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April 10, 2017 by

Between my own blog, this one, and a couple others, I’ve written about 1,500 posts in the last six years. I try to do it well, with a less formal tone and much greater pace than typical academic writing but still reflecting a reasonably careful degree of prior research. But I’m afraid that my haste sometimes leads me to sloppiness — worse yet, sloppiness on topics where I’m writing outside of my fields of direct expertise and already at risk of stepping heedlessly into scholarly minefields.

As in the case of something I wrote over the weekend…

On Saturday I encouraged readers to seek out Come Before Winter, a new movie about the last days of the German pastor, theologian, and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I mentioned that it featured clips of an interview with Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, a German scholar whose 2006 biography of Bonhoeffer was published in English in 2010. At least among American readers, I noted, that work “was overshadowed by those written by Charles Marsh and Eric Metaxas….”

But then I went on (unnecessarily, I fear) to point out that Schlingensiepen has criticized both Metaxas and Marsh “for wrenching the German martyr out of his historical and theological context.” I quoted the following passage from Schlingensiepen’s dual review of Marsh’s Strange Glory and Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer:

Metaxas, BonhoefferMarsh and Metaxas have dragged Bonhoeffer into cultural and political disputes that belong in a U.S. context. The issues did not present themselves in the same way in Germany in Bonhoeffer’s time, and the way they are debated in Germany today differs greatly from that in the States. Metaxas has focused on the fight between right and left in the United States and has made Bonhoeffer into a likeable arch-conservative without theological insights and convictions of his own; Marsh concentrates on the conflict between the Conservatives and the gay rights’ movement. Both approaches are equally misguided and are used to make Bonhoeffer interesting and relevant to American society. Bonhoeffer does not need this and it certainly distorts the facts.

In retrospect, I think I did wrong to include this quotation — or, at least, to include it without adding any kind of critical comment. Here’s why:

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Logos Bible Software

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of history’s most influential Christian martyrs, bequeathed to humanity a legacy of theological depth and influence that continues to inspire people from a variety of backgrounds, from broadly evangelical to confessionally reformed, from protestant to Catholic. The church continues to discover treasures from Bonhoeffer’s life and work. The T&T Clark Studies on Bonhoeffer collection presents some of this significant figure’s most recent gleanings. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906–1945, Ferdinand Schlingensiepen takes a lifetime of scholarship and presents a new standard in Bonhoeffer biography. Because of its definitive nature, comprehensive scope, and incorporation of never-before-available documents, letters, and photos, scholars are already praising it as “the best,” “without peer,” and “one of the most important resources for taking us forward in dialogue with Bonhoeffer.” In Who Am I?: Bonhoeffer’s Theology through His Poetry, Bernd Wannenwetsch and a team of international scholars present Bonheoffer’s prison poems, shedding light on his life and the development of his thought. Tom Greggs, in Theology against Religion, gives an analysis of Bonhoeffer and Barth, two of the most influential figures in modern Christianity, and argues that they had essentially the same trajectory in terms of their theological approaches to religion.

The Logos Bible Software editions of these volumes are designed to streamline and enhance your study and understanding of the life and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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