If You Can Keep It: Q & A With Eric Metaxas

reprinted with permission

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I have been huge Metaxas fan since his voice work as the narrator of VeggieTales rendition of Ester. I joke. I frist became aware of his writing from his book on Bonhoeffer and have since read most of his books. In his writing, his candor, wit and wisdom always shine through. Eric’s newest book If You Can Keep It is no different. I will be posting a review on my blog of Eric’s book in the coming days. I really enjoyed it. It releases officially this Tuesday, June 14th. Here is the Amazon link to pre-order until then and to purchase after the 14th.

How did the idea for the book first come about?

Honestly, I’ll never forget it. I was listening to the author Os Guinness
give a speech about the Founders unique idea of “ordered liberty” and
he described it in terms of what he called the “Golden Triangle of41MVx69VbUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
Freedom.” It all made perfect sense, but I was shocked and
embarrassed to realize that somehow I’d managed never to have heard any of this before and that neither had most people I knew. So after I stopped perspiring, I tried to figure out how a reasonably well-educated American could miss these ideas that are utterly foundational and central to what America is and who we Americans are as a people? What could have happened? Then I read his book A Free People’s Suicide and was staggered further still, because I realized that if this country — which was expressly founded on these ideas — had ceased to understand them and pass them on to the next generation, it would eventually cease to be America in any real sense, and I realized that that’s precisely what had been happening in the last four or so decades. To say that I had a sense of urgency about it is an understatement. I talked about it whenever I went and pushed Os’s book on everyone I
knew, and as my thinking on it all expanded I realized I needed to get my own thoughts into a book — and to promote that book as widely and forcefully as any book I would ever write. Because I saw that once America devolved to being “America”, the whole world would suffer. Despite our ills and shortcomings, we have been a beacon of liberty to the whole world — my parents, for example, as I discuss in the book, who came from places of misery to this place that represented hope and a future — and if that beacon should go out in our generation, what Lincoln called the “last best hope of earth” would have vanished. It would be as though we had effectively committed suicide because we had forgotten to eat. So to cut to the chase, this book is about saving America, and in doing that, saving the world. That’s all. No pressure, right?

Throughout the book you refer to the popular quote “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” What does that mean to you and how has America strayed from that?

This has manifested itself differently between liberals and conservatives. For example, conservatives have sometimes felt that America’s greatness was indeed that kind of chest-beating pride that people have misunderstood as “American exceptionalism,” and have forgotten that we have an important role to play in reaching out to the rest of the world, in welcoming others to our shores and in sharing our blessings — whether ideas regarding freedom or material blessings — with others. They’ve sometimes acted as though greed were indeed good, as though laissez-faire capitalism didn’t require a moral component to work as it should. And they’ve sometimes acted as though self-government didn’t require virtue — and a people and ethos that that prized virtue and hailed it as a social good. On the other hand, liberals have mostly in recent decades misunderstood the role that faith has played in our history and will continue to play if we allow it to do so. People of faith have been at the forefront of the Abolitionist movement and the Civil Rights movement. These were not secular movements. Our history in doing good could not and did not happen without people of serious faith playing a vital role, so to allow a new secularism to push people of faith out of the cultural conversation is to deny our history and to prevent our future together in any meaningful sense.

In If You Can Keep It, you write that self-government cannot exist without virtuous leaders. What do you think has been the biggest cause of the erosion of virtue in our modern-day political leaders?

What Relevance Is

revelant

One of the things I have come to discover in reading old books is there is nothing new under the sun. That when you take the time to discover what people have said in centuries past you realize how profound they really are. You see how relevant old things are. They help us see what is good, true and beautiful because it has always been so. The relevant of today is fickle and given to fads and trends. What was relevant centuries ago is in many ways more instructive for us as leaders. Do Kanye and Kim define relevance to our culture? I would argue no. They are the trendsetters perhaps but relevance true relevance goes deeper.

I’ll illustrate it with two things that have come across my path they last few weeks one is a picture the other a poem.

3 Books that Need To Be Written That No One Would Buy

3-Books

I love reading books. When I don’t know how to do something or I don’t understand something the first thought that usually comes to me is “I’ll bet there is a great book out there that would help me understand this.” And there usually is. The challenge we now have is not is there a book on a given topic, and the challenge is finding good books on a given topic. Forbes Magazine says “there are there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more – are self-published. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each.” So needless to say finding a good book is easier said than done.

I understand that books are written with three aims in mind. The first is be helpful and the second appeal to your audience and beyond, third sell more than 250 copies. Of all the books I have read, I have never come across many books that fit the four books below that I think need to be written. I think they need to be written because they would be helpful, but I don’t think they would sell more than 250 copies.

