Eric Metaxas in Rare Form at National Prayer Breakfast

Eric Metaxas had President Obama and distinguished guests in stitches as he shared his Christian testimony at the National Prayer Breakfast. He also shared some reflections about—you guessed it—Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He had some serious and prophetic words about the humanity of the unborn. He even spoke about having a biblical view of sexuality. All of this with the President sitting just a few feet away. This was a courageous talk delivered with winsomeness and joy. Watch it below.

If you are not familiar with Eric Metaxas, you should know that he is the author of last year’s best-selling biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

46 Responses to Eric Metaxas in Rare Form at National Prayer Breakfast

  1. Paul February 3, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    nice. great speech.

  2. yankeegospelgirl February 3, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Mextaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer was well-intentioned. Unfortunately, it was also mis-leading in some respects, particularly when it came to Bonhoeffer’s Christian faith. He wasn’t orthodox by any stretch of the imagination.

    • EWR February 3, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      I am not familiar with Bonhoeffer’s theology – could you expand on your comment a bit? Where exactly was he unorthodox?

      • yankeegospelgirl February 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

        He was skeptical about foundational pillars of orthodoxy such as the virgin birth and the resurrection.

        • SoCalGuy February 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

          That may be true, but skepticism is OK as we search for truth. Bonhoeffer’s actions told the real story. Eric’s book puts flesh on the bones of a Christian martyr. It is an incredible story.

          • yankeegospelgirl February 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

            Ummm, not when you’re an ordained minister it’s not! You should find some quotes people have pulled from Bonhoeffer in criticizing the book. Really, he was just a flaky German modernist when it came down to it. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great man and a political hero, but he wasn’t an orthodox Christian. I’m not denying that he’s an admirable historical figure, because he absolutely is. It’s just that we should admire him for what he was, not what he wasn’t.

        • Stephanie February 4, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

          He’s a friend and he is not. If he said anything misleading I’m sure it was an error or a misunderstanding.

        • Joshua February 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

          Where did you get this information?

    • Joshua February 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      How so?

  3. Chris Bryant February 3, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Praise God for this!

  4. yankeegospelgirl February 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I’m finally getting a chance to watch the talk. It was indeed very funny, with many good points. I was glad that he wasn’t afraid to address a biblical view of life and sexuality right up-front. Still, the addendum about “not demonizing” the enemy, which by now is becoming a rather stale cliche to me, seemed to detract from what he said. It would have been better if he had left his bold statements as they were. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with engaging in so-called “demonization” of the enemy. We are at war, and we will not give everyone’s opinion equal “dignity.” There are evil men and women who are trying to destroy the fabric of our society, and even while we are called to hope for their salvation, we are called to hate what God hates.

    • Paul February 3, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

      there are evil people who are conservatives as well. I certainly hope you’re willing to call them out with the same veracity that you’ll call out those that you have no time for…

      • yankeegospelgirl February 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

        *rolls eyes*

        Yes, but conservatives en masse do not regularly claim ideologies of death as anchoring political points for their worldview. Just like Christians can be evil, but it makes no sense to view Christianity as just as much of a threat as Islam, because evil Christians are working AGAINST the principles of their ideology while evil Muslims are working WITH them.

        • Paul February 3, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

          ideologies of death? *snicker*

          • yankeegospelgirl February 4, 2012 at 10:45 am #

            Ask the unborn, the disabled and the elderly if you don’t believe me.

    • Julie February 4, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      We are called to hate the sin, not the sinner. There is a HUGE difference. Our battle is not with flesh & blood, but with the spiritual forces of evil.

      • yankeegospelgirl February 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

        Yes, there is a difference. So obviously, I do not wish that evil would befall the President or anyone else whom I oppose/disagree with. However, demanding that we “treat everyone with dignity” is a little bit different from demanding that we pray and hope for their ultimate well-being and redemption. The spiritual forces of evil, like the spiritual forces of good, are certainly manifesting themselves in tangible ways in our culture today, and we need to recognize that if we are to have any hope of winning this culture war. So I pray that Obama will repent and be redeemed, but I see no need to “treat him with dignity.”

