Eric Metaxas is a well known evangelical author who has done work on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther. In time he embraced Christian nationalism and became a polarizing figure. This post looks at Metaxas and the issues with his work. Plus he said a number of disturbing things recently both about mass shootings and impeachment. In the end Metaxas again shows the scandal of the evangelical mind in that it was a fallacy to think that he was an intellectual.
“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”
“You have the right to remain silent, but you can never, repeat, never lie or shade the truth.”
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
Proverbs 27:1 NIV
This is a post that I have been meaning to do for a while. Eric Metaxas is a well known evangelical Christian author who went off the deep end in the last two years.
Who is Eric Metaxas?
Eric Metaxas is an influential evangelical Christian author who originally comes from the Queens, in New York City. Eric grew up in Danbury, Connecticut and then attended college at Yale University. He edited the Yale Record and according to my research grew up Greek Orthodox but attends Calvary-St. George Episcopal Church since 2001. He has written for Veggietales earlier in his career. Eric published several books over the years. Some of those works include, “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery” , “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask)” , “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving” ,”Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life“, “Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness” , “Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness” , “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty ” , “Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World” , “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” and “Donald Drains the Swamp.”
Eric Metaxas also holds a radio show and has had controversial individuals like Dinesh D’ Souza, Peter Hitchens and alleged Russian spy Maria Butina on air. In 2012 he was the speaker for the National Prayer Breakfast. He has written for multiple publications in the past to include the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Eric has also gotten involved in fringe right politics. He has been a regular speaker over the past few years at CPAC at National Harbor in Maryland. Over the course of time, in this writers opinion, Eric has moved from a traditional conservative view to the far right.
Systematic Issues with Eric Metaxas Bonhoeffer Book and Other Works
Eric Metaxas’ work has had some serious issues and has not stood up well against the passage of time. While his work is popular with evangelical Christians, among the academic community it contains deep issues and concerns. The chief issue against Metaxas is that he brings an agenda to the topic of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For example Bonhoeffer is made to be an evangelical Christian when he can’t fit that mold. That is the book’s weakness. One of the critics against Metaxas is Andy Rowell who is the Assistant Professor of Ministry Leadership at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He wrote about the issue and provided links here. In case those links disappear these are the original articles. Most of the reviews raise issues, while Alan Wolfe gave a positive review.
- Andy Rowell, “Bonhoeffer: The Evangelical Hero.”
- Victoria Barnett, General Editor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English Edition and Director of Church Relations, U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Review of Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich (Nashville: Thomas Nelson,
2010), pp. 608, ISBN 1595551387.” 46-218-1-PB (1)
- Clifford Green, Executive Director of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. Christian Century, “Hijacking Bonhoeffer.”
- Richard Weikart, Department of History, California State University, Stanislaus and author of The Myth of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Is His Theology Evangelical? “Metaxas’s Counterfeit Bonhoeffer: An Evangelical Critique.”
- Alan Wolfe, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, New Republic, “Grounds of Courage.”
- Nancy Lukens is a retired Professor of German and Women’s Studies at the University of New Hampshire. She has translated works by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothee Soelle, and East German church leaders involved in the nonviolent opposition of the 1980s. Her review is in Sojourners and is called, “Misrepresenting the Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”
- Tim Challies, “Counterfeit Bonhoeffer.”
- Jason Hood in Christianity Today, “Redeeming Bonhoeffer (The Book)’
Since those reviews there has been other concerns about Metaxas that have come to the surface. Warren Throckmorton has been diligent in writing about many of these issues. In 2016 Eric Metaxas promoted a false Bonhoeffer quote during the 2016 election which you can read about here. Shortly afterward he said that he was joking around on Twitter. It then later came to light that one of the most quoted Bonhoeffer quotes that Metaxas used could not be attributed to Bonhoeffer. That quote is, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Warren Throckmorton in contacting Bonhoeffer scholars can’t attribute that quote to the famous German theologian. Then Eric Metaxas started to regularly and aggressively block critics on Twitter. You can read about how he blocked Christian college professors here. Later on in time I asked some questions about Eric Metaxas book and academic peer review and he blocked me as well. So I am a part of the Eric Metaxas blocking party as well. As the 2016 election dragged on Eric Metaxas stated on Twitter that opposition to Hillary Clinton was similar to Bonhoeffer’s opposition to the Third Reich. When challenged he doubled down and defended his position. After the Access Hollywood tape where Trump boasted of grabbing a women’s pussy broke in time Metaxas defended Trump in a Wall Street Journal editorial. Eric Metaxas support for Donald Trump can be read about in this Daily Beast article. Warren Throckmorton wrote that Metaxas logic gives credibility to Mark Noll’s theory on the scandal of the evangelical mind. That Metaxas still continued to use that mis-attributed quote of Detrich Bonhoeffer reveals that the evangelical author still struggles with understanding facts and being honest with them. Eric Metaxas illustrates some of the key problems with evangelical theology. As time passed there would be more criticism and concerns about Mataxas book on Bonhoeffer. The evangelical author responded by saying that those who opposed the book were liberals. Even those who were conservative theologically were lumped into that category and accused of being a liberal. For me that is disappointing that he would chose to act like that when he claims to be a professional. But let’s also look at some other issues that came forward from Eric Metaxas.
