BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 25, 2014

Cover ArtDavid Koyzis, at Christian Courier, reviewed James Skillen’s The Good of Politics.

“Readers have come to appreciate the wisdom and insight that Skillen has displayed in his work over the years. This new book certainly lives up to our expectations. The Good of Politics is a biblically and historically rich primer on the political life for everyone persuaded that the claims of Christ extend to our calling as citizens.”

Also reviewing The Good of Politics, Tim Hoiland for The Englewood Review of Books.

Richard G. Smith reviewed Tremper Longman’s commentary on Job, for RBL.

Mark Votava, at Culture of Imagination, reviewed Where Mortals Dwell by Craig Bartholomew.

At Evangelicals for Social Action, Bryan Stafford reviewed Bonhoeffer the Assassin? by Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony Siegrist, and Daniel Umbel. Look to the comments for a response by Nation.

Joshua Torrey, at Grace for Sinners, reviewed The New Testament and Ethics, edited by Joel Green.

James K.A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Relativism? was reviewed by Conrade Yap at Panorama of a Book Saint.

Phil Newton reviewed Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching for 9 Marks.

Tim Ghali, at Black Coffee Reflections, reviewed the Church and Postmodern Culture series.

Douglas Moo was interviewed by the Logos Academic Blog about his Galatians volume in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

Video: Bonhoeffer the Assassin? (Part 2)

Bonhoeffer the Pacifist?

Reclaiming Bonhoeffer’s Witness

Cover ArtAbout the Book: Most of us think we know the moving story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life–a pacifist pastor turns anti-Hitler conspirator due to horrors encountered during World War II–but does the evidence really support this prevailing view? This pioneering work carefully examines the biographical and textual evidence and finds no support for the theory that Bonhoeffer abandoned his ethic of discipleship and was involved in plots to assassinate Hitler. In fact, Bonhoeffer consistently affirmed a strong stance of peacemaking from 1932 to the end of his life, and his commitment to peace was integrated with his theology as a whole.

“Nation, Siegrist, and Umbel challenge the widely-held assumption that after the beginning of World War II Bonhoeffer not only participated in the anti-Nazi conspiracy but set aside his earlier pacifism and adopted a more ‘rational’ and ‘realistic’ stance, which included participation in the plot to assassinate Hitler. The close readings of Bonhoeffer’s biography set in the larger story of the conspiracy and of the Ethics manuscript, in which the more realistic account is supposedly found, are of particular value. Regardless of whether you are persuaded by the authors concerning Bonhoeffer’s level of involvement in the attempt to kill Hitler, this volume will decisively reframe the way we read the thought and life of this most remarkable Christian.” – Barry Harvey, Baylor University

“This book offers a well-researched, well-thought-through argument that demands attention from anyone interested in the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is a new look at his life and work that offers a critical lens on traditional interpretations of his devotion to the Sermon on the Mount in the face of real life crisis. These authors are to be applauded for this significant contribution.” – Reggie L. Williams, McCormick Theological Seminary

For more information on Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, click here.

Video: Bonhoeffer the Assassin?

Why did you write Bonhoeffer the Assassin?

Bonhoeffer the Realist?

Bonhoeffer the Conscientious Objector?

Cover ArtAbout the Book: Most of us think we know the moving story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life–a pacifist pastor turns anti-Hitler conspirator due to horrors encountered during World War II–but does the evidence really support this prevailing view? This pioneering work carefully examines the biographical and textual evidence and finds no support for the theory that Bonhoeffer abandoned his ethic of discipleship and was involved in plots to assassinate Hitler. In fact, Bonhoeffer consistently affirmed a strong stance of peacemaking from 1932 to the end of his life, and his commitment to peace was integrated with his theology as a whole.

“This extensively researched and passionately argued book will invariably provoke discussion in Bonhoeffer studies as it challenges misconceptions of his role as assassin and patriot. It persuasively reconciles Bonhoeffer’s pacifist writings with his political activities in the Abwehr, as well as themes of pacifist obedience with political responsibility often separated by Niebuhrian ‘political realist’ readings. This is an invaluable study of Bonhoeffer’s theological ethics that must be taken seriously.” – David Haddorff, St. John’s University

“If you mention Bonhoeffer, just about everyone thinks of his involvement in a conspiracy to kill Hitler. This becomes a major key–sometimes the key–to interpreting his writings. This fascinating book not only questions this assumption but also shows what happens when you read him without it. A thoroughly engaging book.” – Arne Rasmusson, University of Gothenburg

For more information on Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, click here.