        • Ilovejesus February 7, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

          I followed your comments, and as someone who daily strives to follow Jesus, I find much of what you said quite sad. I feel sad for you. While I bet you have a good heart, I have to tell you that you kind of sound like one of the legalistic Pharisees. I was at the Prayer Breakfast 2012, and I agree entirely with Matt Curtis below. Also, remember that Jesus commands us to “love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute you”. Matthew 5:44 And, to “love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:39–the logical progression of this would be to treat Obama with dignity. Unless of course you do not want to be treated with dignity by others. I will pray that the Lord will soften you, and put more compassion in your heart. Sometimes it can be hard for all of us in this world, but you can do it! Blessings to you and to your journey with Jesus.

    • matt curtis February 5, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

      Yankee,

      I think Metaxas struck exactly the right tone, and that tone was consistent with the Gospel which, after all, teaches that each one of us is depraved, evil and separate from God, made holy only through Jesus’ substitutionary death for our sins. Thus, even as we must speak boldly God’s truth, we must humbly see others as the same sinner we ourselves are. Does God call even evil men and women to follow Him? Thank God He does or not one of us could ever hope to spend eternity in paradise with Him.

    • DB1954x February 9, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

      I’m with you in this view yankeegospelgirl, as for Denny Burk and company, I see that he is far too concerned about protecting his sectarian view of Bonhoeffer to offer any thing of value in the historical sense. He apparently has a huge ego wrapped up in his sectarian views. Moreover, I just think that he fundamentally does not understand German culture or German Reform Tradition and the role of the clergy. Bonhoeffer, in addition to his vocation was also a human, and probably said a lot of things he wished he hadn’t. So when I see prof. Burk launching an attack upon Bonhoeffer and the GERMAN REFORM TRADITION he represented and spoke for eloquently to the day of his death,as inconsistent with an AMERICAN evangelical’s understanding of certain doctrines or matters of a somewhat minor importance, I see his efforts at demonizing both Metaxas and Bonhoeffer as expressions of personal enmity for at least one saint. And frankly, I’m tempted to go to Rome. After all, how many young clerics do you know that didn’t question this or that, the virgin birth, being a common obstacle. What counts is when they take the oath to uphold the doctrines, discipline and teachings, NO MATTER THEIR PERSON VIEWS OF THE SUBJECT. And Bonhoeffer did this a second time in estalbishing the Confessing Church in the face of the purist evil in history. What IS the problem here? I conclude it can only be more centuries-long sectarian bickering born of sectarian egos that grew out of the Reformation. At least among clerics of the Catholic faith, they don’t reject you or defrock you if you’re personally troubled about something. You just say I will teach it as Gospel Truth and move ahead to the substance of the matter. God Bless Eric Metaxas for hating what God tells me to hate, an ideology, not a man.

  5. Charles Twombly February 4, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    Very moving (jokes and all).

  6. Wordsntone February 4, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    Well worth taking the time to listen through…give up a half hour of the Simpsons for this message…and if you have time, contrast it to the religious-utilitarian message of the next speaker…

  7. Frank February 4, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I’m glad I stumbed on this. And I agree with the comment above by yankeegirl about Bonhoeffer’s unorthodoxy and I’ll go further as I’ve watched this fiasco unfold since this book has been published. Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer will unfortunately perpetuate the myth that Dietrich was some sort of champion of orthodox evangelical faith…which Metaxas is obviously touting with attempts to draw comparison with American evangelicalism at that! Furthermore, prostituting Bonhoeffer to get his buy-in as you raise your own issues on abortion, sexuality, etc. is horribly irresponsible. The idea that Bonhoeffer was an “issues theologian” who practiced a normative approach to ethical dilemmas runs against everything in Bonhoeffer’s ethical writings! And furthermore that a 1930s German thinker had the same orientation to social, religious, and political thinking as does an American evangelical in 2012 is really bad historical thinking. It’s no wonder that those who have made it their life’s work to analyze, write about, and understand Bonhoeffer have not stepped out to endorse this book in any way and a few who have cared enough to take the time have been highly critical (Green and Barnett among the two most important), even those within his own camp (Weikart). It reminds me of the first time I read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs as an uninformed layperson. Having no understanding of propaganda, the identities of those who died by faith for their extreme love for Christ against the vicious Popish agents of Satan was an inspiring read for me! I soon took the time to understand the historical background that lay behind the book and realized the effect and intention of this book. Likewise, this Bonhoeffer work is not thoroughgoing scholarship. This is biographical fiction by a masterful storyteller, which Metaxas no doubt is. Of course, this doesn’t mean he gets it all wrong. But as international Bonhoeffer expert, Clifford Green mentions, he flubs it where a nuanced appreciation of Bonhoeffer’s theology is much desired. If you don’t understand a man’s theology, you’ll pick up on statements without regard to his own intellectual development, stage in his theology, etc. Metaxas apparently has all the right connections and friendships however and continues to position himself to capitalize on these opportunities, including television appearances and National Prayer breakfasts. I think everyone is falling into the trap that because this book is reaching high places, it must be critically appraised and important! Those appraising the merits of this book, like Glen Beck, have no understanding of Bonhoeffer. Metaxas biography, given his connections, and the possibility of engaging a “deep and disturbing young man” as Karl Barth called Bonhoeffer, is an unfortunate opportunity wasted, intellectually dishonest (or simply uninformed for lack of research) and will likely do more damage than good with regard to bringing attention to Bonhoeffer, and will require professional Bonhoeffer scholars to engage in years of damage control just like those conservative Christians were required to do when Dan Brown thought to redefine the person of Jesus in his Da Vinci Code novels!

