Nearly everyone admires Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and nearly everyone wants to claim him for their cause.  He is the only theologian Richard Dawkins has every quoted, with approval, as far as I know.  In the 60’s the theologians of the “God is dead” fad appealed to him for his remarks on “religionless Christianity.”  Elton John sang about that fad in the song “Levon” (I think that was the song: “and the NY Times say ‘God is dead’ and the war’s begun . . .)

The new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas is attracting a lot of attention and selling well.  Metaxas claims Bonhoeffer for American evangelicals.

Bonhoeffer did part with German liberal theology–but not without a sympathetic respect for what it attempted to accomplish.  He was impatient with those who would simply dismiss it.

Clifford Green, editor of the authoritative “Bonhoeffer Works, English Edition” project, doesn’t care for Metaxas’ interpretation of Bonhoeffer.  (Review here)

Victoria Barnett, another editor of the Bonhoeffer Works, also finds Metaxas’ portrait one-sided.  She has an interesting insight on why Bonhoeffer appeals to people at opposite ends of the theological spectrum:

Bonhoeffer was deeply pious in a way that some liberal Christians (again, in the contemporary U.S. sense of that word) might find hard to connect with and it’s that piety that speaks directly to evangelicals around the world. At the same time, he was a highly intellectual and critical Christian, and therein lies his appeal for Christians on other points of the spectrum. More importantly, Bonhoeffer had witnessed firsthand what happens when faith and ideology converge.

I haven’t read Metaxas’ new biography yet, but it is on my list, along with one  by Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, newly translated from the German.  (Reviewed by Bob Cornwall)

Alleged Alligators

I like this famous expression that comes from Chicago politics:

I deny the allegation and defy the alligator.

My gripe is with the way I heard the passive participle “alleged” used on the morning news show today.  They spoke of the “alleged murder of David Hartley by Mexican Pirates”  in Falcon Lake on the border between Mexico and Texas.

I understand the concept in our legal system that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.  So it is proper to say “the alleged murderer.”

Allege meant in older days, “to affirm on oath,” then more generally, “to accuse without proof.”  In 1586, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, one T.B. was enlightened enough to say,

wee must not therefore alleadge anie imperfection in the creation of the woman.

In journalism today “allege” means “to accuse of a crime” and “alleged” means “accused.”  So it is proper to speak of the “alleged perpetrator” of a crime, but it is wrong to speak of an alleged victim, or even an alleged crime when the fact that a crime has been committed is obvious.  Tiffanie Hartley has the spattered blood of her husband on her vest.  She was with him when he was shot in the head in Mexican waters by someone aboard a boat.

The word “alleged” should be reserved for occasions when someone has been named and accused of a crime.  Crimes and crime victims should not be “alleged.”