This week on Voice for Values , our third and final interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Eric Metaxas, who discusses the inspirational Christian leaders of history Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce, and the lessons they have for us today.
ERIC METAXAS ON VOICE FOR VALUES
WEDNESDAY 8TH JUNE 2016
Lyle Shelton: Hello and welcome to Voice for Values radio. It’s Lyle Shelton. It’s great to have your company again. Today’s edition is a special one. It’s part three of my interviews with Eric Metaxas, a New York Times best-selling author who you might recall, toured Australia back in April. I was privileged to interview Eric at the ACL national conference in Sydney and today is part three of that interview where we discuss his amazing books on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the lessons we can learn today. Have a listen.
You talk in both of these books on Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer and you bring out how politics is obviously central to them living out their faith. You have another great quote from Wilberforce where he says that parliament ought to be the moral mint of the nation in which moral and political principles receive their stamp and currency. You can comment on that if you like.
Eric Metaxas: Well I mean the thing is that Wilberforce was living in a time where Great Britain said we are officially a Christian nation. That’s the irony. They were far from it but officially they were a Christian nation and he thought I’ll call it a bluff and I think sometimes as Christians we can do that, we say well you say you’re a Christian, well here’s what Christians do. You know, this is how Christians need to live and he was saying this to parliament cause they all would say, of course, I’m Church of England, I’m British, I’m a Christian. So he really was calling them to be, he was calling them higher in a sense. He was calling parliament to fulfil its actual role and I think many people did take him up on that. I think many people understood that he was right.
Lyle Shelton: What do you say to Christians today who say we shouldn’t get involved in politics, we want the church to be known for what it’s for, what it’s against.
Eric Metaxas: Rebuke them and move on.
I think, you know, I always hear these clichés that the church should be more for what it’s for. Look, there’s truth in that, okay, but at the same time, imagine somebody criticising Wilberforce, you know, you’re so negative. You always talk about the slave trade. That’s tough luck. Tough luck if you don’t like it because I’m speaking up for the least of these. I’m speaking up for them. What are you doing? Hypocrite. You’re doing nothing. You’re making money off of that. I think that people can use these clichés and the fact of that matter is that, you know, it is good for us to be involved in everything. You don’t want to be prudes always talking about sexual issues. We should involved in everything. In fact, the church should be involved in everything. I was with a friend in Dallas. He has a ministry that’s lifting people out of poverty in Dallas, completely Christian, wonderful, whatever. The church should be doing all of these things and I think that as we do these things, people will come on board. They see you’re doing good things and they’ll come on board. I think we have to lead. I don’t know, people like that, I mean it’s just like when Jesus said, you know, you’re like the children in the marketplace. You say we played the pipe and you did not dance. We sang a dirge and you did not want. No matter what you do, they sort of complain and I think you cannot let those voices bother you.
Lyle Shelton: That’s helpful, appreciate that. I was listening to your radio program driving to Sydney one day and I heard you talking about Donald Trump and it sounded like um…
Eric Metaxas: Have you heard of him over here?
Lyle Shelton: I’ve been dying to ask you, is that hair real?
Eric Metaxas: Listen. I interviewed Ted Cruz on a stage sitting this far away from him and my first question to him was, Ted I’ve got to ask you the question that audience wants me to ask, okay, I wouldn’t ask this but they’re dying to know and I had to ask the question. You’ve been within inches of Donald Trump’s hair. What is going on there? And actually I had Huckabee on my radio program and I asked him the same thing and he joked around and stuff. The fact is, no man knows. It is only given to the father to understand. Even his own children don’t know.
Lyle Shelton: Is that why those guys jump up on stage? They’re going for his hair.
Eric Metaxas: We don’t know and it’s funny cause if you look at pictures of him from twenty years ago, his hair was not blonde.
Lyle Shelton: Clive Palmer has that too.
So Donald Trump. We’re watching the news. We love America. It’s very influential. America influences Australia massively and of course the world. For many of us, the thought of Donald Trump a) winning the Republican nomination and then perhaps going on and having a chance to beat Hillary Clinton, that’s a very strange thing to get our minds around.