Kristallnacht – an Excerpt from Bonhoeffer the Assassin?

Cover ArtThe following is an excerpt from Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, by Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist, and Daniel P. Umbel.

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November 9, 1938, was the most blatant expression to date of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. That night, throughout Germany, many synagogues were set ablaze and many Jewish homes and businesses devastated. Many Jews were tortured; approximately one hundred were murdered and over thirty thousand were sent to concentration camps. Because of all the glass that was broken, the night has come to be called Kristallnacht.

The ostensible justification for this orgy of violence was the assassination, two days earlier, of a German ambassador in Paris by a Polish Jew. The following Sunday, in a sermon of repentance, Pastor Julius von Jan of Oberlenningen, Württemberg, said:

Who would have thought that this single crime in Paris could result in so many crimes committed here in Germany? Now we are facing the consequences of our great apostasy, our falling away from God and Christ, of organized anti-Christianity. Passions are being unleashed and the commandments of God ignored. Houses of God which were sacred for others are being burned down, the property of others is being plundered or destroyed. Men who have served our nation loyally and conscientiously fulfilled their duties have been thrown into concentration camps, merely because they belong to another race. Those in authority may not admit to any injustice, but to the healthy good sense of our people it is quite clear, even though no one dares speak of it.

Pastor von Jan was dragged out of his manse by five hundred demonstrators who were from outside his village; he was then beaten severely. He was later interrogated by the authorities and thrown into prison, where he remained until the end of the war.

However, Pastor von Jan’s response was unusual. Most of the Confessing Church was silent about this night—and its aftermath. Bonhoeffer himself was in a forest with his ordinands on the night of Kristallnacht and only learned about it after the fact. However, later “in the Bible that Bonhoeffer used for prayer and meditation he underlined the verse in Psalm 74, ‘they burned all the meeting places of God in the land,’ and wrote beside it ‘9.11.38.’ He also underlined the next verse, adding an exclamation mark: ‘We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long.’”

©2013 by Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist, and Daniel P. Umbel. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 3, 2014

Cover ArtAt Euangelion, Joel Willitts reviewed Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, and Scot McKnight named it one of the Jesus Creed Books of the Year.

“[A] book that will surely create conversations for a decade about whether or not Bonhoeffer was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.”

Brett McCracken, Marc Cortez, and Tim Hoiland all named James K.A. Smith’s Imagining the Kingdom as one of their favorite books of 2013.

David Firth reviewed Invitation to the Psalms, by Rolf Jacobson and Karl Jacobson, for RBL.

Byron Borger at Hearts and Minds reviewed and recommended Christian Philosophy, by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen.

Justification and the Gospel, by Michael Allen; Reading the Gospels Wisely, by Jonathan Pennington; and Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy, by David Lincicum were all named in Mockingbird’s list of The Top Theology Books of 2013.

Graham Ware’s Top Reads of 2013 included J. R. Daniel Kirk’s Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? and Craig Keener’s Paul, Women & Wives.

David Moore listed Why Study History? by John Fea  in his Favorite Books of 2013.

Matt Mitchell reviewed Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views, edited by James Beilby and Paul Eddy.

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eBook Special

Through Thursday, January 9, the eBook of Preaching and Teaching the Last Things by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. is available for $3.99 (80% off) at participating retailers, including:

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Anthony G. Siegrist, “I’d be a pacifist if it weren’t for Dietrich Bonhoeffer?”

“I’d be a pacifist if it weren’t for Dietrich Bonhoeffer?”

Anthony G. Siegrist

“I’d be a pacifist if it weren’t for Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” This isn’t an uncommon line, and we’ve heard similar sentiments expressed quite frequently. The assumption is, of course, that Bonhoeffer’s life and thought trace an arc upward from the nationalism of his youth, through the fluffy pacifism of his early work, then—checked by the harsh realities of the church’s struggle against the horrors of Nazism—it comes to rest in the Niebuhrian realism of his mature work. In this common perspective, Bonhoeffer’s lectures on peace and his famous book Discipleship fit the middle period, while his prison letters and the Ethics manuscripts are folded into the latter.

