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

 

 

 

December 17, 2015

Book Review: Stuff Married Guys Need to Know

Filed under: books, reviews — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am

As a reviewer who is also involved in the retail side of publishing, I am too aware that books for men can be a tough sell. Generally speaking, it’s not a well performing category, and so when a men’s interest title arrived in a stack of review books, I placed it near the bottom of the pile.

But then I decided to take a second look. Dude’s Guide to Marriage: Ten Skills Every Husband Must Develop to Love His Wife Well (Nelson Books, November 2015) is written by St. Louis pastor Darrin Patrick with substantial contributions from wife and coauthor Amie Patrick. It’s Darrin’s 4th major release and a sequel to Dude’s Guide to Manhood.

The thing that struck me about this book right away was the subject material covered. I dove right in to some sections immediately, and now I have to confess I’m working on a more sequential reading. These are the chapter titles:

  1. Dude's Guide to MarriageListen
  2. Talk
  3. Fight
  4. Grow
  5. Provide
  6. Rest
  7. Serve
  8. Submit
  9. Pursue
  10. Worship

I immediately identified some areas where I have failed as a husband. When we got married, the minister that did our wedding noted that it’s customary to do some marriage counseling with couples but because we both grew up in the church, he felt we “knew all this stuff” and it wasn’t entirely necessary.

Still, I wish he’d bored us to death by repeating some of it anyway. When opportunities later presented themselves to take a marriage retreat weekend, we were usually too busy to take the time, or too poor to pay the cost. A resource like this one would have helped.

This book was well-researched, and Biblical principles were well-integrated. I saw one review that said “The Dude’s Guide to Marriage says nothing new…” but I disagree. I felt this material was fresh and the topical assortment provided much food for thought. I found chapters 5 and 9 the most personally beneficial, but your mileage may vary.

I liked what one reviewer said, “This is not just another ‘marriage book’ to check your box guys… this one pokes you in the eye.” Another wrote, “This may have been the most enjoyable and practical book on marriage that I have ever read.”

I have to admit I skip the individual/group (or in this case couples) discussion questions when reviewing a book, but several readers mentioned these as the high point of each chapter. I went back, and to my surprise the questions were rich in terms of the possibilities for husbands and wives to share their hurts, their blessings and their hearts.

This one is a keeper.


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