Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

biography

8 years 4 months ago
Donald Miller’s popularity continues to grow. His mostly autobiographical book Blue Like Jazz put him on the map as a notable author and his subsequent books and speaking opportunities have served to increase this popularity. He is particularly well-liked by teens and young adults. It is to a portion of this audience that To Own A Dragon is addressed.

Miller grew up without a father. He does not reveal exactly where his father went or why he left, but only that his was a single parent home throughout his youth. It was only as an adult that he came to realize just how profoundly this effected him and impacted his life. As he came to understand this, he felt it worthwhile to write a book reflecting upon growing up without a father. Miller, with his trademark honesty, self-deprecation and borderline crudeness, reveals the journey that brought him at last to a place of redemption.

The key to this journey was the role of John MacMurray, an apparently godly man who was willing to invest himself in Miller’s life. He invited Miller to move into his home, his family, his life so that he could provide the mentorship and guidance he so sorely lacked. Miller was, at this time, clearly desperately immature and self-centered. MacMurray was able to model to him manhood and maturity. He was able to help him wrestle with the demons of his past.

Some of what Miller reveals about a life of fatherlessness is heart-rending. “The Scripture that states, if an earthly father knows how to provide for his children, how much more God knows how to provide for His, speaks volumes in antithesis too: If an earthly father abandons his children and wrecks their lives, how much more would an abandonment from God destroy a human being?” This is something I have heard often in life. As more and more children grow up without a father, most often as the result of divorce, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to have confidence in a God who reveals himself as a Father. Just as they are unable to relate to an earthly father, so they find that they cannot relate to a heavenly Father. Miller reveals also that he often feels that God just isn’t too interested in him. “I think the occasional doubt that God is more interested in other things, other people, perhaps.” These are among the symptoms he attributes to fatherlessness.

Miller’s hope is that men who not had fathers in their lives, will be able to help and mentor others. He wonders if “God calls specific people who have specific pain into the authority of empathy. Experience is, after all, the best education.” He encourages such people to be “wounded healers,” those who can “wrestle with security, who will overcome our fear of intimacy, who will learn the hard task of saying with a woman and our children, who will mentor others through the difficult journey of life, perhaps rescuing them from what we have been rescued.” The book ends on a positive note, with Miller thankful for the healing that has come to his life and encouraging his readers to invest in the lives of others.

To Own A Dragon is a book that is easy to read and easy to understand, though not one that will appeal to everyone. If you are seeking a Scriptural framework for overcoming the pain of the past, this is probably not the best choice. But if you are able to find joy and comfort in the experiences of another as he wrestles with Scripture and is guided by a mentor, To Own A Dragon may prove valuable. I can’t say that I much enjoy Miller’s books as much as those by authors who more thoroughly ground their writings in Scripture, but I can say that I probably enjoyed this one more than Miller’s previous titles. It’s not that it’s a bad book; I’m just not convinced that it’s particularly good.

8 years 6 months ago
I recently decided that I would attempt to read not only books that are published and widely read within the Christian community, but also in the mainstream. To that end I walked into a Los Angeles Barnes & Nobles on Saturday and decided I would buy whatever was listed as being the current top seller among non-fiction. It just so happened that this dubious honor went to Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“John and Jenny were just beginning their life together. They were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same.” That description from the slip cover, obviously written by an editor, does not quite do justice to the back-story, but does give a general idea of the premise for this story. John and his wife, newly married, decided to sharpen their parenting skills, which they thought they would soon need, by purchasing a dog. They ended up with Marley, a crazy, loveable Labrador Retriever. In my experience, Labs tend to come in two flavors: mellow or crazy. Marley was of the crazy variety. And he wasn’t only crazy, but also big, tipping the scales at nearly 100 pounds. And he was active. And perhaps most noticeably, he was mentally unstable. He was the type of dog most people would have given up on.

Grogan, an accomplished and skillful writers, goes on to tell the story of the following thirteen years of his life, showing the centrality of Marley in the lives of the growing family. The story is, on the whole, quite clean, though there is the occasional expletive worked into the text - this is a story that is more appropriate for adults than children. More than being only the story of a dog, this is the story of a family and the crazy pet that they all loved (most of the time). Marley was a part of the family, constantly challenging the love and patience (and pocketbooks) of his owners. He shared in the joys and pains of the family, even to the point of comforting Jenny in the aftermath of a heartbreaking miscarriage.