    Metaxas needs to stop hobnobbing with his uninformed, politically affluent circles, and if he really styles himself as someone who is capable of bringing the person of Bonhoeffer to a lay audience, he now needs to step up and debate those who are much less visible in the general public but well regarded in international Bonhoeffer studies.

    • DB1954x February 8, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      Frank, … “PROSTITUTING BONHOEFFER,” really? I’ll pray for you and encourage others here to do the same. That’s so over the top it reveals your contempt for EM personally and your discomfort with a brother Christian’s historical accounts based upon your sectarian views of Scripture and German Reform theology. I rest assured in the superiority of Mextaxas’ historical account of Bonhoeffer, given that he knows a great deal more about his subject than you do, and he has every reason to know more since his mother is German, grew up in Germany and knew the suffering the Nazis inflicted on their own people. In short, sir, you have a very ignorant view not only of Metaxas, but of Bonhoeffer and German religion and culture.

      • Frank February 9, 2012 at 11:21 am #

        Dear DB1954xyz…

        You are right on one point. I know very little about Mr. Metaxas’ personally. He seems to be able to get to the right people, and I’m sure the work he does for the faith matters for many in his evangelical circles.

        What I do know are the opinions of those who are highly regarded in the community of Bonhoeffer studies, including those who worked directly with Eberhard Bethge (Bonhoeffer’s best friend), Renate Wind, the von Wedemeyers, Bishop Bell, and the list goes on.

        Allow me to make one important point: Metaxas’ German origin or his grandmother’s German origin is completely irrelevant. I am German as well but that makes me no more a scholar about Nazi Germany than being American makes me an expert on the game of baseball. Since I didn’t bring this up initially, I find the whole comment irrelevant to my point.

        My problem with Metaxas’ review is not a personal attack, but those like Victoria Barnett and Clifford Green who edited the definitive Bonhoeffer works in English, which Metaxas’ own research relies on so heavily, and who worked closely with Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer’s biographer have come out uniformly against many of the misrepresentations made by Metaxas’ in his book. Both are renowned in international Bonhoeffer studies and have made it their life’s work. Metaxas, I fear to say, is riding a wave of popularity right now that will take him to his next biography.

        Secondly, isn’t it a bit presumptuous for you to make the claim that Metaxas’ knows more than I about Bonhoeffer, being that you know nothing of me? I’m versed in German, I know at least one translator of DBWE personally, I read Bonhoeffer in German, and am writing a work on Bonhoeffer now. I certainly don’t have the pull of Metaxas, but that’s a mute point. Again, to respond to someone’s work critically is not to attack the person writing the work.

        Finally, you don’t have to assure me of Metaxas’ scholarship. Since credible representatives, including Metaxas’ own kinsmen (I would direct you to an evangelical named Dr. Richard Weikart’s review of his work) feels it does more harm than good and do not support this biography…(Green himself commented it was rushed to publication), I’m “assured” I am on the right side of scholarship in this matter. So when I say Metaxas’ prostituted Bonhoeffer I mean that there is a concentrated attempt here to present Bonhoeffer as an orthodox thinker when I could point to ten reasons off the top of my head, why such a characterization is wrong. I’m sure throngs of Bonhoeffer faithful would like him to be more orthodox, more in line with American evangelicalism. But he is not. He commented during his time at Union Theological that he thought American theology was inferior and superficial.

