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Eric Metaxas writes, “How I rejoice to see thinkers of Stephen Nichols’s caliber applying their fine minds to the life and thought of the inimitable Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There’s so much yet to be written about this great man. A hungry readership awaits!”

Russell Moore says, “This book will quicken your pulse as you are drawn into the story and the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Stephen Nichols brings a long and complex life to a point of ongoing personal application. This book prompted me to pray for the kind of courage that comes only after intense communion with the living God. Read and be strengthened.”

The book is Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World, the latest entry in the Theologians on the Christian Life series (more on this below).

I recently talked to Dr. Nichols about the book and the man behind it. We talked about things like: How do you pronounce his name? Why do we need another book on Bonhoeffer after Metaxas’s big bestselling biography? Was he an evangelical? And other questions.

Here are the other books in the Theologians on the Christian Life series:


Fred Zaspel, Warfield on the Christian Life 


William Edgar, Schaeffer on the Christian Life

Stephen Nichols, Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life

Fred Sanders, Wesley on the Christian Life (August)


Michael Horton, Calvin on the Christian Life (March)

Michael Haykin and Matthew Barrett, Owen on the Christian Life


Dane Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life

Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life

Derek Thomas, Bunyan on the Christian Life

Carl Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life

John Bolt, Bavinck on the Christian Life

Sam Storms, Packer on the Christian Life 

Michael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life

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14 thoughts on “Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: An Interview with Steve Nichols”

  1. Emerson says:

    I am a Reformed Evangelical of the TGC variety, but I am disappointed with Steve Nichols’ answer to whether or not Bonhoeffer was an Evangelical. Nichols does explain that Bonhoeffer is not an American Evangelical, but his explanation of Bonhoeffer’s view on justification and Scripture are misleading and only play into the critique that Justin Taylor raised in his question.

    Bonhoeffer was a Barthian before there was such a thing. Bonhoeffer believed that Christ’s work on the cross reconciled the whole world (each individual person) to God, and he understood the Church to be the community of those who have begun to live into that reconciliation. This is clearly not an Evangelical view even though he spoke of justification in Luther’s terms. Bonhoeffer’s view of Scripture was also not Evangelical. Read Creation and Fall and this becomes clear. His exposition of Genesis 2:8-17 where he describes the literature as mythical, magical, and childlike. It is God’s word of an event beyond history and yet also in history because it addresses us in our history.

    Bonhoeffer was a wonderful man of God and a gift to the Church and the world. We can and should learn a lot from him. But let’s not distort who he was, and let’s be honest that he was more a product of Harnack and Barth (though much more influenced by Barth) than the American fundamentalism of the early 20th century despite the fact that his time at Abbysinian Baptist Church in Harlem was influential.

  2. Gavin Brown says:

    JT, do you have audio for this interview?

  3. Concerted Effort says:

    Wasn’t Bonhoeffer really a heretic?

    1. ScotT says:

      A million times over, no. He wasn’t an American evangelical, but that doesn’t make one a heretic. Or does it?

      1. Concerted Effort says:

        I don’t know what that is supposed to mean, an evangelical is defined by Scripture–not one’s nationality.

        In his “Letters from Prison” he says some pretty unorthodox things. He didn’t sound like an evangelical of any stripe to me.

  4. Jack Brooks says:

    If he denied the need for personal faith in Christ for salvation, then no, he wasn’t an evangelical, American or otherwise. You can be a Christian and still be very messed-up in a lot of one’s beliefs. The Church has many born-again preachers whose thinking is way off-kilter.

    1. ScotT says:

      Why would you even suggest this? Neither Bonhoeffer nor Barth denied the need for personal faith. I once heard a pastor speculate that Barth denied the resurrection. Well, if you don’t bother to read the men you can make a lot of useless speculations.

      Pick up their works. Read Bonhoeffer on his own terms, not what Metaxas makes him out to be (which is quite removed from actuality).

  5. SLIMJIM says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve appreciated this series’ work on Schaeffer which I reviewed on our blog. I’m looking forward to this one on Bonhoeffer.

  6. Michael Snow says:

    Disappointment, we have to wait until 2015 for Charles Spurgeon on the Christian Life.

  7. Gosta Torvik says:

    I love the Gospel Coalition, but nobody seems to understand what orthodox Lutheranism is. Please look into it yourselves, there are many million orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t fit the American Evangelical checklist.

  8. Chuck says:

    I am very interested to read this. I feel like one of the things which makes Bonhoeffer so enigmatic is that much of his vocabulary at times to have a bit of a double meaning. His father’s influence, I think, was

  9. Chuck says:

    Oops, hit a wrong button….

    I meant to say that his father was a greater influence on his thought than most people seem to allow. This gives some of his theological language a firm grounding in the elder Bonhoeffer’s (atheistic) psychology. Reading Sanctorum Communio a few years back really put this in my mind.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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