I do not pretend to be an expert on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but the little I know of him gives me both cause for admiration and concern. Of course I, like most people, admire his courageous stand against Adolf Hitler that ultimately resulted in Bonhoeffer’s execution. I also admire him as a powerful thinker whose writings have served to greatly influence twentieth- and twenty-first-century theology. His popular books such as Cost of Discipleship and Life Together have long been sources of encouragement for Christians as works of devotion. But my concern lies in the fact that Bonhoeffer was not an evangelical (in the North American sense of the term) and his theology does not square with evangelical theology. Yet, in spite of this, evangelicals have adopted Bonhoeffer as one of their (our) own and have thus read him both uncritically and uncharitably. Lately I have had some discussions about this with a friend who knows Bonhoeffer much better than I do (this friend, also, does not profess to be an expert) and the conclusion is that many evangelical works on Bonhoeffer, including the recent biography by Eric Metaxas [Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2010)] do not seem to understand their subject. This has bothered me, even more so as I have read through a large number of reviews of Metaxas’ work by evangelicals—including many scholars who should know better—to find very little in the way of criticism both of Bonhoeffer or Metaxas.
The beginning of a new year often brings with it bloggers and journalists listing their “top tens” of the previous year. I didn’t read enough to be able to adequately determine my own list, so what I’ll offer now is a list of a projected top ten for this coming year. I should admit upfront that this will be a random number rather than a proper top ten, and I am drafting this list cognizant of the fact that I am stealing the idea from Keith Mathison at the Ligonier blog. The one difference between my list and Mathison’s–aside from the choice of particular books–is that he organised his according to publisher. For me, I organise according to book. I’ll also include projected series here as well. So here goes:
One of the great ironies of Christian history occurred in the latter part of seventeenth-century England in the little town of Bedford. A poor tinker (mender of pots and pans and such) named John Bunyan had recently begun to preach the gospel in the 1650s with uncommon effect. In increasing numbers the people began to give him a hearing, and it was evident to all but those insensitive to God that his preaching was divinely blessed.