Monday, February 28, 2005
Besides several editing errors in the book, the main problem with this biography of William Wilberforce is that the author is too concerned with relating the situation in England at the close of the 18th century to the situation in Western culture at the beginning of the 21st century. A description of the life of Wilberforce should bring home all of the pertinent points about how a Christian can and should affect the culture around him. It is unnecessary to state the obvious and make the connections to the modern day, and I contend that those statements will only serve to date the book. Sometimes, it is more effective to be subtle and let the reader make the obvious connections himself.
Errors and problems aside, it was a joy to read about the life of William Wilberforce. The biography begins with Wilberforce's childhood and works up to his conversion from thoughtless hedonism to Christianity. It is encouraging that Wilberforce accomplished so much despite being sickly and frail. He endured threats of violence from some who benefited from the slave trade and endured the pain of discord with friends with whom his conscience demanded that he disagree from time to time. I was surprised to learn of the moral and spiritual state of England at the end of the 18th century. I knew that France had descended into atheism and anarchy, but England was also in dire straits. It seemed the norm that Christian believers could not be statesmen, but Wilberforce bridges that gap. And ultimately, slavery was abolished in the British Empire because the public sense of morality was improved and public opinion was moved.