Winston Churchill | A Lecture for the Boyce Political Society

Thank you for that very gracious, very kind introduction. It is a great honor to be here with you folks today. I’m really not here so much to talk about a scholar as I am a statesman. There was a scholarly side to Churchill, although his schoolteachers would be the most amazed perhaps to hear that anyone would refer to him as a scholar–but as a statesman, quite frankly without peer. So, I appreciate the series that you’ve undertaken, and I think it’s really important to recognize we all need examples. Elton Trueblood was a Quaker theologian who meant a great deal to me. I wrote my honors thesis on him in college, and he was an unusual Quaker–a very dear friend of President Herbert Hoover, as a matter of fact, one of the most interesting figures of the 20th century himself. And Elton Trueblood had said that every man–and he would extend that to every person he was writing, two young men–he said that every young man needs a perpetual vision of greatness. You have to have people out there. I think this is very biblical. I think it’s exactly what we find in Scripture, not only in a passage such as of course, the Hall of Fame of Faith in the book of Hebrews, but also just in terms of what you find in the Old Testament, in the figures of Moses and Joshua, and of course so many others–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

We do need that perpetual vision of greatness, and there’s a secular sense in which that’s certainly true. There’s a Christian sense in which it is, if anything even more true. And so I’m going to kind of conclude with thinking about that issue. I am here to talk about Winston Churchill, and I guess to do that, I need to explain why. And the first most obvious explanation is, I was asked to. The second issue is at a very young stage of life that perpetual vision of greatness in my life became associated with Winston Churchill. And when I mean young, I mean really young, as in 10 or so, and it was the fifth grade and we were assigned to write a paper on a major historical figure, and 10 year olds know some. I was a particularly interested 10-year-old in history, but it was the example of Winston Churchill among the people who were living when I was a boy.

That’s crucial. The generation of adults when I was a 10-year-old had been greatly shaped by the influence of Winston Churchill on both sides of the Atlantic. And some of you may have heard me talk about the special edition of National Geographic Magazine, about Churchill’s funeral that somehow reached me as a 10-year-old boy, and I just could not imagine what I was reading about in this funeral because I didn’t know of any human beings who had accomplished such things and been a part of so much of history. When we’re talking about Winston Churchill, we’re talking about someone born in 1874 who lived until 1965. Now you just think about that period. And so much of what we know as the modern age was really born in that period. You’re talking about a man who was born in the age of the coach and carriage and lived long enough to ride on jet airplanes. It’s an astounding thing.

In one sense, if you’re going to describe him in British terms, you would say that he was a Victorian because so much of his life was dictated by the culture established in the 19th century in Britain during the very long reign of Queen Victoria. And when it comes to Winston Churchill, he entered government during the reign of Victoria, and he ended as Prime Minister during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s just an incredible period of history and I think there’s some huge lessons for us to consider. So, I have 10 points, so that’s all. I wanted to talk to you kind of in a fresh way about Churchill. And I thought I’m just going to choose some words and I’m going to put “leadership and” in front of those words. So, I’m going to speak about several dimensions of Churchill’s leadership and the example that I think we should draw in the lessons. And so I’m going to choose 10 words.

The first of those words is history–Churchill and history. And one of the things I want to mention is that this is a reminder to us that we are in the providence of God under the sovereignty of God. So, this is our theological understanding of history. We can see a Winston Churchill in the entirety of his lifespan from 1874 to 1965, and we can understand that we’re only talking about him today because of certain events that took place in history during the lifetime of Winston Churchill, during the adult lifetime of Winston Churchill. And so, we also have to understand that we’re speaking at a historical remove. We’re talking about someone who was born so long ago that we’re talking about the distant myths of history in terms of Queen Victoria, but someone who was actually prime minister of Great Britain into the 1950s.

History matters because if you put Churchill in another epic, it doesn’t work. And frankly, there were those who believed at the time that Churchill didn’t work. That’s one of the most important lessons of Churchill’s life, that he was considered washed out at several different points of history. He was considered antiquarian by the 1910s, later to become the political and military savior of Great Britain and much of the Western empire as the most important figure allied against Adolf and Nazi Germany. So, history really matters, and this is where we understand there are only two basic options in looking at history. And I’ll say that it’s basically Henry Ford or the Scriptures. Henry Ford said that history is just, I’m going to clean up his statement, but it’s just one thing after another. The biblical worldview says the history is the unfolding of the sovereign purposes of God.

