When I first read Eric Metaxas biography of Bonhoeffer, I was both impressed and intrigued. What I was reading didn’t sound quite like the Bonhoeffer who had been described to me by my elders and betters. Had I missed something? Had they? I set out to get some original Bonhoeffer with a view to learning a little more.
Now Tim Challies has added to my interest and unease by blogging about his discovery that some serious Bonhoeffer scholars are significantly unimpressed with Metaxas’ portrayal of Bonhoeffer in a light that seems intended to portray him as evangelical-friendly:
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I enjoyed reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Actually, it’s one of my all-time favorite biographies; it’s readable, engaging and it deals with a fascinating part of history. But lately I’ve come across a few articles by experts in Bonhoeffer who say that it’s just plain wrong—it’s a portrayal of the man that is geared toward evangelicals and, in seeking to make the reader happy, it succumbs to all sorts of errors.
Carl Trueman, never one to wade into an argument (!), seizes on C. S. Lewis as an example – and a good one, in my opinion – of the kind of appropriation of major figures to the evangelical cause that often occurs:
I have noticed a general tendency in American evangelical circles to claim anybody who is helpful or admirable as an evangelical of some sort. It is our equivalent of Rahner’s ‘anonymous Christians’ – except we have `anonymous evangelicals.’
The comment thread at Challies’ online gaff is interesting to read. The whole issue is, if nothing else, a helpful reminder of the biases we readily bring to our studies.
UPDATE: Michael Haykin weighs in.