Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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In the decades since his execution by the Nazis in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, and anti-Hitler conspirator, has become one of the most widely read and inspiring Christian thinkers of our time. Now, drawing on extensive new research, Strange Glory offers a definitive account, by turns majestic and intimate, of this modern icon.

The scion of a grand family that rarely went to church, Dietrich decided as a thirteen-year-old to become a theologian. By twenty-one, the rather snobbish and awkward young man had already written a dissertation hailed by Karl Barth as a “theological miracle.” But it was only the first step in a lifelong effort to recover an authentic and orthodox Christianity from the dilutions of liberal Protestantism and the modern idolatries of blood and nation—which forces had left the German church completely helpless against the onslaught of Nazism.

From the start, Bonhoeffer insisted that the essence of Christianity was not its abstract precepts but the concrete reality of the shared life in Christ. In 1930, his search for that true fellowship led Bonhoeffer to America for ten fateful months in the company of social reformers, Harlem churchmen, and public intellectuals. Energized by the lived faith he had seen, he would now begin to make what he later saw as his definitive “turn from the phraseological to the real.” He went home with renewed vocation and took up ministry among Berlin’s downtrodden while trying to find his place in the hoary academic establishment increasingly captive to nationalist fervor.

With the rise of Hitler, however, Bonhoeffer’s journey took yet another turn. The German church was Nazified, along with every other state-sponsored institution. But it was the Nuremberg laws that set Bonhoeffer’s earthly life on an ineluctable path toward destruction. His denunciation of the race statutes as heresy and his insistence on the church’s moral obligation to defend all victims of state violence, regardless of race or religion, alienated him from what would become the Reich church and even some fellow resistors. Soon the twenty-seven-year-old pastor was one of the most conspicuous dissidents in Germany. He would carry on subverting the regime and bearing Christian witness, whether in the pastorate he assumed in London, the Pomeranian monastery he established to train dissenting ministers, or in the worldwide ecumenical movement. Increasingly, though, Bonhoeffer would find himself a voice crying in the wilderness, until, finally, he understood that true moral responsibility obliged him to commit treason, for which he would pay with his life. 

Charles Marsh brings Bonhoeffer to life in his full complexity for the first time. With a keen understanding of the multifaceted writings, often misunderstood, as well as the imperfect man behind the saintly image, here is a nuanced, exhilarating, and often heartrending portrait that lays bare Bonhoeffer’s flaws and inner torment, as well as the friendships and the faith that sustained and finally redeemed him. Strange Glory is a momentous achievement.
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About the author

Charles Marsh is a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia and director of the Project on Lived Theology. He is the author of seven previous books, including God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights, which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Of Marsh’s earlier volumes Reclaiming Bonhoeffer, the late Eberhand Bethge, Bonhoeffer’s closest friend and first biographer, wrote: “This book is a theological sensation—an exciting event. Nobody who attempts to define Bonhoeffer’s legacy today will able to ignore Marsh’s book.”Marsh was a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in 2009 and the 2010 Ellen Maria Gorrissen Berlin Prize fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Apr 29, 2014
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Pages
528
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ISBN
9780385351690
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Religious
Biography & Autobiography / Social Activists
History / Modern / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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“An astounding life, splendidly recorded.” —Fritz Stern, author of Five Germanys I Have Known
Hans Kung is undoubtedly one of the most important theologians of our time, but he has always been a controversial figure, and as the result of a much-publicized clash over papal infallibility had his permission to teach revoked by the Vatican. Yet at seventy-five years of age Kung is also something of a senior statesman, one of the -Group of Eminent Persons convened by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a friend of heads of government like Britain's Tony Blair and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

In this fascinating autobiography Kung gives a frank and outspoken account of the first four decades of his life. He tells of his youth in Switzerland and his decision to become a priest, of his doubts and struggles as he studied in Rome and Paris, and of his experiences as a professor in Tubingen, where he received a chair at the early age of thirty-one. Most importantly, as one of the last surviving eyewitnesses of Vatican II, Kung gives an authentic account of the conflicts behind the scenes. Here it becomes clear just how major an influence he was, to the point of shaping the Council's agenda and drafting speeches for bishops to deliver in plenary sessions.

Kung's book offers an acute analysis, compelling in its drama, of meetings with presidents like John F. Kennedy, popes like John XXIII and Paul VI, great theologians like Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, and journeys around the world. With its rich thought and vivid narrative, it paints a moving picture of Kung's personal convictions, including his relentless struggle for a Christianity characterized not by the domination of an official church but by Jesus.

WHO BETTER TO FACE THE GREATEST EVIL OF THE 20TH CENTURY THAN A HUMBLE MAN OF FAITH?

As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author. In this New York Times best-selling biography, Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life—the theologian and the spy—and draws them together to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler’s Germany, and sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland. In a deeply moving narrative, Metaxas uses previously unavailable documents?including personal letters, detailed journal entries, and firsthand personal accounts?to reveal dimensions of Bonhoeffer's life and theology never before seen.