        As for German culture and 1920-1940s German philosophy and theology. I am comfortable with my knowledge and know who Bonhoeffer uses heavily in his own works. Again, I’m not sure what I said could have prompted your response to my ignorance on this point, but if you would like to point out where I’ve misrepresented Bonhoeffer’s appropriation of German “culture” and “religion” I’m all ears.

        If you are truly interested in what others have to say,rather than encouraging others to pray for me, I encourage you to get out on the internet or read some other accounts. Start with Eberhard Bethge’s masterful biography of Bonhoeffer and then I would suggest something like the DBWE collection of Dietrich’s collected writings. Rasmussen, Jeffrey, and Clifford are also relevant Bonhoeffer scholars.Weikart also wrote a book called So Many Bonhoeffers. And for a good book on the way Bonhoeffer is handled or mishandled – Stephen Plant has two worthwhile books on the Bonhoeffer phenomenon.

        In closing, thank you for your prayers. I always need them. I believe we should always be prayerful as Christians 🙂

        • Charles Twombly February 9, 2012 at 11:39 am #

          Frank, thanks for your words here. They square with my thinking. I found the intemperate words of DB1954X a bit shocking–for the reasons you give. Eric is a talented, passionate, committed guy who is clearly more the journalist than he is the scholar. He needs to temper his ardent promotion of his own work. (As for his address at the Prayer Breakfast, it was masterful in its own way, I share his concern for the unborn, ‘though I’m quite sure I’m more of an admirer of the President than Eric is.)

  8. Daryl Little February 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    I thought Metaxas did a masterful job of addressing the elite non-believing crowd by not addressing them.

    Kind of like a pastor ostensibly speaking to the children on the occasion of a Christmas special, but really speaking to the parent of those children.

    I realize I’m not explaining this very well…but his addressing the believers to say that we must be kind and respectful and loving to the unbelieving pro-abortion, pro-gay crowd, especially when they revile us and call us bigots, was clearly a way to disarm the pro-abortion, pro-gay crowd so that they could be exposed and called out.

    Will it make a difference? Not on a large scale. Positive change rarely, if ever, happens like that. But will it have it’s effect? I’m sure it will, even if it makes even one non-believer or pretending-believer rethink where they stand.

    I was impressed. I doubt the president was.

    Did he get Bonhoeffer wrong in his book? I’m no scholar and I haven’t read the book, but I’ll take others word on that (esp. Challies’), but that wasn’t the point in that speech, nor the point of the post I don’t think.

    Nobody gets it all right, but Mr, Metaxas got it right when it counted I think.

    • yankeegospelgirl February 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      Yes, and I do want to interject that I did sense that in his speech as well. I caught on to what he was trying to do there, and in a way it was rather clever. And yet I think he was being sincere. I mean, I assume he really meant what he said about not demonizing the other side. So on the one hand, yes, you’re completely right, it was an effective way of putting the other side at unease, if I can put it that way. Tactically speaking, it made a certain amount of sense. But that wasn’t his only purpose, and I think he would be concerned if that were the only effect. When I take his words at face value, I don’t fully agree with them.

      • Daryl Little February 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

        What it is that you disagreed with?

        • yankeegospelgirl February 5, 2012 at 10:01 am #

          I just made some comments earlier in the thread you can go back and read—essentially, I thought that “the good stuff” in his speech lost a little of its punch because he was then turning right around and talking about how we shouldn’t demonize our enemies. I’m tempted to ask, “Well, what if they really are demonic?”

          • Daryl Little February 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

            I just assumed that he was talking about people.

  9. Frank February 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Hi Professor Twombly. God bless and I hope all is well.

    • Charles Twombly February 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

      Frank, all’s well. Have my own book coming out in a year. Not going to be a best-seller though! Too academic. How are you?

      • Frank February 13, 2012 at 10:47 am #

        Oh really? What are you working on?

