Reposting this 2014 review because the Kindle Edition of Seven Men is on sale for $1.99.
Summary: Short Biographies of seven men that Metaxas thinks we should view as role models and heroes.
Seven Men is the third books I have read by Eric Metaxas. I liked Metaxas Bonhoeffer biography (although even I as a non-Bonhoeffer scholar caught several mistakes.) But I really was not a fan of his William Wilberforce biography. Mostly that was because it felt more like hagiography.
But after reading Seven Men I realize that the Wilberforce book was his first biography. Bonhoeffer was significantly better than Wilberforce. And Seven Men I think corrected several of the problems of the Bonhoeffer biography.
The men included in this book are George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II and Charles Colson (presented in historical order). I am pleased that Metaxas included John Paul II. Too many Evangelicals want to ignore Catholics. I definitely view that as a point in Metaxas’ favor.
I did get off on the wrong foot with this book, however. Metaxas starts off by saying that heroes and role models do not exist in our modern world. I think that is clearly wrong on its face. There are lots of people that get looked up to as role models. And the word hero, if anything, is overused. Metaxas’ problem is that the people he thinks should be looked as a role models and heroes are not the ones that are being chosen as heroes and role models. That might be a problem, but it is not the problem he identifies and is trying to solve according to his introduction.
He also turns this into a men’s issue, which just irritates me. While I disagree with his premise, if I were going to agree with it, I don’t see why it is men in particular that need more heroes and historic role models pointed out. In case you haven’t noticed, history is a little male heavy already.
The problems were not completely over once I got through the introduction. The first biography was of George Washington, and for the most part it was good. But again, like most evangelicals he wants to highlight Washington’s evangelical faith. And he does it without much real evidence and more as a throwaway page to justify his inclusion in a book where everyone else has a clear Christian faith and overt Christian practice. I will say that other than the religious faith section, the rest of Washington’s biography was pretty good.
On the whole I thought each of the biographies were fairly well balanced, although again, Colson verges on Hagiography, I assume because Metaxas used to work for him. All of these men were incredible men. All of them deserve any recognition that they get.
However, I do not think that Metaxas really accomplished his subtitle. These are several short biographies of men that did some great and unusual things. But the subtitle insinuates that there is going to be some type of commentary or wrap up or something to talk about why they were great. Instead it is really just the biographies.
If I had not read Metaxas previous books, I might not have had as many prejudices going into the book. Many people that I respect, like Metaxas as a person. I don’t know him, but his politics and presentation bug me. And the introduction really illustrated that well. I was quite bugged and I highlighted a number of sections that I disagreed with or where I thought he was making unsupported claims.
But the main section of the book I (somewhat reluctantly) enjoyed. I still think that Washington was a bad choice to include. Or if he did include him, Metaxas should have handled the Christianity differently. But the other six were good. I think I enjoyed the Jackie Robinson bio the most. I am not a sports fan and really didn’t know anything about him. But reading that chapter made me want to go watch the movie 42.
I picked Seven Men up when it was on sale for kindle. I did not invest a lot into it (and it was a quick read.) In the end I am glad I read it and I would recommend it if you like biographies and have not read more extensive biographies of the highlighted men.
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