Engaging the culture: Eric Metaxas challenges students

Author, commentator and Yale graduate Eric Metaxas spoke in the Towns Alumni Hall Tuesday, Oct. 5, on his critically acclaimed book “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery” as part of the English and Modern Languages Alumni Lecture Series.

“If you are here, raise your hand,” Metaxas said, bringing the over-crowded room into laughter. “I’m happy people are here even if it’s only for extra credit … The only thing I’ve done worth mentioning is my work for Veggie Tales.”

After the laughter, Metaxas’ lecture focused on the life and faith of Wilberforce. Wilberforce became influential in British Parliament in his early 20s and is known for his role as one of the world’s most famous and influential abolitionists.

Metaxas used his book to challenge the audience to consider what God is calling them to do and submit to it.

“People suffered less because of (Wilberforce’s) obedience to Jesus Christ,” Metaxas said. “Wilberforce has been a hero of mine for many years.  The thought of writing (Amazing Grace) was a daunting task, but I really felt called by the Lord to do this.”

Metaxas spoke about how Wilberforce used his political influence to affect a broken culture where 25 percent of single women were prostitutes and people were uneducated about slavery. According to Metaxas, two of Wilberforce’s goals were to reform British morals as well as to abolish the slave trade. At the very end of his life, Wilberforce got word that slavery had been officially abolished by parliament.

“This is a fact, not my version of the story,” Metaxas said.

Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages Dr. Karen Swallow Prior invited Metaxas because of his published works and the monthly philosophical forum that he hosts, Socrates in the City.

“[Metaxas] sets an example of a Christian who is intellectually engaging the culture,” Prior said. “This is why he fits the lecture series.”

Metaxas’ lecture was the third in the series, which is held every semester. Julia Bolton Holloway is the proposed speaker for the next lecture, according to Prior.

“Even if many students come (just) for the extra credit, they’re still being exposed to Christian speakers who are loving God with all their minds as well as their hearts,” Prior said.

Roughly 800 people filled the Towns Alumni Hall, with students standing in the back and sitting in the aisles. Prior believes the turnout and lecture showed the progress of Liberty as an academic institution. Metaxas also spoke in faculty chapel Wednesday Oct. 6 on “Christians in Popular Culture.”

Metaxas was the narrator for Veggie Tales’ Esther videos and wrote several children’s books along with his nationally recognized books about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce.

“Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery” was written as the companion piece to the real events featured in the movie entitled “Amazing Grace,” which was released in February 2007.

POWLEY is a feature reporter.

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