Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness

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by Eric Metaxas

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In Seven Men, New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas presents seven exquisitely crafted short portraits of widely known—but not well understood—Christian men, each of whom uniquely showcases a commitment to live by certain virtues in the truth of the gospel.

Written in a beautiful and engaging style, Seven Men

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In Seven Men, New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas presents seven exquisitely crafted short portraits of widely known—but not well understood—Christian men, each of whom uniquely showcases a commitment to live by certain virtues in the truth of the gospel.

Written in a beautiful and engaging style, Seven Men addresses what it means (or should mean) to be a man today, at a time when media and popular culture present images of masculinity that are not the picture presented in Scripture and historic civil life. What does it take to be a true exemplar as a father, brother, husband, leader,
coach, counselor, change agent, and wise man? What does it mean to stand for honesty, courage, and charity, especially at times when the culture and the world run counter to those values?

Each of the seven biographies represents the life of a man who experienced the struggles and challenges to be strong in the face of forces and circumstances that would have destroyed the resolve of lesser men. Each of the seven men profiled—George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell,
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson—call the reader to a more elevated walk and lifestyle, one that embodies the gospel in the world around us.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Metaxas’s (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy) newest biographical effort deftly details in brief the lives of “seven of the greatest men who ever lived”— George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, Chuck Colson— with the hope that they may serve as role models for adolescents and fathers confronting what he calls “a crisis of manhood.” The men are as diverse as they are fascinating, with his list ranging from Christian leaders to sports stars. Metaxas highlights three things in each life: the critical issues and events each man confronted; the inner strength they possessed to face adversity; and the contours of a Christian faith that framed their work. While Metaxas is forced by the need for brevity to gloss over certain biographical details and skirts thorny issues with sometimes glib commentary, the reader will learn something, as Metaxas reveals surprising or little-known facts about each man. Although Metaxas, an evangelical Christian, might have included interfaith examples, readers of different religions can appreciate these men and seek to emulate their more laudable qualities. (Apr. 30)
Kirkus Reviews
Metaxas presents profiles of seven men he considers manly exemplars. The great slide into unmanliness, writes Metaxas (Bonhoeffer, 2010, etc.), began with the Vietnam War and the presidency of Richard Nixon, a time of ignorance, venality and shame, when many called nearly all authority into question. When the young turned to role models, they were more likely Cheech and Chong than Westmoreland and McNamara. But do we really have to settle for the macho meatheads or the "emasculated...pretend[ing] that there is no real difference between men and women," asks the author? Certainly not, he writes, for "God's idea of manhood is something else entirely"--no "loudmouthed bullies or soft, emasculated pseudo-men," but strong, loving, chivalrous, service-oriented men who use authority for leadership, not personal advancement. Jesus lords over this book--"My own personal greatest role model is Jesus"--but Metaxas has chosen another seven men who surrendered themselves to a high purpose and sacrificed to do the right thing. There is a goodly measure of zeal in Metaxas' style, and Jesus shares the credit with the acts of the seven men: George Washington, who could have been king but declined, and William Wilberforce, for his abolitionist stance and fights against child labor, alcoholism and animal cruelty in the 19th century. The author also includes Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II and, less convincingly, Charles Colson, perhaps only due to the fact that he was such an unsavory character before he found his calling in prison. Metaxas gives the men their rightful due without lapsing into hagiography.

In this new book, Eric Metaxas (Amazing Grace; No Pressure, Mr. President) paints word-portraits of seven exemplary men who provide Christian models of manhood untainted by bullying and bravado. His half dozen plus one are diverse; from George Washington and abolitionist William Wilberforce to anti-Nazi Lutheran preacher Dietrich Bonhoeffer and baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson.

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Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

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Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013Eric Metaxas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59555-470-3



George Washington


Let me begin the first biography in this book by saying that even if the seven great men discussed within its pages were not in chronological order, I probably still would have started with George Washington. When it comes to true greatness, Washington's tough to beat. But someone's greatness can sometimes lend him an aura of such outsized fame that we begin to think of him not as a real person but as a cartoon superhero or as a legend. That's often the case with Washington.

As you know, he has a state named after him. (Do I need to say which?) And he has our nation's capital city named after him; he has a soaring obelisk monument in that city; his birthday is a national holiday; and he has a huge bridge named after him right here in my hometown of New York City. And if all these things aren't impressive enough, his face is on the dollar bill! (Perhaps you already knew that.) So who really thinks of him as an actual flesh-and-blood human being who struggled as we all struggle and who put on his breeches one leg at a time? That's the problem with being that famous. People often don't really think about you as a person at all.

If you do think of him, you probably think of George Washington as that old guy with the somewhat sour expression on the aforementioned dollar bill. In that overfamiliar picture, sporting heavily powdered hair and a lace-trimmed shirt, he looks almost as much like an old woman as an old man.