Marley & Me isn’t the type of book that will change a life. But it will warm a heart and provide more than a few good laughs. Those readers who own dogs, and Labs in particular, will probably nod their heads knowingly more than a few times. It is a tale of nearly infinite love and patience. It is the story of a man who loves his animal far more than I ever could. And I guess that is an admirable thing.

8 years 8 months ago
I have to admit: Only a few years ago I was quite convinced that Oswald Chambers simply could not be worth reading. I had first heard of the man through the context of a sudden rush of interest that seemed to be spearheaded by the Christian music industry. Several Christian artists banded together to record an album and the devotional classic My Utmost For His Highest was packaged with it. I assumed, somewhat unfairly, that if he garnered this amount of interest from Christian musicians there must be something wrong with him. I am ashamed to admit this today.

In the last few years I have come to develop an appreciation for the life and ministry of Oswald Chambers. I still know only very little about the man but have come to see an almost prophetic aspect to his writing. Much of what he wrote almost 100 years ago seems as relevant today as it was then. There were some strange and even unbiblical aspects to his ministry, but what shines most clearly about Chambers’ life is his all-out devotion to Christ. He knew the Savior deeply and profoundly and sought to submit his life entirely to the Lord.

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) was born in Scotland, where he also spent most of his youth. He was a gifted artist and intended to follow that path in life until, at age 22, he felt called into the ministry. He studied (and later taught) at a small seminary in Dunoon and, upon graduation, teached and preached in Britain, America and Japan. In 1910 he married Gertrude Hobb, whom he affectionately called “Biddy,” and soon after opened a Bible College. When war engulfed the world, Chambers left the comforts of home and left for Egypt to be chaplain to British troops stationed there. His life and ministry were cut short when, in 1917, he died from complications following surgery to remove his appendix. Biddy continued his ministry in Egypt and, after the war ended, returned to England and began to publish his words which she had often transcribed from sermons, lectures and talks. This amounted to near 30 books, the most famous of which is My Utmost For His Hightest. Oswald Chambers, while appreciated in his day, has become widely known to evangelicals through the labors of his wife.

Abandoned to God is a biography of Chambers written by David McCasland who also authored, Pure Gold, a biography of Eric Liddell I recently reviewed. He is an excellent biographer who is able to major on the majors, focusing on the most important aspects of his subject’s life. As often as possible he allows the man to speak for himself and he quotes continually from the writing and correspondance left by Chambers. He seems to present, as nearly as we could hope, Oswald as he truly was.

It has been several years since I first heard the name of Oswald Chambers. I am now glad to know that his writing has experienced a resurgence, especially in the form of My Utmost For His Highest which is still available in any Christian bookstore. A new generation deserves to be able to know the name of Chambers and to benefit from the example he left us of a man who gave all he had to His Savior. Abandoned to God is a well-written, thoroughly-researched and stirring biography and one I am glad to recommend to you.

8 years 9 months ago
“In a library archive in Surrey can be found the last words Andrew Reed ever wrote. They sum up his philosophy, that true gospel compassion, true gospel charity should look to the needs of the whole person; that individuals should be cared for holistically, both body and soul. They are words of Scripture written in a spidery hand with failing strength, but then underlined with a firmness and resolve showing that in his dying days his conviction and spirit were undimmed: ‘The greatest is charity.’” To Andrew Reed these words were more than a mere motto, but were words that drove his life.

That Andrew Reed’s name is not better known among Evangelicals is sad, yet it is probably exactly how he would have wanted it. A man of extreme humility, Reed dedicated all he did to the service of his Savior. He desired no praise and honor among men but only to serve the Lord.

Andrew Reed was both a philanthropist and a pastor who lived through much of the nineteenth century. He pastored a single church for fifty years, building it from a declining congregation of sixty to a thriving church of around two thousand. All the while he was engaged in establishing charities. In 1813, while he was still in his early twenties, he established the London Orphan Asylum and followed that in 1827 with the Infant Orphan Asylum. In 1847 he founded the Asylum for Fatherless Children and later in life the Royal Asylum for Idiots, and the Royal Hospital for Incurables. His charitable ministries were dedicated to extended help to the helpless, to those that society had chosen to overlook. These charities brought hope and life to countless thousands of men, women and children.

Dr. Ian Shaw does not, as so many biographies do, neglect the shortcomings of his subject. There were several occasions in Reed’s life where he allowed his enthusiasm to cloud his judgment and his biographer writes honestly about these times.

