Eric Metaxas to Bonhoeffer Scholars: Every Syllable of My Bonhoeffer Bio is True

Eric Metaxas lives in a curious space among those who admire and study German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In one universe dominated by evangelicals outside of academia, Metaxas is viewed as a Bonhoeffer scholar. In another dominated by academics and Bonhoeffer scholars, he is considered to be a Bonhoeffer revisionist, someone who has hijacked Bonhoeffer perhaps for partisan religious purposes.
Yesterday on his radio show, Metaxas took aim at the latter group. His guest on the program was Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn. Arnn, a Winston Churchill scholar, told Metaxas about a recent talk at Hillsdale by the widow of Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert. In the course of the discussion with Mrs. Gilbert, the subject of Bonhoeffer came up. Arnn said all of the information about Bonhoeffer in the room came from Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer bio. Listen (at about 3:15 in the podcast):

Transcript:
There are a number of liberal critics of my book. I keep seeing stuff on the Internet and they’re very vicious and they act as though I threw something together over a weekend to suit my view of the world, you know, wrapped in the life of Bonhoeffer and I just want to use this opportunity, since I am not typically talking about my book on Bonhoeffer. Anybody who is a historian on any level whether professionally, academically, or more as an amateur as I am, you know you want to take facts very seriously. And I do want to say that there’s not a syllable in my Bonhoeffer book that isn’t true and I think that people who don’t like how Bonhoeffer comes out in my book, that’s really something that reveals where they’re coming from more than where Bonhoeffer or I are coming from because his is such a well documented life.

Taking a page from David Barton, Metaxas reduces his critical reviewers to liberals when in fact at least some of the critical “stuff” is coming from conservative evangelicals. For instance, one of the more scathing reviews of Metaxas’ book was written by Richard Weikart, an evangelical professor who is also a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute promotes intelligent design and is anything but a haven for liberals. Here is what Weikart says about accuracy in Metaxas’ book:

Let’s start with the historical problems. Metaxas read enough about Bonhoeffer’s life to get many facts right about the events of Bonhoeffer’s life. This is the strongest part of the biography. Even here, however, there are some major problems. For instance, Metaxas mistakenly claims, “From the beginning of his time until the end, Bonhoeffer maintained the daily discipline of scriptural meditation and prayer he had been practicing for more than a decade. . . . Once he got his Bible back he read it for hours each day.” (p. 438) This portrait will certainly make Bonhoeffer popular among serious evangelicals, but unfortunately this image is false. In 1944 Bonhoeffer wrote to his friend Eberhard Bethge, “Once again I’m having weeks when I don’t read the Bible much.” Bonhoeffer had told Bethge the same thing twice before in 1941 and 1942. [4]
Metaxas also does not have a solid grasp on Bonhoeffer’s historical context. It is hard to give much credence to someone writing about German history who thinks that Bonn is in Switzerland or that Hitler was democratically elected into office or that Germany was not yet a police state in August 1934. Metaxas also claims that the Barmen Declaration, which was the doctrinal statement of the Confessing Church, rejected anti-Semitism. In reality, the Barmen Declaration does not mention anti-Semitism at all, and many scholars have criticized it for this.

Remember Weikart is not a liberal.
To fact check the claim about the Barmen Declaration, all one has to do is read the declaration (source) and compare it to what Metaxas wrote about it in the Bonhoeffer bio on page 222.

On the last three days of May 1934, the leaders of the Pastors’ Emergency League held a synod in Barmen. It was there, on the Wupper River, that they wrote the famous Barmen Declaration, from which emerged what came to be known as the Confessing Church.
The purpose of the Barmen Declaration was to state what the German church had always believed, to ground it in the Scriptures, and to differentiate it from the bastardized theology that had been coming from the German Christians. It made clear that the German church was not under the authority of the state; it repudiated the anti-Semitism and other heresies of the German Christians and their “official” church led by Müller. (emphasis added)

