By Nancy Thorner –
Eric Metaxas, as an author, speaker and radio host, was an excellent choice for featured speaker at the Illinois Family Institute’s “Faith, Family & Freedom” Fall Banquet, Executive Director David E. Smith, held at The Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows, IL, on Friday, September 19. Given that Eric Metaxas is author of two acclaimed biographies, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spyand Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, his literary accomplishments gave Metaxas the authority and ability to emote creditably and passionately on the topic of the evening, “Freedom In The Balance.”
A son of two immigrant parents arriving in the 50’s, his father from Greece and his mother from Germany, both having seen Communism up close as having lived under it, Communism was detested for what it represented in the home of young Eric Metaxas.
It was a given that Eric Metaxas would attend a Greek Orthodox church, being of Greek heritage, which proved to be a wonderful cultural expression but little else. His church association cemented his ethic identity; it was part of learning to be Greek. Absent was a firm grounding in the gospel faith of the Scriptures. Metaxas believes that without a foundation to convey that the Scriptures are true and real and were meant to influence every part of our lives, it is impossible to live life effectively.
When attending Yale in the 80’s, not knowing who he was or what he believed, Eric Metaxas found himself in trouble. Certainly at Yale, decidedly liberal and secular in nature, much as William Buckley had experienced in the 40’s, Metaxas was not given the grounding he so needed to establish his self-identity. According to Metaxas, unless students are able to establish a strong belief system they will end up drifting along with the tide.
Upon graduation from Yale Eric was lost, having not yet decided the meaning of life or what his role in life would be. With God taken out of the equation, Metaxas found both answers unattainable. In 1988, four years after Metaxas graduated from Yale, Jesus came into his life, Metaxas became a Christian, and Jesus changed everything.
Eric Metaxas spoke about the creativity of God, how God speaks to each of us personally but in different ways. For Eric Metaxas it is impossible to know who you are apart from Him. It was God who guided Metaxas to his calling of today, when twenty-five years ago God became real to Metaxas. As Metaxas shared: “God wants to guide us more than we want Him to guide us.”
God led Eric Mataxas to write biographies
Eric found joy in working for Charles Colson. He also wrote books for children, but it was God who finally led Metaxas to write biographies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce. An urgency seemed to exist for the stories of these two great and influential men to revealed as a source for encouragement and guidance. Through research in writing the biography of Wilberforce, “Amazing Grace,” Metaxas came to understand that Wilberforce didn’t keep his faith private, nor was he hesitant to publicly express his political beliefs. Although Wilberforce is mostly known for abolishing the slave trade in England, his work went far beyond this horrific offense of the time. Great Britain was totally changed by the time Wilberforce died in 1833.
Wilberforce is but one example of how God used one man, which prompted this question from Metaxas, “Are you giving God everything you have?’ We are in a battle now, not 5 years from now! In reminding his attentive audience how people were burned at the stake for praising Jesus, Eric Metaxas is not pleased when he hears people say “that’s just the way it is” or “it’s not worth fighting for.” This is fatalistic behavior. With Jesus there is hope even in the darkest places.
The biography written by Eric Metaxas of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, unlike his William Wilberforce biography, didn’t have a happy ending. To paraphrase: Death, as related by Metaxas, is the most terrible thing imaginable unless it is accompanied by a homesickness for God. If you are suffering it is much easier to long for Heaven; nevertheless, anything good achieved here is but a shadow of what is to come. So death did not end Bonhoeffer’s life. The message he left behind speaks loudly and clearly to this nation today. Living in a nation incredibly blessed, however, can make us complacent.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer grew up in a Germany that was a Christian nation. In time the German people, proud of who they were, became complacent of their faith. When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany June 30th, 1933, he talked like a Christian. As head of state Hitler theoretically had power over the state, despite the assumed belief of the German people that the Church should function only as the conscience of the State, never being too closely aligned with the state (No separation of Church and state existed in Germany.) It was the Arian Paragraph, specifically the third cause of the Reconstruction of the Professional Civil Service doctrine passed on April 1, 1933, that ignited Bonhoeffer to speak out and take action in 1933. The Arian Paragraph found in the legislation of Nazi Germany were regulations to exclude Jews from organizations, federations, parties, and, ultimately, all public life.