Eric Metaxas: Yeah well I have to say this. It’s kind of interesting because I’m of both minds. I’m of two minds on this, right? Up until a few months ago, I despised Trump and he represents to me a kind of vulgarism and a kind of went on and on and on but as time passed, I’ve shifted because I think to myself first of all, let’s not have any silly conversations about whether he’s a Christian or not. He’s not a Christian. That’s okay. Neither was McCain or Romney or George Bush the first or Reagan or whatever and these are many times good men who don’t know the first thing about what we know about the Christian faith and I think that this idea, there are Christians in America that say I want a Godly man. Are you kidding me? I mean, Jimmy Carter was a Godly man and he was one of the worst presidents we ever had.
Lyle Shelton: You’re a Republican, I take it.
Eric Metaxas: I’m a Republican? Yeah I’m a Republican. I’m more conservative than I am Republican because I find, so I guess my point is that the situation with Trump is this. I can talk for hours about what’s wrong with him but there are things about him that resonate with the common man and when I say the common man, I’m talking about people who feel disenfranchised in the same way that we do here when you hear about these government elites doing things that are insane and you don’t see people doing anything about it. You know, you just want to tip over a car. You just want to scream. You don’t know what to do. I think he’s giving voice to those people and I think that we’re not sure exactly where it’s going to go but I would infinitely prefer to trust him with wherever he’s going to take it than Hillary Clinton who will take it in precisely the wrong direction for sure at whipped speed. I mean, there’s no question in my mind about it. I think the fear that people have, I think it’s overblown. Now I could live to regret those words but at this point that’s how I see it.
Lyle Shelton: Help us understand that Eric because we, in Australia, are used to the Labor party and the Liberal party. We’ve seen good Christians on both sides and we’ve tried to encourage both sides of politics to appeal to the Christian constituency.
Eric Metaxas: Yeah we don’t have that in America.
Lyle Shelton: I realise it is getter tougher in this country. I’m on the left of politics but you said Hillary Clinton would take things at a warped speed. What do you mean by that?
Eric Metaxas: Well for example, it’s as simple as this. The Supreme Court now, and it wasn’t this way fifty years ago and a hundred years ago but today the Supreme Court has become much more powerful and much more political and so now it is utterly vital I would say, for the survival of American democracy that we have either a balanced Supreme Court or a conservative Supreme Court. This is for the survival of the nation and that if somebody like Hillary Clinton were to get in, she would toot sweet, appoint the most pro-abortion , pro-pan sexual, pro you name it kinds of judges who will, in a moment, ruin America. We are already teetering on the edge and if we don’t have somebody stop where we’re going, it’s over. I mean, my book that’s coming out in June about America, it’s called ‘If You Can Keep It’, it’s really a cry from the heart that Americans would kind of wake up and understand what God has given us. It’s a holy privilege to be able to have these freedoms. We have taken them for granted for about fifty years. We’re not teaching our children about them. I don’t know what it’s like here but in America, since I’ve grown up, we’ve not really been taught to love America and to understand what’s good about it and to understand what’s good about George Washington and all these heroes. It’s not very much taught. It’s kind of this liberal worldview that teaches unions and everything have been taken over by the hard leftists just like you’re talking about and Hillary Clinton is at the very core of that world. That’s a fact.
Lyle Shelton: Well you’re listening to my interview with Eric Metaxas at the recent Australian Christian Lobby national conference in Sydney. I hope you’re enjoying it. We’ll be right back after this break.
Welcome back to part two of my interview with Eric Metaxas recorded at the recent Australian Christian Lobby national conference in Sydney.
It amazes us that nine people on your Supreme Court have so much power and influence over the country that this is really what the high stakes issue of the election is. Who’s going to appoint the next judges into the Supreme Court but you made a comment in your talk earlier about Harvard and it was quite funny. Two hundred and ten years ago, its theology was pretty good, you know.
Eric Metaxas: Oh it’s worse.
Lyle Shelton: But we can look at trying to influence politics like we’re trying to do here or influence culture like you do through your radio program and various commentary but really we need to have a long march back through the institutions, don’t we.
Eric Metaxas: Absolutely.
Lyle Shelton: We’re talking about a hundred-year project.
