Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Having enjoyed Eric Metaxas’ book on Bonhoeffer, I was eager to review his latest volume, 7 Men.

The book covers seven famous men in history whose faith made a difference in the way they lived.

Metaxas expressed it this way: “I was looking for seven men who had all evinced one particular quality: that of surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving something away that they might have kept.”

  1. George Washington
  2. William Wilberforce
  3. Eric Liddell
  4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  5. Jackie Robinson
  6. Pope John Paul II
  7. Charles Colson

Each chapter of 7 Men includes a brief introduction why Metaxas chose the man, the story of what made the man great, and—by indirect suggestion—how we can live by their example.

Interestingly, four of the seven men have had feature films made about their lives which gave us pretty much the same information as this book did. In sweeping overview:

  • Chariots of Fire revealed the greatness of Eric Liddell and his willingness to put his faith before his fame.
  • Amazing Grace portrayed William Wilberforce’s calling and passion to outlaw the slave trade in England.
  • John Adams showed George Washington’s reluctance to assume power as well as his refusal to keep it when he could have become a king.
  • 42 revealed Jackie Robinson’s courage to become the first black player in major league baseball.

What these movies didn’t portray—with the exception of Chariots of Fire—was each person’s commitment to Jesus Christ. True, “God” was part of the pictures, but the “J” word wasn’t mentioned. This book does a nice job filling in that gap—though it isn’t clear how Washington was motivated by Christ.

While much was familiar, there were some surprises. Like most Protestants, my knowledge of Pope John Paul II was limited to newsreels and sound bytes, a source by now I should have remembered is biased—especially in relation to the “J” word. How refreshing to see a pope whose love for Jesus was lived it out in leadership.

Except for the chapter on Colson, there weren’t many—if any—weaknesses described for these great men. Obviously we know the men weren’t perfect. But I need a model of someone who imperfectly lives his life wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus Christ. (I don’t see that as a contradiction.) I need someone who does all that and also who models how to fail and rise again. Even our great apostles in Scripture are portrayed with their warts. I needed to see more warts in this book.

Weaknesses aside, 7 Men provides a nice general introduction to seven great lives who were truly great for different reasons. The volume is easy to read and understand, and I enjoyed the review of the men I knew and the introduction to those I didn’t.

In short, the examples of these lives in 7 Men provide us models of the fact that God is worth living for and the world is worth setting aside.

Tell me what you think: Did you read the book? What did you think of it? To leave a comment, just click here.

I received this book from the publisher through a review program. The review is my honest opinion. The FTC requires I tell you. See 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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