  10. DB1954x February 9, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Oh and another thing about Bonhoeffer’s best friend who, it is alleged, absolutely INSISTS that Pastor Bonhoeffer was extremely unorthodox, so much so that he had in effect ceased to be a real Pastor of the Evangelical (GERMAN) Reform tradition:

    If you were a young cleric, to whom would you direct your inner-most doubts about the faith you espoused?

    And to what standard are Burk and Twombly holding Bonhoeffer? They haven’t answered that yet, but I will: an AMERICAN standard of what it means to be an Evangelical Christian, because they can NEVER let an opportunity to go by to prove that their particular sectarian views are the only ones. In short, these two may be Christians, but they’re bigots of the first order.

    I leave this blog (forever) with this thought: I’m beginning to believe that the Catholics were right. Protestantism was a rebellion destined to fail because it ultimately destroyed itself with each and every new question raised and answer given, egos, egos, human pride and ego.

    In any case, I can see their is no joy among Baptists, which is of course, no surprise, given the last person with a brain left this band of quarreling, self-glorifying, egotistical fools and ignoramuses years ago.

    • Charles Twombly February 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

      DB1954X, please calm down a bit. You’re backing up my “intemperate” charge without intending to, I’m sure. No need to call someone who takes exception with some of your words “a bigot of the first order.” I’ve never that “good” at anything in my life. Kind of like St Paul calling himself “the chief of sinners.”

      I’m not an “evangelical” in the general American sense, even though my theological training was in that tradition and I love and revere many who are evangelical. . I have been a moderately high church Anglican/Episcopalian for 46 years and would be equally at home in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

      As for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he was a Lutheran in a country where the word “evangelical” tends to be a synonym for Lutheran. You say he’s “Reform,” a term in Europe usually reserved for “Calvinists.” Perhaps you only mean he stands in the mainstream of the 16th century Protestant tradition.

      Anyway, may God bless you as you find your way in the maze of choices, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. We can have strong disagreements and still be friends. Pray for me.

    • Frank February 13, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      DBX,

      There were no personal attacks here so I’m puzzled why you are responding with such vitriol and even threatening to leave your church. This seems to be a much deeper issue than I can possibly get to in an internet chat forum. I don’t know your history with this site, but this was my first post. I do hope you don’t cast off your brothers because we disagree with Metaxas’ portrayal of Bonhoeffer. I know we can all be blunt in our criticisms sometimes, and “dead text type” is not the best way to express ourselves. I know personally, when I’ve had problems with such things, I try to pull back (sometimes successfully) and try to refocus on my response not the action prompting me to answer harshly, just as Christ would have us do.

      As for Evangelicalism. I must agree with Prof. Twombly, and I wanted also to make this point earlier. Karl Barth, not Bonhoeffer, was working in the German Reform Tradition. Bonhoeffer was an Evangelical Lutheran. You have to be careful since a concept in one period might have significant distinctions than does another in its proper era. Of course, Lutherans would object to be being fashioned as Calvinists.

      I would simply recommend, putting aside all hostility, and personal attacks, just read the books I mentioned. If you are truly interested in the pursuit of truth here, than put down Eric’s book for the moment, and go do some exploration with the other titles I mentioned and then come back and tell us what you think. Go read Bonhoeffer’s works. Start with his letters and papers from prison. Here, you’ll encounter Bonhoeffer in his most mature form. After all, reading the primary source is much more satisfying than reading and relying on a second hand account. Whatever you decide to do, may the love of Christ reign in your heart. God bless you!

  11. JP February 14, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    I am most ignorant of the factual issues regarding Bonhoeffer’s theology. My question is this: if in fact EM unfairly portrayed Bonhoeffer in an effort to make his point, does it make the point he was making any less valid? Other than yankeegospelgirl, do any of those posting – without regard to your personal views of EM or his treatment of Bonhoeffer – think that EM’s message was one that advanced the Gospel of Christ or detracted from the Gospel of Christ?

    • Frank February 15, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Hi JP,

      I guess I would answer that with a question as well: If someone writes a book on the Vietnam War, telling us he fought in significant battles and provides details that were as of yet unknown only to find out later that it was all a hoax, what does that do to the author’s credibility? I’m not saying Metaxas creates stories but his “unique interpretation” of the details are well-placed points of omniscience that manipulate the biography in a particular direction.