As Weikart said, the Barmen Declaration doesn’t address anti-Semitism. Metaxas said the document repudiated it.
Two other Bonhoeffer scholars have written critical reviews which point out some of the book’s errors. I don’t know the political views of Victoria Barnett or Clifford Green but I do know they know their Bonhoeffer. They point out many syllables which should be examined (See Barnett’s review here, and Green’s here).
For my part, I have documented that the quote Metaxas attributes to Bonhoeffer — Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold usmetaxas back flap guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act — did not come from Bonhoeffer’s works. In fact, I have repeatedly asked Metaxas for a citation for the quote or, in absence of a source, a retraction and he has never responded.*
Even though I am confident in my work, I cannot imagine claiming that it is flawless or infallible. In fact, people who claim such perfection should arouse our skepticism. Rather than bask in the glow of his guest’s flattery, I hold out hope that Metaxas might eventually take a more reasonable and scholarly approach.
Later in the broadcast, Dr. Arnn suggested that Metaxas consider college teaching. I do not second that motion. One must be prepared to accept peer review and critical reflection in order to do so. Apparently, Metaxas believes he has no need of such refinement.
 
*This is not the first time Metaxas has minimized his factual errors. See his response to significant problems with the historical accounts in his new book, If You Can Keep It (link, link). See also this new review at Christ and Pop Culture.

Eric Metaxas: Trump is not wrong nearly as much as everybody says he’s wrong

Trump is not wrong nearly as much as everybody says he’s wrong. – Eric Metaxas
This and other gems can be found in an interview with Metaxas conducted by Emma Green for The Atlantic and out this morning. Green interviewed Metaxas at the March for Life and then followed up with an email about Trump’s controversial travel ban.
The above quote in italics comes from an exchange where Green asked:

Green: Evangelical Christians, as a group, are committed to the idea that there is a truth that can be firmly established. But at times, this does not seem to be Trump’s worldview. Take voter fraud—a claim he has repeated with no evidence to back it up.

About Trump’s outrageous claim that 1.5-3 million people voted illegally in the last election, Metaxas answered:

Metaxas: I’m dying to see what this investigation will turn up. Here’s one thing the media and all of us should learn: Trump is not wrong nearly as much as everybody says he’s wrong. In the end, often, what he’s said has been corroborated. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to look into it. It undermines democracy even if there’s a perception of voter fraud.

Probably, I shouldn’t be too surprised since Metaxas said he used David Barton’s materials to help him write his fact-challenged book, If You Can Keep It.
No, the media doesn’t need to learn anything. They need to proceed on the basis that facts should be verified.
Metaxas told Green: “It undermines democracy even if there’s a perception of voter fraud.” We agree there. And that’s why it is irresponsible for Trump to continue claiming without evidence that millions voted illegally.
Finally, on the immigration ban, Metaxas reveals that he hasn’t read that much about it: “As far as I can tell from my limited reading, the order is not what so many are saying it is.” My answer is that he needs to read more. He could start here, and then here and especially here. Perhaps, he should read this report as well.

Which Donald Trump Did Eric Metaxas Support?

Just before Donald Trump told the whole world that all decisions he makes will be according to the values of “America First,” Eric Metaxas published a piece in the Wall Street Journal with the title, “The Promise of Donald Trump.”
In his inaugural address, Trump said:

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.

In his short piece, Metaxas echoed the themes in his factually flawed book, “If You Can Keep It.” From the article:

Most who have truly loved America have done so with a conviction that we are, to use Lincoln’s phrase, God’s “almost chosen people.” We have been abundantly blessed not for ourselves, but so that we could be a beacon of hope and freedom to the world, not least for people like my parents, who sailed to these shores from war-torn Europe in the 1950s and who, when they passed the Statue of Liberty, were enraptured and emotional, knowing that the liberty it represented was not just a word but could be a way of life, one they hoped to embrace and pass on to their children, and now have, by God’s grace.

Metaxas doesn’t seem to hear the “America First” part of the promises from Donald Trump. Metaxas wants us to believe that America has been brought into existence by God to help others. Trump seems to favor a more nationalistic set of values.