Despite the repeated and outspoken warnings of Bonhoeffer to his fellow citizens when Hitler began to act against the Church, in that Hitler did some good, the German people said “leave him alone.” After all the church was part of the state and paid the salaries of ministers.
Complacency flourishing in American churches?
“Romans 13” is a source of confusion for many pastors in its message about Christians and government. Many Christian pastors and leaders today are erroneously reviving the divine-right-of-kings argument used in the Dark Ages, which created some of the most horrific human affairs in history when people submitted regardless of natural standards of justice.
This interpretation of the Bible and “Romans, Chapter 13” has not gone unchallenged. The True Meaning of Submission in Romans 13 shows, with overwhelming support, that submission to government is limited and that the obey-government-no-matter-what argument is false
Because Bonhoeffer was unsuccessful in waking up the Church in Germany, the Church stopped being a church. Had the Church rose up and fought in the name of Jesus, it could have defeated Hitler’s tyrannical government. Obama was reelected president in 2012 because millions of Christians and evangelicals throughout the nation refused to vote for Romney, many because Romney was a practicing Mormon. Were all great leaders Evangelical Christians? Behold Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Winston Churchill. And wasn’t former president Jimmy Carter an Evangelical Christian?
Everyday the Church in Germany didn’t stand up in its own defense, Hitler took from it more and more power. As the Church was asleep in Germany, so it is asleep here in America. Our religious freedom is slowly being taken away. The people in Germany didn’t understand what was happening until it was too late. Which prompted Eric Metaxas to ask: “Do we have enough people who care about the unborn or for youth who are attracted to a same sex partner?” It is wrong to allow others to label you as anti-gay. Since we are all broken, we are obligated to love others who are likewise broken. Although true that the Church has been silent while the world has done terrible things against gays, by reflecting the love of God we can help those who are struggling with their identity.
Our Founding Fathers understood that at the heart of everything was God. Lacking a moral populous, this nation’s experiment with democracy will collapse. Even the free market is immoral if it doesn’t take a stand against producing unsavory commodities for public consumption.
This nation has lost the Spirit of 1776 and instead there is a Spirit of Silence. Church leaders must speak out, for if the church is weakened, fighting for religious freedom will be impossible. Eric Metaxas reminded church leaders that Sunday, October 5 was “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” On this Sunday approximately one thousand evangelical pastors will not only urge their congregation how to vote, but who to vote for. Metaxas urged all church leaders to participate by saying at least one statement that might challenge their 501c3 tax status. This would be a show of their faithfulness.
When asked by a journalist where the Church and religious freedom will be 10 years from now, Eric Metaxas admitted he didn’t know. It will all depend on everyone in this room and what they do. We can’t be too tired to fight and must lead in our circles. Prolific voices are needed to lead the charge to awaken the Christian Community as were found in the pastors of the “Black Robed Regiment”, who laid it all out on the alter for freedom in our War for Independence.
If at all possible, head to the Christian Liberty Academy, 502 W. Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, IL, for a presentation of “Bringing Back The Black Robed Regiment” with Dan Fisher on Sunday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m., sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute. The event is open free to the public. Reservations are not required, but a free will offering will be taken.
Eric Metaxas laid out in stark terms what God expects of us. Hopefully there will be a Churchill-like figure who will stand up and lead this nation back from its descent into moral depravity. But we can’t just sit back and wait. We must be the counter culture right now. To ministers, Metaxas urged them to rejoice in agitation of what they are legally permitted to say freely from the pulpit. In ten years it might be too late and preaching freely from the pulpit will be forbidden.
God will judge us for what we did. We have the liberty to do his will. Germany waited too long and the enemy took hold of power. We will also lose if we don’t act to preserve Christianity and the freedom to preach freely from the pulpit. The outcome is not predetermined. It is up to us. Remembering that God is alive, He can use each one of us by empowering us through the Holy Spirit with what we need to win the fight.
At the urging of Rep. Tom Morrison (R-54th IL District), participants were asked to sign the Manhattan Declaration, a movement of Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians for life, marriage, and religious liberty.
The mood following the program was hushed and reverent, but filled with an urgent need to go out and spread the message of the evening.
Part 1: Thorner: Spirit of Freedom alive and well at the IFI Fall Banquet, Wednesday, September 24, 2014