A Clarion Call
Eric Metaxas has been no stranger to taking up his pen in order to write books that cover topics of great depth and necessity. His biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a riveting page-turner that is thrilling to the soul. Neither is he unaccustomed to standing for what he believes to be true. In an age of evangelicalism where many are more Neo-Marxist than biblical, Metaxas has the courage to stand up and speak the truth that Marxist thought has its roots in the demonic forces of hell. His newest book, Letter To The American Church calls believers in Christ living on the soil of the U.S.A. to wake up and fight the forces of darkness before it is too late. Indeed, the topic is fascinating at every turn. He looks back at Pre-Nazi Germany showing intriguing parallels between the German church of that period and the current one in this era of American history.
I believe the best way to view this book is as a clarion call. It is a work that seeks to demand the attention of the reader by blasting the proverbial trumpet as loudly as possible in order to sound the alarm before the enemy storms over the wall. This work strives to wake up the slumbering church so that it can man its post as the gallant warrior for Christ it is called to be. Metaxas gets the gravity present in our current moment. He says:
“The German Church of the 1930s was silent in the face of evil; but can there be any question whether the American Church of our own time is guilty of the same silence? Because of this, I am compelled to speak out, and to say what—only by God’s grace—I might say to make plain where we find ourselves at this moment, at our own unavoidably crucial crossroads in history.”1
Clearly, he makes plain his goal, the German church in the period before Nazi Germany failed miserably. Metaxas pushes the American church to rise to the occasion at a vital moment both for the country and the world. It is a noble endeavor and a necessary one, let us progress to see how Metaxas encourages the troops for the fight!
The Premise Upon Which The Argument Lies
It seems to me the entire foundation upon which Metaxas’s work in this book lies is the notion that the Marxist enemies of the church have in mind the same bloodbath (or at least a similar one) that the Nazis did back in Hitler’s rise. In fact, he plainly says:
“As Stalin and Hitler and Mao would butcher millions in the name of fighting for ‘the people,’ so these forces do the same and are angling to do much, much more of the same – if we allow them the time to strengthen themselves, if we do not fight with all our might and main against them right now.”2
I wholeheartedly concur with this sentiment by Metaxas. As someone who has spent an immense amount of time studying the social justice movement, Critical Race Theory, and Marxist thought, there is no doubt in my mind that the Marxists today are just as deadly as those of yesterday. Communism and Marxism are radical ideas grounded in secular humanism which lead to the devaluation of human life and ultimately death. The only distinction being that today’s revolutionaries following Marx tend to wear smiles on their faces, have clean public appearances, and are ultimately practitioners of champagne tyranny.3 For this reason, far too many Americans are lulled to sleep at the danger in front of them. This is my fear for the reception of Metaxas’s book, that too many will scoff at any idea of such bloodbaths again happening in our time. However, I think Metaxas is right. The same people who have supported the slaughter of literal millions of innocent babies in our day are practicing a holocaust of which Hitler and Stalin would have been proud. Those in the “middle” who refuse to recognize this fact need to wake up. Yet, if there is a place where Metaxas’s work is attacked by the Left, I suppose it will be on this assertion of the revolutionaries being dangerous. I believe he is right, but those who are his ideological opponents will launch their attacks here. This idea is the hinge on which his whole argument turns, and if it is disproven the bulk of his work in the book would be as well. But, considering the realities of the perversity brought upon children by the transgender movement and the holocaust of abortion, Metaxas has plenty of examples to substantiate his case that the cost of Marxist thought rising to the forefront is human blood.
Lessons From Bonhoeffer
One of the most compelling parts of the book is the manner by which Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story is interwoven throughout. The following story illustrates how Metaxas uses events from Bonhoeffer’s life with proficiency. Two days after Hitler rose to power, Bonhoeffer was scheduled to give a radio address on The Leadership Principle. Hitler had set forth himself as the leader Germany needed in that era. As Metaxas points out, he had a Messianic tone to his thought, something of which Bonhoeffer was well aware. So, Bonhoeffer wound up addressing leadership in his speech and demonstrated what was wrong with the ideas set forth by Hitler. Metaxas states:
“It was a bold and vital speech that Bonhoeffer gave that day on the subject. But because Hitler was now chancellor, something strange happened. Somewhere in the middle of the speech, the broadcast was cut off. No one knew for sure whether higher-ups in the Nazi regime made this happen, but it is hard to imagine that they hadn’t. Circumstances in Germany had changed quite suddenly, and what would have gone swimmingly a week earlier might no longer work at all. To put it in our own modern parlance, Bonhoeffer had just been “cancelled.” Many similar experiences to come for him, but this was his own first taste of the new world into which all Germans had just entered.”4
Drawing such a vivid parallel between Bonhoeffer’s cancellation and such occurrences in our day gives the reader something concrete to latch on to. The book is scattered with examples from the life of the German theologian who would eventually be martyred by Hitler and the Nazis. Truly, this use of illustrative teaching from the life of Bonhoeffer was incredibly well done by Metaxas.
