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story.lead_photo.caption Eric Metaxas

Best-selling author and radio show host Eric Metaxas will be the featured speaker Tuesday night at the inaugural series event "City Center Conversations: Conversations About God, Life, and Faith in the City" at Robinson Center Performance Hall in Little Rock.

Metaxas' best-sellers include Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, which was named Christian Book of the Year by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association; Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery; and his latest release, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World. Along with his nationally syndicated radio program The Eric Metaxas Show, Metaxas commentates with John Stonestreet for BreakPoint, a radio show founded by evangelical leader and former White House counsel Charles Colson.

It's Martin Luther -- which Metaxas will discuss for part of the evening -- in which he states that the two "iconic events" Luther is most known for are his nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church and the stand he made against the Holy Roman Empire when charged with heresy by refusing to recant his ideas, which resulted in Luther's excommunication from the Catholic Church.

"It's hard to overstate the results of what [Luther] did," said Metaxas, who said Luther was, aside from Jesus of Nazareth, the "most influential figure in history in the last 2,000 years."

"What [Luther] did really led the West ... out of the medieval era and into the current era, where we believe in ideas like self-government and freedom and religious liberty," Metaxas said. "All of that comes from Luther, so it's hard to realize how hugely important what he did [over the span of] a few decades 500 years ago was."

The idea for Metaxas to appear in Little Rock developed after Steven Smith, senior pastor of Little Rock's Immanuel Baptist Church, was in New York in October and attended a "Socrates in the City" event -- a series that Metaxas created and hosts -- that tackles questions about faith and life.

According to Smith, the idea is for Immanuel to hold talks in a format similar to Socrates in the City, bringing in nationally known speakers -- "people that other people would recognize," he said -- to talk about big ideas and faith in the city.

Smith, who began at Immanuel in January after spending nearly 12 years in the Fort Worth-Dallas area, said Metaxas also had appeared in conjunction with Fort Worth's Southwestern Theological Seminary and said it had been "a great experience."

Metaxas and Smith conveyed the hope to begin conversations for people who might not otherwise discuss faith in a public setting.

"I think oftentimes in more educated circles we give short shrift to traditional ideas ... to traditional expressions of faith like Christianity," Metaxas said. "And I've always wanted Socrates in the City to try to be a place where thinking people can find other thinking people who take faith seriously."

Through meeting people in the Little Rock area during his first year as Immanuel's senior pastor, Smith said, he was impressed by the "caliber" of people -- "high-capacity people -- [whose] faith is really important to them. And so they have to figure out how that influences their life in a world that doesn't always have the same appreciation for their faith as they do."

Metaxas also will speak about Socrates in the City and will bring what Immanuel was seeking for the first event: "a conversation about things that are important in the city, ... [and] giving people a taste of what this could be in the future."

Immanuel plans to hold Conversations in the City three or four times a year, Smith said. The speaker for the next event will be announced Tuesday.

Metaxas said one of the key ingredients to a successful Socrates in the City event is the guest speakers.

"You want somebody who is saying something that you're not hearing very much in the mainstream media or in the culture," he said.

Living in a time of political and cultural division, said Metaxas, doesn't mean that differences in opinion should be discouraged.

"It's very important, not that we have no point of view or that we don't take sides, but that we are able to handle ourselves in a way that tries to bridge the divide, that people are not going to demonize you if you feel differently than we do on this issue or that issue," Metaxas said. "So people who are interested in that kind of thing, I would say, will probably enjoy the evening."

According to Metaxas, there has been talk of setting up other series that echo the format of Socrates in the City, but Immanuel's is the first that he knows of that hopes to carry through with the idea. He said he thinks the idea for another event series is "fantastic."

"We need more of this, not less," Metaxas said. "I hope like all good ideas that [the idea for this kind of event] will be stolen and used and used. ... That's the hope. And so this makes me very happy that [Immanuel is] actually doing this, and I'm thrilled to be a part of the first one. "

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the William Grant Still Grand Ballroom in the Robinson Center Performance Hall at 426 W. Markham St.

The event will include a dessert reception and book signing after Metaxas speaks. Tickets are $10 and can be bought through citycenterconversationslr.org.

Photo by File photo
Author and radio host Eric Metaxas prepares his notes before speaking to a crowd in 2015 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock. Metaxas will be the featured speaker Tuesday night at the inaugural series event “City Center Conversations: Conversations About God, Life and Faith in the City” at Robinson Center Performance Hall in Little Rock, sponsored by Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.

Religion on 12/09/2017

Print Headline: Author to open city's 'Conversations'

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