Sunday, December 27, 2009

Alfred the Great

I would like to highly recommend a book I just finished reading. It's called "The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great" by Benjamin Merkle. The author is a professor at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, ID (www.nsa.edu), and the book is available from Canon Press here www.canonpress.org.
I loved this book. It is exciting, fascinating, inspiring, and even easy to read! Reads like a good adventure story, and yet it's all true.
Mr. Merkle brings to life the kind of man we need much more of today. Alfred (849-899AD) was born into a time that us moderns can not even comprehend. Vikings that were everywhere, brief life expectancies, etc. He was a man who accomplished an extraordinary number of things (you'll just have to read the book to find out!), but also a man who took his Christian faith very seriously. Here's a short section of the book (pg. 180): "Now Alfred saw his kingdom in a similar light. The nominally Christian Anglo-Saxon people whom Alfred ruled inhabited a landscape marked throughout by empty and decaying churches; it was a land formerly given over to the worship of the Christian god. The Angl0-Saxons had become an unfaithful people dwelling on formerly sacred Christian soil. Was it any wonder then that God had raised up the Viking scourge, the "lions of Israel," to strike them and remind them of their duties to God? Alfred concluded that the Vikings were not the cause of England's overthrow. They were the result. The Anglo-Saxons' own lethargic apostasy had been the cause of the fall of the various Anglo-Saxon nations...If Wessex wanted to be successful in her ongoing struggle with the plundering Danes, then the nation must devote itself to a revival of Christian learning and Christian worship."
I absolutely love the kind of man Alfred was, and the kind of man men were expected to be as kings and princes and lords. They were expected to be on the front lines with the men, shoulder to shoulder, putting himself in front and beside his men at all times during war, leading by example, willing to die to lead his men well. We do not have that much today, but it is expressely Biblical, a man willing to put himself to death for the life of others. Alfred did not ask his men to do something he was unwilling himself to do, and this was the way things were done for all Anglo-Saxons leaders during this time. It is very refreshing and convicting to read examples of men whose leadership was truly self-sacrificial, and not just one time, but a way they lived their entire lives, Viking attack after Viking attack, rebuilding a people and kingdom.
Also, there are great lessons to learn from the Anglo-Saxon emphasis, and in how Alfred emphasized this much more, on oath/promise-keeping. For them the keeping of your word was extremely important, their very lives often depending on it. This is very different from today where many of us have comfortable lives, our word is, of course, very important but not often does it carry the weight of life and death, of defending our homes and families.
There is much, much more, so get it and read it!

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