A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson (HarperCollins, xxii + 579 pp.; $32.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Kevin A. Miller, editor of Christian History magazine.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War II. No doubt television will commemorate the event with countless specials. As Christians wrestling with the meaning of that global cataclysm, we would do well to turn off the set and sit instead at the feet of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor and theologian who joined the resistance against Hitler and was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp in April 1945.
Arriving just in time is A Testament to Freedom, a masterful collection of, as the subtitle puts it, his “essential writings.” Bonhoeffer is well-known for writings such as The Cost of Discipleship and Letters and Papers from Prison. This collection, though including excerpts from those works, moves beyond them to reveal Bonhoeffer in all phases of his adult life: as student, pastor, ecumenist, activist, and prisoner.
Editors Geffrey Kelly (LaSalle University) and F. Burton Nelson (North Park Theological Seminary) have selected sermons, letters, poems, declarations, and excerpts from lesser-read works such as Christ the Center and Act and Being. They have arranged these in a logical and largely historical order, so readers can follow the development of Bonhoeffer’s tantalizing theology and radical call to Christian commitment.
Many writings included here have never before appeared in English. Readers can now enjoy, for example, two letters from the young Bonhoeffer in 1933, the year Hitler became chancellor of Germany and moved to control ...1
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