Cover ArtMark, Dan, and I wrote Bonhoeffer the Assassin? because we don’t think that narrative works. Notice the question mark at the end of our book’s title. That narrative doesn’t work with the historical possibilities and it doesn’t work with his literary legacy. We’re well aware that our retelling of Bonhoeffer’s biography and our rereading of some of his prominent texts swims against a powerful current. However, that current isn’t formidable because it has overwhelming scholarly support. It’s powerful and popular because, well, it’s popular—it’s a comforting story. The Bonhoeffer who winds up a so-called moral realist is comforting because that Bonhoeffer takes us back to the way we set things up in the first place.

The problem is this popular biographical arc doesn’t fit Bonhoeffer’s life. It doesn’t fit because Bonhoeffer never was a pacifist in an absolute sense. It doesn’t fit because he never abandoned his peace ethic. And it doesn’t fit because the event that marked the assumed turning point probably never happened. That is, in our analysis it is highly implausible that Bonhoeffer was involved in attempts on Hitler’s life at all.

Again, the traditional way of telling Bonhoeffer’s life story is popular despite the fact that it lacks overwhelming scholarly support. The claims that we make in Bonhoeffer the Assassin? are not altogether novel. We martial the backing of other scholars for much of what we argue. What the book does that others haven’t is connect the dots. We connect some of the best scholarship on Bonhoeffer’s ethics with the conclusions of historians of the Nazi regime. What emerges is a new way of telling the story of Bonhoeffer’s life.

We think the book matters because Bonhoeffer has become a sort of twentieth-century Protestant saint. He continues to be respected, even lionized, by Christians around the world. None of us agree with everything the Lutheran minister wrote. Indeed, we couldn’t do that, because he doesn’t agree with himself. In various places the three of us would have significant disagreements with Bonhoeffer. Nevertheless, his work continues to inspire—and this is a good thing. We wrote the book because we want Bonhoeffer’s life and work to inspire the sort of things for which he worked so hard.

In Bonhoeffer’s mature work, we see his love of human creativity and his deep passion for Christian unity, for following Jesus in the face of heavy costs, and for social engagement despite its messiness. We see too his frustrations with nationalism. And without a doubt we see his unbending desire for peace. Bonhoeffer’s approach to the issues of war and violence was not based on inviolable rules or a separation of spheres. It was not a neatly hammered together system of interlocking duties. But he did do all that he could to avoid serving in the Nazi war machine. He encouraged others to do the same. He acknowledged the guilt implicit in being a part of the larger system and the guilt of those who lacked pure options. He did not, however, upend his peace ethic. At least that’s our argument. We’re sure that our revised reading of Bonhoeffer will not go unchallenged. We hope, though, that it reshapes the way his legacy is invoked. Hopefully it will become more common to hear, “I’m committed to peace because of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”          

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Mark Thiessen Nation (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and has authored several books, including John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions.

Anthony G. Siegrist (ThD, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) is associate professor of theology at Prairie Bible College in Three Hills, Alberta.

Daniel P. Umbel (MDiv, Eastern Mennonite Seminary) is a pastor, formerly of Mt. Olivet Church in Dyke, Virginia, and lives in Grafton, West Virginia.

For more information on Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, click here.

“Ethical Foundation for Resistance” – an Excerpt from Bonhoeffer the Assassin?

The following is an excerpt from Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, by Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist, and Daniel P. Umbel.

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Cover ArtBonhoeffer gives us an “ethical foundation for resistance.” Almost immediately after Hitler assumed power, Bonhoeffer gave his radio address “The Führer and the Individual in the Younger Generation.” A few months later he wrote a prophetic essay, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” which was published in June. But even before these more obvious examples, Bonhoeffer was articulating an ethic for resistance. It was manifest in his life, his commitments, and his writings.

Thus, if we are to understand his ethical thought on resistance, we don’t simply look to writings from 1940 to 1945—not even to writings after Hitler assumed power. We begin with 1932: “A community of peace can exist only when it does not rest on a lie or on injustice. Wherever a community of peace endangers or suffocates truth and justice, the community of peace must be broken and the battle must be declared.” These early words, as much as later ones, are words intended for constructively guiding daily faithful living but also, clearly, for provoking resistance when it is needed—but resistance in line with the commandments of the God known in Jesus Christ.

