MacLeod on Christian Biography

Carl Trueman, in a post on hagiography, mentioned A. Donald MacLeod’s paper on Christian biography recently presented at Westminster Seminary’s commencement. Dr. MacLeod has kindly posted the paper, “The Joys and Frustrations of a Christian Biographer,” on his website. MacLeod is the author of a number of books; the most note-worthy is his fantastic W. Stanford Reid: An Evangelical Calvinist in the Academy (McGill-Queens, 2004). I have had the privilege of meeting him on a couple of occasions, although I doubt he remembers me. He has always come across as a very kind and gracious man.

Here is a great paragraph from the linked paper:

When one sets out to the research on a person you never know where it will lead. I was reminded forcibly of that when I set out to write the biography of C. Stacey Woods, the founder of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the United States and the first general secretary of its international counterpart, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. It was in Sydney Australia that I first discovered the reason why Stacy emigrated to North America: his great mentor and inspiration in camps ministry to young men, it turned out, had to return to England suddenly on charges that are today all too familiar. My next shock came when I learned, while in Lausanne (Stacey’s home for the last twenty years of his life) that his death at the age of 73 was due to his alcoholism. These facts posed me a serious problem, and sponsors and publishers even more of a threat. We eventually, at their insistence, managed to express the truth in carefully chosen language that preserved my integrity as a professional. Truth-telling can be costly but I shall forever be grateful to Stacey’s family for their courtesy and willingness to go along with Stacy’s professed desire to have his story told “warts and all.” And it is a wonderful story, one that needed to be told as InterVarsity strives to find its identity in the Twenty-first Century. Stacey shines out of it as a man who struggled and prevailed.

He says, “Truth-telling can be costly.” Indeed.

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Filed under a donald macleod, biography, church history

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