The Battle for Bonhoeffer

Narrated by: Trevor Thompson
Length: 6 hrs and 10 mins
Categories: History, Religious
4.5 out of 5 stars (44 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The figure of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) has become a clay puppet in modern American politics. Secular, radical, liberal, and evangelical interpreters variously shape and mold the martyr’s legacy to suit their own pet agendas.

Stephen Haynes offers an incisive and clarifying perspective. A recognized Bonhoeffer expert, Haynes examines “populist” readings of Bonhoeffer, including the acclaimed biography by Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. In his analysis Haynes treats, among other things, the November 2016 election of Donald Trump and the “Bonhoeffer moment” announced by evangelicals in response to the US Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Battle for Bonhoeffer includes an open letter from Haynes pointedly addressing Christians who still support Trump. Bonhoeffer’s legacy matters. Haynes redeems the life and the man.

©2018 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (P)2018 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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Not As Expected

I got this via audiobook boom and this is my voluntary review. I did not know anything about the person this book is talking about. I got it so that I might understand the Evangelicals in this country. My conclusion after the book was completed from his final letter to the Evangelicals. These are the same people who accepted segregation and turned a blind eye to what Jim Crow laws were doing to this country. They are also the same ones who hated that the country had a black President.. I have been a whole Bible believing Christian for the past 30 years. I study the whole Bible, history, the present, and not just a pick and chose verses that help support what I think. this book helped me to see clearer that everyone including our Vice President are pickers. The Words of Jesus are very clear on many matters. they also can be clearer if one actually studied the whole passage as well as the history, setting, and who the passage is talking to and or relates to. If you just pulled a verse out such as the one that talks about the power of life and death is in the tongue and not read the surrounding passages one might believe that they can speak things into existence. But just a cursory reading of that passage lets you know that it is talking about a particular person. so many other passages that people throw around as concrete truths are treated that way. Yet passages that tell you the greatest of these is love slip over their heads. How does putting kids in cages, stealing kids from parents with no way of reuniting them fit into love. Truly following the whole bible takes conviction, study, and asking God for the wisdom and understanding that He desires us to have. Not our own understanding and we don't have wisdom unless God gives it to us. We have knowledge but not wisdom. a wise man takes the time to understand what they believe.
God's Word never changes and one of the precepts is that character counts. My eyes are clearer now about Evangelicals and getting clearer. I hope we as a nation don't allow what happened to Germany to happen here. When people who follow Jesus allow things to slide just because the agenda they have is being set forth, bad things happen. I wonder how they will feel when the EPA standards that have been rolled back starts affecting them. The people of Flint, and other towns in this country will not be the only ones drinking impure water, while the people in the white House drink water imported from a factory.

3 people found this helpful

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Bonhoeffer was a person, not a Rorschach test

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the most respected Christian figures of the 20th century. But it would not be surprising that his legacy is debated. Bonhoeffer’s works span 16 volumes in the complete works. Those complete works include letters, books, fiction, sermons, academic papers and more. It is unsurprising in the breadth of his work over time that there significant changes in thought, even in his short life.

What may be surprising for many is how recent the interest in Bonhoeffer is. There is a good chapter by Timothy Larson in Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture that traces Evangelical reception to Bonhoeffer. And Martin Marty’s biography of the book Letters and Papers from Prison has a long section that traces the history of how Bonhoeffer was received as well.

The Battle for Bonhoeffer is really a book length expansion of the use and misuse of Bonhoeffer that both of the two mentioned book discuss in shorter sections. And for the most part is a scathing critique of the misuse while noting some of the better uses.

Bonhoeffer’s ideas have been controversially appropriated for different movements nearly from the start. John Robinson’s very controversial book Honest to God used Bonhoeffer’s concept of religion-less Christianity. But in 1963 when Honest to God was published, Bonhoeffer was not widely known and Bonhoeffer was tainted in conservative circles because of his attachment to Honest to God.

Haynes carefully walks through how different groups have used (and often misused or distorted) Bonhoeffer for their own purposes. This is a brief but helpful reminder that broader context of a person’s life and work is important to rightly understanding and using a person’s ideas. My largest take away from Battle for Bonhoeffer is the importance of actually understanding the subject before talking about it.

