Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Donhoeffer   -     By: Charles Marsh
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Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Donhoeffer

Vintage / 2015 / Paperback

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Product Description

In Strange Glory, Charles Marsh presents a portrait of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer informed by unprecendented archival access through personal documents, photos and letters. Bringing to life this complex human being--his flaws, his friendships, and his faith, readers will gain a deeper appreciation of Bonhoeffer's achievements and sacrifice. Paperback.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 485
Vendor: Vintage
Publication Date: 2015
Dimensions: 8 X 5 (inches)
ISBN: 0307390381
ISBN-13: 9780307390387

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Publisher's Description

Winner, Christianity Today 2015 Book Award in History/Biography

Shortlisted for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

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. With unprecedented archival access and definitive scope, Charles Marsh captures the life of this remarkable man who searched for the goodness in his religion against the backdrop of a steadily darkening Europe. From his brilliant student days in Berlin to his transformative sojourn in America, across Harlem to the Jim Crow South, and finally once again to Germany where he was called to a ministry for the downtrodden, we follow Bonhoeffer on his search for true fellowship and observe the development of his teachings on the shared life in Christ. We witness his growing convictions and theological beliefs, culminating in his vocal denunciation of Germany’s treatment of the Jews that would put him on a crash course with Hitler. Bringing to life for the first time this complex human being—his substantial flaws, inner torment, the friendships and the faith that sustained and finally redeemed him—Strange Glory is a momentous achievement.

Author Bio

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.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

"[A] masterly and comprehensive new biography . . . The matter of the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is at once straightforward and immensely complicated . . . From such extravagant pluralism, can there be any coherence? Marsh suggests possible answers, but does so in a restrained and non-dogmatic fashion that seems appropriate to the evidence . . . and thus provides ample resources for readers to arrive at conclusions at odds with his own."
—James Nuechterlein, The New Criterion

"This splendid biography . . . [provides] a rich and detailed account of how Bonhoeffer’s immensely eventful life unfolded – the personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey . . . [and does] much to sustain Bonhoeffer’s stature as theologian, pastor, and martyr . . . The witness that Bonhoeffer bore through his life has lost none of its power to illuminate, instruct, and challenge."
—Andrew J. Bacevich, Commonweal

"Brilliant . . . [Marsh] uses previously unavailable archives to show us a very different Bonhoeffer . . . [and] strikes several notes . . . which other biographers have not adequately emphasized . . . This Bonhoeffer is profoundly human . . . [A] beautifully written biography."
—Joel Looper, Los Angeles Review of Books
 
"Elegant, harrowing, awe-inspiring, and sermonic . . . Marsh [demonstrates] how the separate, parallel lines of Bonhoeffer’s role as monastic abbot and advocate of prophetic, progressive political action and his role as friend to Bethge and music-loving bon vivant did eventually merge . . . [A] splendid biography."
—Wesley Hill, Books & Culture

"[Marsh] renders Bonhoeffer’s life and thought in exquisite detail and with sympathetic understanding . . . [and] guides his narrative with a steady hand . . . here the paradox of a believer in the face of evil fully comes into focus . . . we see Bonhoeffer’s transformation from pampered scion and theological dilettante to energetic churchman and Christian martyr, all against the backdrop of cataclysmic changes in Germany."
—Randall Balmer, The New York Times Book Review

"Truly beautiful and heartbreaking . . . [Marsh] has a rare talent for novelistic detail – which requires a genuine creative imagination as well as scrupulously documented research . . . (the notes alone are a treasure of information) . . . [and] very properly emphasizes the importance of [Bonhoeffer's] volatile, visionary thoughts . . . It’s inspiring to almost feel Bonhoeffer slipping verses or notes of comfort into the sweaty hands of fellow prisoners either coming or going from torture . . . [An] excellent biography . . . a splendid book . . . [and] one hell of a story."
—Christian Wiman, The Wall Street Journal

