Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyOne of my goals for the year is to read longer books. This goal was birthed out of my reading goal for last year which was a bit ambitious and based on number of books, not length. My competitive side wouldn’t adjust it in December, leaving me with few options other than to read short books that didn’t always interested me. You know it’s bad when your mom offers you a book about a snail saying, “I think this will help with your goal, it’s short.” OK, let’s be honest, that goal didn’t end in the most noble way. So, this year I want to read at least ten “long” books. I don’t know what I mean by “long,” but I’ll know it when I see it!

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas fit the bill. I reserved an electronic copy through my public library and was both delighted and horrified when it arrived during the busy conference I attended this month. The library only gives five days to pick up a book and once picked up they will take it back in two weeks (unlike physical books, which you can just keep if you are willing to pay the fine). So the pressure was ON. Bring it, Bonhoeffer.

Everything good you have read about this book is true. It is well researched, well written, and engaging. What I hadn’t expected was to be delighted by the vocabulary.  I highlighted about twenty-five words that I wanted to share because they caught my fancy! I had nouns, verbs and adjectives on the list but figured it might be a bit of overkill. In the end, what added to the deliciousness of the book were the adjectives used. Here is a small sample of sentences taken from the book (all definitions from

  1.  [Schoenfeld] had been in league with the perfidious Bishop Heckel. Perfidious – characterized by being faithless or disloyal
  2. Your letter has brought a salutary clarity into an unnecessarily confused situation. Salutary – producing a beneficial effect
  3. He acted the archetypical Lutheran pastor of that time, an unworthy ecclesiastical naïf who knew little of high-level intrigue. Naif – naïve
  4. What Bonhoeffer meant by ‘religion’ was not true Christianity, but the ersatz and abbreviated Christianity that he spent his life working against. Ersatz – being a usually artificial and inferior substitute or imitation
  5. In fairness to Hoepner, it was a brutal situation. Even the supremely doughty Best thought so. Doughty – marked by fearless resolution

Now that is a man who knows his way around an adjective! Something I only tuned into part way through the book is that Metaxas also likes comparing people to animals.

  1. At the end of May, the albino stoat had been ambushed by Czech Resistance fighters. Stoat — small animal that has a long body and fur that turns white in winter
  2. Bonhoeffer deeply admired the Pomeranian aristocratic class, but he was surprised to find such an ambition among its women.
  3. [There was a sentence I have hunted unsuccessfully for that used some animal like a slippery eel to describe someone. If you find it, please let me know.]

Bonhoeffer was both clear about and committed to his convictions and the need for Christ to be supreme and evident in our lives. The vocabulary aspect was a enjoyable surprise of this book, however the true value is in the subject matter. Regardless of your reading goals for the year, this book needs to be on your list!

Make a sentence in the comment section using: perfidious, salutary, naïf, ersatz, or doughty. Bonus points if you make a good animal reference! I will (seriously) buy a Diet Coke (or beverage of your choice) for anyone that catches my fancy with their sentence. Game on in the comment section!



Leave A Comment

  1. Gayle Wilson February 24, 2012 at 5:44 am - Reply

    I’m almost done reading it, and David’s chomping at the bit to get his mitts on it. Great book, indeed. And I’m loving the historical perspective of it.

    • Amy February 24, 2012 at 5:46 am - Reply

      Me too Gayle! It really helped me understand that time period more clearly. Tell David to look for the sentence that is about a “slippery _____ (insert eel like animal).” It’s near the middle of the book. So glad you’re enjoying it. What book is next for you?

  2. brownest February 24, 2012 at 9:00 am - Reply

    I just got a copy of this book this evening from my public library and then saw your post! I find your post is quite salutary, giving me preparation for the many pages ahead. I’ll hunt for that slippery eel like a stoat hunts its prey … and I will let you know if I find it! (How many points do I get?)

    • Amy February 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      You get lots! Some for the library, some for using the words, and some for a great animal reference! If you find that sentence, it’s worth, like a million points! (I spent WAY too much time hunting for it and need to redeem all that time in some way :)!). How fun that you got it at the library. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Very much worth the read. Amy

  3. Mike Packevicz February 24, 2012 at 10:52 am - Reply

    The usual salutary effects of my conversation with my doughty guard–rule-bound but respectable naif, as he was–were curtailed by the marshal entrance of that perfidious cell-mate of John Carter, Lorethian, the ersatz general-cum-informant for the warden, reminding me nothing more than the ridiculous strutting of a Chihuahua.

    • Amy February 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      Nothing but net! What magnanimous use of languaage! I’ll never look at the guards the same again. Name the drink and it’s yours! Amy

  4. Amy Flammang February 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Pack attack! Mike has won! (I think he has earned a week’s supply…at least!) :) I only had some grad students today that were quite doughty in their persistence to sit in on my class despite not making the cut-off (class size limit) during registration.

    • Amy February 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm - Reply

      Oh those doughty grad students, sorry for them, but glad that classes won’t be too big!

  5. Lizzie February 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    The perfidious often prey on the naif, as the sly fox seeks the isolated young, causing me to shy from the ersatz and vanity of this life and join the doughty laborers who have gone before me.

    • Amy February 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      Definitely worth a drink! Well done!

  6. Danielle March 5, 2012 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Thanks for coming over and posting on my blog. I’m enjoying Bonhoeffer very much, but it’s taking me much longer than 2 weeks to read!! :) I too, was struck from the very first chapter with how well-written this book is!

    • Amy March 5, 2012 at 10:45 am - Reply

      It was the looming due date and long line I’d have to rejoin to wait to get it again that pushed me :)

  7. S. Etole March 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    I’ve read the first seven chapters and looking forward to more.

    • Amy March 9, 2012 at 5:43 am - Reply

      Enjoy! I’m reading one now that’s not nearly as inspiring.

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