Bonhoeffer

So I’m back on my history kick.  I started reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas (author of  William Wilberforce’s biography Amazing Grace) and Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.

I haven’t gotten too far into Guns, Germs and Steel yet, but I’m a bit more than halfway through Bonhoeffer, a 500+ page tome that chronicles the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and pastor that worked against Hitler’s Nazi regime in the 1930s-40s.

I first read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship during my freshman year of college.  I’d attempted to read it several times before that but always failed.  The depth of understanding and insight into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was staggering to me.

Since that initial reading, I try to re-read Discipleship probably once every couple of years.  I believe it’s one of those books that will hit me differently at various points of my life so I make it a point to read it every now and then and I always refer to it whenever I’m reading through the Gospel of Matthew.

Although I knew that Bonhoeffer had participated in the resistance against Hitler by helping Jews and actively speaking out against the Nazi regime. I really didn’t know any more about his life apart from that.  Reading through Bonhoeffer however, I have become surprised at how much I find myself not only impressed by his intellectualism as a theologian and progressive thinker and his compassion as a pastor and human being; I find myself actually becoming attached to him just as a person.  Even though I’ve read Discipleship several times, I finally feel as though I’m getting to know him.

I’m convinced that he was INFP, for all you Myers-Briggs lovers, which probably partially accounts for this kinship.

He was a writer.  He was a pianist.  He loved music.  He was a naturally reserved person, but his passion for truth and compassion for people drew him out of his shell (in addition to social life in an American dorm).  He thrived on the rigor and challenge of academia.  He loved spending time with his friends, sharing meals, having deep conversations, singing songs and celebrating.  He loved going to the theater, to opera, to art museums.  He understood the value of, participated in and shaped the nature of culture around him.  He had no problem voicing his opinion and he often fiercely and eloquently defended his views with logic.  He was utterly concerned with people.  He was extremely idealistic and passionate that the gospel be lived out in his life and in the lives of professing Christians around him, and his faith always inexorably moved him to action.  Most importantly, his devotion to Christ leaps off the pages as being undeniably real, but never pietistic; conscientious and sensitive to the culture around him but never shallow; uncompromising and unapologetic but never legalistic.  One could never accuse him of being nominal or inauthentic.

I’m only halfway through, but so far he’s been advocating for the German Lutheran church to assert itself as being distinct by the pseudo-church that the Nazis established during the 1930s and endorsed leading up until Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939.  I haven’t quite gotten to World War II yet but it’s almost there.

I think I’m enjoying this biography for the same reason I enjoyed Wilberforce’s biography:

I love it when the passionate idealists actually DO something.

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