Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. He was a man who lived in a difficult and pivotal period of the 20th century, dealing firsthand with the impact of the Nazi regime in Germany. Bonhoeffer also saw the acquiescence of the German church to the policies of Hitler. These and many other events helped to shape Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on the Christian life, specifically on matters of discipleship and what he so rightly labeled as the penchant for many believers to settle for cheap grace. As part of the excellent Theologians on the Christian Life series, Stephen Nichols examines Bonhoeffer’s life and theology.
I have become increasingly interested in the works of Bonhoeffer over the past year. He was always a figure of church history I felt was a bit neglected. Given that he was a man who personally dealt with tyranny and its impact on the church, he was of course well suited to speak to what it means to make a stand for matters of truth and to share from his own life thoughts on what being a disciple of Jesus is truly about.
Stephen Nichols truly brings to life the underlying importance of Bonhoeffer and the important message he so rightly focused on declaring. There is a perfect balance in Nichol’s book of exploring Bonhoeffer’s theology as well as digging into the life events that led Bonhoeffer to the positions he so often rooted his works upon. While reading this book, I felt almost transported back to the period of history Bonhoeffer lived, as Nichols deft ability to draws the reader into both Bonhoeffer the man and Bonhoeffer the theologian.
Bonhoeffer loved God first and foremost and closely following that passion for God was a love for the people of God. Living in Nazi Germany and dealing with the daily choice that existed between succumbing to the will of the state or holding fast to the will of God led Bonhoeffer to coin that marvelous of theological phrases called cheap grace. For Bonhoeffer, “discipleship means conforming to the image of Christ, which entails suffering.” Such a concept is far too often lost in today’s search for material blessings. I appreciated Nichol’s salient note that Bonhoeffer embraced suffering “not because he’s an incurable pessimist or an ascetic, but because suffering drives him to grace.”
If you are even remotely interested in the life and theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I highly recommend this book as a valuable entry point into his writings and thoughts. Nichols does a superb job of capturing who Bonhoeffer was, how his theology was formed in the crucible of suffering, and why we should pay attention to his timeless words on issues such as discipleship, community, and the costliness of grace.
This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.