Andrew Reed was a godly man and one God saw fit to use in mighty ways. Reed’s legacy continues to live to this day as four of the charities he founded continue their work today, though in a form appropriate to our modern context. Evangelicals would do well to read his story and to learn from his example of putting his faith into action. The book closes with just this type of challenge.

Many of the needs identified and addressed by Andrew Reed have now diminished, or are met by government agencies. Yet the world remains a world of need. In Africa, there are now around eleven million AIDS orphans, calling for vast philanthropic work by enlightened individuals to provide orphanages for their care. Across other continents, millions of orphaned, unwanted or abandoned children live on the streets of major cities, pray to hunger, disease and exploitation for sexual purposes. Around the world, the need for enlightened, compassionate care for those with severe learning disabilities is as great as ever, as are the needs of those suffering from severe physical disabilities, or degenerative and terminal illness. In the face of such needs, moved by his Christian compassion, Andrew Reed would not have stood idly by.

This biography is well-written and, as with most biographies of great Christians, is inspiring. There is much that we can and ought to learn from Andrew Reed. If he is still a stranger to you, buy this book, read it, and get to know this great man of God. You will be better for it.

8 years 10 months ago
Exile, persecution and tortue. Jesus told His followers that they should expect this type of treatment from the world. Those of us who live in the Western world often lose sight of the difficulties that Christians face in other parts of the globe. It is books like The Bible or the Axe, the biography of William Levi, than tend to shake us up a little bit, reminding us of the inestimable blessing of having freedom of worship.

William Levi is a Messianic believer from an African Hebrew tribal group in Sudan. When only a child his family was forced to flee religious persecution and they settled as refugees in the wilderness of Uganda. They lived there happily as subsistence farmers, growing all they needed for their survival. When the time of persecution seemed to come to a close they returned to Sudan, but after only a short respite the Muslim leadership began a new program of systemic persecution against Christians. Levi, when only a teenager, was arrested and tortured as his captors sought to convert him to Islam. He refused, trusting that the promises of God were worth far more than his life. While being taken to his place of execution he made a miraculous escape and eventually made his way out of the country and to the United States of America.

In the years since coming to America, Levi founded Operation Nehemiah Missions International and has told his story to millions. He continues to bring awareness to the persecution faced by believers in Sudan and elsewhere.

The Bible or the Axe is quite an interesting book. It is well-written and is sure to bring attention to a group of believers that desperately need our prayers. There were one or two places where I had small concerns about the author’s theology, especially in his understanding of the differences between Protestant and Roman Catholic theology, but this did little to detract from the impact of this stirring story. I have no trouble recommending it.

8 years 11 months ago
I have an avid interest in the Second World War. I am of the generation whose grandfathers fought in the war and I have always been proud of the contributions made by members of my family. My maternal grandfather, Lawrence Belford, wished to fly bombers but was not permitted because of poor eyesight. Still, he served the Royal Canadian Air Force as a member of the ground crew, loading bombs into Lancaster bombers. He would often recount his memories of the war and at one point I even conducted an interview with him. My grandmother’s brother, Harold, was a Spitfire pilot who lost his life in a mission over the Mediterranean. My paternal grandfather, George Challies, whom I never met, was a Lieutenant Colonel and I am unsure of his contribution, though I believe he commanded an artillery training centre in Quebec. When I was in college I majored in history (my minor was in euchre) and took every possible course that centered around the war years. While I have since turned to other interests I continue to have a fascination with the war and read about it as often as I am able.

This fascination led me to read War and Grace: Short Biographies from the World Wars, a book of brief biographies written by Don Stephens. The thirteen biographies have one thing in common - the subjects are all Christians. A few of these people were believers long before the war began, while others were converted during or after the war.

What I found particularly interesting is that I knew of many of the people whose lives are examined in this book, yet I had no idea that they had become Christians. For example, anyone who has studied the war knows of Mitsuo Fuchida who was the chief pilot for the Japanese in the attack on Pearl Harbour. He is famous for giving the signal to attack and then crying “Tora! Tora! Tora!, the codeword to indicate that the Japanese had achieved complete surprise. But what fewer know, I’m sure, is that after the war he became a believer and spent the rest of his life in passionate, fruitful ministry to the Lord.

