Analysis of the Portrayal of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Lee Forester

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings have impacted Christian theologians to this day, resulting in numerous biographies and assessments of his works. One biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich, written by Eric Metaxas, brought Bonhoeffer to the New York Times best-seller list and was praised by evangelicals. Despite Metaxas’ extensive research, some scholars question his portrayal of Bonhoeffer as violent against Hitler and the Third Reich, while dismissing the influence of pacifism on Bonhoeffer's thinking. Although Bonhoeffer supported the plot to kill Hitler, he is regarded among many scholars as a pacifist, rather than a combatant preacher. This project will attempt to assess the possible inaccuracy of Metaxas’s portrayal of the pacifistic characteristics of Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer's writings will be assessed in the original German in order to correctly analyze Bonhoeffer's nuanced approach to pacifism. The findings will then be compared to Metaxas's interpretation of Bonhoeffer, aiming at a better understanding of Bonhoeffer's ideals in regard to the Third Reich and Hitler. The extent of Bonhoeffer’s pacifism, indicated by his earlier writing, will be analyzed and compared to his alleged encouragement of violence.

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