Many ethicists seem to imagine that Bonhoeffer became more “reasonable” in the 1940s than he had been in his youthful days of flirting with pacifism, proposing a kind of new monasticism, and writing Discipleship. However, is it possible that Bonhoeffer continued in the 1940s to believe what he said to his brother in 1935, that if he were to become more “reasonable,” he would have to “chuck [his] entire theology”? And since there is no evidence that he did that, might we then see that it is possible that, as Bonhoeffer said in April of 1944, “my life—as strange as it may sound—has gone in a straight line, uninterrupted, at least with regard to how I’ve led it”?

©2013 by Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist, and Daniel P. Umbel. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, click here.

New Release: Bonhoeffer the Assassin?

Cover ArtMost of us think we know the moving story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life–a pacifist pastor turns anti-Hitler conspirator due to horrors encountered during World War II–but does the evidence really support this prevailing view?

Bonhoeffer the Assassin? carefully examines the biographical and textual evidence and finds no support for the theory that Bonhoeffer abandoned his ethic of discipleship and was involved in plots to assassinate Hitler. In fact, Bonhoeffer consistently affirmed a strong stance of peacemaking from 1932 to the end of his life, and his commitment to peace was integrated with his theology as a whole.

The book includes a foreword by Stanley Hauerwas.

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“An enormously important book. It is exactly right on the core of Bonhoeffer’s Christian ethics and incisively helpful on the ethics of peace and war. The point is not principlism but God in Jesus entering incarnationally with compassion into the midst of our defenses and alienation, bringing healing and our participation in Jesus’s nonviolent way.” – Glen Stassen, Fuller Seminary

“Nation, Siegrist, and Umbel challenge the widely-held assumption that after the beginning of World War II Bonhoeffer not only participated in the anti-Nazi conspiracy but set aside his earlier pacifism and adopted a more ‘rational’ and ‘realistic’ stance, which included participation in the plot to assassinate Hitler….[T]his volume will decisively reframe the way we read the thought and life of this most remarkable Christian.” – Barry Harvey, Baylor University

“This book offers a well-researched, well-thought-through argument that demands attention from anyone interested in the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is a new look at his life and work that offers a critical lens on traditional interpretations of his devotion to the Sermon on the Mount in the face of real life crisis. These authors are to be applauded for this significant contribution.” – Reggie L. Williams, McCormick Theological Seminary

“If you mention Bonhoeffer, just about everyone thinks of his involvement in a conspiracy to kill Hitler. This becomes a major key–sometimes the key–to interpreting his writings. This fascinating book not only questions this assumption but also shows what happens when you read him without it. A thoroughly engaging book.” – Arne Rasmusson, University of Gothenburg

“This extensively researched and passionately argued book will invariably provoke discussion in Bonhoeffer studies as it challenges misconceptions of his role as assassin and patriot. It persuasively reconciles Bonhoeffer’s pacifist writings with his political activities in the Abwehr, as well as themes of pacifist obedience with political responsibility often separated by Niebuhrian ‘political realist’ readings. This is an invaluable study of Bonhoeffer’s theological ethics that must be taken seriously.” – David Haddorff, St. John’s University

“Those of us who have been uneasy with the too-glib assumption that Bonhoeffer gave up his commitment to pacifism to join a conspiracy against Hitler can now rejoice. This book’s careful scholarship thoroughly proves that the major change in Bonhoeffer’s theology happened much earlier and that he remained steadfast thereafter as a pacifist until his death at Nazi hands.” – Marva J. Dawn, Regent College

“This book’s provocative title is designed to challenge the received view of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s role in the German Resistance’s plans to overthrow the Nazi regime by murdering Hitler. The authors seek to show that he had no sympathy with such political violence. Instead he remained true to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, especially to Jesus’s teachings about the ethics of peace, which he had outlined so forcefully in his book Discipleship.” – John S. Conway, University of British Columbia

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Mark Thiessen Nation (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and has authored several books, including John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions.

Anthony G. Siegrist (ThD, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) is associate professor of theology at Prairie Bible College in Three Hills, Alberta.

Daniel P. Umbel (MDiv, Eastern Mennonite Seminary) is a pastor, formerly of Mt. Olivet Church in Dyke, Virginia, and lives in Grafton, West Virginia.

For more information on Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, click here.