“Spending the Holidays with Bonhoeffer”
A review of
God Is in the Manger:
Reflections on Advent and Christmas.
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Reviewed by Alex Joyner
God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Translated by O.C. Dean, Jr.
Compiled and edited by Jana Reiss
Paperback: WJK Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent: one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other – things that are really of no consequence – the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted in God in the Manger (13)
There is a deep hunger among us for more of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the once and future prophet. Bonhoeffer’s death in a Nazi prison camp in the waning days of World War II left the Christian community with one of its more evocative unfinished stories. The German theologian was deeply engaged with the challenges of his day, but there is so much that seems contemporary about him in the 21st century.
He was a colleague and disciple of Karl Barth, and in many ways his theological kin, but Bonhoeffer addressed his environment in ways that created a more engaged, lived theology. As he watched the Christian church around him capitulate to Nazi ideology, Bonhoeffer foresaw the impotence and crumbling of the religious institutional structure. And when he wrote about a “world come of age” in which humanity had finally outgrown its need of religion, it was inevitable that later generations of Westerners would see it as a prescient observation of their own world.
Publishers are hastily trying to feed this hunger with a slate of books. 2010 has already seen the publication of a monumental, if flawed, biography by Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy [Thomas Nelson]. Though Metaxas leaves the reader wanting more insight and less reporting, (and much less clichéd prose), his book does have the virtue of immersing us once more in the story of Bonhoeffer’s life and in large passages of his writing. Also this year, Fortress Press has continued its slow rollout of volumes in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works with the publication of its 800-page volume 8, Letters and Papers from Prison. Three significant films on his life in the last decade have also contributed to making Bonhoeffer one of the hottest theologians of the 21st century some 55 years after his death.