Amazing Grace: The Life of John Newton | September 4, 2023


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What is the most recognizable hymn of all time?  Many of you would likely say, Amazing Grace.  We often hear this song at a vigil or remembrance service or perhaps played on bagpipes.  Regardless of where or how this hymn is performed, it’s stood the test of time for 250 years.

Do you know the story behind the song and the man who wrote this testimonial of the faith?

Bruce Hindmarsh is the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology and Professor of the History of Christianity at Regent College in Vancouver. He wrote his doctoral thesis at Oxford on John Newton and it was published as John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition.  He also edited and wrote an introduction for an edition of Newton’s autobiography and his letters on growth in grace, The Life and Spirituality of John Newton.  He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a past president of the American Society of Church History.

Craig Borlase is a New York Times, Sunday Times, and international bestselling

ghostwriter of dramatic, engaging memoirs. Over the last two decades, he has written more than fifty-five books, working with a diverse range of authors for a global audience.

This Crosstalk began as Bruce and Craig described what drew their interest to research and tell the story of John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace.  From there, Bruce described how the book actually begins with a death, the death of John’s mother, who had intended for young John to enter the ministry.  He also didn’t fit very well into the family when his father remarried.  So early on, John’s life was marked by trauma.  

As his life moved on, he was press-ganged (forced into His Majesty’s Navy-a type of legal kidnapping).  He’s described around this time as impulsive and cocky which got him into trouble time and again.  Eventually he had to reckon with his involvement in the slave trade. That led to his contributions to the abolitionist movement and he eventually became a pastor and legendary hymn writer.

While sticking as close to the absolute truth as possible, Craig noted how they wanted the book to read like a novel.  That approach makes for a fascinating book.  Learn more, and hear what listeners had to say, as this Crosstalk looked back at the life of John Newton and his famous song that points us all toward Calvary. 

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