      I’ll give you an example of how destructive this can be, and one from Bonhoeffer’s time. Kurt Gerstein was an SS soldier who was captured by the French. He fashioned himself as a person who moved up very quickly in the ranks of the German military and eventually found a place with the Gestapo. When it was clear that Hitler’s time had come, Gerstein gave himself up. He was asked to write a confession of his actions in the Wehrmacht. He revealed to his French interrogators extraordinary accounts about how he was in fact an undercover resistor and told about nightmarish implements used to torture Jews in the concentration camps. His stories were so convincing that not only were they repeated for years, but his testimony was used in Nuremberg against high-ranking Nazi officials to compound their crimes. Kurt Gerstein was eventually exposed for lending more fiction than fact, but the damage had already been done. His “exposer” had his doctorate dissertation and degree rescinded, first time in 800 years in France, and he faced public defamanation from anti-semitic organizations, Jewish leagues, and the French authority. People who have defended Gerstein, have said in effect: “What’s the big deal. The Nazi’s were guilty. They should be punished.” But now ask yourself if you were on trial for crimes of extortion (just as an example) if you would like to add to that rape, burgulary, or even murder?

      My problem with Metaxas is that he portrays a Bonhoeffer that doesn’t exist on significant points, and therefore creates a fiction that in the end does more damage than good. And EM is doing that right now. The fact that he’s touting his Bonhoeffer book wherever he goes should send up flags. He’s making his rounds on popular conservative TV shouting the praises of Bonhoeffer. “He’s one of us!”

      Bonhoeffer is simply not evangelical in the American sense of the word, and his Lutheranism was suspiciously unorthodox as well, so much so that on the anniversary of the July 20, 1944 plot, he was maliciously condemned for his actions by members of his own church!

      I’m not entirely sure what you mean by EM’s “point,” but I’m assuming you mean his account of Bonhoeffer’s life. And to that, I would say that historians should strive to get the facts straight and that unfortunately might take them in different directions. I myself track with Evangelicals on a number of issues, but when I started doing research on Bonhoeffer, I saw how different he was than the popular version of what I had been fed. EM’s account is just not good historical research. There’s too much of EM in the interpretation, which makes it look like pop journalism. Although the fallout from this will most likely not be on the level of Gerstein, you can see the harm a fictitious account can do and how it can be used to mislead and destroy his own credibility. The most harm I fear this is doing is created a false Bonhoeffer that is consumable for conversative lay readers of his work.

  12. JP February 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    It seems to me that there are some who are missing the forest for the trees. The “point” of EM’s speech – to me, at least – was not an endorsement of Bonhoeffer as “one of us”, any more than he was trying to endorse Wilberforce as being “one of us”.

    I saw his point as being two-fold: 1) using Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer as examples of people to gave a voice to the voiceless, and who stood up for the oppressed. He then segways into a segment of today’s society who have no voice – the unborn, and it was his way to give a voice and to stand up for the unborn, and to encourage others to do the same.

    The second point of his speech I took as being how we, as Christians, should “engage the enemy”. Too often we adopt the “enemy’s” methods of fighting – demonizing, shouting, using angry and hateful words, snubbing, looking down upon – when we should be putting on the fruits of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, etc. and praying that Christ would change ALL of our hearts to be more like Him. Then, and ONLY then, can a society be transformed.

    That is the message I took from his speech. I believe that is the message that most took from his speech. I believe there is a signifact majority who, if they had heard of Bonhoeffer, would not be able to tell you in two sentences his historical significance or his contributions to society. Should there be honesty in scholarship? Certainly. Should we take care to portray history in an accurate light? Of course. And I would say you are correct to bring clarity and light to those issues. But I would say it would be error to do so by “demonizing” EM, or speculating on his evil intentions or ulterior motives. I would say to do so would be to sacrifice the rights of the unborn and the way we as Christians live and interact with the rest of the world on the altar of academic scholarship or historical accuracy.

    • Frank February 16, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      JP, admittedly, I wasn’t responding directly to Eric’s speech, so that “forest” doesn’t even appear on my map! The issue I’m taking up is the larger concern of whether Eric is the right person to speak on behalf of Dietrich Bonhoeffer while he’s doing so on such a very high and visible platform. The book does make him “one of us.” That was my problem. I’ll get to the speech though. Let me apologize up front for the “book length response” below. I didn’t realize how much I wrote until I was done. Feel free to skim.