This Popular Quote — A Private Faith That Does Not Act — Is about William Wilberforce Not by Him

When I first read it, it occurred to me that there was something not quite right about the tweet below:


Eric Metaxas, who wrote a biography about Wilberforce, retweeted the quote without comment so surely it was said by Wilberforce, right?
I view most quotes now with suspicion (see this quote misattributed to Bonhoeffer) and this one looked fishy. Indeed, it isn’t by Wilberforce but about him.
I posted the quote on Twitter and asked for assistance tracking it down. It didn’t take long for Matthew Dickson to post a link to an Introduction written by Chuck Colson to a 1996 reprinting of Wilberforce’s A Practical View of Christianity. On Twitter at least the switch of attribution from Colson to Wilberforce took place sometime between 2011 and 2012.
Here is the quote from Colson’s Introduction:
Colson quote about WW
So Colson wrote it about Wilberforce. Even though it is frequently attributed to Wilberforce, it isn’t his quote.
As I have explored these fake or misattributed quotes, I have found that a major problem to accuracy is a site called “AZ Quotes.” This site is often referred to by misguided quoters. Along with Eric Metaxas, AZ quotes seems to show up frequently as a source for the misattributed quote about silence in the face of evil. Although I have reported both quotes as being wrongly attributed, the quotes remain. Perhaps, the site needs to hear from more readers.

Ecclesia College Benefited from Arkansas Bribery Scheme

UPDATE: Ecclesia College president Oren Paris III tonight issued a statement denying any wrongdoing in this case.
A news report out of Arkansas sounds ominous for some of the blog’s favorite people.
Ecclesia College received $200,000 from an Arkansas government agency to build a building on campus. According to the report a sitting State Representative took a $18,000 bribe in order to funnel the money to Ecclesia.
This isn’t the first time Ecclesia benefited from public funds. The school received $592,000 via the same discretionary fund in calendar years 2013 and 2014. Only the Arkansas Energy Office received a higher amount of funding over the same period.  Despite lack of regional accreditation, Arkansas tax dollars have been spent lavishly on Ecclesia.
David Barton and Eric Metaxas are on the Board of Regents at Ecclesia, although there is nothing in the report suggesting they knew anything about the matter.
According to the plea agreement, the president (not named in the agreement) of “Entity B” was aware of the arrangement. The president of “Entity B” (Ecclesia College) is Oren Paris III.
According to a contact at Ecclesia president Paris is meeting with the board about the plea agreement this afternoon.
Here’s part of the agreement involving the only named participant, Representative Micah Neal:

Honest Services Fraud Concerning Entity B
v. In or around 2014, Senator A told NEAL that if NEAL, as an Arkansas Representative, authorized and directed GIF money to Entity B, then Person B would pay NEAL a portion of the money in exchange for EAL’s official action.
w. NEAL and Senator A agreed to authorize and direct a total of $200,000 of GIF money to Entity B in exchange for kickbacks from Person B. Of the $200,000, NEAL agreed to direct $50,000 of the GIF money to Entity B, and Senator A agreed to direct $150,000 of the GIF money to Entity B.
x. On or about December 18, 2014, the NWAEDD issued a check in the amount of$200,000, and drawn on the NWAEDD’s Arvest Bank account ending in 8611, to Entity B. The check constituted GIF monies that had been appropriated by NEAL and Senator A, and was awarded pursuant to a GIF grant application signed by Person B that had been emailed, via interstate wire communications, to the NWAEDD from Entity B in Springdale, Arkansas, on or about December 5, 2014. The application requested a $200,000 GIF grant and listed NEAL and Senator A as sponsors.
y. On or about December 19, 2014, the $200,000 check from the NWAEDD to Entity B was deposited into Entity B’s Centennial Bank account ending in 0681. Arvest Bank subsequently settled the check totaling $200,000 with Centennial Bank via an interstate wire communication.
z. The spreadsheets maintained by the NWAEDD for NEAL and Senator A showed a deduction in December 2014 of $50,000 and $150,000, respectively, for the GIF grant awarded to Entity B.
aa. A check dated January 5, 2015 and drawn on Entity B’s Centennial Bank account ending in 0681 in the amount of $65,000 was issued to Person C’s company and deposited that same day into Person C’s company’s Arvest Bank account ending in 7761. The check was issued at the direction of Person B. Over the following three days, Person C made three cash withdrawals per day totaling $53,700 from his company’s Arvest Bank account ending in 7761.
bb. Between approximately December 19, 2014 and approximately January 30, 2015, and following Entity B’s receipt of NEAL’s and Senator A’s GIF money in the amount of $200,000, Senator A contacted NEAL and told him that Person C would be bringing $18,000 in cash to NEAL in exchange for NEAL having authorized and directed the appropriation of the GIF money to Entity B.
cc. Between approximately December 19, 2014 and approximately January 30, 2015, and following NEAL’s communication with Senator A, Person C met with NEAL and, on behalf of Person B, paid NEAL $18,000 in cash.
dd. NEAL agrees and stipulates that he conspired with Senator A and others in the Western District of Arkansas and elsewhere to deprive the citizens of the State of Arkansas of his honest services as an Arkansas state legislator by taking official actions and using his official position to appropriate and direct funds to Entity A and Entity B in exchange for kickback payments, and that the conspiracy and scheme to defraud the citizens of the State of Arkansas of his honest services involved the use of interstate wire communications and mailings that were sent and/or received in the Western District of Arkansas.