Well, those are really the only two options. You can’t have a little bit of sovereignty, and there’s no theology that works with God’s anecdotal interruption of just one thing after another. So, if we are just in a materialistic worldview, and if we deny God, if we’re going to have an agnostic, atheist, secular worldview, then history just is a series of accidents, just of things that happened. It doesn’t work with Churchill. But it is a reminder of the fact that if you take Churchill and put ’em in a different time, we probably aren’t talking about him at all. The other thing we need to recognize is that if we’re talking about Churchill at a different time, the odd thing might be that he would be discussed in the year 2024. Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace, which is the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough. The Duke of Marlborough became the Duke of Marlborough as the great English general who won the great victory over continental forces, and in particular France. He was awarded by Queen Anne with one of the most important hereditary seats, that of the Duke of Marlboro. And he was allowed to build Blenheim Palace, which is the only non-royal residence that is officially known as a palace.

Now, Winston Churchill was born as the first son of the second son of the Duke of Marlborough. Now of course, we’re talking about several generations later, but that’s one of the things that you just have to keep in mind as we think about history and how it unfolds. The key issue in Winston Churchill being the first son of the second son, is that he was the son of the second Son, which meant that, generally, he’s in a book somewhere. There might be a plaque on some village church wall, and he’ll be buried probably in the ancestral burial ground–by the way, he is, in one sense, at Blenheim church yard, a Bladen church yard. But it is just really interesting to understand that here’s this man, and everybody knows he’s born to aristocracy, but the first son of the second son of the British aristocracy would generally become an indolent figure; that wasn’t Winston Churchill. So, history really matters, and our biblical worldview is that it’s not an accident that you were born exactly where you were born to whom you were born under the circumstances you were born. If you hold to a secular worldview, then you have to create some kind of meaning in your life. If you hold to a biblical worldview and, frankly, more biblical than the worldview that Winston Churchill himself held, we understand that God’s purpose is being revealed in the circumstances of our lives.

The second word to be is timing. It’s not just history, it’s timing. If you were to speak of Winston Churchill in the 1920s, you would’ve spoken most likely about someone whose past was the most important figure or feature. There was really no present and no future. Winston Churchill found himself in what he described as his wilderness years. He was politically unpopular in his parliamentary career.

He had begun among the Tories, which is the class associated with the conservative party as we know it. And he had ratted to use the word in the parliamentary tradition, and he had joined the liberal party. Now, the liberal party was not a socialist party. It’s not today’s labor party. It was, however, a far more democratic party–little ‘D’–and it had far more, I would say, liberal economic policies and, in some ways, trade policies, than did the Torries. Now at a crucial point, just on the eve of the events that would so shape the world through the second World War, he went back to the Torry party. In his own words he not only ratted, he re-routed–very few British politicians could survive ratting, much less ratting and then re-routing, much less to become first Lord of the admiralty and then, very quickly, to become Prime Minister when Britain was at its lowest moment.

So timing has a lot to do with things. And in the case of Winston Churchill, it wasn’t that he had a great sense of timing. It was that the times eventually demanded Winston Churchill. And so, my exhortation is not that you try to have good timing in your life. My exhortation is you be ready as soon as possible for what door may open that you can’t foresee. You need to be ready as soon as possible. And secondly, you need to understand that if indeed the political, social or whatever culture tells you you’re past your time, well, maybe so and maybe not. In the case of Winston Churchill, even his own friends and even his own wife was afraid that that was the correct assessment, but history would prove differently. So, on the timing issue, I just want to say be ready. Winston Churchill was ready.

That’s one of the reasons why Winston Churchill was twice first Lord of the admiralty. That’s one of the reasons why he was one of the youngest chancellors of the ex-checker, which is a more powerful position, roughly analogous to Secretary of the Treasury here in this country. And why he was twice Prime Minister, it is because he was ready. He was ready before anyone else was ready. Now, there were people who were bothered by that, and you can understand why that could be bothersome. And as a matter of fact, I think even Churchill would recognize that Churchill wasn’t recognized as absolutely necessary until Britain faced the challenge of Adolf Hitler. When Adolf Hitler loomed large, threatening the entire future of Western civilization and certainly the continued existence of Britain, all of a sudden Britain realized Winston Churchill is the perfect man for the hour. And it’s most interesting to notice that many of the people who just a matter of a very short time before–and I’m speaking days, maybe even hours, not months and years–had written Winston Churchill off. They were among those who decided he was the absolutely essential man for the hour.

