Stephen R. Haynes
Eerdmans 213 pages
Stephen Haynes is the author of “Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians” and theologian-in-residence at Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis. He is also a scholar-on-a-mission to correct the record about the famous Lutheran pastor-theologian who bravely resisted the Nazi regime. One might wonder why this is necessary. Isn’t Bonhoeffer well known for his courageous call to discipleship against all cheap grace? Unfortunately, the answer is much more complicated and Haynes points out why, in the age of Donald Trump, Bonhoeffer is being used for purposes he would never recognize much less approve. He describes how the evangelical world adopted Bonhoeffer with some appreciation for his courageous witness but not as much for his theology. After surveying Bonhoeffer in the Bush and Obama years, Haynes turns his attention to the current appropriation. He takes aim particularly at Eric Metaxas’ award-winning biography as a distortion of Bonhoeffer and a complete misappropriation of him for political purposes. What makes this book important is Haynes’ careful research and historical details about Bonhoeffer’s life and theology. To many, it may seem unthinkable that Bonhoeffer would be called upon in support of Donald Trump, but Metaxas has done precisely that to the shock and disgust of Bonhoeffer scholars. Haynes concludes his book with an open letter to Christians who love Bonhoeffer but (still) support Trump. These are demanding times for pastor-theologians. There is a battle for Bonhoeffer. At stake is not only his reputation but the very understanding of Christian identity and practice. The bibliography alone makes this book essential.