...I can't wait to read the book!


  2. You're welcome--let me know what you think of it!

  3. I read the book. Many of Bonhoeffer's writings are excellent and wonderful. I learned so much from enjoying his writings. His famous "Wedding Sermon", for example, speaks of Biblical femininity. You can read it here:


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