I was interested in reading this book since Eric Metaxas is well-known for this biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I agreed with some of the things he had to say, but the book as a whole seemed a little “off.” I couldn’t articulate exactly what was bothering me, so I had my husband, who is a Lutheran pastor, review it. He feels that Metaxas has an incomplete grasp of Lutheran theology and that’s what I was picking up on. His review is below.
Eric Metaxas has published a new book entitled Letter to the American Church. Metaxas is well- known among Christians in the U. S., especially for his best-selling biography of Dietrich Bonhoffer. In this latest work he uses information he gathered for the biography of the Lutheran martyr to argue that the American Church today is in danger of following the German Church of the 1930’s into a dark period of quiescence in the face of evil political and cultural trends. His answer to the problem is strongly encourage Christians to be active in the public square, serving as a conscience to the nation. This would include a more aggressive preaching by pastors against cultural trends and actions by government, up to and including supporting one politician against another.
While I and many others would agree with his position against this present darkness in America, there are serious theological problems with his reasoning. First, he opposes the Lutheran concept of the kingdoms of the left and right, even saying that Luther’s use of Romans 13 was overblown and should not be used as an excuse not to be politically active. His concept of the Gospel is overly broad, including many things that are Biblical but not necessarily Gospel. For example, Metaxas argues that Luther “over-emphasized’ grace and faith as the content of the Gospel. This position then leads him to attack “theologically fussy” pastors who argue that their task is to proclaim Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sinners. He names several such “fussy” preachers include John MacArthur and John Piper. The times, Metaxas contends, call for new ways to preach the Gospel and teach the Bible.
VERDICT: I cannot, from a Lutheran perspective, recommend this book.
For more book reviews see:
Three Mile an Hour God by Kosuke Koyama — Book Review
Memories of a Devil: My Life As a Jesuit in Dachau by Father Chester Fabisiak–Book Review
Loving People Who are Hard to Love by Joyce Meyer–Book Review