The third word is destiny. So, the first: history, timing, and then destiny. And when we speak of destiny, very quickly, that’s usually translated into a secular frame. It’s kind of like people who don’t believe in providence believe in destiny. Winston Churchill, in his own way believed in both, but by destiny, he meant that this life, my life, means something. And Winston Churchill at a very early age believed that he would be decisive in world history. Now, that’s a teenage boy that’s hard to live with, no doubt. He made the mistake of telling some of his fellow teenagers at Harrow, the elite school that he attended–one of the three most elite of the boys schools in Britain–he made the mistake of telling some of his peers that he felt like Britain would, at some point, turn to him in the moment of its greatest need as the one who would lead and save the country. Kind of hard to live with at 16.

Nonetheless, it turned out to be true. Now, I think if you were to talk about Winston Churchill and some kind of, say, psychotherapeutic, psychoanalytic frame, you’d say he’s got issues. But it’s really important to recognize, I think, that destiny is something real in the biblical worldview. It’s just not always according to worldly terms. I mean, I think destiny explains why when we get to heaven there are going to be some persons we’re going to understand: they had this massive impact we don’t know about in this life. We’ll know about it in the age to come. In one sense, it’s just odd that Winston Churchill actually did believe that, and said it out loud. But what makes that most interesting is that some of his peers, when they were in their eighties, remembered Winston Churchill having said that. And, at that point, he’s the most famous human being on planet earth, and it is very well attested because it was commented on at the time that Churchill had been possessed by this sense of destiny.

So, there are only really two options here: either he was right, or he was wrong. It turned out that he was right. And I think again, as Christians, we need to look at this and recognize destiny is not something we can manipulate. And, frankly, it can be an extraordinary extension of ego. On the other hand it can be true. I mean, I think Moses speaking about the experience of the burning bush, I mean we know this in biblical examples. There are people who doubt the calling, the authority, the timing, the destiny of those whom God has used greatly.

The fourth word I’m going to use is vision. And this is one of those overused words, particularly in the contemporary context where people who have no idea what vision is nonetheless say they believe in visionary leadership by vision. When I’m speaking about Churchill, I mean something more concrete than you might imagine.

So I want you to imagine a 10-year-old Churchill. I want you to imagine him in his bedroom as a 10-year-old boy alone, except he was never alone. Winston Churchill had with him in his bedroom–he had very aristocratic wealthy parents–he had thousands of Victorian toy soldiers in his bedroom. He had the men all dressed up, and, by the way, these are very expensive these days and, as antiques, they’re extremely expensive, but they’re lead. They didn’t really worry about lead poisoning method. They’re made out of lead, and they’re all dressed in their British regimental uniforms. You’ve got the infantry dressed as the infantry, you have the Huss dressed as the Huss. So, if you walked in Winston Churchill’s bedroom as a boy, 10-year-old, you would’ve found mass arrays of soldiers in which an absolutely solitary Winston Churchill had, on his own, recreated the great battles that had produced England.

And so, when you’re talking about vision here, I mean he’s seeing it. He is seeing his ancestor Marlborough lead the English forces against the continental forces. He’s seeing the Crimean war, he is seeing the wars even in the American Civil War–by the way, which was a fairly recent event when Churchill was born and in many ways, one of the first modern you take the American Civil War and the Crimean War, perhaps the two most important early modern wars setting war as we know it today. So, Winston Churchill actually saw it. And so, what’s really interesting is that at key points in World War II, and sometimes Winston Churchill had traveled to these places, and he had seen it. And so, when the news is coming to him, battlefield by battlefield, he’s not just imagining it, he’s seeing it. And this is a connection with a 10-year-old Churchill who’s moving all these soldiers across.

He is actually engaged in the military action in a way that very few political leaders ever, ever are helpfully. And Churchill was, he was a fallible human being. He got some things wrong. For one thing, Churchill was absolutely right, absolutely right in being a visionary who believed even in the early period of World War I that the invention of the tank was a massive game changer. He was wrong in that he and, frankly, most of the military leadership class on both sides of the Atlantic didn’t think the airplane was going to amount to much. And, by the way, if you’ve been flying in those early airplanes, the miracle was that you got up and got down. So, the idea that this was going to be a massive game changer, but of course by World War II, it was the decisive game changer.