What Metaxas Said About Mass Shootings
On Twitter on August 4, 2019 Eric Metaxas Tweeted the following in response to the El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio shooting. Since I have been blocked from following Metaxas account I am going to lift the text from a blog post at The Friendly Atheist. “The spirit of mass-murder is the spirit of anti-Christ. Instead of pointing fingers at each other & sharing in that foul spirit, let us turn to God in repentance. Can it be that He has allowed this evil so that we will return to Him in prayer & repentance?” #jesus #severemercy So according to Metaxas God allows shootings to happen so that people will worship and return to him. Is that how I am reading this? That is how God is going to convince people to love him? Allow more mass shootings. Is that what Sandyhook, Aurura, Gilroy, the D.C. Navy Yard, Parkland and others were all about? God was trying to get our attention so that we would worship him? I must have missed all that at the time.
Here is the most disturbing element of all this claim that Metaxas makes. It really pokes a major hole in Metaxas theology. One of the most disturbing mass school shootings is the one that helped trigger more. I, am referring to the Columbine shooting in April of 1999 where 13 students were killed and 25 injured. One of the individuals killed was Rachel Joy Scott. Rachel was known for her deep Christian faith and is considered a martyr by many. Rachael’s father Daryl Scott travels the country speaking about his daughter. I heard him speak twice at Crusade at Marquette University and also Crusade’s Christmas conference. To say that God would allow a school shooting so people can come to him makes no sense when people like Rachel are killed in one. I would also suggest that line of thought creates deep issues and is quite disrespectful to people like Rachel.
What Metaxas Said Recently About Impeachment
Metaxas also said a number of disturbing comments on his radio show on September 30, 2019 which grabbed my attention. The most disturbing deal with the situation of impeachment. John Fea would describe Metaxas as a Court Evangelical and I would concur with that assessment. Metaxas had John Zimark on his show and mostly what Mextaxas did was reinforced what he stated and agreed with it. What did Eric Metaxas agree with?
John Zimark stated that the impeachment process is an attack on democracy and an effort to overthrow the 2016 election. He also went on and described former President Obama as a “post-colonial Marxist” and engaged in fear mongering. Metaxas has actually agreed with those descriptions. Then in the radio show both Metaxas and Zimark explain that the reason why former President Obama got away with his Marxism is because he is black. Both individuals then claimed that those who support impeachment are both “genocidal” and “un-American.” They also discussed the threat of the deep state within the federal government and claimed that a Christian can’t support the impeachment of President Trump. Or in other words if you support impeachment you don’t believe in Jesus. Democrats as was discussed are trying to undermine and attack Christianity. And in the entire show Metaxas didn’t even mention what triggered the impeachment process against the current American president. Lastly Metaxas then called the Vatican the “the whore of Babylon” and proclaimed it “evil.”
The Fallacy of Evangelical Intellectualism
Years ago Eric Metaxas used to stand out and he seemed like a breath of fresh air. He came across as being intellectual and wrote books that I considered to be academic. At this stage of life I actually put him in the same category as historians James McPherson, David McCullough, Robert Caro and David M Kennedy. I wanted to pick up his book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer especially after reading the Cost for Discipleship a few years ago. I did pick up and was working through Metaxas’s “Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness.” That book focused on Chuck Colson, Pope John Paul II, Jackie Robinson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Liddel, William Wilberforce and George Washington. As I read his book I became distracted and was reading another one which took my time. In that time period I noticed a more polarized Metaxas and one who became increasingly political. There was more Christian nationalism and more rattling of the saber. As I watched the rhetoric flow I became convinced that according to Christian nationalists like Eric Metaxas Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the world and the redemption of mankind. No, what happened is that Jesus was flogged and crucified for a Supreme Court seat. John 3:16 about how much God loved the world and how he sent his one and only son is incorrect. God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus to save the Supreme Court. That is the message that Metaxas began to teach me and I became so disgusted with it that I didn’t finish his book and instead put it in the trash which is where it actually belonged.
What makes the situation with Eric Metaxas especially disheartening for me is that he was touted and proclaimed to be an intellectual evangelical. Much of evangelicalism lacks substance and instead is about emotion. Metaxas at the time seemed to be refreshing and pointed to something different. In the end he became much darker and illustrated why the scandal of the evangelical mind contains a lot of truth. But there was another thing that also bothered me when I listened to part of that radio show. Eric Metaxas calls the Pope “the whore of Babylon” and “evil.” Yet in his book “Seven Men” he wrote that Pope John Paul II was a model of courage and faith. What happened in three years time that Metaxas would basically reject what he himself wrote? The “whore of Babylon” rhetoric is really over the top and the last time I heard that claim was from some of the more fundamentalist Mormons during my time in Mormonism in college. For me that is very disappointing that he has gone off the deep end and uses such inflammatory rhetoric. My hope is that many Christians will see Eric for who he is and reject his material. As I learned with his subject on Bonhoeffer there is academic issues already with him and I would put Eric Metaxas in the same category of Dinnish D’Souza. That is disappiting but that is the path that Eric Metaxas took.