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The Bonhoeffer Phenomenon: Portraits of a Protestant Saint
Fortress Press / 2003 / Paperback
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A superb introduction to Bonhoeffer's life and thought. Offering a well-rounded view, Haynes explores the 20th-century pastor/theologian through the lenses of radical theology and politics, liberal theology and social ethics, conservative Christianity and evangelicalism, and ecumenical significance. Pastors, scholars, students, and interested laypeople will appreciate the copius notes and extensive bibliography. 280 pages, softcover from Fortress.
Stephen Haynes's provocative study articulates the many motives and agendas that readers and scholars have brought to their study of Bonhoeffer, making it difficult to assess objectively the relationship of his political and religious commitments, the real meaning of his theology, and his words and actions on behalf of Jews. Reading Haynes's book helps us learn not only what Bonhoeffer has to teach us but also what it is we most desire to learn.
In the last 20 years, various groups have petitioned Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance authority in Jerusalem, to award Dietrich Bonhoeffer the designation of "Righteous Gentile," but so far all such requests have been denied. Many of these petitioners view Bonhoeffer as a model of the Christian church's resistance to the Nazi effort to rid Europe of Jewish people, and as a theologian for a post-Holocaust era. But Haynes, associate professor of religion at Rhodes College, argues effectively that the truth is more complicated than the simple and appealing image that scholars and the media have presented. Despite Bonhoeffer's deeds, which Haynes finds exemplary, his theology, when read as a whole, is troubling. At best, Haynes claims, it reveals a deep ambivalence about Jews, and at worst, the traditional Christian belief that the Jews, as "killers" of God, must suffer for that deed until they are, en masse, converted. Haynes concludes that a careful analysis of Bonhoeffer's praxis and theology does have significance for post-Holocaust Christians, but too many contemporary portraits of him are the result of "superficial reading, hopeful interpretation, and overactive speculation." Haynes's book, largely a review of Bonhoeffer scholarship, will find an audience primarily among academics and clergy. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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