Let me get this out of the way, then we’ll look at Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: for the nineteenth time, explanatory endnotes in print books are a pain in the neck to readers. Footnotes, though cluttering the page, can and should be used. Thank you, publishers, for listening…someday.
Now, on to Strange Glory. I am, personally, a fan of Eric Metaxas’s work on Bonhoeffer (refer here), but I also know that biographies tend to have slants to them. That work slanted toward Bonhoeffer as a heroic figure for modern Evangelical Christianity.
Marsh in his work presents a slightly different tilt on Bonhoeffer, and perhaps his tilt is a response to Metaxas in a way. Presented here is Bonhoeffer who grew up without much need for attending church, and proceeded to enter the academic and upper class worlds of Germany.
Strange Glory presents Bonhoeffer who struggled with various issues, and takes a deeper look at the year spent in America (1930-1931) than other biographies I’ve seen. This year of Bonhoeffer’s life truly interrupted his trajectory in theology, and demonstrated faith in action—as well as lack of faith in action.
Marsh’s work reflects both an immersion and understanding of Bonhoeffer as well as good storytelling skill. He presents the comings and goings of life, even monotonous details, woven with the theology and major events such that the reader’s interest is held.
It is true that some of Marsh’s suggestions on Bonhoeffer’s personal life are questionable. He draws conclusions that will raise eyebrows, but it is hard to be certain of the reality. There is no documentary evidence, but then one is left with only suppositions either direction on some of these conclusions.
All in all, Strange Glory gives you a rounded portrait of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You will still need a basic understanding of World War II history to grasp the wider picture, and you will benefit from a general grasp of theological terms as well. This is a worthwhile read to expand your understanding of the life of Bonhoeffer.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher.