Book Reviews

Book Review: “Bonhoeffer Speaks Today” by Mark Devine

bonhoeffer-devineMark Devine’s Bonhoeffer Speaks Today is a pithy summary of the doctrines of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and how they might be applicable now.

The book is organized around chapters that each focus on how Bonhoeffer’s thought might be applied to today. Within each chapter are sub-headings, sometimes as short as one paragraph, that look at specific aspects of his works or life to apply them now. The brevity of the book is one of its strengths. Often, stirring insights can be found in a section no longer than a few sentences. I think this shows both the depth and intricacy of Bonhoeffer’s own thought as well as the way Devine has arranged the book to highlight them.

There are two areas I’d like to critique in regards to the book. The first is that Bonhoeffer’s clear Lutheranism is ignored. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is clearly a Lutheran through-and-through with a commitment to orthodox Lutheran understanding of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. To write of Bonhoeffer speaking today without incorporating his sacramental understanding which is so integral to his theology is to take away from Bonhoeffer much of his voice. The second criticism is that the language used throughout the book continues to use the archaic “man” to refer to “men and women” as well as other gendered language when it would be just as simple to make the language inclusive.

Bonhoeffer Speaks Today is full of practical theology from the writings of one of the most engaging theologians of the 19th Century. If you’re looking for an introduction to his thought, this is a good place to start. However, be aware that a central aspect of Bonhoeffer–his Lutheranism–is notably absent.

The Good

+Excellent brief introduction to Bonhoeffer’s life and context
+Filled with juicy quotations
+Many, many digestable insights

The Bad

-Does not use gender inclusive language
-No mention of Bonhoeffer’s Lutheranism


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Bonhoeffer’s Troubling Theology?- A response to an article on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theological perspectives– I look at an argument that Bonhoeffer’s theology is “troubling” to evangelicals and point out how much of it is merely a product of his Lutheran background.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: “Bonhoeffer Speaks Today” by Mark Devine

  1. Sounds like a good and helpful primer (or refresher), although the absence of sacramental theology you note would be a drawback. IMO, a lot of evangelical and mainstream Protestants need *concrete* examples of why sacramental theology maters, and Bonhoeffer’s witness is surely not *just* that, but is also not *less* than that.

    Is the gender-exclusive language to which you object the edtiors’, or Bonhoeffer’s? If the former, I agree; if the latter, I’m sometimes reluctant in my own quoting of historic writers and documents to change it, simply because we’re all conditioned by our time and place. (Now, if Bonhoeffer’s original German provides equally valid, gender-inclusive translations, I’d say go with those.)

    I am going to add this one to my “to check out” pile. Thanks, J.W.!

    Posted by Michael Poteet | May 11, 2016, 8:49 AM
    • I apparently missed this comment while on vacation. Sorry! Sometimes my phone is weird about approving comments.

      Anyway, I agree RE broader evangelicalism and sacraments. I often encounter great confusion when I discuss baptism, for example.

      Regarding the gender-exclusive language, it is the editors/authors.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 2, 2016, 9:16 PM
  2. Thanks for this review. It’s amazing to me how some times people forget Bonhoffer’s distinctive theology (Lutheran).

    Posted by SLIMJIM | May 11, 2016, 7:29 PM
    • Time and again I find Bonhoeffer’s distinctive Lutheranism ignored when his legacy and theology are discussed. It’s like broader evangelicalism does not want to acknowledge his Lutheran background.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 12, 2016, 8:57 PM

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