Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian, Christian, Man for His Times; a Biography

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian, Christian, Man for His Times; a Biography

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian, Christian, Man for His Times; a Biography

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian, Christian, Man for His Times; a Biography


At a time when much of the world was either enticed with or entrapped by fascism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer dared to live the morally responsible Christian life to its most expressive, and tragic, end. As a theologically rooted opponent to National Socialism, and later as a member of the political resistance against Nazism, Bonhoeffer was recognized as a leader even by his enemies and was hanged by the Gestapo in 1945. His legacy has inspired many and has demonstrated his landmark life and works to be among the most important of the twentieth century and the most relevant for our times ahead.

This celebrated biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eberhard Bethge-Bonhoeffer's friend, pupil, close associate and relative by marriage-has been fully reviewed, corrected, and clarified by leading Bonhoeffer scholar Victoria Barnett for this new edition of the classic and definitive work. With previous sections updated and expanded, and entirely new sections on Bonhoeffer's childhood never before seen in English, this edition is sure to be the most accurate and inspiring textual rendering of Bonhoeffer to date.


Pleasing as it is that this biography is now available in English, twenty-five years ago I would have been astonished if anyone had predicted such widespread interest in Bonhoeffer. What has happened?

A man suffered shipwreck in, with, and because of his country. He saw his church and its claims collapse in ruins. The theological writings he left consisted of barely accessible fragments. In 1945 only a handful of friends and enemies knew who this young man had been; the names of other Christians in Germany were more in the limelight. When his name did emerge from the anonymity of his death, the response from the world of academic theology and the churches was tentative and restrained. Even today, some Germans hesitate to accept him and what he stood for completely.

In a world that moves from one topic to the next with ever greater rapidity, why is there still an interest in this man? Why does this interest continue to grow?

Perhaps the explanation is his unusual combination of thought and action, of his life as martyr and theologian. Perhaps it is the consistency and credibility of his admirable understanding of his cultural and church traditions, and the way in which he accepted the shaking of these foundations, while he lived and conceived a new Christianity for the future. Perhaps part of our sense of his conviction comes from the incompleteness of the man and his answers—because he presents us, not with a finished doctrine, but with an active process of learning. Perhaps it was the strong identity he preserved, even as he wrestled with a complexity of themes, answers, and problems. Perhaps we are fascinated by his utterly unfashionable renunciation of publicity. Perhaps, too, it was the triumph of his humanity over its betrayal by the means he was forced to use. To explain the widespread attention that has been given to his theological contentions, Christian testimony, and actions, we must look along all these lines.

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