Stay tuned…

Update on a Spurious Bonhoeffer Quote: Not to Speak is to Speak, Not to Act is to Act

Silence hands version
In late August, I published an examination of a popular quote commonly but incorrectly attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

The quote cannot be found in Bonhoeffer’s writings and no other primary source has been found.  The first appearance of the entire quote I can find is in a 1998 American Interfaith Institute newsletter. The newsletter reported on a museum exhibit featuring Bonhoeffer. The quote was placed on the Bonhoeffer exhibit with quotation marks as if Bonhoeffer said it but without any citation. The quote has been popularized by Eric Metaxas who still attributes the quote to Bonhoeffer even though he has refused to provide a primary source for it.

Today, I want to present a source for part of the quote which is earlier than 1998. In Robert K. Hudnut’s 1971 book, A Sensitive Man and the Christ, he makes a case that even a sensitive man must act when the need arises.

Hudnut speak act 1971
There are two aspects of this passage which may link it to the eventual misattribution to Bonhoeffer. One is Hudnut’s challenge for the church not to be silent in the face of social evils. The second is the reference to Niemoller and resistance to the Nazis. Through the frailty of memory and lack of citation, someone could have reworked this into a quote about the church not being silent and attributed it to Niemoller’s colleague, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

For “Not to act is to act” by itself, one can go back to 1945 when Francis McPeek said church inaction was a form of political action in an essay titled, “Not to Act is to Act.”

For “God will not hold us guiltless,” one can find many references to that sentence by going to Google books and entering the sentence in quotes. The links returned go back to 1681.

The Hudnut quote was pointed out to me by a Twitter user. I would like to thank him but I can’t find the tweet. If my helper is reading, please identify yourself in the comments.

UPDATE: Found! See below:

Donald Trump's Campaign Manager Whipping Up Hysteria Over Voting Machines (UPDATED)

This tweet from Kellyanne Conway is highly irresponsible and may serve to gum up the works at polls around the country.
Here is what she tweeted (by the way Eric Metaxas retweeted this – see below).


Trump partisans on social media are going absolutely insane over the report of one woman in TX who said her vote for the Republican ticket was changed to a vote for Clinton. With the Trump campaign fueling the fire, Trump fans are insisting on paper ballots because now they are whipping up distrust of voting machines (allegedly linked to George Soros).
According an Amarillo news report, there has been only one report of an irregularity — the woman who reported it on Facebook. Election officials at the polling location in Randall County — most of whom are Republican — report that the machine test out fine and votes aren’t being changed.

