“7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness” by Eric Metaxas
There is something about a well-written biography. In it the author conveys his passion for the subject and it translates into the reader then sharing that passion. I was first introduced to Eric Metaxas when my wife purchased as a Christmas present for me Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy. Insightful and engaging, Metaxas captured the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a way that no other writing could have done except for reading something written by Bonhoeffer himself. While there is much that I would have wanted to discourse with Metaxas over in Miracles, it equally reflects his colossal expository talents. While 7 Men is a good read, on the whole it falls short of the quality of some of his other works.
In 7 Men, Metaxas sets out to share a mini-biography of seven great men: George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Chuck Colson. In his introduction, Metaxas sets out a very compelling case for the need of real manhood, explains why he wrote this book (because each man is an example of someone who gave up something significant to become something greater than themselves), and then gives a short synopsis of what that thing is for each man. When I finished the introduction, I was fired up to read the book and get every little insight I could out out if.
The first chapter on George Washington is a solid lead for the book. In it, Metaxas weaves a narrative full of emotion, insight, analysis, and passion. He does not shy away from the fact that Washington was a man of career ambition or that there were foibles in his military career. But he is equally lauding of the seemingly incomprehensible actions to turn away from ambition that Washington made at key points in his life which make him a logical choice to be included in this list of seven. And while a couple of the chapters do not quite reach that same level of unbiased emotional connection -Liddell and Bonhoeffer- Metaxas still does a great job of presenting an emotional exegesis of manhood. It is not until towards the end of the chapter on Robinson where I suddenly had to go back to the introduction to remind myself of why Metaxas had included him in the list. Where as he made it a point to emphasis what Washington, Wilberforce, Liddell, and Bonhoeffer had sacrificed, it seemed like that dynamic suddenly disappears by the middle of the book.
The only chapter I did not care for was the last chapter on Chuck Colson. It felt too much like a biased propaganda piece. Throughout the introduction and even as the lead in to the Colson chapter, Metaxas makes it obvious that Colson was a personal friend of his. Whereas the previous six chapters had focused on men who had done extraordinary things that seemed beyond them, Metaxas does not make as strong a case for Colson. A much more fitting end chapter would have been to focus on an individual such as Billy Graham and avoid what some might see as thinly veiled hero worship. As I read the last two pages of the last mini-biography, I was left wondering, “Was Colson’s life accomplishments on the same level as Washington or even Pope John Paul II?” Reflecting on the contents of the chapter, I would answer no. This book would have been better served to focus on six men, or swap Colson out for a seventh.
Read 7 Men for some interesting information on some great men from history, and be prepared to go find more books on the subjects to get a better picture of who these men were. The writing project was okay, but I probably would not pick up this book again to read it in its entirety.
I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for publishing a review on the book. I was not obligated to write a favorable review; the opinions expressed are mine.