The title of this small book comes from a quotation found in a letter that Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1944 toward the end of World War II from a German prison cell to his friend, Eberhard Bethge, about the future of the Christian Church: "Anxious souls will ask what room there is now left for God...." The author of this volume states that: "the intent of this book is to make the prison reflections of Dietrich Bonhoeffer more accessible and influential for the church of our day..." (p. 46). Matthews is senior pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, and vice president of the International Bonhoeffer Society's English Language Section. The pastoral intent of the book is obvious insofar as the author uses the teachings and inspiration of the contemporary Christian martyr, Bonhoeffer, to show how Christians in today's troubled world can more closely follow the teachings of Jesus Christ in difficult times. While presenting a biography of Bonhoeffer, Matthews focuses especially upon his prison writings showing their implication for the contemporary world.
Although the Christian Church rests upon the solid and secure foundation of God known in Jesus Christ, the core of the book consists of explaining five traditional pillars of the Church that appear to be crumbling. By culling from the writings of Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison, the author replaces these crumbling pillars with new and sturdier columns to be relied upon in this new world of "religionless Christianity" that has come of age. The crumbling pillar of individualistic religion must give way to the richness and blessing of life together in Christ; the crumbling pillar that views God as beyond and otherworldly must be replaced by a view of God as the beyond in the midst of life; the traditional pillar that views prayer as mere words must be replaced with prayerful action and loving public deeds; the crumbling pillar that equates earthly blessing with God's presence and earthly suffering as God's absence should be replaced by Christians who view suffering as sharing in the suffering of God in Christ; and the fifth pillar of immature, childish dependency upon God must be replaced with an authentic maturity of life with God in Christ. Each of these pillars is in need of attention by faithful Christians who need to cultivate the discipline to remain true to the gospel teachings and the mystery of the Christian faith.
As a pastor, the author leads his readers to the implementation of these teachings while giving very good explanations of Bonhoeffer's writings and examples of how they apply to the contemporary world. The book concludes with a listing of Bonhoeffer's writings in English and a summary of the major secondary sources about Bonhoeffer and his theology. Although Matthew's book is pastorally oriented, it is a very good commentary on the understanding of Letters and Papers from Prison and an excellent introduction for those who are unfamiliar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.