Author and Editor Jana Riess recently interviewed Eric Metaxas about his major new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Some highlights:
Your subtitle suggests you’ll be looking at four different aspects of Bonhoeffer the man: pastor, martyr, prophet, and spy. Christians are probably used to the first three, but what do most people know about Bonhoeffer as a spy for the Resistance?
In 1939, after Hitler declared war on Poland, and after Bonhoeffer returned from his fateful and abbreviated trip to the U.S., he was asking God what to do next. And what he ended up doing was working for German military intelligence — called the Abwehr — under the supervision of his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi. But of course Dohnanyi and many others in the Abwehr were involved in the conspiracy against Hitler. That’s why Bonhoeffer joined them! So he became a double agent. On the surface he was working for the Abwehr, but in reality he was working to make contacts with the Allies, to let them know there were Germans inside Germany who were working to overthrow the Third Reich. It’s just amazing.
Bonhoeffer has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity recently. Why do you think his writings are so appealing to people today?
There’s something about Bonhoeffer that just seems extremely modern, as though his whole life and writings were written for us, today. He died young, so he will always be young and will always hold a certain freshness and appeal to young people. But there’s something about his extraordinary authenticity that especially speaks to us today with particular force. He saw right through dead religion and spent his whole adult life trying to show the difference between dead religion and a real and personal faith in Jesus Christ. His unwillingness to abide cant and sloganeering and theological or philosophical chicanery seems particularly appealing to us today, who have had our fill of these things and who long for someone to give us an alternative to them.
Read Jana’s full interview here.