Over the past few years Eric Metaxas has become one of my favorite authors with major biographies of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as well as Miracles and 7 Men. He’s an excellent writer overall, and he seems particularly excellent at telling the stories of people, or biographies.
This book is similar to 7 Men, this time Metaxas writing short biographies of seven woman from history. He looks at their successes and weaknesses, their motivations, and the heart of their missions. He puts the seven women he chooses to profile, some more well-known than others, in chronological order as he did the seven men in 7 Men.
Here briefly are a few thoughts about each of the women he profiles:
Joan of Arc
I wasn’t very familiar with her story. She was never taught to read or write, but was devoted to God. She received messages from angels, demonstrating that she knew things nobody else knew. She prophesized, worked miracles, led a French army against the English, was captured, put on trial and burned at the stake. She was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920.
Susanna was the mother of the famous John and Charles, and is considered the Mother of Methodism. She was the daughter and the wife of a pastor. She married Samuel, who it turns out she had little in common with, but who would leave her in financial problems for most of her life. She would birth nineteen children and educate those who survived. She twice endured the loss of her home by fire, and caused a stir when she read her father’s and husband’s sermons.
Hannah Moore is a favorite of Metaxas, who first wrote about her in his biography of William Wilberforce, whom she helped with the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners. Metaxas writes that her role in these movements cannot be underestimated. She was a playwright, and was friends with Samuel Johnson and David Garrick, the latter of which would publish her works for 40 years. She was a part of the high society in London who changed when she came to a deeper faith. One of John Newton’s books was important in bringing her to that faith, and she would later become friends with him. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday Metaxas wrote a full-length biography of Moore.
Saint Maria of Paris
I was not at all familiar with this woman from history. Metaxas begins by mentioning several parallels she had with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Maria wrote poems and was married and divorced twice, having three children. When she came to a deeper faith she felt God’s calling her to the poor and outcast. She demonstrated humility and brought the caring of a mother to this new calling. At the same time, her writing took on a change. She became a nun and started a home for Russian emigrants in Paris. She was an unorthodox and controversial nun in her dress and the fact that she smoked. Mary died a martyr in prison and became a saint in the Orthodox Church in 2004, along with her companions Priest Dmitri Klepinin, her son George and Elie Fondaminsky.
Corrie ten Boom’s story is more well-known, from the book and later film The Hiding Place. Corrie, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. She, her father and sister Betsy were imprisoned for their actions. Her father died after just ten days in prison. Corrie and Betsy were in the concentration camp for about two years, with her sister dying toward the end of that time. They saw God’s protection of their ministry many times during their imprisonment. Corrie was mistakenly released from the camp and would eventually travel the world for three decades telling her family’s story and God’s forgiveness. She would die in 1983 at age 91.
Rosa Parks is considered the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement. Faith and the church were at the center of her family’s life as she grew up. Unfortunately, they experienced racism as well. Rosa would use scripture verses to comfort and protect her. She would marry Raymond, a member of the NAACP. When she was 42 years old, Rosa would become a key figure in the civil rights movement in the 1955 stand against the segregated bus rule in Montgomery, Alabama. The bus driver was James Blake, who had put her off his bus 12 years earlier. She was arrested, found guilty, ordered to pay a fine and lost her job. The resulting boycott of city buses was successful however, lasting 381 days. Rosa would have to move to Detroit due to many death threats. Many honors would come to her later in life. She died in 2005 at age 92.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born 1910. Her father died early. When she was 12 she felt God was calling her to a religious life. She left home at age 18, never to see her mother again. She took a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience in 1937. She then felt God’s call to leave the convent and live among the poor in Calcutta, where she would form the Missionaries of Charity Order. At the time of her death, there were more than 4,000 nuns in the order, along with others in related organizations she founded. Metaxas writes of her boldly speaking against the evils of abortion when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., in front of the noticeably uncomfortable Clintons and Gores.
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written book and can’t wait for further volumes in what I hope becomes a series.
- God’s Promise of Happiness. Randy Alcorn writes that his new book God’s Promise of Happiness is a simplified and differently presented version of his recently published 450-page book Happiness. It is designed for believers who want an introduction to the topic, but don’t have the time or inclination to engage the larger work. God’s Promise of Happiness is also written for unbelievers who are interested in the subject and will be drawn to the Gospel as “good news of happiness” (Isaiah 52:7, ESV). I plan to read this short book.
