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Daring, Trusting Spirit: Bonhoeffer’s Friend Eberhard Bethge (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 215 pages plus index

It is well known that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the twentieth century’s most well known and beloved theologians. It is also well known that without his friend Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer would have most likely remained an obscure footnote in theology. Bethge is well known to Bonhoeffer interpreters for his many essays and his exhaustive biography of Bonhoeffer. John de Gruchy, formerly professor of Christian Studies at the University of Cape Town has done Bonhoeffer fans a great service in tendering this biography of Bethge.

Bethge’s life before Bonhoeffer is touched on in a brief introductory chapter and from then the rest of the book runs full steam ahead beginning with Bethge’s acquaintance with Bonhoeffer during the Finkenwalde years (1935-37), interestingly enough through their shared love of music. The first half of the book will offer no new insights into Bonhoeffer, for those who have trodden this well worn path and de Gruchy admirably and succinctly contexts the relationship of Bethge and Bonhoeffer during the time of the German Church Conflict and the second world war.

The second half of the book is the key to this work: how Bethge began to pursue bringing Bonhoeffer’s legacy to the world. De Gruchy chronicles Bethge’s work in the post war reconstruction efforts as Bethge would travel to England and later join the Unterwegs movement seeking to help rebuild the church in Germany. It was in the Unterwegs journal that Bonhoeffer’s posthumous Ethics and letters and papers from prison were first excerpted. Of unusual interest to me was Bethge’s role in the trial(s) of Walter Huppenkothen, Bonhoeffer’s ‘executioner (he was tried three times and never convicted, Bonhoeffer’s death was ruled legal under Nazi law).

The ‘non-event’ of the first publication of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics in 1949 and the subsequent publication of some of the Letters and Papers from Prison in 1951 turned the tide. The Bonhoeffer of Discipleship and Life Together now became the radical theologian and numerous interpretations of the Bonhoeffer legacy began. De Gruchy explores the crucial task that fell to Bethge to make sense of this man who seemed to have so many sides. The years 1950-1990 saw Bethge traveling the world and completing his biography of Bonhoeffer (1967). Finally Bethge’s indispensable role to Bonhoeffer scholars and his work in the International Bonhoeffer Society are highlighted.

This book belongs on the shelf of works by and about Bonhoeffer, one can justly say that without Eberhard Bethge there might be no Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and de Gruchy is to be thanked for his marvelous portrait of a friendship that lasts beyond death.

Books by Michael Hardin

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Reading the Bible With René Girard

A Wonderful Tool!

“Michael Hardin's website, PreachingPeace.org, strikes me as a wonderful tool for preachers who need more scriptural, historical and exegetical information as they prepare their sermons. It is well written, easy to use, and very well informed both in terms of traditional scholarship and of the ‘mimetic theory.’ Using PreachingPeace.org, with its breadth of reflection and its wealth of documentation, speakers will be able to enliven their presentations by presenting contemporary examples in a new light.” // René Girard

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“Rene Girard has been a godsend to many, as he has helped–as Karl Barth and John Yoder help–many to rediscover the strange new world of the Bible. Indeed, part of that rediscovery involves the surprise that the Gospel frees us from the violence that grips our lives. This web site wonderfully provides resources for the kind of discussion we so desperately need if we are not to lose hold of the nonviolence of the Gospel.” // Stanley Hauerwas

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Your site and other Girardian insights have helped rejuvenate my understanding of Jesus, the Gospel and preaching…in my 37th year of priesthood. Thank you! - Larry Estey

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As someone who has worked a lot recently with "Jewish Christian dialogue," I was especially pleased to see how user-friendly it was, and how encouraging of open and probing discussion–an important step, I think, in the process of peacemaking. - Sandor Goodhart President, Colloquium on Violence and Religion

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