See my Christianity Today online piece about pastors resigning after book success
My new book review of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas is posted online at Books & Culture

Book recommendation: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

Eric Metaxas has given us a thorough, solid, American, Christian overview of Bonhoeffer's life in his new biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer by MetaxasI have read all of Bonhoeffer's main works and the definitive and difficult 941 page biography by Eberhard Bethge.  Metaxas's biography does not disappoint.  His rigorous intellectual portrait also touches the heart.

Thorough--at 542 pages, Metaxas's account is neither overly detailed nor simplistic.  It shows the complexity of Bonhoeffer's situation and yet--especially from chapters 21 onward to the end of the book (chapter 31)--moves at a riveting pace. 

Solid--Metaxas's scholarly judgments are modest and judicious.  Metaxas has done solid research--drawing on the main sources--for this portrait.   

American--Eberhard Bethge's definitive 1967 (revised 2000) biography was originally written in German with the assumption that many aspects of German culture and history need not be explained.  Bethge also skips around chronologically.  Metaxas provides background information and analogies so that an American audience can understand Bonhoeffer's thoughts and actions.  His book also draws on the letters between Bonhoeffer and his fiance Maria that Bethge did not have access to when he wrote. 

Christian--throughout the book the reader will sense Metaxas's sympathy with Bonhoeffer's Christian convictions. 

Christians who like to read and Bonhoeffer scholars will welcome this biography as an outstanding introduction to the man. 

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy 

Eric Metaxas

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If you would like to read more from Bonhoeffer himself, I would recommend where Bonhoeffer himself advised his fiance Maria to begin, with Life Together, where he describes the practices that he developed in underground seminaries during Nazi Germany for the spiritual formation of pastors.  I would normally always recommend the critical edition of Bonhoeffer's work but I think in some ways the older translation is smoother reading.  See the two below. 

Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Life Together

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Then I would read the first five chapters or at least the famous first chapter of Discipleship (also called Cost of Discipleship).  In this case, I prefer the critical edition's translation. 


Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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or Buy New $14.28

If you are intrigued with Bonhoeffer's life, then you should read the new critical edition which is just out of Letters and Papers from Prison.

Letters and Papers from Prison

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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or the marvelous intimate portrait by his best friend

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography

Eberhard Bethge

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And if you are interested in his beautiful sad romance, read:

Love Letters from Cell 92: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Maria von Wedemeyer, 1943-45

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Maria Von Wedemeyer, and Ruth Alice Von Bismarck

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If you are a theologian, lots of people here at Duke Divinity School are rightfully devouring his final mature work published posthumously:


Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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I would like to watch:

Bonhoeffer: A Documentary

Martin Doblmeier

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I just watched:


Tom Cruise

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which gives you a glimpse into the plots against Hitler that Bonhoeffer's friends participated in and which he tacitly supported.  Here is the Christianity Today review of Valkyrie by Peter Chattaway.  On page 425-426, Metaxas recounts the conversation Bonhoeffer had with Werner von Haeften who plays a prominent role in the Valkyrie plot as Stauffenberg's assistant. 

See my Dietrich Bonhoeffer category for more about Bonhoeffer.