- Happiness Webcast. Watch this webcast from Randy Alcorn as he discusses his acclaimed new book Happiness.
- Stop Your Complaining. Tim Challies reviews Ronnie Martin’s new book Stop Your Complaining. This definitely sounds like a book I would benefit from reading. A Christian Classic on Sanctification. Keith Mathison writes about J.C. Ryle’s book Holiness
- 20 Quotes from Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop’s New Book on Community. Matt Smethurst writes “The following 20 quotes caught my attention as I read Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop’s phenomenal new book The Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes a Church Attractive.”
- Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change. Denny Burk announces the release of his new book, co-written with Heath Lambert, Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change. He writes that the book is different from other Christian books about homosexuality, “First, the book isn’t focused on the ethics of homosexual behavior but on the ethics of homosexual desire. Second, this book isn’t just about ethics. It’s also about ministry.”
- 7 Great Study Bibles Infographic. Tim Challies offers this infographic that looks at seven Study Bibles, including the Reformation, MacArthur and ESV Study Bibles.
- The Biggest Story: Kevin DeYoung on His New Children’s Book. Justin and Tilly Dillehay interview Kevin DeYoung about his new children’s book.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at
Chapter 9: Blessed are the Merciful
- Our Lord is depicting and delineating the Christian man and the Christian character. He is obviously searching us and testing us, and it is good that we should realize that, if we take the Beatitudes as a whole, it is a kind of general test to which we are being subjected. How are we reacting to these searching tests and probings? They really tell us everything about our Christian profession.
- The Christian gospel places all its primary emphasis upon being, rather than doing. The gospel puts a greater weight upon our attitude than upon our actions.
- A Christian is something before he does anything; and we have to be Christian before we can act as Christians.
- Being is more important than doing, attitude is more significant than action. Primarily it is our essential character that matters.
- We are not meant to control our Christianity; our Christianity is rather meant to control us.
- The particular question here is: Are we merciful?
- It does not mean that we should be `easy-going’, as we put it.
- The merciful person, many people think, is one who smiles at transgression and law breaking.
- What is mercy? I think perhaps the best way of approaching it is to compare it with grace. The best definition of the two that I have ever encountered is this: `Grace is especially associated with men in their sins; mercy is especially associated with men in their misery.’ In other words, while grace looks down upon sin as a whole, mercy looks especially upon the miserable consequences of sin. So that mercy really means a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering. That is the essential meaning of being merciful; it is pity plus the action. So the Christian has a feeling of pity. His concern about the misery of men and women leads to an anxiety to relieve it.
- The great New Testament illustration of being merciful is the parable of the Good Samaritan.
- The perfect and central example of mercy and being merciful is the sending by God of His only begotten Son into this world, and the coming of the Son.
- Our Lord is really saying that I am only truly forgiven when I am truly repentant. To be truly repentant means that I realize I deserve nothing but punishment, and that if I am forgiven it is to be attributed entirely to the love of God and to His mercy and grace, and to nothing else at all. But I go further; it means this. If I am truly repentant and realize my position before God, and realize that I am only forgiven in that way, then of necessity I shall forgive those who trespass against me.
- I have taken the trouble to point out in each case how every one of these Beatitudes follows the previous one. This principle was never more important than it is here.
- We are to feel a sense of sorrow for all who are helpless slaves of sin. That is to be our attitude towards people.
- If I know that I am a debtor to mercy alone, if I know that I am a Christian solely because of that free grace of God, there should be no pride left in me, there should be nothing vindictive, there should be no insisting upon my rights. Rather, as I look out upon others, if there is anything in them that is unworthy, or that is a manifestation of sin, I should have this great sorrow for them in my heart.
- If you are not forgiving your brother, you can ask God for forgiveness, but you will have no confidence in your prayer, and your prayer will not be answered. That is what this Beatitude says.
- For the one condition of forgiveness is repentance. Repentance means, among other things, that I realize that I have no claim upon God at all, and that it is only His grace and mercy that forgive.
- I am simply asking this. Are you merciful? Are you sorry for every sinner even though that sinner offends you? Have you pity upon all who are the victims and the dupes of the world and the flesh and the devil? That is the test. `Blessed-happy-are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.’