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A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Paperback – August 11, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Rev Sub edition (August 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060642149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060642143
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

From the Publisher

"The definitive text in English for all who wish to study the life and theology of Bonhoeffer in depth."--John W. De Gruchy, author of Bonhoeffer and South Africa

More About the Author

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau in 1906. The son of a famous German psychiatrist, he studied in Berlin and New York City. He left the safety of America to return to Germany and continue his public repudiation of the Naz*s, which led to his arrest in 1943. Linked to the group of conspirators whose attempted assassination of Hitlerr failed, he was hanged in April 1945.

Customer Reviews

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I recommend this book to anyone looking to deepen his/her faith and understanding of God's love.
Ellie C Giles
Most of the entries are brief, and, since they are somewhat independent of the rest, can be read and ruminated in small snippets of time.
Gerard Reed
This is the book, if one doesn't read all sixteen volumes of Bonhoeffer's collected works, for a well-rounded introduction.
John W. Matthews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 76 people found the following review helpful By The Light Fantastic on May 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Bonhoeffer was not a well-recognized figure outside of Germany when he made the decision to return to his native country from America despite the fact that the Nazis had seized power and were persecuting any who resisted their domination. Bonhoeffer had already come a long way in developing a theology of 'discipleship' and 'costly grace', and he put that theology into action when he returned to Germany and joined those who were resisting Nazi rule.
As one of the major figures of the minority 'Confessing Church' (along with Karl Barth) who rejected Nazism's total claims on the churches, Bonhoeffer spoke out in favour of the Jews, whom he called 'the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ'. He was arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of being part of a group planning to assassinate Hitler. Then, just weeks before the end of the war and Hitler's suicide, he and his co-conspirators were executed, hung by piano-wire before the dictator's malicious eyes.
In the almost sixty years since his death, Bonhoeffer's influence has continued to grow as more and more people have encountered his forward-thinking theology and the way it was lived out concretely in his life. Today he is fast surpassing Barth and Tillich as the major (German) Protestant theologian of the 20th century. There is good reason for this: Bonhoeffer was an original thinker, and all his thoughts came out of a concrete experience of God in real life, and the quest to serve and follow God - always a dynamic process - rather than serving rigid 'principles' that can never fully encompass the divine will.
This book makes for an excellent introduction to this powerful theologian's work. Serious students may then wish to turn to the full volumes of 'The Cost of Discipleship', 'Ethics' (Bonhoeffer's unfinished masterpiece), and the important and compassionate 'Letters and Papers from Prison'. Learn why this is the man many are calling not only a martyr, but also a saint.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Mulchand on July 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Mr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes my list of most interesting people of the 20th century and he is certainly one of the most influencial of Christian writers. His faith, dedication to freedom, and vision for humanity is as profound as it is earnest. Raised as a Lutheran, I had always heard of Bonhoeffer, but never explored his literature.

I have a German background, my mum was a German teacher, and when someone sent me Bonhoeffer's poem "Wer bin Ich?" (in english "Who Am I?") I was overcome with emotion and conviction.

This poem is only one powerful part of Bonhoeffer's extensive writings. This poem, reaffirming Bohoeffer's faith and trust in God, was written by Bonhoeffer when he was prisoner in a Nazi camp for conspiring against Hitler.

Bonhoeffer knew that the Nazi control of Germany and the holocaust of the Jews/Minorities was wrong. While many stood aside and did nothing, Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazis for his dedication to freedom and righteousness. He once wrote:

"We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds. We have been drenched by many storms. Experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open. Are we still of any use?"

The threat of death did not phase Bonhoeffer, he saw his actions as a responsibility: "Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility."

He also wrote, sounding very much like the Apostle Paul: "To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ."

This is a wonderful collection of Bonhoeffer's writings in an easy to read translation.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
The translations of Bonhoeffer's works by Simon & Schuster are almost unreadable. This translation reads like real English spoken by real people. The ideas expressed are powerful and reveal Bonhoeffer's dedication to knowing and following the will of God. Get it, read it, follow it.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Peter Martin on October 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Of all the theology books I have read, A Testament to Freedom is the most powerful, most compelling book I have ever read. It is a wonderful collection of sermons and writings throughout his life. Each chapter is brief, but powerful. His sermon titled "On Forgiveness" is especially well-written. If you want a collection of well-written, powerful prose that speaks to spirituality at its best, get this book. Highly recommended.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Scott Johnson on December 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
A TESTAMENT TO FREEDOM is quite the volume. It is an invaluable resource to people wanting to get a lifelong perspective on Bonhoeffer without purchasing the entire Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke. There are sections of biography, on his early writings, on his work as a pastor, some sermons, some major sections of Ethics and Discipleship, his best-known works, poetry and some of his letters and papers from prison. I use this resource often, most frequently when looking for quotes or quick reference. I'd highly recommend it to those who wish to know more about this 20th century theologian, pastor and martyr.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Reed on March 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Dietrich Bonhoeffer occupies a distinctive niche in modern theology--a focus for both hagiography and theology; a rarity in church history, a martyred theologian. Due to his stature, as well as the profundity of his thought, various interpreters (including some advocates of the deservedly defunct "death of God" movement of the ancient '60's) have latched onto him, portraying Bonhoeffer as an advance advocate of their cause. Consequently, it's better to read Bonhoeffer himself rather than his interpreters. A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ed. Geffrey B. Kelly and Burton Nelson (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, c. 1990) provides a marvelous collection of his writings, supplementing widely-available books such as The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics.
In an illuminating introductory section, the editors chart some of the details of Bonhoeffer's life and provide insights into his character. "His life," they assert, "was a unity in that mysterious oneness where all contradictions are resolved in the experience of God's abiding love and forgive¬ness. 'Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine'" (p. 4). Consequently, in the opinion of Payne Best, a British Secret Service officer who witnessed Bonhoeffer's final days in prison, he "'always seemed to diffuse an atmosphere of happiness, of joy in every smallest event in life, and a deep gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive. . . . He was one of the very few men I have ever met to whom his God was real and ever close to him'" (p. 45). Following the introduction, the book divides into seven parts, topics within which Bonhoeffer's writings appear in chronological order. The topics include Bonhoeffer as a teacher, a pastor, a leader in the Confessing Church, and a letter writer.
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