The evangelical Bonhoeffer?

I have not read all of Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but I did compare a few sections with Bethge’s standard biography. Without doubt, Bethge has a stronger grasp of both the socio-political currents and the theological currents. I watched an hour-long speech by Metaxas on Bonhoeffer and was not impressed. I loved his biography of Wilberforce, and he is a gifted writer. But you can’t understand as complex a topic as Bonhoeffer with a few years of study. You need to be schooled in both the European political scene and the developments in German philosophy and theology, including the fact that “liberal” or “orthodox” are scarcely adequate categories for understanding Bonhoeffer (and a large number of theologians at the time, like Brunner and Barth or even Bultmann and Tillich). Thus, I greatly appreciate (conservative Reformed blogger) Tim Challies’ recent post gathering some of the critical reactions to Metaxas’ biography.


  1. Unfortunately I had devoured the first 2/3rds of Metaxas’ book (a Christmas present) before I posted something from it and Halden burst my bubble. I have about a 100pgs left, and not sure I’m going to finish 😦 . I’ll have to check out Tim’s listing of reviews, thanks.

    • I think I’m just going to read Bethge and skip Metaxas. Of course, I should just read more Bonhoeffer himself. I’ve only read The Cost of Discipleship.

  2. Kevin,
    Have you read:
    Title: The myth of Dietrich Bonhoeffer : is his theology evangelical?
    Author: Weikart, Richard

    It is an OK, book. Not great but worth reading once.

    I grew up amidst the Bonhoeffer hagiography both at school and in church. He was implicated in a plot to assassinate Hitler because his name was on a list captured by the police. It is really tough to wade through all the mythology to find the historical Bonhoeffer. Everyone wants Bonhoeffer on their side, but they don’t want to be bothered with the real man they want the myth.

    • No, I haven’t read Weikart’s book. The price is a bit too steep, but if I see it in a library I’ll check it out.

    • Thinking about BBOnhoeffer as liberal or conservative or evangelical is ridiculous. Essentially, all of his works that I have read have a massively existentialist emphasis. That means that his theology and philosophy can never be in any one category. He is all and none.

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