New York.- By Vicki J. Yiannias
Do you remember the little boy in your grade school class who always had something to say or do, either in response to something someone else said or did, or just to be funny?
On a balmy late evening in May, at an outdoor restaurant in Manhattan, after astrophysicists Dr. John Seiradakis and Dr. Xenophon Moussas shared the secrets of the astonishing Antikythera Mechanism with the public at the benefit for The Childrenʼs Museum of Manhattan at the Central Park Boathouse, one such person (we are just guessing that he may have once been a boy like that, hearing about his Sunday School antics), now a successful, sophisticated, grown-up with unmistakable charisma, effortlessly entertained Seidarakis, Moussas, and a small group of other interested parties with an amusing patter of narrative and observations on the moment and many other subjects. The entertainer was Eric Metaxas.
Metaxas, however, doesnʼt just entertain; he entertains with substance, and he has pondered long and hard about the spirit, although we found this out only later, when we read his book, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask), Waterbrook Press, 2005, and then again when we heard that Mr. Metaxas founded and hosts the acclaimed Socrates in the City, a speakersʼ series on “life, God, and other small topics”.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask) is a down-to earth take on common questions of great magnitude. Some sample questions: How can a good God create a world that has evil and suffering? Doesnʼt Science Make God Obsolete? Whatʼs the real story on miracles? If God is everywhere, why go to church? Isnʼt God too busy running the universe to care about the details of my day?
Metaxas soon realized there was still a long list of questions that needed to be addressed. In his sequel, Everything Else You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask), published in May (also by Waterbrook Press), Metaxas answers the rest–and some of the very best–of the questions that surface when in discussions about God.
This book also has a welcoming tone, and Metaxasʼs skillful use of humor can serve to lower readersʼ defenses. He presents biblical truth in the form of engaging answers that canʼt help but connect, whether the reader is an inquisitive skeptic, an open-minded agnostic, or even a new believer looking to get grounded in the basics of the Christian faith.
Although he has not left the Orthodox Church formally and has “great respect” for the Orthodox Church, Metaxas attends an Evangelical Episcopal church in New York.
He notes with concern that “except for some conservative parishes and dioceses the Episcopal Church has turned its back on the historic Christian faith and is in great danger of evaporating into irrelevance. It’s a tragic and a very sad thing.”
We asked Metaxas what theological views are expressed in his two books on God. “I’m what C.S. Lewis would call a ʽMere Christianʼ, and all of my two books are very, very much meant to be from the point of view of what C.S. Lewis called ‘Mere Christianity’, meaning that I don’t touch upon anything at all where Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians differ,” Metaxas explained. “They express just the basics of the faith, from a basic, ecumenical Christian viewpoint. They only talk about the Christian faith that they have agreement on.”
The God books are meant to be a primer for all Christians. “By Christians I really mean those who believe in the historic Christian faith, who believe in the Nicene Creed. Not Mormons or Jehovah’s Witness or Christian Scientists. I think any serious Christian, Orthodox, Protestant, or Roman Catholic, would agree with what I say.”
The God books are also meant to be a tool, which, for example, “Orthodox priests can use to educate their faithful about the basics of the Christian faith, not the more theologically complicated things, or the things that are exclusively Orthodox, but the basics.ʼ
They also address weekly churchgoers who have less of a grasp of the basics than they would like, who have always wanted to know more but honestly weren’t sure who to ask, he says. “I know their faith would really come alive if they knew the basics as I set them out in my book. It’s a first step for many people, but I believe it’s the most important step to a deeper faith.”
Everything Else You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask) is not Metaxasʼs only new book. Published in February, by HarperSanFrancisco, is his beautiful new hardcover, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, about the remarkable life of the British abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833).
It is appropriate that Metaxas should write about Wilberforce. Inspired by a religious conversion at age 26, Wilberforce dedicated his life to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
A companion biography to the film Amazing Grace, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of abolition, the book provides a fuller account of the amazing life of this great man than can be captured on film, chronicling his struggle and achievements as a civil rights activist, cultural reformer, and Member of Parliament whose twenty-year fight to abolish slavery in the British colonies was victorious just three days before his death in 1833.
Metaxas discovers in this unsung hero, who was a hero to Abraham Lincoln and an inspiration to the anti-slavery movement in America, a man of whom it can truly be said: he changed the world. Before Wilberforce, few thought slavery was wrong. After Wilberforce, most societies in the world came to see it as a great moral wrong.
Born in Astoria, Queens and raised in Danbury, Connecticut Mr. Metaxas, who lives in New York with his wife and daughter, is a graduate of Yale University. He has written thirty award-winning and best-selling childrenʼs books and has won three Grammy nominations for his work on VeggieTales and Rabbit Ears Productions.
Metaxas has written extensively for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Mars Hill Review, and First Things, and for Chuck Colsonʼs Breakpoint, and is a popular guest on various radio and television programs. Visit him online at www.ericmetaxas.com