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Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Paperback – August 21, 2014

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK Publishing (August 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281073139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281073139
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,020,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A good biography takes a reader beyond the life of its subject into the times and places in which they lived. A great biography can leave us with the impression we know a stranger better than we know our friends. Charles Marsh's biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer does all these things. No recent biographer of Bonhoeffer knows his theology or his historical and intellectual context better than Charles Marsh who has, for the past two decades, been the finest Bonhoeffer scholar of his generation. Yet none of this would matter if one did not want to turn the pages. Strange Glory tells Bonhoeffer's story with accuracy and insight but more than that, it is a joy to read." Stephen J. Plant, Dean of Trinity Hall, Cambridge

About the Author

Charles Marsh is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, and has served as the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Visiting Professor at Humboldt University in Berlin.

More About the Author

Charles Marsh is the Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and director of the Project on Lived Theology. He was born in Mobile, Alabama and educated at Harvard University Divinity School and the University of Virginia. Support for his recent "Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer" (Knopf, 2014) came from a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts and the American Academy in Berlin, where he served as the Ellen Marie Gorrissen Fellow. His books include the memoir "The Last Days" (Basic Books, 2000), and "God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights" (Princeton 1997), which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Customer Reviews

Still, this page-turner you will enjoy reading!
Jimmy R. Reagan
Charles Marsh has, in my opinion, written a great biography of one of the greatest personalities of the 20th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
John B Duffy
The first is that the book is very well researched without coming across as academically boring.
Mr. Geurs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jimmy R. Reagan on May 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
A good biography will grip you, move you, and challenge you. In really getting to know someone in all the dynamics that make him or her the person he or she was, you find out things about yourself and, perhaps, what you would like to be. When Mr. Marsh takes pen in hand on Bonhoeffer that is exactly the experience you have.

Mr. Marsh can write–that is obvious. He delved into his subject until he had something to say. He took a multifaceted view and hid nothing. Even what could have been mundane information, like certain academic pursuits, was woven together to show us the man progressing to become what he finally became in magisterial prose.

As you go along you find Bonhoeffer to be a spoiled kid far into adulthood, indulgent, lazy in physical work, and a lover of extended travel, and at times, a man with a temper. Still, you could not help but admire him. There is duplicity in us all, yet Christ can raise us above it. Though his theology was a good bit to the left of mine, I firmly believe he was a believer who not only loved the Lord, but grew to love Him more.

As with any of us he wrestled with some of the hard choices of life. In the end, he far more came down on the right side, a side fraught with danger and pain. I do not know what he died thinking, but he died a victor.

The only negative of the book was the suggestion that, perhaps, there was a homosexual attraction for his dear friend Bethge. That seemed a cheap gimmick for our ages’ fascination of homosexuality. The friendship was as close as possible, but Bethge always clearly refuted this suggestion.
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90 of 105 people found the following review helpful By D. Licona on May 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having read much on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, including Bethge's seminal work, I didn't find much new in Marsh's treatment. The one area which was new was also disturbing. To come out and say that Bonhoeffer had some sort of erotic feelings toward Bethge is a stretch, to say the least. When I read about the relationship between Bethge and Bonhoeffer, I see kindred spirits living in a very difficult and dangerous time. They were living a monastic life while in Finkenwalde. It would not be uncommon for two men with common interests (theology) and the camaraderie developed while facing extremely perilous times to develop an extremely close friendship. The friendship of David and Jonathan comes to mind. Have we come to the place in which two people of the same sex can no longer have a kindred spirit relationship without it being painted with the brush of homosexuality? Bethge was married to Bonhoeffer's niece and Bonhoeffer was engaged at the time of his death. He was looking forward to experiencing sex after marriage, according to his letters to Bethge. In addition, Bethge outright denied that there was anything erotic about their relationship. I read absolutely nothing in Marsh's book that indicates anything other than a very close friendship. In my opinion, it is disrespectful of a man who deserves so much respect to make this kind of an insinuation which would be a complete break with his character as revealed in his own writings.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on May 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charles Marsh's biography is full of insightful surprises, largely because he insists on going beyond standard interpretations of Bonhoeffer's life and thought to offer a portrait that sometimes startling in both detail and interpretation. As other commentators have pointed out, the Bonhoeffer he presents us isn't a plaster saint. He was the pampered son of a well-to-do family who remained throughout his life something of a sartorial dandy and a lover of the comfortable pleasures of life. He could be peevish and self-occupied, and he sometimes made hasty judgments about both ideas and people. But in offering us this fuller profile of his subject, Marsh helps us appreciate the genuine grandeur of a man who, notwithstanding his all-too-human foibles, nonetheless re-thought what it meant to be a Christian in the troubled 20th century, and who was willing to die for his convictions.

For my money, the most interesting section of the book is Marsh's analysis of Bonhoeffer's radicalization during his year-long stay at Union Theological Seminary. Initially contemptuous of Union's "practical" approach to theologizing that eschewed, in his estimation, rigorous dogmatics, Bonhoeffer gradually became convinced that his own earlier theology was too abstractly indifferent to issues of social justice. Through the influence of Niebuhr's emphasis on ethics, the pacifism of friends like Lassure, and the deep incarnationalism of the black spiritual tradition, Bonhoeffer emerged a new man after his year in the States. Marsh, some of whose earlier work focus on the religious antecedents and dimension of the Civil Rights movement, wonderfully provides background information on Christian social justice thinkiing of 1930s America that so influenced Bonhoeffer.

Well worth reading and thinking about. Going through Marsh's bio has inspired some friends and me to re-dive into Bonhoeffer's works this summer.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John B Duffy on May 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the hallmark of authoritative biography is the commitment of the biographer to his or her subject. A good biography seeks to present the full person, warts and all. An excellent biography captures the unique essence that makes the subject of the story compelling to a wide audience. A great biography does all this while itself possessing literary power and grace. Charles Marsh has, in my opinion, written a great biography of one of the greatest personalities of the 20th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Marsh demonstrates his commitment to his subject by presenting a fully rounded, flawed and fascinating Bonhoeffer. Part of the fascination is in how such a spiritual giant was so like us, subject to change and possessed of human appetites and limitations. Marsh really got into the weeds in his lengthy and extensive research, much of which took place in Germany. He is therefore able to share Bonhoeffer's musical enthusiasms, his excessive preoccupation with his wardrobe, the flavor of his friendships.

In the midst of this skillfully presented detail emerges a picture of the man who has so entranced and inspired liberals and conservatives, Christians and unbelievers. While the focus is more on Bonhoeffer's life than his writings, both are presented with and through an intimacy borne of the author's long and passionate engagement with Bonhoeffer's life and ideas. And both this life and these ideas are powerfully compelling.

What emerges is a man who embodied the paradoxes of his age and our age. He loved the church and its rituals yet predicted and welcomed a religionless Christianity. He was a thoroughgoing, sometimes abstruse theologian who realized the love of God most powerfully through the African American church.
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