Alright, after vision, I’m going to speak of worldview. If you knew Winston Churchill in the 1920s and, in particular, in the 1930s–and so let’s just fast forward for the sake of time to the 1930s–Winston Churchill is using language that the British political class does not want to use the British political class, especially so traumatized by the experience of World War I. And remember England lost so many of its sons in World War I and was so economically devastated by World War I. The great lesson that the British political class learned was “never again, we’re never going to have a war like that again. We can never afford to have a war like that again. We must do basically anything to avoid a war like that.” And so, when you had the rise of someone like Adolf Hitler, the British political class by and large tried to figure a way not to see Hitler as the threat that we now know, of course that he was.

And so as William Manchester said, the British political class is trying to explain Hitler in terms of secular social forces. Churchill refuses to see Hitler in those terms. He sees Hitler as evil. So as much as we should not make Winston Churchill an evangelical Christian by his worldview–  because he wasn’t, he was a very kind of normal, aristocratic Anglican of the time–we have to understand that he operated out of a deeply theological understanding of good and evil. And he saw Adolf Hitler and came very quickly to the conclusion that he was not inconvenient. He was evil. Now, the British political class was frightened by the fact that Winston Churchill was not only one who saw Adolf Hitler and the threat of Nazism in Germany as evil but, quite frankly, Churchill was not without influence. And one of the reasons why they had to turn to Churchill as Prime Minister when England was at its darkest hour–I could say there were perhaps even darker hours ahead, but at that point his darkest hour–was because Churchill had been the only honest person in moral and theological terms about the real threat of Hitler.

And that left Churchill in the position of either being right or wrong. Now, if Hitler had turned out to be, say, a much more benign, ordinary political leader, if we’re not talking about the Holocaust and we’re not talking about the extermination camps and we’re not talking about the unbridled secular messianism of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, if we’re not talking about those things, then Winston Churchill would go down in history as a footnoted nut. It turned out that he went down in history as Britain’s greatest Prime Minister and as the essential man in terms of Britain confronting the challenge of Adolf Hitler. Alright, the worldview is important here. So, Churchill’s worldview was amazingly consistent. It was amazingly consistent in that he also saw the forms of society as necessary. You had to honor the forms of society, otherwise society, somebody falls apart. Now that put Churchill in an embarrassing position in some cases, and I think in the verdict of history, we’d have to say that he probably valorized and honored those forms more than he should have, rather than having a worldview that enabled him to say that certain things were just categorically wrong.

Churchill on the question of India was woefully out of stepping out of date and history just recorded he was flat wrong. This is one of the lamentable aspects of being a Victorian in the middle of the 20th century. That’s a part of the worldview we wish he hadn’t carried forward. On the other hand, Churchill’s honoring of the forms and of the necessary structures of society was a necessary defense against what became the radicalism of British politics after he was gone. So it’s just good for Christians to understand. We’ve got to watch these things very carefully.

The next word I want to use, the sixth word, is conviction. Now, I wrote a book on the conviction to lead. The model of leadership that I commend is convictional leadership. When it comes to Winston Churchill, the man had a lot of ideas. He had many principles, he had a few very key convictions. Those key convictions ended up having a great deal to do with the future of Western civilization. And, as I’ve often tried to argue, I think convictional leadership’s the only leadership consistent with the biblical worldview. Convictional leadership’s the only model of leadership that’s worthy of giving your life to. And it is because what convictional leadership represents is deep convictions translated into necessary actions, strategies, judgements, words, all the things that are necessary for leadership. And the example I give here is when it comes to an interview I saw years ago when the woman who had been the chairman of IBM retired, and when she gave this final interview in the front page of the Wall Street Journal, they asked the question, “what’s the most surprising thing to you?” And she said, well, it’s this that IBM is now a different business than it was when I became the chairman of the board. “CEO we’re in an entirely different area of business than we would’ve known about.” She said, I think that’s the big lesson here. You think you know what your business is about, but you’ll find out in a consumer society when you look backwards and say, “hey, we did that and it won, we did that and it lost.” I can just tell you that has nothing to do with my understanding of my role as the President of Southern Seminary. I’m just going to tell you so long as I know what I’m doing here, we know what we are doing and we’re not going to be surprised 10 years later to find ourselves in a different industry. And it’s because this institution only exists both as the seminary and as the college to serve a certain set of convictions and to serve the church by holding to those convictions and teaching on the basis of those convictions.

