Great Men Bow Down: Legendary Men Of History Reveal Their Source Of True Greatness, by Gordon Lawrence
This book was given to me by a friend of mine, and it was fairly obvious to see the appeal of the author’s argument about the fundamental nature of Christian belief to 150 somewhat arbitrarily chosen famous people, most of whom are dead but some of whom are alive. It should be noted that the author’s approach is by no means unique to him . Probably the most worthwhile aspect of this book is the fact that it demonstrates the fact that in times past almost all people, even those whose views about faith and Jesus Christ were highly ambivalent and complicated, felt it necessary to praise Christianity in public and profess a belief in the truths of Christianity, whatever they held them to be. It should be openly understood, though, that this is not a book that explores the nuanced and complicated aspects of the faith of the people it discusses, but seeks to place all of the people talked about as being people who would bow down to God in worship and belief, and to recognize the sovereignty of God in their lives, and given some of the people chosen, that claim seems too extravagant to believe. The result is a book that offers some interesting quotes and reading material but ultimately falls short of its ambitious aims.
This book consists of two uneven parts that appear to be essential to the author’s aim to use a certain perspective of history as a way of encouraging faith in readers, especially prisoners and soldiers and other reasons who may not be familiar with the larger discourse of the importance of faith to historical personages. After a short introduction of the author’s purposes, the book moves on to its main purpose, showing 150 men who supposedly bowed to God and accepted His authority and His word from a diverse group of fields. This is truly a diverse group of people, organized in alphabetical order, including such people as: Dante, Napoleon, Johnny Cash, Christopher Columbus, da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, George Handel, George Foreman, Thomas Jefferson, Tom Landry, Rich Mullins, William Penn, Ronald Reagan, Nikola Tessla, Mark Twain, Goethe, and Zig Ziglar, among many others. A short biography of the person is given on one page, along with a discussion of the author about their faith and what set them apart–and occasionally a frank discussion of the struggles of their life against character flaws or mental illness or other difficulties and circumstances, and then the other side either contains quotes from the writings (without context or citation) of the person or some other quotes from several people about the same sort of subject matter, like character or thanksgiving or the supposed immortality of the soul that the author views as being particularly relevant to the life of the person discussed. After this larger section the book contains a section called Seven Words of Transformation that gives the author’s discussion of various matters of faith and doctrine, giving seven fundamental beliefs: the sovereignty of God, the deity of Christ, the authority of scripture, the reality of sin, the necessity of salvation, the ministry of the Spirit, and the destiny of man, discussed as someone seeking to build a sense of ecumenical unity on these beliefs.
It is disappointing to read a book about a subject I greatly appreciate and to feel let down by its contents. While being aware that the book was not written for a scholarly or intellectual audience, I am left with the feeling that it could have been written a lot better, with a citation of sources that would have encouraged the readers of this book into further reading and reflection on the complicated nature of the public expressions of public figures who had complicated and deeply flawed personal lives and public reputations, at a time where there were expectations that political and cultural leaders would hold conventional beliefs and practices, and some of the quotes included are rather dishonest in nature if one knows about the people saying them, or at best dodges that attempt to mollify potential discontent about beliefs and behaviors, or simple answers in lieu of more complicated and more honest answers. By taking those pat answers at face value and then using them to demonstrate a certain willingness to obey God is unsettling and leaves the author’s arguments open to serious criticism from those who do not wish to see Christianity as part of our public discourse and who do not recognize either the history or the contemporary importance of faith to success in politics, science, the arts or any other human endeavor. This book is a missed opportunity, but clearly a sincere effort.
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