Skip to main content

The Untold Story of Olympic Champion Eric Liddell: Review of Duncan Hamilton's "For the Glory"

NOTE: The intro to this review is posted below. It was originally posted at The Gospel Coalition

For nearly a century Eric Liddell has been one of the English-speaking world’s most well-known Christian athletes. The Scottish sprinter’s fame spread worldwide in 1924 when he followed his Sabbatarian beliefs, skipping the Olympic 100-meter event (which he was favored to win) since it was scheduled for a Sunday. Liddell received criticism from high places in Britain for his lack of “sportsmanship” and “patriotism,” but he stood fast—and ran fast, too. He added the 400-meter race to his repertoire, which he proceeded to win despite barely training for it.

Liddell’s religious convictions and Olympic gold made him a hero for Christian athletes over the next few decades, although the memory of his accomplishments faded over time. That trend was reversed in 1981 with the release of Chariots of Fire, an Oscar-winning film that told the story of Liddell’s Olympic victory. For Christian moviegoers Liddell became an iconic figure, as did his character’s oft-quoted line: “I believe God made me for a purpose—for China. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Since 1981 there have been a handful of biographies of Liddell. All describe the 1924 Olympics. Many also highlight the story after 1924, when Liddell eschewed glory and riches and opted instead to join his father and mother in China as a missionary. Most of these biographies are devotional and intended for an evangelical audience. With Duncan Hamilton’s For The Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr, however, we have a full-length, mass-market biography of Liddell.

Click here for the rest


Popular posts from this blog

How Billy Graham Made Peace With Sunday Sports

Early in his evangelistic career, Billy Graham had a sermon in his repertoire based on Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s classic baseball poem “Casey at the Bat.” Delivered in the 1940s and 1950s, it was geared towards a Cold War age of atomic anxiety. The threat of nuclear warfare loomed; God’s judgment was at hand; America was like mighty Casey with two strikes against her.
 "Some of us have struck once, some twice. But you'll all, every last one of you, strike out when the Great Umpire of the Ages calls the balls and strikes," Graham warned his listeners. "The count is three and two, the next pitch is the last one. Decide now, before it's too late."
By the 1960s, Graham seems to have retired his “Casey at the Bat” sermon. Yet his take on Thayer’s poem nevertheless fits with two themes that remained consistent throughout Graham’s long ministry: his focus on a moment of spiritual decision, and his interest in sports. Indeed, Graham’s ministry provides a useful lens i…

Historical Reflections on Brian Smith's "The Assist"

Last weekend while visiting my home state of Nebraska, I ran into my old high school basketball coach. He was the leader of my school's Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) huddle group, and is still involved in FCA. Although it's been fifteen years since I played for him, we still keep in touch. In fact, I have it on good authority that he reads this website from time to time (what's up, coach?).

I bring up my former coach because when I read books geared towards sports and Christian living, I often think of him. These books are not written primarily for me, a historian who is not actively engaged in organized athletic competition or sports ministry. They are written for my high school basketball coach and the Christian athletes who play for him.

But even if I am not necessarily the primary intended audience for books in the sports-and-Christian-living genre, I like to read them and consider how they fit within the broad historical context of American Christian engageme…

Last Chance U: About Those Praying Football Teams From The South

On July 21 Netflix released Season 2 of Last Chance U, which documents the 2016 football season at East Mississippi Community College. Since you clicked on this post, I'm going to assume that you are familiar with Last Chance U's basic storyline--if not, this piece provides a nice introduction to the series.

On Season 1 of Last Chance U, it quickly became apparent that the Lord's Prayer was routine and familiar for members of the East Mississippi Community College football team. "Everybody touch somebody," head coach Buddy Stephens would say. Then, players' heads bowed, the words came tumbling out: "Our father who art in heaven...."

Apparently the efforts of the Freedom From Religion Foundation did not halt the prayers at East Mississippi, because Season 2 shows that rapid-fire recitations of the Lord's Prayer are alive and well in Scooba, Mississippi. Although team prayer is a common occurrence on college football teams across the nation, it is…