Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Student Edition)

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Student Edition is, as you can guess from the title, the student version of Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

As I’d mentioned in my first book review, I’ve been a fan of Metaxas for years, the first few years without even knowing it. I was in my twenties when I encountered the first oeuvre of his to have a profound impact on me: an early episode of VeggieTales.

Since then I’ve read a couple of his other books. But it’s always been on my list to read this Bonhoeffer book, a book that’s been critically acclaimed, is a best seller, and word is that it’s being made into a movie.

I was a little skeptical when I saw that a student edition of the book was coming out–it’s not uncommon for book publishers to take a successful book and churn out special edition after special edition to squeeze as much profit as they can out of it. But when I saw that Metaxas himself had written it, I had to take a look.

As I expected, this edition is exceptional. It’s no “Reader’s Digest condensed version”, it captures the most important facts and stories in Bonhoeffer’s life from the main book using language and a narrative that is understandable by students without talking down to them. While the publisher isn’t clear about the age range of who should be reading this, personally I’d say anywhere from grade 6 to grade 9; anything after that and they probably could be reading the regular edition.

Something else I appreciate are the call-out boxes–unlike in other books they’re not just pedantic filler but really interesting definitions and facts that are relevant to the text; things like the lyrics of Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, juxtaposed with a passage describing how the faithful in Germany defiantly sang the hymn as bishop Ludwig Muller started to impose Nazi rules into the German church. Another call-out box describes grocery prices in 1923 in the USA compared to Germany after Versailles.

I also appreciate the questions at the end of each chapter. They’re not just there to test reading comprehension, but to inspire thought, introspection, and ultimately life application on what was just read. One of the questions, for example,  asks students, “Niemoller said, ‘No more are we ready to keep silent at man’s [request] when God commands us to speak.’ Have you ever kept silent about something you knew was wrong?”

While this book was designed for students, I have to admit just as I was a guy in my 20s singing along to VeggieTales, I’m now a guy in my 40s reading books for teens and tweens. I think this says something about Metaxas and his ability to reach any audience (speaking of which, if you’re not listening to Metaxas’s radio show, you’re missing out). With so many other books designed for tweens and teens speaking down to them, this one actually gives them the credit they deserve, and goes beyond a history book to one that can help them think through the life of Bonhoeffer and apply it to their daily lives.