The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Review: “For the Glory”

with 2 comments

For the Glory: The Life of Eric Liddell from Olympic Hero to Modern Martyr
Duncan Hamilton
Doubleday (Penguin), 2016, 384pp., cloth, £20
ISBN 978-0857522597

for the gloryFor most of us, the strains of Vangelis are the soundtrack to the dramatised life of Eric Liddell. And that’s pretty much it: effortless running on beaches … getting up after falling and beating the opposition … taking a stand on the Lord’s day … beating all comers at a less-favoured distance. And yet, for most of us, the truth lies largely hidden or slightly murky behind the veil of entertainment. That is where a book like Hamilton’s can be a real help. Though it lacks the explicit Christian tone of John Keddie’s Running the Race, for example, it provides a largely clear lens through which to view our subject’s life. I do not think that Mr Hamilton is a Christian. That makes his testimony all the more powerful, even if his discussion of Liddell’s Christianity sometimes seems to lack awareness or sensitivity. He seems to stand in awe of Liddell without being quite able to understand him. For those of us who believe we better grasp his motives, his simple pursuit of cheerful obedience leaves us, perhaps, as far behind him as men of God as many of his rivals on the track were as athletes. Hamilton seems stunned by Liddell’s consistent virtue, constantly having to explain that Liddell really was everything that people claimed him to be: a shining example of Christlikeness. In fact, he protests so much that one is even tempted to wonder if he has fallen under Liddell’s spell himself. It may be the sports writer’s desire for a hero or love of the underdog. Certainly Hamilton seems possessed of an animus against any institution, especially the more bureaucratic, which leads to the working assumption of something on the far side of incompetence though generally just short of actual malice. Where the book really excels is giving a straightforward and thorough account of the whole of Liddell’s life, probably rising to its peak away from the earthly glories of the Olympic running track and focusing on the tireless, selfless labours of Liddell the missionary and his experiences in a Japanese prison camp in China. It is, for various reasons, hard to tease out much of Liddell’s theology from the book, but his godly character lies on the surface. Some readers may wish to be warned that, in telling the tale, Hamilton slips in a couple of profanities and vulgarities, sparse but present. I genuinely enjoyed this volume and would warmly recommend it to anyone seeking to know the man behind the film legend. The specious romance of certain elements of the screen tale is stripped away to be replaced by the substantial beauty of the simple truth. In doing so, it is Liddell’s determination to glorify God by a commitment to consecrated obedience that is the lasting impress his life’s race leaves upon the reader.

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 30 May 2016 at 05:00

Posted in General

2 Responses

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  1. Just to say it was my friend John Keddie, rather than his brother Gordon who wrote “Running the Race”. John is with the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) and was our Minister on Skye. He also wrote the History of Scottish Athletics. Thank you for your encouraging blog and it was good to meet you at Spring Road, Southampton last year.

    Richard Knasel

    Monday 30 May 2016 at 05:11

    • Thank you! I even checked it through the link and still made the mistake – too many writing Keddies.

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 30 May 2016 at 05:32


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