Last night, the annual President’s Dinner at Tyndale Seminary here in Toronto featured renowned debater, lecturer and author Eric Metaxas as its key note speaker.
A humourist and intellectual, Metaxas’ CV ranges from writing and voicing Veggie Tales to hosting the prestigious monthly philosophy forums, Socrates in the City in Manhattan.
My primary interest in Metaxas is his role as a biographer: of abolitionist William Wilberforce (the subject of the British film, Amazing Grace) and the upcoming life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer ( HarperOne, September 2009).
Eric Metaxas was a dream speaker: rapier-witted, erudite and literary. The motif of his talk was Christian Heroes and this provided an easy platform for delving into the tenets of the Wilberforce story not explored in the film. Metaxas’ subject is obviously one of effusive passion for him and this translated well: captivating the audiences from the get go.
Metaxas brought Wilberfore to light in a way often overshadowed by his great abolitionist work and his position as protégé to the hymnist John Newton. Metaxas’ research argues that Wilbeforce single-handedly infused a sense of moral and social conscience that not only tail-ended the “Vanity Fair” of the luminous and decadent 18th Century but propelled the way for the social platform that was the Victorian Era (aptly ushered in near the end of Wilbeforce’s life ---he died in 1833). With his tireless brand of Christianity in action, Wilberforce coupled the zealous Methodism of George Whitfield with a Christ-appointed drive for moral change and his efforts resulted in shaking the very infrastructure of Britain’s morality (or lack thereof).
If Metaxas is correct (and his argument coupled with history….especially Wilbeforce’s participation in organizations like the Clapham society….is more than convincing),Wilberforce paved the way for the literary period to which I have ascribed more than half of my 27 years of existence: the Victorian period. Dickens, Eliot and Hugo are three authors who used their pen to battle moral injustice: a long cry from the complacency and disregard of morality Wilberforce was battling in the previous century. If indeed William Wilberforce was the moral force to be reckoned with: this 5”2 man with a genius for oratory and politics is certainly one of history’s most pronounced Christian ambassadors. He realigned the fibers of a decrepit infrastructure that dictated the actions of, at that time, the most powerful Empire in the world. In doing so, he proved that one fallible human can propel actions that will ripple through a century and onward in a humble yet incendiary motion far more vast than his initial spark of light.
@ WaterBrook press
Interview ( at the Wittenburg Door)
Socrates in the City