Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Resisting the Bonhoeffer Brand: A Life Reconsidered” by Charles Marsh

Charles Marsh’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory, sparked quite a bit of discussion when it was released. What many readers might not have realized, however, is that it also led to quite heated debate in scholarly circles related to Bonhoeffer studies. With Resisting the Bonhoeffer Brand: A Life Reconsidered, Marsh responds to scholarly critique of his biography, highlights some of the difficulties and joys of writing biographies, and calls readers to push to better understanding of the life and theology of Bonhoeffer.

The book’s short length should not deter readers looking for deep exploration of Bonhoeffer’s life. It’s essentially an extended essay on writing Strange Glory, writing biographies generally, how to evaluate the accuracy and impact of history, and, most extensively, a response to another Bonhoeffer scholar’s persistent critiques of Marsh’s biography. That other scholar is Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, whose own biography of Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance remains a book I recommend to readers as well. But Schlingensiepen took great issue with Marsh’s exploratory directions in the latter’s life of Bonhoeffer, ultimately going a bit off the rails at points, not just criticizing Marsh for the kind of small mistakes all biographers make (eg. geographical, a few temporal, etc.) but also arguing that Marsh’s biography is entirely useless because it doesn’t focus on Schlingensiepen’s own preferred trajectory of reading Bonhoeffer.

Specifically, Schlingensiepen takes a nearly obsessive interest in critiquing Marsh for not focusing on minutiae of the church struggle in Germany and upbraids him for not following Bethge’s biography of Bonhoeffer more closely. Marsh, in turn, notes the errors with such a critique, both for pigeonholing Bonhoeffer’s own life into less impactful and radical than it was and in failing to allow for new avenues of research into Bonhoeffer. It appears that, for Schlingensiepen, the Confessing Church must be entirely without error, while narratives of Bonhoeffer’s life must never depart from prior research.

Marsh effectively answers Schlingensiepen’s critiques time and again, all while pushing for a resistance to a kind of “Bonhoeffer Brand” that would limit exploration of his life and theology to only that which is approved or has been done before.

Resisting the Bonhoeffer Brand is a book I would consider essential reading for those interested in studying Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It also is a great look at the challenges and delights of writing biographies more generally. Highly recommended.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links


Dietrich Bonhoeffer– read all my posts related to Bonhoeffer and his theology.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)



The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.


About J.W. Wartick

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


One thought on ““Resisting the Bonhoeffer Brand: A Life Reconsidered” by Charles Marsh

  1. Good summer reading. If only we had more Pastors like Bonhoeffer at churches. Amazing man

    Posted by Donna Covello | April 17, 2023, 5:41 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,864 other subscribers


Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason
%d bloggers like this: