Thinking Out Loud

April 24, 2020

Eric Metaxas Continues the “7” Series

Filed under: books, Christianity, Religion, reviews — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:29 pm

I have to give him credit. Eric Metaxas knows how to take biographical data and make it interesting and relevant to the greatest number of people. In a 2007 interview he said that his books, “don’t touch upon anything at all where Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians differ. They express just the basics of the faith, from a basic, ecumenical Christian viewpoint. They only talk about the Christian faith that they have agreement on.” 1

Back in 2013 I reviewed 7 Men and the Secrets of their Greatness, and in 2015 I also covered 7 Women and the Secrets of their Greatness. (You may read those here and here.) Those two titles are also now available in a single volume. This time he’s back with the hardcover release of 7 More Men and the Secrets of their Greatness (Zondervan; this time co-authored with Anne Morse.)

As with the other two, it’s not necessary to read the chapters in the sequence they appear, but I started with the first, Martin Luther, but then found the chapter of George Whitefield (pronounced whit-field) even more engaging. The man was a bit of a superstar in “The Colonies” and on his home turf in England. While I was aware of him, I had never taken the time to learn about his life or ministry.

And that’s the problem. There are people, including those in vocational ministry, who never are confronted with some of these figures in church history. That George Whitefield was mentored by John and Charles Wesley made him all the more interesting to me, but I was saddened to learn that towards the end they differed over “predestination and election.” It’s the same old song today, isn’t it?

Whitefield’s passion and appreciation for preaching in the streets was shared by William Booth the Salvation Army’s founder, and so I skipped ahead to chapter four. While this was shorter than other accounts I’ve read of William and his wife Catherine, I never tire of them. There are certain “must read” books that are recommended to young Christians, but not to discount those, I would suggest that a biography of William Booth should be near the top of that list. This chapter would only whet your appetite for more about William and Catherine.

Then it was back to chapter three for George Washington Carver. I knew next to nothing about this man, a certifiable genius who literally rocked the agricultural world with discoveries that affect us to this day. Sadly, he grew up amid the segregation in the U.S. South, but that only made him more determined to better the lives of both his own people, and all of us. Appearing before Congress, he was asked where he learned all of his various food applications. He told them he got them from a book. When asked what book that was, he said, “The Bible.”

Next, I was off to chapter six, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I must confess that this was also an author I only knew superficially and reading this account of his life is almost exhausting as the man is moved from prison to prison for his crime of daring to critique the Soviet regime. I wasn’t sure about his faith. Was he a Christian or simply a deist? That became more clear toward the very end of the story, and his roots in the Orthodox church would certainly resonate with Metaxas. Later in life he turned his attention toward the United States with messages that were prophetic in nature.

Chapter five is about Alvin York, among the most decorated soldiers of World War I, and chapter seven is about Billy Graham, and consists mostly of material culled from Graham’s autobiography, Just as I Am.  Sections on Graham’s interactions with U.S. Presidents and world leaders was where I hoped Eric Metaxas would find his own voice, especially with his background working for Chuck Colson, but these are succinct biographies and Metaxas stuck closely to the script. Billy Graham is still very much with us, so there were fewer things here I had not already seen, but I didn’t remember reading that Graham himself had been encouraged to run for President. His wife, Ruth, told him that if he did she would divorce him!

Overall, I enjoyed this volume every bit as much as the two previous “7” books in this series. Maybe even more. But what was the secret of their greatness? I think the question is a bit of teaser, with readers left to figure that out for themselves for each of the men profiled.

This is a great gift to give to a man, not for the obvious reason in the title, but because the pacing of the writing and the concise nature of the shorter chapters lends itself to even those who consider themselves non-readers. It’s available now wherever you shop for great reading.


1Greek News: Eric Metaxas and the God Question

 

 

 

August 5, 2010

Rooms by James Rubart

It’s been more than a week since I turned the last page of Rooms by James Rubart.   More than a week to gather my thoughts about the twists and turns of plot and spiritual journey that make up one of the most interesting books I’ve read.

I am not a fiction reader at all, but an increasing percentage of my  reading in the last twelve months has been Christian fiction.    The book came to me by way of a recommendation from the owner of the Christian bookstore in a small town in Eastern Ontario while we were on the first day of our vacation.

Then, in a manner fully in keeping with the spirit of the book itself, a copy showed up unsolicited in the mail. [Insert Twilight Zone theme music here.]   I took it with me on the next leg of our holidays, and began to understand the passion in the store owner’s recommendation.

There are going to be comparisons to The Shack. I say this in the future tense because I’m not sure that this book has hit its stride yet, even though it’s been available for a few months.   Unlike Shack, however, I think Rooms will avoid the doctrinal and theological controversies that dogged the former title, especially given its publication by conservative B&H Fiction (a division of the Baptist company, Broadman & Holman.)

That said, the book is edgy enough in a couple of areas to raise some Baptist eyebrows.   Don’t let the publisher imprint dissuade you.    James Rubart is a comparatively new author, but one who I believe we will be hearing more from in the future.  (I’m already looking forward to Book of Days releasing in 2011…)

There are also going to be comparisons to a title which I have not read, the book House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, as both books are based on a similar premise.   (Although, if you want to stretch things, so also is The Great House of God by Max Lucado, although that’s not close to being a fiction title.)

The protagonist in the story, Micah Taylor,  finds himself the inheritor of a large (9,000 square foot) house with, for lack of a better word, supernatural rooms that appear and disappear — and one that is more constant — representing different aspects of his life history and personality.

And then there’s Rick.   Seems like every book I read lately has a guy who ‘just shows up,’ who has uncanny insights and knowledge.   Echoes of The Noticer by Andy Andrews, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore by Jake Colsen, and Bo’s Café by a trio of authors.   (Tangent:  All books mentioned in this post, including Rooms, should be high on your list of books you can recommend to a male reader, including those who don’t consider themselves readers.)

Yeah.   That’s about all of the plot that I need to say.   From there you’re on your own.

Given sales figures in the millions, comparing this book to Shack isn’t exactly the worst thing I can do.   However, while that book is something unique that is being used to reach those outside the Christian faith, Rooms may find its audience among the already converted.  I do think there’s room for both types of readers with this book, and I hope it finds a response over the next few months from a variety of readers.   Keep it on your radar.


The reviews:  On one Christian retail site that allows customer reviews, 15 were posted.   One gave the book 4.5 out of 5 stars.   The other fourteen gave it 5 out of 5 stars.   Wow!

The book trailer video:   46-seconds; blink and you miss it.

The picture:  James has one and one only promotional picture which appears everywhere.   Including LinkedIn.  There was one exception — the one on this post — but when I right-clicked it, I ended up with a message reading  “Ephesians 4:32 “(“…let him who stole, steal no more…”) advice which, if taken, would mean and end to photo sharing on any social networking sites.  So I got the picture above from a tribute James did to his father on his personal blog.  Not sure how Ephesians feels about that.  Next time I’m stealing the other picture.

The publisher marketing:  I was a little light here on plot, so here’s more teaser copy from B&H which may contain minor spoilers:

On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out. Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.

When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way. But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.

Comments here:  This is about a book called Rooms; it’s not about a book called Shack. Guide yourselves accordingly.




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