Concerns first appear to have come to light from a Randall County woman who posted on Facebook, “I voted a straight Republican ticket and as I scrolled to submit my ballot I noticed that the Republican Straight ticket was highlighted, however, the clinton/kaine box was also highlighted! I tried to go back and change and could not get it to work. I asked for help from one of the workers and she couldn’t get it to go back either. It took a second election person to get the machine to where I could correct the vote to a straight ticket. Be careful and double-check your selections before you cast your vote! Don’t hesitate to ask for help. I had to have help to get mine changed.”
Randall County Elections Administrator Shannon Lackey said what likely happened was that the machines allow for crossover votes, where a voter can select a straight-ticket ballot, but are still permitted to change their vote in individual elections for candidates of other parties.
Lackey went on to say that this is the sixth election that the machines have been used in Randall County.
“All of our machines are state- and federal-
certified,” Lackey said. “Other states use them, and they are used in many other counties in Texas. We can prove it (a machine) hasn’t been tampered with. We do extensive testing; the machine can’t change votes. It wasn’t anything on purpose from either side, but we are glad to clear the air on the issue.”
Huntley confirmed Tuesday there no issues with equipment on the first day of early voting.

I can imagine now that worried Trump voters will demand paper ballots or take longer to vote, thus lengthening wait times at the polls. At the least, now the more conspiracy minded of the Trump clan will have yet another campaign-endorsed reason to question a Trump defeat.
Calling the election results into question without evidence is staggeringly irresponsible and I call on Trump supporters among my evangelical tribe to stop it. Please check things out before you pass along misinformation.
Metaxas retweet voting booth
Fox News is linking the interest in this story to machines allegedly owned by a George Soros owned company.


According to this Business Insider report, the voting machine maker isn’t owned by Soros and they won’t be used in this year’s election (check out Smartmatic’s website on these topics).
Actor James Woods is spreading the insanity:

Eric Metaxas Illustrates What Evangelicals Need to Correct

As the Donald Trump saga nears the end, it will be good to reflect on what can be learned. One thing I hope for is a backlash against false or misleading information being used by evangelicals to make their political points.
Case in point:


Of course, this kind of thing has been going on for years. However, after so many people have been repeatedly misled by so called thought leaders, I hope more evangelicals wake up to the need for simple fact checking.
On this story, Michelle Goldberg contacted the source.

So I called him. Masada told me that on Nov. 11, he got a call from a man named John—he doesn’t remember the last name—who sounded “distinguished, like an attorney.” John said he represented the Clinton campaign. He asked Masada “who had put him up” to posting the video. In a menacing voice, he told Masada, “This is not good for your business.” John then asked for the email or phone numbers of the five comedians who were featured in the video. “I told him, ‘Eff you,’ and I hung up,” says Masada.

That’s it. That’s all I could find to support the story. Even if this “John” had some connection to the Clinton campaign, it doesn’t mean Mrs. Clinton put him up to it. In any case, this hearsay is not sufficient evidence to go with a news report or even an advocacy piece (as Judicial Watch did).
Metaxas should be ashamed to spread around unsubstantiated reports in this manner and then indict the media over it. We do have a free press and Michelle Goldberg did her job. Apparently, Metaxas didn’t check it out or only believes those who report what he already believes.
To be taken seriously, evangelical leaders must become more skeptical and better fact checkers.
Update: Let’s not forget that Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have a sense of humor.

Eric Metaxas Complains about Clinton Misquotes, Refuses to Correct the Quote He Misattributed to Bonhoeffer

During the debate between Clinton and Trump last night, Eric Metaxas tweeted the following:


Hillary said in passing that “America is great because America is good.” Although the quote is commonly associated with Tocqueville, it can’t be found in his works.
During the debate, Clinton did not attribute the quote to Tocqueville. However, Metaxas himself attributed that quote to Tocqueville in an advance copy of his new book If You Can Keep It. The attribution of the quote was corrected before publication.
I understand the analogy he tweeted. However, it is noteworthy that Metaxas complained about Clinton’s use of the quotation because he has his own quote snafu to resolve. Metaxas has yet to provide a source (or acknowledge the quote isn’t Bonhoeffer’s) for the following quote:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

