In a publishing environment where branding is prized, it was somewhat inevitable that at some point after the 2013 release of Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness (which we reviewed here) there would be a sequel. The former book was diverse: A President, two politicians, two athletes, a Pope, and a scaled down version of the author’s epic-length biography of Bonhoeffer. With Seven Women… the geography is perhaps more diverse, but the women all are crusaders of one type or another.
A book like this allows you the opportunity to read the sections in any order, but in the end, I proceeded in the order the chapters occur; partly because the first four stores — Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, and Maria Skobtsova — were less familiar to me. That left Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa, stories with which perhaps you also are more acquainted with.
Biographies by necessity entail a certain amount of biographical data. In this case, one encounters some of the dry stuff that Wikipedia pages are famous for, only to turn the page and discover Metaxas has linked some aspect of the woman’s life to things we experience in the 21st Century. So with Wesley,
Much of what she taught them [her children] was for the purpose of helping them see through — and therefore be able to resist — the secular doctrines of that time. So she may be regarded not only as the inventor of homeschooling, but also of what today is sometimes called “worldview teaching,” something modern Christian parents in the West have begun embracing as they raise their children in an increasingly post-Christian culture.
And if you’ve ever attended a church where the attendance dips noticeably on the Sundays the Associate Pastor (or Youth Pastor) is preaching, the paragraphs concerning her husband’s curate will certainly resonate. You might add to the above-mentioned accomplishments that she foreshadowed a time when those skipping church would stay home and listen to a podcast.
The story of Maria aka Saint Maria of Paris carries with it both Orthodox and Catholic history. (If you don’t know her, see the quotation we ran yesterday.) Of course, Mother Teresa’s story is overtly Roman Catholic, while Joan of Arc includes elements of Christian Mysticism. Her faith and prophetic gifts are rather amazing.
Hannah More is an inspiration to all the poets, playwrights, novelists and songwriters who wonder if they can make a difference through their art, but again, the story contains references to More’s ability to work the political system of the day.
Corrie ten Boom’s story is better known to Evangelicals, as Rosa Parks’ name is known to anyone remotely aware of U.S. history. You could make these into a movie. Oh, wait… And Mother Teresa’s life example never gets old. Again, I found the people whose stories were new to me most beneficial, and plan to return to those first four chapters for a second round.
Some have criticized Mother Teresa for being all about social justice with little attention to proclamation, even to the point of doubting her salvation. Metaxas gives us two insights on this however, one being “the fine line Mother Teresa had to walk as a Christian missionary in a Hindu country;” the other being quotations from a clear statement of the gospel given in her 1979 acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.
What is the secret of the greatness of all these women? Often, Metaxas leaves it to the reader to infer or extrapolate such principles, though in the book’s context, their Christian faith is an obvious factor that goes without saying. He is content to wear a historian’s hat for this project, and to vary from that would probably result in a book double the size. As it is, the book gives each figure about 30 pages making this a practical resource for both adults and students.
Frankly, I hope the ‘brand’ continues. Seven More Women… or Seven More Men…? Based on the first two books, I’d place my pre-order today.
A copy of Seven Women was provided by Laura at HarperCollins Christian Publications in Canada. The Eric Metaxas Show airs Monday to Friday on the Salem Radio Network, or you can listen to past episodes at this link. Joan of Arc was, as it turned out, not Noah’s wife.