"Paints a painstaking portrait of a faithful disciple . . . will help you grapple with the eccentric Bonhoeffer of history . . . [with an] exquisite eye for detail . . . [Marsh] makes a convincing case that by 1933, Bonhoeffer was the most radical and outspoken opponent of Nazi church policy . . . [a] welcome biography."
—Timothy Larsen, Christianity Today 

"A definitive study of Bonhoeffer’s life . . . erudite and humanizing. . . Marsh sagely counters all of today’s polemical heat with more historical context . . . It is this Bonhoeffer, and not the culture-war stick-figure . . . who embodies an example of spiritual witness that we desperately need today . . . Thank God for Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory." 
—Ann Neumann, Bookforum

"Beautiful . . . Marsh displays both how strangely human and how gloriously blessed Bonhoeffer’s life was . . . The theological seeds that gave rise to America’s Civil Rights Movement were scattered in Germany a generation before they began to bear fruit here."
— Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Patheos

"A biographical triumph . . . A moving, melancholy portrait . . . With both empathy and a critical eye, Marsh traces Bonhoeffer’s mercurial existence . . . [and] depicts a talented and tortured theologian and pastor who might inspire us to look beyond traditional or simplistic answers to those important questions."
—John G. Turner, The Christian Century

"[A] worthwhile new biography . . . Bonhoeffer was a genuinely beloved pastor . . . [who] practiced what he preached, at great personal cost . . . he was a true Christian."
—Mark Movsesian, First Things

"Attempts to provide a more closely examined view of Bonhoeffer’s personality than past biographers . . . using rarely glimpsed correspondence to paint a warts-and-all portrait of this German martyr . . . No doubt Marsh’s portrayal will infuse new controversy into discussions about Bonhoeffer for years to come."
Kirkus Review

"Exemplary history . . . Marsh, making the personal political and the political personal, captures Bonhoeffer’s efforts to achieve a ’nonreligious interpretation of faith’ that embraces Jesus as ’the man for others’ and then adroitly places him within the larger context of the era."
—James R. Kelly, America

"A masterpiece of a biography . . . Well written, thoughtful, provocative at times . . . Especially poignant is the way [Marsh] takes us deep into the humanity of the great theologian . . . It will take its place among the standard interpretations of Bonhoeffer’s life."
—Robert Cornwall, Ponderings on a Faith Journey
 
"[A] splendid biography . . . seamlessly combines a novelist’s narrative with a biographer’s insights . . . stands as one of those rare books that both inspires and informs as Marsh offers a discerning appreciation of Bonhoeffer’s brief but rich and faith-filled life."
—Judith Chettle, Richmond Times-Dispatch

"[A] masterpiece . . . deserves the widest possible readership . . . [Marsh] is perfectly placed . . . to tell Bonhoeffer’s life story . . . Right up to the end, [he] is by his readers’ side, clarifying and clearing away the too-pretty details that always accrue to a saintly life."
—Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly
 
"A hero never more vividly human; a founder of critical belief, never more faithful; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Charles Marsh’s elegant biography, comes powerfully to life for a new era. Just in time."
—James Carroll, Author of Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age.
 
"A marvelous biography, a page-turner, beautifully written. Strange Glory not only makes Dietrich Bonhoeffer come alive, but also offers us an intimate and very perceptive look into his mind and spirit. Charles Marsh confronts the complexities of Bonhoeffer’s resistance to the Third Reich with an unsentimental eye, allowing us to see why this martyred pastor and theologian has so much to offer to our increasingly godless world."
—Carlos Eire, T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University; author of Waiting for Snow in Havana, winner of the National Book Award
 
"An extraordinary account of an extraordinary life, Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory is profoundly researched and vividly imagined. Marsh has unearthed enough archival material to keep generations of Bonhoeffer scholars occupied, but, more important, has used his knowledge to weave a mesmerizing tale about one of the giants of the twentieth century. I can't remember when I have read a more compelling biography."
—Alan Jacobs, professor of the humanities at Baylor University and author of The Book of Common Prayer
 
