My Review Series on Metaxas’s “If You Can Keep It”: A Wrap-Up at RNS

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville

Six posts are enough.  I could say a lot more about Eric Metaxas’s book If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, but I decided, for a variety of reasons, to bring the series to an end yesterday.

Today Religion News Service is running a piece that I envisioned, when asked to write it, as a summary and wrap-up post.

Here is a taste:

(RNS) In 1994, evangelical historian Mark Noll wrote about the “scandal of the evangelical mind.” The Wheaton College professor called out evangelicals for their anti-intellectual approaches to public engagement and urged his fellow believers to be more thoughtful in their political reflections.

I don’t know if Eric Metaxas has ever read “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” but since the release of his wildly popular biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer he has been touted as one of conservative evangelicalism’s leading spokespersons and public intellectuals.

Metaxas’ latest book, “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty,” is soaring up the New York Times best-sellers list. The title comes from a popular story about Benjamin Franklin and the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787.  When Franklin walked out of the Pennsylvania State House at the end of the convention he was met by Elizabeth Powell, a prominent woman in Philadelphia. She asked Franklin what kind of government the members of the convention had forged.  Franklin responded, “A republic … if you can keep it.”

Read the rest here.

4 thoughts on “My Review Series on Metaxas’s “If You Can Keep It”: A Wrap-Up at RNS

  1. Professor Fea – great review and spot-on critique. Metaxas is sadly lacking in basic knowledge of the history of religion in colonial and early America. As you noted, too many historical errors. I honestly do not know how he’s gained any scholarly credibility. His book on Bonhoffer was not well received. As one reviewer noted, “Metaxas has presented us with a sanitized Bonhoeffer fit for evangelical audiences.” Now he’s done the same for the history of religion in colonial and early republic. Deja vu all over again.

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    • Thanks, John. The book only has a handful of footnotes. I am currently reading Chris Lehmann’s *The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream* Lehmann has an obvious agenda, but his work as a public intellectual is deeply rooted in current scholarship. It is perhaps unfair to compare these two books. Metaxas’s books is a breezy pitch to evangelical culture warriors. Lehmann’s is a deeply engaging piece of public writing that borders on scholarship. But why aren’t evangelicals writing this kind of deeply engaging stuff?

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