Critiques of Modern-Day Evangelicalism
Throughout the course of the book, Metaxas critiques many sectors of modern-day evangelicalism. For example:
“They could not believe that the Nazis were devotedly anti-Christian—and that they were essentially atheist and pagan tribalists working to eventually obliterate the Christian Church. In mostly willful ignorance of these things, they blithely went along with the general mood of the time, feeling that was the safest course. Many churches hung Nazi banners and flags outside their churches, and even inside their sanctuaries. It was a small but significant departure from the idea of displaying the German flag, which any German Church happily would have done before this time. But healthy patriotism was no longer enough, so hanging the swastika—what was called the ‘Crooked Cross’—may be seen as the virtue-signaling of that time. It may also be plausibly compared to when well-meaning churches today display rainbow banners or BLM flags. Most of them “know not what they do” and are only trying to show solidarity with those they have deemed somehow disenfranchised. They only wish to show that they are not like those other rigid and narrow-minded churches, that they are inclusive, and generally mean no harm. They don’t seem to know that the forces behind those banners are only smiling at them in order to deceive them; as soon as they have the cultural and political power they will show their dedicatedly atheist colors, and will show very clearly what they think of such quaint Christian virtues as mercy and humility and love of one’s enemies. This is too painful for many to imagine, so they simply look away and denounce those who would point such things out. At present they are gaily riding on the back of a tiger, and all seems well enough.”5
Metaxas hits the nail on the head pointing out that many sections of evangelicalism merely want to gain popularity points by appearing “kind” and “loving” according to the standards of the secular world. That leads them to fly the banners of BLM and the LGBTQ movement both of which stand adamantly opposed to biblical Christianity. Another pointed critique he gives is in regard to the “spiral of silence.” He says of this term:
“It refers to the idea that when people fail to speak, the price of speaking rises. As the price to speak rises, still fewer speak out, which further causes the price to rise, so that fewer people yet will speak out, until a whole culture or nation is silenced.”6
Indeed, this aspect is a difficult one to overcome. When those who know what is good refuse to speak out in the face of evil, it only becomes harder to garner the strength to do so. Many would say they should speak out later when everything is clearer and they have more time. Friend, if you do not actively fight against evil and sin every day, you can be assured it will not get any easier. Perhaps Metaxas’s most powerful critique was in the realm of the retreat of the church away from seemingly “political” issues of the day. We read:
“So as a result of these and other events, a pall was cast over many churches and faith over time began to be ‘privatized,’ to recede from the public sphere and from being applied to issues that went beyond mere theology and personal pietism; and this erroneous view
became increasingly normalized.” 7
We have seen this impact in so many ways in American culture over the last several decades. Many believe Christianity should only be lived out within the walls of the church and between one’s own ears. Yet, the biblical call is to teach all of Christ’s commands to all of the nations and destroy every argument raised against the knowledge of God (Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5). These are not merely privatized goals of personal piety, but also inherently public being about the Lordship of Christ and the proclamation of His Word. Christians who shrink back from the public square are frankly not being faithful to their call before their Lord to live all of life for His glory. Metaxas rightly pushes this issue to demonstrate the need for repentance!
