First of all, thank you Cross Focused Reviews for sending me a paperback copy of this book to read and review.
Bitzesize Biographies: John Newton, John Crotts, EP Books, 2013, $10.79. 137 pages.
The Story Well-Told
One of the reasons why I like a good biography is that it reads like a story. Every person’s life is a story interwoven into the Great Story, and biographies of great men are Providence writ large. Newton’s story in particular contains several reminders of the sovereign hand of God, especially early in his life when God spared him in many ways. It’s a fascinating story, which reminded me that Newton is remembered for reasons greater than “Amazing Grace.”
Crotts tells Newton’s story well. He moves at a good pace– what you’d expect in a biography meant to be “bitesize.” He uses some color, often inserts explanatory comments, and carries the reader along quite well. His writing goes unnoticed, meaning that it wasn’t so great that it grabbed my attention but it wasn’t so bad that it distracted me.
There were a few places I wished for primary sources. Early on there’s a section talking about how he fell in love with Polly (his future wife) that discusses some of the things he wrote about her in his diary. These writings were the firstfruits of his poetic impulse, and I would have liked to see some of the things he wrote as an unconverted lovesick seaman. Anyway, I made it without them.
The Theology Sound
Sometimes biographies can be tainted by the narrator’s insertion of his bad theology, or bad interpretation of events. Crotts doesn’t make this mistake. Although he does draw conclusions through a theological lens (regarding when Newton actually got saved, for instance), he does so with sound theology backing him. He got his M. Div. at The Master’s Seminary, which in my opinion is the best one out there.
The Picture Mostly Filled In
Newton’s life is an amazing story, and this small biography tells it well. The picture is mostly filled in. I could have asked for more information and detail in certain areas, but then it wouldn’t have been “bitesize.” The last two chapters come after Newton’s story is complete, and they tell of his hymn writing and letter writing. Both are interesting subjects, especially his unceasing letter writing. This chapter gives insight into the kind of pastor Newton was, and the excerpts are good samples of how he did pastoral counseling.
If you want a sufficient picture of the man, with good but not overwhelming detail, grab Crotts’ bitesize biography of the man behind Amazing Grace. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.