This review excites me to share with you. Eric Metaxas’ book is neither light nor short; but it’s absolutely rewarding and worth the read. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who spoke into and lived during the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich, represents a group of people little recognized by history: Germans who opposed the Nazis and stood firmly by the resounding truth of the Biblical Gospel.
This biography of Bonhoeffer is thoroughly researched—the in-depth account of his life, from a small child through his final days in his thirties—provides a detailed portrait of Dietrich. Metaxas includes extensive excerpts from Bonhoeffer’s writings and words, presenting his beliefs in their complexity. Additionally, Bonhoeffer’s life is surrounded by a rich and impressive context. The author effectively describes Germany politically, ecclesiastically, nationally, and in other spheres of life. Metaxas takes us step by step through the pre-war, World War II, and a small bit of the post-war happenings: it’s well-paced and takes time developing persons and arguments.
The narration is humorous and somber at appropriate times. The word choice is exquisite: he selects descriptive language and even subtly mocks certain figures through diction, which I found quite enjoyable.
As for the audiobook component, this is only my third audiobook; but it’s perhaps my favorite in terms of delivery. Bonhoeffer is a 22-hour-long experience read by Malcolm Hillgartner. His voice is soothing and expressive. The reading is excellent, especially given the abundance of German terms. This is the principally challenging part: as audio, the text, which is chock-full of German language, can be overwhelming. One virtually cannot remember every name and place. However, since prominent names are repeated often, the important ones stick in the listener’s mind. Overall, I wouldn’t say this affects the story too much.
And now, for Bonhoeffer himself. This man is remembered and presented in a way that’s both admirable and sympathetic, relatable and inspiring. The readings of his sermons made me admire his theological acuity. He wasn’t afraid to be bold, or tell the truth despite discomfort. Bonhoeffer didn’t waste time: he was extremely productive and passionate about being involved—about caring for people. He preached taking up one’s cross, and actually displayed it. Bonhoeffer’s adamancy about being faithful to God’s Word, and His will, is completely applicable to today.
At the same time, he was a charming, sweet figure: he loved to have fun, make music, play games, and avidly read and wrote. Dietrich thought deeply. I don’t want to reveal his words or events of his life here, because the book does such a good job of that. But it’s clear that Bonhoeffer remained brave, discerning, and resolute until his execution in 1945. The accounts of his last days in the book are heart-rending.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an example to generations of Christians that come after him. He inspires us to think, to reason, to find the niche(s) in which God wants to use us, to learn, and to become, ultimately, more wholly devoted to Christ.
This book is an engrossing read: I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to pick up his or her next historical or theological piece.