Years after the war Fuchida crossed paths with another subject of this book, Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders who spent several years in Japanese custody after his plane crashed. In prison he was given a Bible and in his autobiography he writes, “On June 8th, 1944, the words of Romans 10:9 stood out boldly before my eyes: ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’ In that very moment God gave me grace to confess my sins to him, and he forgave me and saved me for Jesus’ sake…” After the war DeShazer became a missionary and spent much of his life ministering in Japan. His ministry continues to this day.

The final chapter was the one I found most fascinating. The author writes about Henry Gerecke who was the Protestant (Lutheran) chaplain to the Nazi war criminals during their trial at Nuremberg. Dedicating many months to sharing the gospel with these men, he was blessed to see several of the highest ranking Nazis, men whose crimes live in infamy even today, humble themselves before God. I am sure very few have learned in school that among the last words of Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s foreign minister, were, “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul.” He then turned to Gerecke and said, “I’ll see you again.”

Part of the beauty of this book is that Stephens writes with a Reformed understanding of conversion. He clearly sought out more than just good stories, but looked in particular for stories of true conversion. He leaves little doubt about those who gave their lives to Christ. The theology in this book is deep and satisfying.

So I suppose this book came as a surprise to me. I knew many of the people, but I knew them only from secular texts which had no interest in the spiritual dimensions of their lives. To learn of the deep faith of these people, faith that was often formed and tested in the most difficult of circumstances, was a very pleasant surprise. I highly recommend it.

  Evaluation Support
Theology/Accuracy
Strong, Bible-based theology throughout.
Readability
A little bit clunky at times, but still easy to read and understand.
Uniqueness
Unique in the spiritual dimension of the biographies.
Importance
Well worth reading for anyone with an interest in history or biography.
  Overall
A fascinating book and one I highly recommend.
More About Ratings & Reviews

 

9 years 1 month ago
Of the many biographies of Mother Teresa available to us, to my knowledge only two of them are largely critical in nature. The first, provacatively titled The Missionary Position examines Mother Teresa’s faith and practice. Written by Christopher Hitchens, the book received a fair amount of recognition and formed the basis for a television documentary. The book is quite short and contains very little in the way of footnotes and documentation.

The other critical biography is entitled Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict and is written by Aroup Chatterjee. This title is several hundred pages longer than Hitchens’ book and contains extensive documentation. Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict claims to reveal “the REAL Teresa (from the back cover).” Like Hitchens, Chatterjee is an atheist and his dislike of Mother Teresa has little to do with a religious bias. Like Hitchens, he has found that the reality of the woman and her work is a far cry from the legend. However, unlike Hitchens, he is a native of Calcutta, the city where Mother Teresa did her work, and the very city which will forever be linked to her.

Before I summarize the book, allow me to make one general statement. The book is long - probably too long. As I have already mentioned, Chatterjee provides extensive documentation and often provides multitudes of examples where only two or three may have sufficed. He sometimes repeats information in subsequent chapters, using the same information to prove two points. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does call into question the book’s organization. In short, the book has some of the problems typical of those that have not been professionally edited. Due to the nature of the book’s subject matter, professional publishing was not a possibility, so Chatterjee had to make do largely on his own.

A terse summary of Chatterjee’s primary concerns with Mother Teresa appear in the final chapter where he quotes his “Deposition Before the Committee for Beatification/Canonisation of Mother Teresa.” Among Chatterjee’s concerns are:

  • Mother Teresa often said that she picked people up from the streets of Calcutta, but she and her order of nuns did not do this. People requesting such service were told curtly to ring 102 (similar to 911).
  • While the order owns several ambulances, these are used primarily to transport nuns to and from places of prayer.
  • Mother Teresa said that her order fed 4000, 5000, 7000 or 9000 Caltuttans every day (the number varied). The two or three soup kitchens in Calcutta feed a maximum of only 300 people per day. The kitchens will provide food only to people with “food cards” that are distrubuted predominantly to the Catholic poor.
  • While Mother Teresa’s order has some presence in many countries throughout the world, the majority of these are for training monks or nuns, not for aiding the poor.
  • Mother Teresa’s shelters will usually only help children if the parents sign a form of renunciation which signs the rights to the children to her organization.
  • Mother Teresa often insists that her natural family clinics prevent unwanted pregnancies, but this number is without any basis in truth.
  • Mother Teresa insisted that suffering was beautiful as it evoked Christ’s suffering, but when ill she visited exclusive, expensive hospitals.
  • The hospice in Calcutta through which Mother Teresa gained such wide recognition is very small (80 beds) and provides little medical care. Needles are reused, all patients are forced to have their heads shaven, visitors are forbidden and painkillers are rarely if ever used. The nurses do not speak the language of the people and are not usually involved in the care of the patients. This duty is assumed by volunteers.
  • Mother Teresa often accepted money from suspicious sources, the most notable of which is Charles Keating, America’s most notorious thief.