3 Books that Need To Be Written That No One Would Buy

  1. Sometimes Healthy Things Die. “Why Faithfulness matters more Fruitfulness” – One of the things I used to say all the time is “Healthy things grow” While that may be true I think it oversimplifies what is true in the statement. Healthy things do grow, and I would say this because my goal wasn’t health but growth. Is there anything wrong with more people, more produces more stuff? Not necessarily. I do think that statement for me was geared around fruitfulness more than it should have been. In the scriptures, we see many examples of how farming works. We plant we water God makes it grow. Faithfulness is something we can do by God’s grace. Fruitfulness is something God does for us, through us and sometimes despite us. I want they leaders I am pouring my life into to avoid that mistake and find their worth in being faithful and leave the fruitfulness up to God.

Honey I Shrunk the Gospel

honey i shrunk the gospel

In 1989, Rick Moranis entered into the vernacular of our culture the words “honey I shrunk the kids” Moranis portrays a wacky inventor who accidentally shrinks his kids and the neighbor kids with his shrink ray he invented. Moranis’ character is unaware that his kids were shrunk by the very invention he destroys because he thinks it doesn’t work. There were multiple spin-offs of the movie and “honey I shrunk the (fill in the blank with something witty)” became a staple of sitcoms and watercolors alike for most of the 90’s.

Growing up in the 80’s has created a passion in me for all things 80’s. I love 80’s music, and 80’s movies and like it or not 80’s fashion is coming back full force. Being a fan of the 80’s it’s only natural that the analogy I will use for how we at times treat the Gospel was born out of a movie from the 1980’s.

The Long Reach of Timeless Truth

Bishop JC Ryle's Legacy 200 years after his death

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The older I get the more I realize that true effectiveness isn’t measured in days and weeks but in decades and centuries. One of the men that exemplifies that is Bishop J.C. Ryle. If you have never read anything by him I encourage you to do so. His reach into our times is still felt and still needed 200 years after his death. The Bishop says it much better than I could he says “We live in an age when there is a false glare on the things of time and a great mist over the things of eternity.” Preach Bishop. 200 years to the day of his death and he is still preaching with his life and words.

Some of my favorite quotes from J.C. Ryle

“My chief desire in all my writings, is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and make Him beautiful and glorious in the eyes of people; and to promote the increase of repentance, faith, and holiness upon earth.”
― J.C. Ryle

“The love of the bible will show itself in a believer’s readiness to bear evil as well as to do good. It will make him patient under provocation, forgiving when injured, meek when unjustly attacked, quiet when slandered. It will make him hear much, put up with much and look over much, submit often and deny himself often, all for the sake of peace.”
― J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion

“It costs something to be a true Christian. Let that never be forgotten. To be a mere nominal Christian, and go to church, is cheap and easy work. But to hear Christ’s voice, follow Christ, believe in Christ, and confess Christ, requires much self-denial. It will cost us our sins, our self-righteousness, our ease, and our worldliness. All must be given up. We must fight an enemy who comes against us with thousands of followers. We must build a tower in troubled times. Our Lord Jesus Christ would have us thoroughly understand this. He bids us “count the cost.” – J.C. Ryle

“Happiness does not depend on outward circumstances, but on the state of the heart.”
― J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer

“Be very sure of this,-people never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it. They understand it only too well; they understand that it condemns their own behavior; they understand that it witnesses against their own sins, and summons them to judgment.”
― J.C. Ryle

“I entreat my readers, besides the Bible and the Articles, to read history.”
― J.C. Ryle, Holiness

“Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who as a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and broad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible there is no God at all.”
― J.C. Ryle

“Myriads of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour-blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error. Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Ghost or no Holy Ghost, future punishment or no future punishment, ‘high church’ or ‘low church’ or ‘broad church,’ Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism—nothing comes amiss to them; they can swallow it all, even if they cannot digest it! Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody going to be lost. Their religion is made of negatives, and the only positive thing about them is that they dislike distinctness and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong!”
― J.C. Ryle

“Never let us be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth on the altar of peace.”
― J.C. Ryle

“(1.) Preach Christ crucified, and dwell chiefly on the blessings resulting from his righteousness, atonement, and intercession. (2.) Avoid all needless controversies in the pulpit; except it be when your subject necessarily requires it, or when the truths of God are likely to suffer by your silence. (3.) When you ascend the pulpit, leave your learning behind you: endeavour to preach more to the hearts of your people than to their heads. (4.) Do not affect much oratory. Seek rather to profit than to be admired.”
― J.C. Ryle

(Most quotes taken from Good Reads)