A good biography can be just as exciting as an action packed thriller or as dull as a the instructions on the back of a shampoo bottle. The key difference has everything to do with how the author makes the subject come to life. I have read biographies which consist of a litany of facts in chronological order which simply describe the subject. The result is a static character who never really comes to life.
Randy Boyagoda did just the opposite in his biography on Richard John Neuhaus. From the opening words, I knew that this would be a biography which would not only probe the psychological depths of Neuhaus, but would also give me a great deal of insight into the inner workings of this mysterious man. Boyagoda spent a good amount of time describing key and influential events in the early life of Neuhaus, which set the stage for his ministry years, his struggles with the ongoing battles between the ELCA and LCMS, and his eventual conversion to Roman Catholicism. Each phase of Neuhaus’ life as portrayed by Boyagoda appropriately built upon subsequent stages.
As one who is deeply committed to the Reformed faith, I have often wondered what causes a person who has been immersed in the delightful doctrines of the Reformation, to go back to that which existed before it was reformed. From early on in the book, I could clearly see the trajectory of his life which would ultimately lead Neuhaus to that place which he was destined to arrive. Boyagoda has done a good job identifying the key events which led Neuhaus to his inevitable choice.
If I have any complaints about the book, they are insignificant. For my part, I would have preferred fewer details on the accomplishments that Neuhaus achieved and more on how his decision to leave Protestantism affected him existentially. However, that is my own personal taste and perhaps a reflection of why I read biographies. Others who are more interested in his accomplishments will find much to appreciate about this book. Overall, it is a very well written biography which satisfied my quest to understand the mind of the Protestant turned Catholic.
Click here to read the first chapter.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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