The following is a review that I wrote for book club a month or so ago. In case the review doesn’t make it evident enough, I THINK EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. Ahem. Yeah. It’s spectactular.
A few years ago I participated in a public speaking course. There were various things to learn and practice, and of course at the end we were expected to get up and give a ten minute talk. To help guide us in our topic choosing, we were told to pick one of our heroes and speak on them. For some reason or other, I settled on William Wilberforce. At the time I knew that he had accomplished a lot of good in stopping the slave trade, but I really didn’t know much beyond that. I admired him and what he did, but that was about all.
Doing the research and speaking on him as I had, I’ve kept a passive interest in as the years have continued until now. I was therefore quite interested when I saw that Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper was one of the books on the reading list. It didn’t disappoint. Actually, it did more than not disappoint, I was overjoyed, and kept flipped page after page, soaking in all the information.
I think the thing that sets apart Piper’s book is the fact that it’s told with the specific purpose to shed insight into Wilberforce’s faith in God. In fact, though it’s listed as a biography, I actually would not think of that word when reading it. The word that first came to mind was a behind the scenes look at his faith, but the second thought is that that doesn’t work, because the one thing Wilberforce’s faith isn’t is hidden. So I think I would call this book a closer look at an aspect of Wilberforce’s life that is vitally important to understanding who he is.
The thing is, you see, that while it shows his Christianity in a clarity that I haven’t seen elsewhere, it really doesn’t show the rest of his life. There is the barest of facts about what he did, his childhood, his friends, important speeches he gave, people he met, etcetera. It just wasn’t there. And in that sense, it failed as a biography. But on the other hand, I’m kind of glad it didn’t have that, because than you could completely focus on what Piper wanted to present: The amazingness of God in Wilberforce’s life. For me this worked absolutely fine since I already had the sketch of his life. I believe this book would work best alongside another biography of William Wilberforce, and that way the reader would get the details of his life and his faith.
The picture presented of Wilberforce’s faith was inspiring. It was that, and not Piper’s writing, that kept the pages turning. It was amazing to see how God worked in his life, how he had the utter joy of Christ in everything he did, how after setback after setback, health issue after health issue, defeat after defeat, he pressed on towards his goal, knowing it was right, knowing it was his duty. He knew the army he was in, and how he wasn’t a soldier called to sit on the sidelines. He was, all in all, a man so devoted to God he did everything his Maker asked of him to do with joy in his heart.
I believe that is why Piper thinks so much of him, and I can hardly find base to disagree. Though many people might not like the evident bias in the book, the book would be nothing without that bias. And the man depicted would mean so much more less without the knowledge of him contained in this book.
I would absolutely recommend John Piper’s Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce to anyone who wanted to learn more about Wilberforce. Actually, I would just recommend it to anyone period, as it is exceptional. It has taken a man I have admired and has truly made him one of my heroes.