Eric Metaxas: Well, yeah. I don’t think we can worry about it. I think that we simply have to do our best but yes, let’s face it. Christians have horribly abdicated the institutions. I mean, this is why when you have a hundred years of Christians saying we’re going to you know leave the big cities and we’re going to go you know hide out in the cornfields of Iowa until the Lord returns. Well He ain’t back yet and things are really bad now because you left the big cities where we could have used your help. You know, and that’s a fact. We’re called to fight. We’re called to be in the battle. It’s bad theology. It’s bad theology. It’s not biblical theology and they basically said that we don’t want to be political. We’re just going to you know, gather up the children and protect them form evil. Well the internet has reached you, TV’s reached you, the evil has come to you and now because you’ve abdicated, I mean this is one of the reasons we’ve been called to New York City because New York City is one of these places where the influence across the nation is vast and it has been hugely secular and politically liberal. If you want to fight the war, that’s the front line. That’s the front line and I think good things are happening in New York City. It’s not exactly Dallas but it’s changed dramatically and I’d say the same in Hollywood but for a hundred years Christians have abdicated those…
Lyle Shelton: So what you’re telling us is the good news is that there are people like yourself in New York City, a world-influential city and Hollywood who are interacting with these elites, with the culture and there’s some green shoots there in terms of hope for the future.
Eric Metaxas: Correct.
Lyle Shelton: Good.
Thank you for that.
Eric Metaxas: By faith honestly that is what I believe and again it’s in the Lord’s hands but I have seen a lot of good things happen. I’ll say this. Twenty five years ago, New York was a spiritual ghost town. If you try and find a born again serious church where they believe this crazy stuff, you could not find it. You could not find it. It has changed very, very dramatically. There’s all kinds of examples. There’s all kinds of examples. My wife runs a pregnancy care centre. There was no such thing twenty years ago. There’s a classical Christian school in Manhattan. There was no such thing twenty years ago. Churches are popping up like crazy. There’s all kinds of things happening and in fact one of the best things of all there is a Christian college, a real Christian college, The King’s College, right in Manhattan. I’m one of the senior fellows. One of the greatest things and it is in Manhattan so there are many things happening and if they’re happening there, that’s a good sign because that was one of the places where you’d never ever find any of these things. So I think a lot of people who live there are shocked.
Lyle Shelton: That’s very encouraging Eric. Just to finish, Eric, we can talk for a long time I’m sure, whether we are successful in our campaigning like Wilberforce was over time and I wouldn’t in any way underestimate how difficult the struggles that they went through - you documented it so well in your book and I hope everyone goes and buys Amazing Grace today - or whether in this life are seemingly unsuccessful like Bonhoeffer. I was really touched by some writing, it might have been in one of your Socrates in the Cities essays, the transcripts or whatever, but you talked about overcoming evil, how do you overcome evil and you used the example of Bonhoeffer that whilst his church was against him, his culture was against him, his politics was against him, he stood firm and he went to the gallows two weeks before World War II ended on the orders of Hitler, just two weeks before the liberation and you say there that people who saw him saw that he went gladly and you make the comment that perhaps the way to overcome evil is by laying down our life.
Eric Metaxas: Well I mean the Lord calls us all to lay down our lives. The moment we come to faith, you know, Bonhoeffer said when Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. Now here’s the little secret good news. Jesus has conquered death so He calls us to die so that we can arise as to new resurrected life. That’s not a bad deal and I think that we are really obliged to really believe that and God is calling us to actually believe that. Not to say yeah well I guess I believe it, to actually believe it. If you actually believe that, you will live differently. You will live without fear of death or people calling you bigot or whatever it is. You laugh. Who cares! Jesus is Lord. He has conquered death. You live differently and you will die differently because you know as you step into eternity, you’re not dying. You’re stepping into real life. These things are true. These aren’t the things that we cling to, I hope it’s true. Don’t hope it’s true. It is true. Believe it and live it and I really think that these stories, Bonhoeffer in particular, are the Lord’s way of galvanising us to live in this generation. We don’t know where it’s going to go but it doesn’t matter. We know the Lord wins in the end. It’s simply our job to be faithful where He’s put us.