Through his research and involvment in the deposition, Chatterjee came to the realization that canonization is not bestowed on the basis of morality, but on the basis of strict and committed adherence to the tenets of Catholicism. As an atheist, this was exasperating to him.

Chatterjee quotes Mother Teresa as saying, “We are not nurses, we are not doctors, we are not teachers, we are not social workers. We are religious, we are religious, we are religious.” Yet Mother Teresa is known as a humanitarian and one who gave her life to the poor. The reality seems far different.

What do we learn from a book like this? We learn that as Christians we must have a consistent witness in our words and our deeds. We also learn the importance of choosing our heroes with the utmost of care. And we learn that many heroes are manufactured - that the legend far exceeds the reality.

9 years 1 month ago
Because of the surprise hit Chariots of Fire, the world knows the name Eric Liddell. Most people also know about the stand he made for his beliefs as he refused to run an Olympic race he was favored to win simply because the race was scheduled for Sunday. Those who have seen the movie know that it ends shortly after he wins an Olympic gold medal in an event in which he had barely trained. But in Pure Gold, a biography of Liddell weighing in at 333 pages, the race is complete by the ninety-eighth page. There is much more to Liddell than the movie portrays.

Eric Liddell is a man who was sold out to God. He regarded his own desires and his own comforts as secondary to God’s. Raised as the son of a missionary, he grew up away from his parents, for in those days children were left in their native country to receive their training, often seeing their parents only once every six or seven years. There was a period of over a decade in Liddell’s life where he was with his parents for only 100 days. Despite the seperation, he received strong training, primarily in the Bible.

While he grew both academically and spiritually, people also came to realize that Liddell had a gift for speed. He was fast. He was also uncouth, with a running style all his own. He would start like any other runner, but as he approached the finish line, he would throw his head back and his arms would begin to flail. Yet somehow, rather than slow him down, this gave him a burst of speed that often led him to victory.

Some of his exploits from his early days are famous, such as the time he fell in a 400-meter race, but managed to climb to his feet and work his way back into first place, making up a deficit of over ten meters. And as we know from the movie, he earned a position on the British Olympic squad at the 1924 Olympic Games where he came away with two medals, a gold and a bronze. He returned to his native Scotland a hero - far and away the best-known athlete in the nation. It was this fame that provided the springboard for his mission work. Despite being a shy and quiet man, he criss-crossed the country, speaking before hundreds of thousands of people, telling them about the Lord and encouraging them to give their lives to Him.

At the very pinnacle of his athletic success, Liddell laid it all aside to become a missionary to China, the country his father had served when Eric was a boy and the country he continued to serve to that day. Liddell counted his prestige as nothing and moved to the mission field. He served the rest of his life in China before his eventual death in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War. It is this period of his life that so few know about, yet this is where we see Liddell at his finest. It is here that we see the power and effectiveness of a life that is sold out to God.

This biography is well-written, inspiring and highly-recommended. It presents Liddell as he really was and helps the reader understand the foundation for his life. It portrays Liddell in his strength and in his weakness, through joy and sadness. It portrays the consistency of a man who lived in the same way when the eyes of the nation were upon him, or when he stood only before the eyes of the Lord.

While Chariots of Fire has done much to bring Liddell to the public eye, and while it presented the man accurately, it tells less than half the story. However, the race which forms the climax to the movie can well be seen as a metaphor for Liddell’s life. He finished the race of life the same way he had finished so many races long before - with his arms flailing and his head turned to the sky, enraptured purely with the joy of running.

  Evaluation Support
Theology/Accuracy
On the whole the theology is solid.
 
Readability
Very well-written and easily readable.
Uniqueness
I don’t know of a better biography of Liddell.
Importance
It is a joy and privilege to learn from those who have run the race before us.
  Overall
A wonderful biography and one I am glad to recommend.
More About Ratings & Reviews

 

9 years 1 month ago
Walking With Arthur is a spiritual memoir. It is one man’s story of a friend God used to guide him to the Lord. As such it is a story not unlike many every Christian has heard. Yet I never grow tired of hearing how God brings His people to Himself, and the circumstances he saves them from.