There is special and extensive critique of Eric Metaxas and his biography. Metaxas is not a historian or theologian. While Haynes notes the value in Metaxas bringing more attention to Bonhoeffer, Haynes has almost nothing positive to say about the quality of Metaxas’ work. I am far from a Bonhoeffer scholar and at the time I first read Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, I noticed at least a half dozen mistakes. Haynes notes far more.

While Haynes is very critical of Metaxas and others bad use of Bonhoeffer, he is not unreasonable in expecting that subjects of biographies be treated accurately. As I was reading, I was reminded of Bradley Wright’s Christians are Hate Filled Hypocrites and Other Lies You’ve Been Told. Both are attempting to correct Christians that badly use data/history. Many Christians that are using data/history badly are justifying the bad use because of their good intentions. Wright talks about pastors trying to prove the importance of their subjects in their preaching by searching for the worst statistics they can find instead of accurately presenting data. Haynes’ point about Metaxas bad use of history and his ignorance of Bonhoeffer’s theology and historical context is that even if Metaxas had good intentions, the bad history still is bad history.

Battle for Bonhoeffer is subtitled ‘Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump.’ And there are several sections at the end that deal with current events. Part of the context of the critique of Metaxas is how Metaxas used Bonhoeffer as a weapon in his critique of Obama and Metaxas' support of Trump. Haynes is very concerned about how many modern figures on the political left and right keep pointing to Hitler’s Germany as somehow parallel to either Obama or Trump’s America.

However, at the end of Battle for Bonhoeffer, Haynes writes an open letter to Christians that are currently supporting Trump because he believes that while Trump is not Hitler, there are things that can be learned from Bonhoeffer that are relevant to our current political situation. He distinguishes between those that reluctantly voted for Trump but are concerned about Trump’s policies today and those that nearly two year after his election continue to fully support Trump. (Christianity Today reported on a survey by Lifeway that was released yesterday, Oct 11, 2018, that said that 52% of all Christian pastors support Trump’s presidential performance, 28% disapprove and 20% are unsure).

I am not sure many supporters of Trump will pick up a book about the use and misuse of Bonhoeffer, so I doubt that Battle for Bonhoeffer will make much of an impact to Trump's level of support. However, as an individual, this is a screed that I thought was personally useful in reminding me the importance of academic research, the limits of using historical data on understanding current events and the need to honestly inspect how we pick and choose data to make our points.

#Sweepstakes #History #Biography

5 people found this helpful

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Makes you think

Slow at the start. Definitely full of information about Bonhoeffer and the state of our country today.

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Compelling and timely

This book was a terrific one to listen to on a cross-country road trip. Parts 1 and 2 give a really accessible and highly informative historical understanding of the way Bonhoeffer has been viewed, used and discussed by Americans since his execution. I learned a great deal about Bonhoeffer's role in academia and the popular and political mind. But perhaps the best part of the book for me, as a non-scholar who still values critical academic analysis, was Part 3, "Triumph of the Populist Bonhoeffer". Haynes chronicles the way Bonhoeffer has been molded by evangelicals and liberals in recent years with a broad analysis of the writings, television transcript excerpts, blog postings, newspaper columns, and other sources devoted to Bonhoeffer from the full spectrum of political and religious thought. This portion was an important look back for me as I try to make some sense of the extraordinary times we are living through. Haynes' Open Letter to Evangelicals at the book's conclusion is powerful. It is a heartfelt and candid challenge that left me pondering more broadly the role of all Christians (including me) in this tumultuous political time.

3 people found this helpful

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Great for someone familiar with Bohnoeffer

I think this is a audiobook that would be better appreciated by someone very familiar with Bonhoeffer; if I were more familiar with this famous Christian, and with other works about him, I would have liked it even more. I enjoyed learning about the "misappropriation" of Bonhoeffer by those from whom Bonhoeffer would, perhaps, not have associated with.

I am very grateful that I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request; I have voluntarily left this review.

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not horrible, but not worth paying for

not worth the time
author has a single thesis and repeats it...over and over again.

1 person found this helpful