I just finished Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Metaxas paints a picture of the influences over Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s early life, and his progress from a stellar theologian (his first dissertation, written at age 21, was called a “theological miracle” by Karl Barth) to a true follower of Jesus who stayed faithful to his savior through his country’s trials under the Nazis, all the way to his martyrdom in April 1945 for his part in an attempt to assassinate Hitler.
The book is enjoyable to read, and gives some not-well known facts about Bonhoeffer. His diary entries are especially interesting, especially those in which he reflects on whether he should leave the safety of America, to return to Germany in 1939 (after his friends went through great troubles to get him to the U.S.). One I found humorous was an entry on his take on a sermon by the great liberal preaching lion Fosdick (which, by the way, was based not on a Bible text, but on some poem): “Quite dreadful.”
And it is these shots at liberalism that has probably had a hand in Metaxas drawing fire from “expert” academics who whine about the book “creating” an “evangelical” Bonhoeffer, instead of the “liberal activist” Bonhoeffer we've been subjected to for half a century (When one blogger claimed he was troubled by the scholarly criticisms, I thought of the words of the late Chicago Mayor Richard Daley: “The experts, whadda they know?”).
(As a side note, an acquaintance who was “grieved” that I would dare quote “that heretic” Bonhoeffer sent me a link to a Fundamentalist web page, with all sorts of “proof” about Bonhoeffer’s “false teachings.” When I pointed out that an alleged Bonhoeffer statement against the Virgin Birth in The Cost of Discipleship, of which I have a copy, did not exist anywhere in that book, he replied that, golly gee, because he lives in South America, he doesn’t have access to his works. Intellectually, this is akin to “the dog ate my homework.” He then continued to blast Bonhoeffer as a heretic, in the face of the fact that this Fundamentalist “scholar” was WRONG, and in the absence of any first-hand proof about Bonhoeffer’s alleged heresies).
It’s certain Bonhoeffer was not an “American evangelical” brand of Christian; neither was he the proto-John Lennon being propped up by the likes of Frank Weickart and Victoria Barnett (who theologically, as we might say in Kentucky, may have a dog in this fight). Ultimately, did Bonhoeffer follow Jesus with all his heart? Absolutely—and Metaxas’ book gave me all the more reason to continue regarding him as one of my heroes of the Christian faith.