Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bonhoeffer: Book review

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyBonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I must say that I have put off writing a review of this wonderful man’s biography feeling myself inadequate to put words to the nobility, goodness, and grand heroism of his life. However, not putting thoughts to paper would not do the man’s life justice.

Bonhoeffer’s razor-sharp intellect complemented an unalloyed moral integrity that combined in a man who rose to the top ranks of the few noble Germans who pushed back against the Nazi leviathan. His constant efforts to influence and resist the evil that surrounded him sprang from a rigorously cultivated personal moral script that is so lacking in today’s post-modern state of confusion (e.g., the top-down/bottom up dearth of moral certitude in the case of the Penn state sex abuse scandal rife from the student body to the University President). The central tenant of that moral script written by hours of study, meditation, and selfless service of others was the same that we have seen from others on the road of discipleship: Jeremiah, the Apostle Paul, and yes I would include Joseph Smith. That tenant is summed up in the acceptance of suffering in total mortal defeat in submission to Christ in hope of transcending this brutish, nasty world of sin. Bonhoeffer spoke of the need for costly grace and eschewing the ethical laziness offered in popular sermons as a false hope thinly disguised in the tawdry garb of cheap grace.

Some ne’er-do-well critics of the Latter-day Saint religious expression is that their theology of duty and service is nothing more than a babelian attempt to ‘buy salvation’. Bonhoeffer seems to reject such facile reasoning with his strenuous Christian struggle for costly grace.

Another pearl I gleamed from Bonhoeffer was his insistence in a living revelatory faith that compelled him to action. Bonhoeffer seemed to accept God’s will unreservedly by deep personal experience and not just through theological training. And this revelatory faith propelled him to understand his fellow man (both good and evil) and act accordingly. It was the surprising paralysis and capitulation of the German Church to the evil of Nazism that brought Bonhoeffer to this revelatory moment where he saw his personal calling of God to bring life to the church even though it be through the shedding of his own blood in martyrdom.

Bonhoeffer’s life was ended in the final hours of the Third Reich by the evil men whom he so forcefully resisted. It is a testament to his legacy that he fully accepted the consequences of his righteous action, and that he was so effective that those he opposed spent the precious few last moments of their ill-gotten power to destroy him.

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