Did You You Know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer Was a Youth Pastor? [Book Week]

bonhoeffer

Last Friday I was wandering through my old stomping grounds, the National Youth Workers Convention, in Sacramento. Beside me was Andrew Root, a friend since we were both Ph.D. students at Princeton Theological Seminary. Later that day we would sit together on a theological panel considering the state of the science-and-religion dialogue, but at that moment we were wandering through the conference book store.

Andrew Root

Andrew Root

Root is among the top rank of theologians working in youth ministry today, and he is undisputedly the most prolific author in the field, often publishing two books per year. Virtually an entire table was committed to his books, but one book was no where to be found. Root’s latest book, Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together was sold out, and the conference wasn’t even 24 hours old.

The popularity of Root’s new book is testament to a couple things, not least of which is the ongoing interest in Bonhoeffer, a 20th century theologian, activist, and martyr. Root has long studied Bonhoeffer, and he’s used the content of Bonhoeffer’s unfinished masterpiece, Ethics, to argue that relationship is not a means to an end in Christian ministry — relationship is the telos of ministry, since that’s where Christ enters the human situation.

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Bonhoeffer Bends A Lot of Ways

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Make of him what you will. Literally.

Everyone wants to claim Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Liberals like his political action on behalf of an oppressed people. Evangelicals love his “religionless Christianity” and his critique of his students at Union Seminary in New York. That he is a complex historic figure is currently on display, brought to a head by Eric Metaxas.

Metaxas, an accomplished author and unapologetically conservative firebrand, wrote a popular biography of Bonhoeffer that was met with plaudits by fellow conservatives, winning Book of the Year in 2010 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Metaxas got another jewel in his crown when he gave the plenary address this year at the National Prayer Breakfast.

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