Posts tagged with: William Wilberforce

When I watched Eric Metaxas deliver his remarks at this year’s national prayer breakfast, I was awed with the way he challenged the president on the issue of life and religious liberty. His words were wrapped in humor and informed by a powerful history that gave an edge to his remarks.

Metaxas challenged the president and the audience with the witness of historical figures such as William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He invited them to live out their faith and to defend the innocent and our religious freedoms. “Wilberfoce suddenly took the Bible seriously that all of us are created in the image of God, to care for the least of these. You think you’re better than the Germans of that era? You’re not,” said Metaxas. He asked: “Whom do we say is not fully human today?” If you haven’t heard his address it’s well worth your time.

In the new issue of Religion & Liberty, Metaxas defends religious liberty and offers insight into the challenges facing the culture and nation. He will keynote Acton’s Annual Dinner in October of this year.

Three great book reviews can be found in this issue. Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse offers an analysis of Leon Aron’s Road to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991. Rev. Gregory Jensen reviews Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics and Jonathan Witt reviews Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. All three reviews uplift universal truths about God and man, something we are proud of and strive to do in the pages of R&L.

The issue also includes an excerpt titled “Desiccated Christianity” from Rev. Robert Sirico’s new book Defending the Free Market . The “In the Liberal Tradition” figure is Acton’s good friend Charles W. Colson (1931-2012). Acton had the privilege of conducting the last media interview with Colson. It’s a powerful testimony.

There is more content in the issue and be sure to check out my editor’s notes for additional comments and insight.

Eric Metaxas, author of the recently published biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, sat down with the Alliance Defense Fund to speak on the role of the church in public policy and how Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s example is especially relevant today. Metaxas, also the author of a biography on William Wilberforce,  is slated to deliver a lecture at Acton University on June 14 and the keynote address at the Acton Institute’s Annual Dinner on October 24th. Click on the links to register online.

We as Americans are very proud of our history. We admire our forefathers who took a stand for liberty to found this great nation, but it would be unwise, as her former colonists, for Americans to overlook the British contribution to human freedom following the events of 1776. Doing so will allow us to understand more fully the role of religion and freedom in our own society.

The beginning of the 19th century was a tumultuous time for those who love liberty. Embroiled in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars from 1793-1815, Great Britain fought and bested every sea power in Europe. With her naval supremacy assured by the victory at Trafalgar in 1805, Britain undertook a new moral enterprise in 1807—the end of the slave trade in the Atlantic.

While Great Britain was the only country with a navy capable of pursuing this endeavor, an underlying question remains unanswered. Why would the British attempt this? Britain was the foremost slave trading power in the two decades preceding the Slave Trade Act of 1807, and her government made tremendous profits by transporting human cargo to the New World. Furthermore, the embattled crown committed 13 percent of her navy to a newly formed, “West Africa Squadron” in order to suppress the illicit industry. The squadron would operate until the 1860s and more than 25 percent of its sailors would die, mostly from malaria and yellow fever. Despite these figures, the Royal Navy freed 150,000 Africans from bondage, captured 1,600 slave ships, and burned slave trading depots from the Cape of Good Hope to Morocco, which effectively ended the trans-Atlantic slave trade by 1866.

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Blog author: jarmstrong
Monday, February 26, 2007
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Rarely have I seen a movie that moved me the way Amazing Grace did last evening. The new film, which opened across America on Friday, is the story of the life-long struggle of William Wilberforce to end slavery and reform British society in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The movie should compel Christians to understand how culture can be truly altered by incrementalism, deep faith, sheer perseverance, and quite often with great personal sacrifice.

When the anti-slavery movement began in earnest in the late 18th century almost every leader in the British Empire embraced the retention of slavery on economic and, in some cases, so-called “Christian” grounds. One of the chief influences against the horrible institution was John Newton, the evangelical Anglican clergyman who wrote the world best-known hymn, “Amazing Grace,” thus the title of this new movie. Newton had been a “slaver” himself and thus knew well what happened to the Africans who were sold into slavery. After his conversion Newton lived with the nightmare of 20,000 African souls perishing through his own complicity and consistently opposed the grim sale of human people. He not only preached the gospel, as a faithful evangelical minister, but resolutely opposed slavery to his last breath. The young Wilberforce had sat under Newton’s gospel ministry and had adopted his stance against slavery as a very young MP. Wilberforce then forged a deep and lifelong friendship with William Pitt, who later became prime minister. It was Pitt who often helped Wilberforce in his efforts, though at times Pitt wavered in his own resolve when Britain faced possible revolution after the American and French Revolutions. The great wisdom of Wilberforce was to resist the short-cut of revolution, both in rhetoric and reality, and to do so with an abiding determination to end slavery without bloodshed. As a result of his determined efforts Britain was spared the terrible conflict that plagued America from 1861-1865. In this case one man did make a huge difference!

This movie provides moving portraits of John Newton, William Wilberforce, William Pitt and even Wilberforce’s wife, among many others of that era who played major roles in these dark times. This film grips the heart, moves the soul, and deeply and profoundly impressed upon me the need for true reformers in our time, men and women who have both the spiritual depth and the moral courage to wisely oppose evils that plague our modern societies. We too soon forget that slavery still exists, in the form of female prostitution. We also forget that Africa still faces major crises that bring about the death of millions every single year, including Muslim attacks upon whole people groups in the Sudan and the ravaging scourge of HIV/AIDS that wipes out multitudes every day.

Some have said Amazing Grace does not present the gospel and thus fails to tell our story. Don’t believe it. The Four Spiritual Laws are not presented, as if this is the only way to tell the gospel, but the message is there in a powerful way. Amazing Grace will inspire you. Hopefully it will also move you to act on your conscience to support every cause that advances justice and reform in society and throughout the world. As I left the theater I thought of many modern reformers but the contributions of Bono were particularly brought to my mind as I prayed and thought about those who persist in making major efforts for justice and Christian concern in our day, just as Wilberforce did in his time. I can’t help but think that far too many conservative Christians are sleeping through a time that calls for radical sacrifice on our part. Maybe this movie will stir minds and hearts. I pray so. See it as soon as possible.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."