      I’m not in the majority. I’m someone who is attempting to do scholarly work on Bonhoeffer and have spent many hours doing so. And I’ve found he’s one of, if not the most, misunderstood and misrepresented theologians of the last century.

      So I expect that a lay audience, as you admitted you are a part of, would not understand Bonhoeffer’s historical relevance, but pick up on the value of how “he can be useful” in our current political theater. I get this point. We all do it. We all like to make comparisons.
      Let me also add that I am an Evangelical and attend a Baptist church whose views are conservative to the core! But the more I read Bonhoeffer, cause like everyone else I initially thought he was something of a proto-evangelical of the North American persuasion, the more I realized how exceptionally different he was from us on “deal-breaker “ issues.

      So I disagree with the last part of your comment. First, I would argue that you cannot simply say intellectual honesty is important on the one hand and then say but EM is getting certain issues right in his portrayal of Bonhoeffer and we just have to sift through what’s right and wrong with his biography. My point is that cherry picking Bonhoeffer while pressing his own issues on the rights of the unborn creates the illusion that Bonhoeffer is fundamentally tracking with EM on the issue! This is not the case, and we cannot assume such comparisons. There is actually good reason for this.

      As someone working on Bonhoeffer’s ethics, I can tell you that Bonhoeffer would simply NOT default to the rights of the unborn as if it were an obvious moral conviction that all Christians should hold! His ethics were not normative, but neither were they situational. There were not even existential for that matter, but relational – and sociological at that!
      This means, JP, that when we note how Bonhoeffer stood up for the rights of the Jews (I would add only meagerly) and then project this to an issue that wasn’t even relevant for him at the time, EM has done precisely what Bonhoeffer himself warns! He has failed to ask Bonhoeffer’s own question “Who is Christ for us Today?” but instead abstracted a universal principle which he thinks is manifestly obvious and project that on Bonhoeffer.
      It would be like me saying Abraham Lincoln stood up for the rights of slaves and therefore he most certainly would have stood up for the rights of the unborn. I simply don’t know that. Scholars even debate whether Lincoln was using the slavery issue as a political chess piece. And in Bonhoeffer circles, there are scholars who question his level of commitment to the Jewish question and undoing the Aryan Clause. And even to allude to that is a clever way of putting that comparison in the minds of my audience. It is political rhetoric not good scholarly appeal.

      So I have to disagree that the speech cannot be separated for EM’s work with Bonhoeffer because EM’s misapplication or ignorance of Bonhoeffer’s ethical method, means that he is abstracting an action in Bonhoeffer’s own life, and applying to an American issue that has gained ascendancy only some thirty years after his death in a political situation that is completely distinct from Bonhoeffer’s own.

      Furthermore, I’m not demonizing EM. I don’t know him personally. I’ve never met him, etc. But the fact of the matter is, courts of law establish motive all the time without making it personal. And if you follow him like I do, he is promoting his Bonhoeffer book with voracious intensity ALONGSIDE his OWN politically motivated issues!!! Just looking at the sheer number of political dinners, functions, and conversative radio and talk shows he’s visited since the book has been published where he is ALSO handing out the book and promoting it, and this raises the red flag. I also don’t understand what you mean when you say questioning his motives is to “sacrifice” the rights of the unborn. He can take up the issue all day for as much as I care, but he should leave Bonhoeffer out of it.
      So yes, I would say – YES – there is good evidence to question EM’s motives without demonizing him, which I understand as making a character judgment. I personally think he’s simply misinformed, not that he’s not a smart guy and or doesn’t have a desire to serve the Lord.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] incredible keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. I strongly encourage you to watch it. Denny Burk  provides a link to the video and offers the following summary: Eric Metaxas had President Obama […]

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    […] *Popular Christian author and speaker Eric Metaxas appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast this week and gave a speech laced with humor and some surprisingly direct proclamations of conservative ideals. Although it could have been strengthened in some places (he’s good, but he’s no Mother Theresa), I thought that overall it was a solid and impressive presentation. Watch and enjoy it via an embed on Denny Burk’s site here. […]

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