"Bonhoeffer is the story of a life framed by a passion for truth and a commitment to justice on behalf of those who face implacable evil. Includes Readers’ Guide “[A] beautifully constructed biography.”

—Alan Wolfe, The New Republic

“Metaxas tells Bonhoeffer’s story with passion and theological sophistication. . . .”

—Wall Street Journal

“[A] weighty, riveting analysis of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. . . .”

—Publishers Weekly

“Metaxas presents Bonhoeffer as a clear-headed, deeply convicted Christian who submitted to no one and nothing except God and his Word.”

—Christianity Today

“Metaxas has written a book that adds a new dimension to World War II, a new understanding of how evil can seize the soul of a nation and a man of faith can confront it. . . .”

—Thomas Fleming, author, The New Dealers’ War

“Metaxas has created a biography of uncommon power—intelligent, moving, well researched,vividly written, and rich in implication for our own lives. Or to put it another way: Buy this book. Read it. Then buy another copy and give it to a person you love. It’s that good.”

—Archbishop Charles Chaput, First Things

"A definitive Bonhoeffer biography for the 21st century."

—Kirkus Reviews

2011 ECPA Book of the Year2011 Canterbury Medal by the Becket Fund recognizing courage in the defense of religious liberty2011 Christopher Award winner highlighting the power of faith, courage, and action

"A definitive Bonhoeffer biography for the 21st century."

-Kirkus Reviews

WHO BETTER TO FACE THE GREATEST EVIL OF THE 20TH CENTURY THAN A HUMBLE MAN OF FAITH?

As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author. In this New York Times best-selling biography, Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life—the theologian and the spy—and draws them together to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler’s Germany, and sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland. In a deeply moving narrative, Metaxas uses previously unavailable documents?including personal letters, detailed journal entries, and firsthand personal accounts?to reveal dimensions of Bonhoeffer's life and theology never before seen.

"Bonhoeffer is the story of a life framed by a passion for truth and a commitment to justice on behalf of those who face implacable evil. Includes Readers’ Guide “[A] beautifully constructed biography.”

—Alan Wolfe, The New Republic

“Metaxas tells Bonhoeffer’s story with passion and theological sophistication. . . .”

—Wall Street Journal

“[A] weighty, riveting analysis of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. . . .”

—Publishers Weekly

“Metaxas presents Bonhoeffer as a clear-headed, deeply convicted Christian who submitted to no one and nothing except God and his Word.”

—Christianity Today

“Metaxas has written a book that adds a new dimension to World War II, a new understanding of how evil can seize the soul of a nation and a man of faith can confront it. . . .”

—Thomas Fleming, author, The New Dealers’ War

“Metaxas has created a biography of uncommon power—intelligent, moving, well researched,vividly written, and rich in implication for our own lives. Or to put it another way: Buy this book. Read it. Then buy another copy and give it to a person you love. It’s that good.”

—Archbishop Charles Chaput, First Things

"A definitive Bonhoeffer biography for the 21st century."

—Kirkus Reviews

2011 ECPA Book of the Year2011 Canterbury Medal by the Becket Fund recognizing courage in the defense of religious liberty2011 Christopher Award winner highlighting the power of faith, courage, and action

"A definitive Bonhoeffer biography for the 21st century."

-Kirkus Reviews

"Is there anyone on earth who is so narrow-minded or uninquisitive that he could fail to want to know how and thanks to what kind of political system almost the entire known world was conquered and brought under a single empire in less than fifty-three years?" --Polybius, Histories The 53-year period Polybius had in mind stretched from the start of the Second Punic War in 219 BCE until 167, when Rome overthrew the Macedonian monarchy and divided the country into four independent republics. This was the crucial half-century of Rome's spectacular rise to imperial status, but Roman interest in its eastern neighbors began a little earlier, with the First Illyrian War of 229, and climaxed later with the infamous destruction of Corinth in 146. Taken at the Flood chronicles this momentous move by Rome into the Greek east. Until now, this period of history has been overshadowed by the threat of Carthage in the west, but events in the east were no less important in themselves, and Robin Waterfield's account reveals the peculiar nature of Rome's eastern policy. For over seventy years, the Romans avoided annexation so that they could commit their military and financial resources to the fight against Carthage and elsewhere. Though ultimately a failure, this policy of indirect rule, punctuated by periodic brutal military interventions and intense diplomacy, worked well for several decades, until the Senate finally settled on more direct forms of control. Waterfield's fast-paced narrative focuses mainly on military and diplomatic maneuvers, but throughout he interweaves other topics and themes, such as the influence of Greek culture on Rome, the Roman aristocratic ethos, and the clash between the two best fighting machines the ancient world ever produced: the Macedonian phalanx and Roman legion. The result is an absorbing account of a critical chapter in Rome's mastery of the Mediterranean.
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