This quote is attributed to Bonhoeffer on the back flap of Metaxas’ biography of the German pastor. He also has referred to it in his speeches and tweets as well as his book on Miracles and a study edition of the Bonhoeffer bio. However, it cannot be found in Bonhoeffer’s works. I have contacted Metaxas and publisher Thomas Nelson but have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply.
Silence hands version
There is no disgrace in getting a quote wrong. Scholars do it frequently. The mark of a scholar is to correct the record quickly. To me, this seems especially important since Metaxas has lately taken to advancing Bonhoeffer in the cause of presidential politics. Despite our differences, I urge Metaxas to do the right thing and either provide his primary source for the quote or acknowledge the quote doesn’t come from Bonhoeffer.

Eric Metaxas Uses Odd Term – Fascistic Globalism – Twitter Howls

If it hasn’t happened already, this may be Eric Metaxas jumping the shark.


I can’t respond any better than the numerous commenters who are really taking him to task. Click the tweet and read the comments.
Before a couple of months ago, I did not follow Mr. Metaxas and so I can’t tell if this was coming or has recently shown up perhaps in relationship to Trumpism. In any case, I hope it is a curable condition.
On the term “fascistic globalism,” my impression is that it is a far right term with a less than admirable pedigree. It often is written “fascist globalism” and appears on numerous alt-right and far right websites. One has to wonder what well Metaxas is drinking from.
Here is on example of a use of “fascist globalism from the conspiratorial Centre for Globalization Research.

The NATO Treaty, therefore, is, from its inception, a Treaty against Russia. It is not really – and never was – a treaty against communism. The alliance’s ideological excuse doesn’t hold, and never was anything more than propaganda for a military alliance of America and its allies, against Russia and its allies. Consequently, the Warsaw Pact had to be created, on 14 May 1955, as an authentic defensive measure by Russia and its allies. This had really nothing to do with ideology. Ideology was and is only an excuse for war – in that case, for the Cold War. For example, a stunningly honest documentary managed to be broadcast in 1992 by the BBC, and showed that the US OSS-CIA had begun America’s war against «communism» even at the very moments while WW II was ending in 1945, by recruiting in Europe ‘former’ supporters of Hitler and Mussolini, who organized «false flag» (designed-to-be-blamed-against-the-enemy) terrorist attacks in their countries, which very successfully terrified Europeans against ‘communism’ (i.e., against Russia and its allies). As one of the testifiers in that video noted (at 6:45), «In 1945 the Second World War ended and the Third World War started».
The ‘former’ fascists took up the cause against «communism» but actually against Russia; it wasn’t democracy-versus-communism; it was fascists continuing – but now under the ‘democratic’ banner – their war against Russia. This operation was, until as late as 1990, entirely unknown to almost all democratically elected government officials. The key mastermind behind it, the brilliant double-agent Allen Dulles, managed to become officially appointed, by US President Eisenhower in 1953, to lead the CIA. Originally, that subversive-against-democracy element within the CIA had been only a minority faction. Dulles had no qualms even about infiltrating outright Nazis into his operation, and his operation gradually took over not only the US but its allies. His key point man on that anti-democracy operation was James Angleton – a rabid hater of Russians, who was as psychopathic an agent for America’s aristocracy as was Dulles himself. But the CIA was only one of the broader operation’s many tentacles, others soon were formed such as the Bilderberg group. Then, the CIA financed the start of the European Union, which was backed strongly by the Bilderbergers. This was sold as democratic globalism, but it’s actually fascist globalism, which is dictatorial in a much more intelligent way than Hitler and Mussolini had tried to impose merely by armed force. It relies much more on the force of deception – force against the mind, instead of against the body.

Are we to understand that Obama and Clinton are dictatorial in a much more intelligent way than Hitler and Mussolini?
Now think about Trump’s glowing words about Russia and his halting support for NATO and then remember that Metaxas has become quite the Trump apologist of late. It appears that Metaxas may be moving toward the conspiratorial far right in more than just his support for Trump.