"As Bonhoeffer’s doomed quest unfolds, the experience of reading Strange Glory is by turns terrifying and exhilarating. A story of profound thought and heroic action told in crystalline prose, this is a marvelous biography."
—James Tobin, author of Ernie Pyle's War and The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency (winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle Award)

"Marsh succeeds in fulfilling one of the methodologically very challenging demands of modern studies on resistance. Regime opponents are always asked about their entanglement in the regime. But rarely do historians inquire how opponents—by experiencing the reality of Nazi Germany and its looming atrocities—managed to overcome certain political positions they initially shared with the national socialists."
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"The life, thoughts and deeds of Dietrich Bonhoeffer inspire people all over the world. All those people will be drawn to this biography by the prominent theologian and acclaimed writer Charles Marsh, whose meticulous knowledge of the Bonhoeffer story and its sources infuses such a vivid narrative." 
—Wolfgang Huber, former Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany

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  1. 4 Stars Out Of 5
    New biography reveals Bonhoeffer in "warts and all" style ...
    August 13, 2014
    Scotty
    Quality: 3
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 3
    This review was written for Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
    When you hear the word "theologian," what comes to mind? What kind of man do you picture?

    That stereotype you hold about the image of a theologian probably won't fit the actual life of the famous theologian and Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Helping us understand who this man was, and what he was really like, is probably the key contribution made by the latest Bonhoeffer biography called "Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer," written by Charles Marsh (published by Alfred A. Knopf).

    Marsh spent more than eight years conducting research for this biography, and it's loaded with details about the man so that we learn how he really lived, rather than be exposed to just the myth about him.

    This story of Bonhoeffer's life is written with flowing prose, sometimes as if you're in the room with Bonhoeffer himself, observing his work or listening in on conversations. While 400 pages is a lot of reading, there's a lot of life story to be told, and Marsh does it with detail; some might even think getting too far into the minutia of Bonhoeffer's activities. But the result is seeing the man as who he really was.

    The initial impression isn't an appealing one when thinking in terms of a stereotypical theologian. Bonhoeffer was born into a family of privilege, who lived comfortably when most in his country didn't. An easy, but accurate description, is that he was spoiled. He lived with his parents for the larger part of his life, and also relied on them for not only his needs, but his wants as well, which were plentiful. He cared about fashion, was devoted to vacations and recreation, and initially didn't work hard. He rose late, worked a few hours, then gathered with friends to talk of music, literature, theology, and other personal interests, and spent the evenings out late taking in musicals and critiquing them with friends late into the night.

    His parents paid for his education, and he simply accepted what he considered to be the fact that he was a bright young man. Bright enough to complete two doctoral dissertations while still in his twenties, and he expected to enjoy a promising career in academia as a theologian in a leading university.

    Marsh weaves into this personal look at the man the men who influenced his theology, and you see how Bonhoeffer's thinking was developed, influenced, shaped, and changed over the years.

    With such a picture taking shape, you think Bonhoeffer would live his life rather as a "dandy" kind of fellow who just happened to have a great mind for theology. Even though Marsh shows us the influence of other theologians on Bonhoeffer's thinking, he didn't simply follow other thinkers. He did the hard work of his own study, and his theology would be the result of his own time devoted to scholarly effort.

    What is incredible about the life of Bonhoeffer is how the horrible times of experiencing Nazi Germany provided Bonhoeffer with the a unique impetus for spiritual development and growth that changed him from the man who enjoyed a life of ease, to a man who was willing to die for what he believed in. It may well be said that Bonhoeffer was born "for such a time as this," for without the evil brought into that culture through Hitler, it may well have been that Bonhoeffer would have never been adequately challenged to grow into who he became as a man, a minister, and a theologian.