1984 was a big year for James O’Donnell. It is the year his father died; the year his salary was cut despite great success in his field; the year he decided to divorce his wife; and the year he met Arthur. Arthur, who was older and had been a Christian for a long time, listened to, guided and helped his new friend. He showed him a glimpse of the power of God working in the heart of one of His people. 1984 went from a year of great darkness to a year of the brightest light.

Having told the story of his conversion, the author turns the book over to his friend. It concludes with an epilogue written by Arthur, humbled at having been used in such a way. “To me, the substance of what Jim recalls sounds more like the work of the Holy Spirit, introducing a prism into Jim’s perceptions of me and what I did. Jim saw and heard what he needed to in order to bring him closer to God” (page 148). And isn’t that just how the Holy Spirit works. Arthur concludes the book by writing, “I am astonished and fortunate to have been so used. But the truth is that if I had been given Jim’s teaching and writing skills, I would be writing a book called Walking With Jim” (page 150).

The book is well-written (despite the use of a few too many colloquialisms) and on the whole the theology is sound. While a valuable book, and one I can recommend (even if not too enthusiastically), I would not consider it a must-read. Still, it has a certain charm and I did enjoy it.

  Evaluation Support
Theology/Accuracy
I had a few small concerns, but on the whole it was solid.
 
Readability
Would be 3 if there hadn’t been so many colloquialisms.
Uniqueness
There are plenty of books similar to this.
Importance
While it is a useful book, there are certainly others that are more important.
  Overall
A good reminder of the importance of being a good and consistent witness to those God puts in our lives.
More About Ratings & Reviews

 

9 years 1 month ago
I have often expressed my love of biographies. I consider them to be among the most helpful of resources in helping equip Christians in their lifelong quest for Christ-likeness. We can learn much from the examples of those who have run the race before us. We can learn from what God taught them, learn from their triumphs and learn from the times they were defeated. I have a passion for biographies. I also have a passion for the English language. I love to see how we can use the language to craft works of art. I cannot express myself in the fine arts - music and art are both disciplines that escape me. But I consider myself a wordsmith-in-training. These two loves come together in Jack, a biography of C.S. Lewis written by a veritable master of the English language.

George Sayer had what was probably a unique privilege - he met C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien at the same time. He studied English under the tutelage of both of these men while at Oxford University. He became friends with Lewis, growing closer as they grew older. As a friend he provides a unique perspective on what is surely a unique individual.

I have never had the interest in and respect for C.S. Lewis that so many Christians afford him. Perhaps it is that I tend to see in black and white. Lewis exemplified some of the best and yet some of the worst in his understanding of Christianity. It seems that for every major doctrine he so brilliantly defended, there was another that he denied. For every brilliant insight there is a terrible oversight.

Jack provides a glimpse into Lewis’ life. This, combined with penetrating analysis from one who knew him well, makes this biography not only fascinating, but very credible. Sayer covers all of the foundational parts of Lewis’ life - the death of his mother, his education, his infatuation with Mrs. Moore and his conversion to Christianity. The author looks also at most of Lewis’ major writings. Having spent so much time with his subject, Sayer is even able to describe an average day in the life of C.S. Lewis - just the type of detail that is interesting, but is absent from most biographies.

The detail, while interesting and often even necessary, is sometimes almost uncomfortable. Sayers goes so far as to detail Lewis’ personal struggles with masturbation and fantasy as a youth, and his later fascination with his wife’s body. Yet he does this not merely for the sake of being explicit, but always to help us better understand Lewis. He seeks to help the reader understand Lewis not just as an author, but as a person. He wants to show Lewis in the good times as well as the bad. He seeks to show Lewis as he really was.

Thoroughly-researched and exquisitely-written, this is a brilliant biography of a figure whose importance to Christianity seems to be growing, even forty years after his death. With a major movie series coming to theatres beginning this year, we will surely hear a lot more about Lewis than ever before. While many biographies have been written about him, I would have trouble believing any could be better than this. No matter your opinion of the man himself, Jack, as a book, is a gem; a jewel; an absolute triumph.

  Evaluation Support
Theology/Accuracy
There is not a lot of theology in this biography.
 
Readability
Easy to read and written by a master.
Uniqueness
There are many biographies of Lewis, but most are written by outsiders.
Importance
Should be read by every fan of C.S. Lewis. Others will benefit as well.
  Overall
A great biography of a strange man who has made many contributions to Christianity.
More About Ratings & Reviews

 

Pages