But what I've discovered is that this famous portrait has given many of us an outrageously false picture of who Washington actually was. It presents him as an elderly man with chronic denture discomfort, who looks none too happy for it. But the reality is completely different.

What if I told you that in his day, George Washington was considered about the manliest man most people had ever seen? No kidding. Virtually everyone who knew him or saw him seemed to say so. He was tall and powerful. He was also both fearless and graceful. On the field of battle, he had several horses shot out from under him; on the dance floor, he was a much sought-after partner.

There's so much to say about Washington that it's hard to know where to begin. For one thing, he was a man of tremendous contradictions. For example, the man who became known as the father of our country never fathered children himself. And he lost his own father when he was a young boy. The man who was viewed as deeply honorable actually told some real whoppers when he was a young man, despite Parson Weems's fictitious episode by the cherry tree: "I cannot tell a lie." More than anyone else, he is responsible for freeing American colonists from the greatest military power on earth—the British Empire—and yet he held some three hundred black men, women, and children in bondage at Mount Vernon.

But here's the biggest contradiction: Washington was an extremely ambitious young man who worked hard to achieve fame, glory, land, and riches—yet at a pivotal moment in American history, he did something so selfless that it's difficult to fully fathom. It's principally because of this one thing that he's included in this book.

So what did he do? In a nutshell, he voluntarily gave up incredible power. When you know the details of his sacrifice, it's hard to believe that he did what he did of his own free will. And yet he did it. The temptation not to surrender all that power must have been extraordinary. There were many good reasons not to surrender it, but history records that he somehow did. Somehow he made an impossibly grand sacrifice—and in doing so he dramatically changed the history of the world. Had Washington not been willing to do it, America as we know it almost certainly would not exist. That's not hyperbole.

This is why contemporary memorials to Washington describe him as an American Moses, as someone loaned to Americans from God. He was the right man for his time—arguably the only man who could have successfully birthed the American Experiment. If you wonder whether one person's actions can matter, and if you wonder whether character matters, you needn't look any further than the story of George Washington. So here it is.

* * *

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in what is now Westmoreland County, Virginia, the first son of Mary Ball Washington and tobacco farmer Augustine Washington. George had two older half-brothers, Augustine and Lawrence, and one half sister, Jane, who were children from his father's first marriage. George also had five full younger siblings: Samuel, Elizabeth, John, Charles, and Mildred.

Augustine and Lawrence were sent to England for their educations, but George's father died when George was just eleven, making an English education for him financially impossible. He would regret this deficit in his education throughout his long life. George's brother Lawrence, who was fourteen years older, became a father figure to him, someone whose advice the young George would listen to. In 1751, Lawrence took nineteen-year-old George to Barbados, where Lawrence hoped to be cured of tuberculosis. Alas, George contracted smallpox on this trip. Although the disease was dangerous, it actually turned out to be a hugely fortunate occurrence; George was then inoculated from the disease at an early age, thereby preventing him from future attacks of it when he was a general. During the Revolutionary War, large numbers of soldiers died of disease rather than enemy attacks.

As a boy growing into manhood, George frequently visited Lawrence's home on the Potomac River, which was named Mount Vernon. He also frequently visited Belvoir, owned by Lawrence's in-laws. As one biographer put it, at Mount Vernon and Belvoir, "George discovered a world that he had never known." In particular, Belvoir "was a grand structure, an architectural showcase gracefully adorned with exquisite molding and rich paneling and decorated tastefully with furniture and accessories from England." George "was stirred by the people" in these homes, "people of influence," adults "who were well-read and thoughtful, men who were accustomed to wielding power."

Young George determined to turn himself into one of them—especially someone like Lawrence, who was not only a distinguished war hero but also adjutant general of Virginia, a member of the Virginia legislature, the House of Burgesses, and by marriage, a member of the socially prominent Fairfax family. George threw himself into learning proper etiquette, reading serious books, dressing properly, and improving his character. He also eventually shot up to be roughly six-foot-three, this making him much taller than most of his contemporaries and giving him the heroic, statuesque appearance of a born commander.

Given his future career, it's certainly ironic that George's mother fought his efforts, at age fourteen, to become a commissioned officer in the Royal Navy. She thought such a life would be too harsh for her son, so George decided to learn to become a surveyor. He was fiercely intent on acquiring property and wealth, and a surveying career could lead to quick riches in land and money. By the time he turned twenty, George owned some twenty-five hundred acres of Virginia's frontier land.

But that same year—1752—tragedy struck. George's beloved brother Lawrence lost his battle with tuberculosis. Lawrence's wife and daughter also died within a few years. This meant that George would ultimately inherit Mount Vernon—an estate he would ambitiously enlarge and improve during the next four decades.

When he was twenty-one, George once again turned his attention toward the possibility of a military career. Through the interve

Excerpted from SEVEN MEN by ERIC METAXAS. Copyright © 2013 by Eric Metaxas. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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