    There is an issue of note about Bonhoeffer that Marsh unnecessarily forces into this biography, which is to clearly implicate that Bonhoeffer had a homosexual relationship (without sexual activity) with the younger Eberhard Bethge. The author points to the two living together at times, having a joint bank account, signing Christmas cards as coming from "Dietrich and Eberhard," and the level of intimacy he used in his communications with his friend. However, Bethge has always stated that his friendship with Bonhoeffer was never of a homosexual nature, regardless of the fact that they were intimate friends. Without any clear evidence to the contrary, there is no justification for Marsh's persistent push to move the reader toward thinking the relationship between Bonhoeffer and Bethge was a homosexual one.

    I would anticipate some readers of this biography would prefer more detail regarding certain aspects of Bonhoeffer's life than Marsh offers, while preferring less detail in other areas. But if you're going to stop at 400 pages, there's only so much you can fit in.

    "Strange Glory" works as a good addition to the existing biographies on the life of this remarkable man, expanding a detailed look into the person behind the myth, making this book worth adding to your list of books worth making some time for.

    I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
  2. Joplin, MO
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    2 Stars Out Of 5
    Disappointing
    August 3, 2014
    mattparks35
    Joplin, MO
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    Quality: 3
    Value: 2
    Meets Expectations: 1
    This review was written for Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
    I am an amateur reviewer with no official credentials other than I enjoy reading and learning, so take this review for what it's worth. Initially I was very excited by this new biography of an extraordinary man whose work I have benefited much. However, as I continued reading this book, my initial excitement turned to disinterest and soon to lightly skimming the book. It is easy to get bogged down by so much personal information and seemingly irrelevant information. One thing Charles Marsh does well is his homework. His bibliography and attention to individual details is unmatched. But that is also his downfall.

    The book starts out like eating rich Swiss chocolate and then quickly turns to baker's chocolate. It has a tendency to be very dry and uninteresting. For those who enjoy every detail of a person's life, this is the book for you. It seems as if Marsh fills his book with all the missing information from other Bonhoeffer biographies. The problem with this is that there is a reason other biographies leave out certain things about Bonhoeffer's life, because it is boring. However, it does bring Bonhoeffer as a man to life. For instance, when Marsh describes Bonhoeffer's wardrobe or every detail Bonhoeffer sees on his road trip to Mexico, he is introducing a certain humanness about this great man. But I find it rather dull and not exciting. Also, I find Marshs insinuation of homosexuality between Bonhoeffer and Eberhard Bethge unfounded and frankly a slap in the face to Bonhoeffers character as well as a discredit to Marshs academia.

    I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
  3. West Union, OH
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Awesome biography
    May 28, 2014
    Jimmy Reagan
    West Union, OH
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This review was written for Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
    A good biography will grip you, move you, and challenge you. In really getting to know someone in all the dynamics that make him or her the person he or she was, you find out things about yourself and, perhaps, what you would like to be. When Mr. Marsh takes pen in hand on Bonhoeffer that is exactly the experience you have.

    Mr. Marsh can write-that is obvious. He delved into his subject until he had something to say. He took a multifaceted view and hid nothing. Even what could have been mundane information, like certain academic pursuits, was woven together to show us the man progressing to become what he finally became in magisterial prose.

    As you go along you find Bonhoeffer to be a spoiled kid far into adulthood, indulgent, lazy in physical work, and a lover of extended travel, and at times, a man with a temper. Still, you could not help but admire him. There is duplicity in us all, yet Christ can raise us above it. Though his theology was a good bit to the left of mine, I firmly believe he was a believer who not only loved the Lord, but grew to love Him more.

    As with any of us he wrestled with some of the hard choices of life. In the end, he far more came down on the right side, a side fraught with danger and pain. I do not know what he died thinking, but he died a victor.

    The only negative of the book was the suggestion that, perhaps, there was a homosexual attraction for his dear friend Bethge. That seemed a cheap gimmick for our ages' fascination of homosexuality. The friendship was as close as possible, but Bethge always clearly refuted this suggestion. With no compelling evidence given, and knowing what a painful charge it would have been to Bonhoeffer who lacks the privilege to be alive to refute it, I suggest you toss it out so this otherwise great book will not be marred.

    Still, this page-turner you will enjoy reading!

    I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
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