On the morning of April 9, 1945 a man found complicit in the plot to kill Hitler was led naked into the execution yard at Flossenbürg concentration camp and hanged with a meat hook and piano wire. He died of asphyxiation just 11 days before Americans liberated the prison.

His name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Lutheran pastor, teacher and leader. Today he is renowned the world over as a hero saint of the Evangelical world and his theological impact continues to expand as he is honored for his robust faith and writing.

“Bonhoeffer was radical in his faith,” said Timothy Larsen, professor at Wheaton College and editor of the new book Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture“The fact that he was willing to lay down his life to oppose the Nazis is inspiring in multiple senses,” he said, “but his books (namely The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together) would be Christian classics even if he lived a boring life.”

Although Bonhoeffer first found appreciation in Evangelical circles in the 1960s, a renewed interest in his life, ministry and thought has been spurred on by the disputed biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spyby Evangelical author Eric Metaxas.

Larsen said the biography featured overtones of Evangelical emphasis, a foreword by evangelical heavyweight Timothy J. Keller and vaulted Bonhoeffer to “same rarefied height” of heroics as Metaxas’ formerly chronicled Evangelical opponent of the slave trade –  William Wilberforce.

Metaxas said that in life and words, Bonhoeffer “bespoke an authentic Christian faith” that could draw many to Christianity.

Of course, Metaxas’s book came under fire from some commentators who said it failed to appreciate Bonhoeffer’s more liberal views on theology and periods of vociferous doubt he faced through his trials in Nazi Germany.Richard Weikart, from California State University Stanislaus, said, “Metaxas presented us with a sanitized Bonhoeffer fit for evangelical audiences.”

“Evangelicals can continue to believe comfortingly that Bonhoeffer is one of them,” he said, “this view is naïve, but many prefer Metaxas’s counterfeit Bonhoeffer to the real, much more complex German theologian.”

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