Guest / Limited Access /

Publishers today know they can't make much money trying to sell history to Christians. That's especially true of a hardcover book about a German theologian that runs 600 pages and costs $30.

But some 160,000 copies later, Eric Metaxas's biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenges the publishing maxim that the Christian market does not support serious history.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, published by Thomas Nelson, has sold briskly through mainstream outlets. Christian bookstores were slower to pick up the book when it debuted in April 2010, according to Thomas Nelson publisher Joel Miller.

Bonhoeffer doesn't match the profile of spiritual growth and practical-living titles that fill these outlets. But now they are featuring the book prominently, Miller said.

"Bonhoeffer's life was so compelling," Miller said of the Lutheran pastor who participated in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler and died in a Nazi concentration camp near the end of World War II. "He was sold out for true and authentic Christianity. He's a person with whom to identify in that move from history to today."

Scholars devoted to studying Bonhoeffer's complex theology have widely panned the work by Metaxas, who previously wrote the best-selling Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. But critical reviews have hardly dampened the enthusiastic popular response.

Metaxas, who found the courageous Bonhoeffer to be "more like a theologically conservative evangelical than anything else," appeared on Glenn Beck's Fox News show in December. If anything, the allegations that Metaxas portrays Bonhoeffer as too conservative fit Beck's common refrain that ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedYou Need a More Ordinary Jesus
You Need a More Ordinary Jesus
We are united with a Christ who seems not to have done much of note for most of his life.
TrendingMark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
"I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission."
Editor's PickA Word Can Be Worth a Thousand Pictures
A Word Can Be Worth a Thousand Pictures
Why the pulpit—and not the screen—still belongs at the center of our churches.
Comments
Christianity Today
Profiting from the Past
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.