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Bonheoffer: A Brief Overview of the Life and Writings of Dietrich Bonheoffer.

Bonheoffer: A Brief Overview of the Life and Writings of Dietrich Bonheoffer. By John W. Matthews. Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-9326-8865-8, 100 pages. Paper. $15.00.

John Matthews provides a helpful introduction to the life and theology of Bonhoeffer, suited primarily for those without previous knowledge of Bonhoeffer's work. Especially helpful aspects include a brief biography, a timeline to help chronologically locate major events and writings in Bonheoffer's life, and reviews of five key productions from Bonhoeffer: Sanctorum Communio (The Communion of Saints), Discipleship, Life Together, Ethics, and Letters and Papers from Prison.

Within this brief monograph, two assertions stand out. First, Matthews reveals the central role Christology played in Bonhoeffer's life. The very structure of the book looks at Christ's centrality expressed in theology, in communal and personal life, in discipleship, and in ethics. In particular, Matthews claims that, as the center of theological reflection, Christ took a principal role not only in the church, but in the world. Matthews emphasizes the significance of the incarnation in Bonhoeffer's writings, especially in relation to God's desire for the transformation of all creation, including human society.

More controversially, Matthews argues for the theological consistency of Bonhoeffer's participation in the July 20 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. While he notes Bonhoeffer's pacifist sympathies, Matthews also suggests that the sum total of Bonhoeffer's theological reflection compelled him to see his own participation in an assassination attempt as necessary to end the genocide of European Jews and other dissidents to Nazism. Of course, many agree with Matthews. Yet, complex issues like this--the attempt made upon human life by a committed theological pacifist--deserve much more attention and nuance than possible within 100 pages.

In all, Matthews provides a commendable introduction to Bonhoeffer's life and theology, tailored to readers who have not yet encountered biographies of or texts by Bonhoeffer. This text will serve as a valuable primer to those preparing to read Bonhoeffer's own work.

Andrew Tucker

Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary

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Author:Tucker, Andrew
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 1, 2014
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