Moral leadership is the centering idea; what does it take, especially within the church, to be a moral leader, to provide moral leadership? The authors describe the events of Bonhoeffer’s life and relate them to the changing situation in pre-World War II Germany, the rise of Nazism and the theological development which was taking place in Bonhoeffer’s journey of faith. The book provides a close examination of one person’s life in which the dichotomy between faith and social action was overcome, and who, in so living, became an example of moral leadership.
Kelly and Nelson never lose their focus; the chapters are topical, addressing moral leadership in such terms as the action that compassion requires to do justice; Bonhoeffer’s spirituality; the work of the Holy Spirit and discipleship. The events of Bonhoeffer’s life are interwoven with the theological and ethical questions with which he was dealing at the time. While there is repetition it is because one event may have had an influence in more than one theological development.
Critics have said that Bonhoeffer emphasizes Christology to the detriment of the doctrine of the Trinity, an accusation that would have chilled his Lutheran soul. It is true that he concentrates on Christology, so it is possible to understand the charge. This volume has an excellent chapter on Bonhoeffer’s understanding of and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. The authors have brought together material form many sources so that in one place the reader can see just what Bonhoeffer believed and how much he depended upon the Spirit. His Lutheran soul can rest in Trinitarian peace.
I found ch. 7, “Christian Community: Strength for Moral Leadership,” the most interesting and helpful. The chapter includes a fairly extensive treatment of Life Together in which the authors have indicated how much of Bonhoeffer’s early thought had come to fruition in the seminary community that was developed at Finkenwalde. In every chapter the authors make clear, convincing connections between Bonhoeffer’s life and work and our modern situation. The book could be read as a primer for believers who want their Spirit-filled lives to make a difference in our world.
I am not fond of books that have discussion questions at the end, but in this case the questions are pertinent and probing. I think the question Bonhoeffer himself posed is still the best: Who is Jesus Christ for us today?
It is a wonderful read. For those just beginning, a fine introduction; for those who have been around a while, a refreshing and interesting telling of what we have known — and some keen insights which we might have passed by before without noticing.