Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxas stands head and shoulders above most biographies. Indeed, it is one of the best biographies I have ever read. The new work by Metaxas, Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness is filled with the rich historical detail that readers have grown accustomed to from the author.
Metaxas sets out to survey the lives of seven men; men who have influenced his life – men he considers to be great. The seven men that the author presents include the following: George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson.
The biographical sketches are fascinating in their own right. However, the most helpful part of the book is actually found in the introduction. Here the author explores real manhood, most notably – God’s intended benchmarks for manhood. Metaxas argues that there are two distorted ideas about manhood. The first false notion of manhood is the “macho mentality” where men intimidate others using strength, fear tactics, and intimidation.
The second false notion of manhood is “to be emasculated – to essentially turn away from your masculinity and to pretend that there is no real difference between men and women. Your strength as a man has no purpose, so being strong isn’t even a good thing.” Clearly, the author has hit the bullseye in his assessment here.
Metaxas proceeds to describe God’s ideal for manhood: “God made us in his image, male and female, and it celebrates masculinity and femininity. And it celebrates the differences between them … All blessings and every gift – and strength is a gift … to be used for his purposes, which means to bless others. So men are meant to use their strength to protect and bless those who are weaker.”
Additionally, men are called to be servant leaders. Metaxas continues, “The true leader gives himself to the people he leads … So God’s idea of masculine strength gives us the idea of a chivalrous gentleman toward women, not a bully or someone who sees no difference between himself and them.”
Finally, the author discusses the need for men to be strong men; men of courage: “The courage to do the right thing when all else tells you not to do it. The courage to rise above your surroundings and circumstances. The courage to be God’s idea of a real man and to give of yourself for others when it costs you to do so and when everything tells you to look out for your self first.”
Metaxas notes the humanitarian work of Pope John Paul II. I would urge readers to see an alternative perspective on the papacy in general by Tim Challies at http://www.challies.com/articles/the-humble-pope.
7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness should not be confused with a full-fledged biography. Readers can go elsewhere and should be encouraged to check out Metaxas’ excellent work on Bonhoeffer as well as William Willberforce. The book under consideration should be considered “biographical cliff notes” that coax readers to move into deeper waters. To this end, 7 Men has achieved its intended aim of guiding readers to and handful of men who exemplify true greatness.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review.