For all that I agree with Metaxas about, there are nonetheless a few areas where I believe he goes astray in terms of doctrine and theology. These critiques should be read in a tone of charity towards the man since I am grateful for many of his stands, but it would not be a fair book review if I skipped over these areas, thus I make it my endeavor to point them out as profitably as I can. His call for unity amongst Catholics and Protestants in the fashion of the Manhattan Declaration is truly concerning. Metaxas details the story of Chuck Colson and the Manhattan Declaration back in 2009. Colson was disturbed by the reality that many among his friends would not pen their names on the document. Metaxas quotes Colson as specifically mentioning the names of Alistair Begg, John Piper, and John MacArthur.8 Then Metaxas asks the question, “How could these dear brothers, of all people, be so theologically fussy that they did not see what was at stake?”9 Fundamentally, this brings us to the question, why didn’t these men sign the Manhattan Declaration? Alistair Begg said:
“Why then have I chosen not to append my name as one of the initial signers? Because of my convictions about the nature of the Gospel, and the importance of Christian co-belligerency being grounded in it. The activity of the Christian as a citizen engaging in co-belligerency over civic and moral issues is not the same as the declaration of Christians mutually recognizing the reality of each other’s faith. This is what I wrote to Chuck Colson:
‘Thank you for sending me the amended document. I care deeply about these issues, but I cannot in conscience sign on with those with whom I have fundamental disagreements on the nature of the Gospel. (I just re-read Calvin in the Institutes, Book IV, section 18.)’”10
You see, the declaration made the following statement:
“We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”11
Begg was concerned that such unification of Protestants and Catholics together blurred the Gospel by downplaying the heretical errors of Catholocism, a point with which I agree. However, I want to zero in and focus on John MacArthur for a second. If anyone is noted for their stands against governmental tyranny in America during COVID, the lies of the critical social justice movement, and Marxism present in our culture, it is MacArthur. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to think of a man who has done more in the effort against these pernicious movements than MacArthur. He was pivotal early on in the fight against the social justice movement. Grace Community Church and MacArthur stood against the unjust governmental mandates which came down in 2020. Without a doubt, this man is a pillar standing on biblical truth that has not moved over the decades. So, Metaxas rightly charges many Christians with a failure to stand against the evils of our day, but he could not justly make that claim about MacArthur. Why didn’t MacArthur sign the document? He says:
“Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like ‘we [and] our fellow believers’; ‘As Christians, we . . .’; and ‘we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.’ That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.”12
Clearly, MacArthur and Begg both share the same concern. They know the devastating impact that locking hands with heretical doctrine brings. I think this comment by MacArthur is clarifying:
“Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel.”13
Here is the point that I want to drive home, we do not stand against Marxism, Communism, or radical leftism merely because they are evil ideologies that result in the loss of human life. We stand against them because they stand opposed to our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our mission as the church is to oppose anything that seeks to raise itself up as a barrier between man and the true knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Heretical gospels are just as much a barrier to the true knowledge of God as the secular humanist ideas of Marx. Roman Catholicism is a heresy, and our passion for Christ’s glory and His Gospel must consume us to preach the truth in the face of every enemy that stands against Him no matter what they might be. We take that action because we love God and want Him to be glorified while also having a love for sinners to be set free being given grace in the Lord Jesus Christ at salvation.
If Eric Metaxas were to somehow come across this book review, I want him to know that this critique is coming from someone who understands the dangers of the social justice movement, cultural Marxism, and radical leftism. I have written about these areas, recorded podcasts, preached sermons, and led Bible studies on all of these issues. On multiple occasions, I have been in contact with my politicians to encourage them to fight against the evil which is threatening our land. I see the dangers that Eric outlines in all of these areas. But, brother, with all due respect, and I truly do respect your views on multiple issues, I believe you are dead wrong in your calls to unite so closely with those who preach a heretical gospel of a works-based salvation. My duty to Christ is to fight against every enemy of his whether that is Catholicism, Mormonism, Marxism, or whatever else. Metaxas is heroic in his courage to fight against the lies of Marx, I pray that one day he will be equally as adamant against the deception of the papacy.14
There are other good parts of the book I could discuss and some various theological differences I would have throughout at different points as well. Overall, I believe the book is worth the read and I was honored to be a part of the launch team. However, one must keep in mind the reality that some of the theology in the book is deeply concerning particularly when Metaxas discusses Chuck Colson, the Manhattan Declaration, and Catholicism. Much of the information regarding Bonhoeffer and the history of Nazi Germany is quite fascinating and insightful. So, I end by concluding that it is a book with parts that I both strongly agree with and disagree with in an equally powerful fashion. That, my friends, is why we must hold true to the Scripture and evaluate everything in light of it. So, that we are able to stand firm against every falsehood that comes our way no matter what it may be! To God be the glory, and may the church in America and around the world rise up to fight its enemies with the Gospel of Christ by teaching the entire Word of God for the sake of Christ our Lord!
1 Metaxas, Letter To The American Church, Introduction.
2 Metaxas, Letter To The American Church, Introduction.
3 For more on champagne tyranny see this article by Dr. Owen Strachan:
4 Metaxas, Letter To The American Church, Chapter 4.
5 Metaxas, Letter To The American Church, Chapter 5.
6 Metaxas, Letter To The American Church, Chapter 6.
7 Metaxas, Letter To The American Church, Chapter 1.
8 Metaxas, Letter To The American Church, Chapter 5.
9 Metaxas, Letter To The American Church, Chapter 5.
14 For a brief summary as to why Roman Catholicism is heretical see here:
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