Many Christians will be attending the upcoming inspirational film Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce and abolition in Britain. The subplot involves John Netwon, the author of the famous hymn, but the best known report of how he came to write the hymn is mostly apocryphal. Christine Schaub, hymn historian and author, has written a biography of John Newton entitled The Longing Season, and has critiqued the movie.
The self-proclaimed infidel’s life is heavily documented, and yet the myth of John Newton prevails. Why? I think people find the “pulpit version” more exciting, more intriguing…maybe more incredible…and thus, Newton’s conversion more spectacular.