So I saw that example in that interview in the front of the Wall Street Journal. I thought, that’s exactly what I don’t want to happen. I’m not saying that’s the bad way for IBM to operate. I’m not because otherwise IBM could be making typewriters and where that goes. And IBM made the best typewriters at the end of the age of typewriters, but we’re not making typewriters. And this is what Winston Churchill understood: he understood that there was a particular role for statesmen, a particular role for political leadership, a particular worldview. He believed that western civilization was superior to its enemies, not just slightly but enormously. He believed that human dignity and human freedom depended upon the success and victory of the West not just in terms of our amendments but, as Churchill understood, in terms of ideas. What has to be–what has to be defeated is not just mocked, but the ideology of Nazi Germany–because if the ideology of Nazi Germany continues, human dignity will be snuffed out in political and military terms.

The seventh word I want to use is language, because leadership is often translated into language. We’re talking about Winston Churchill because he was the master of language. When he was asked one time how he expected history to treat him, he said, I expect history will treat me well. And when he was asked why, he said, well, because I intend to write it. Churchill won the Nobel Prize for what? For literature. He wrote The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, a multi-volume work. He wrote a multi-volume history of his ancestor Marlborough. He wrote a magisterial, and rather interesting, history of World War II. It wouldn’t be possible now. Winston Churchill could not write that six volume work on World War II under the current circumstances legally, and otherwise, because Winston Churchill just put all of his papers in boxes and then, at the end of the war, published a lot of them. Just given headlines in recent days, doesn’t work so well. You better not be stacking them by your Corvette in the garage, much less publishing them to multi-volume work or Mar-a-Lago, it doesn’t work anymore. It worked for Churchill. Doesn’t work anymore.

And it is because Winston Churchill was a Prime Minister of the Queen’s first minister. And in a parliamentary system of government that meant he was at the very top. The majority party can’t lose. But nonetheless, that kind of work will not happen again. But it does make you all the more appreciated. You’re looking at materials that would’ve been among the most highly classified during the period of the war. But with the fall of Nazi Germany, Churchill said, well, let’s go ahead and tell the story. He set the English language to war as his own colleagues said. And you look at some of the people who might have become Prime Minister there at the very moment that the nation had to turn to Winston Churchill and you consider them go back to 1940, and Churchill would take office as Prime minister on the 10th of May in 1940, and just imagine some of them had become prime minister like Lord Halifax, oh my goodness, by reputation and by recording one of the most boring human beings on planet earth: an aristocrat and just useless.

I think when it comes to words, even previous Prime Ministers like Stanley Baldwin and particularly Clement Atley, and–well, he would come later, excuse me. But as you’re looking at some of these figures–Neville Chamberlain–they knew how to use language. They really didn’t know how to use language to send the nation into war because you have to set the language at war. And again, William Manchester has it so right. And I still think his introduction–his two volume biography of Churchill is one of the best–when he says, he just understood as a boy the simple power of the English sentence; a sentence can be used as a weapon of war. And so, Churchill worked his things out. Come to my library sometime. I’ve got one of the manuscripts the Churchill spoke off of, and you just look at it and, man, he is going at the verbs. And by the way, he believed–and of course he was an Englishman to the core–he believed that the Anglo-Saxon words would motivate people. And without going into detail, because we don’t have time, he used these historic Anglo-Saxon words in simple English sentences. “We will fight them on the beaches.” It’s just very, very simple. He tried to avoid using French and German words for some obvious reasons. Instead, use these Anglo-Saxon words and let them just hit the British people. And of course, Churchill ultimately wanted them to hit the American people as well. And they did. And the amazing thing is the American President at the time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was also someone who understood the power of words whose remembered verse fireside chats. Their speech was very different. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not remembered as an orator, but as a master conversationalist who, in effect, through his radio talks–for example, fireside chats–learned how to have a conversation with the American people and to lead them by that conversational leadership. Churchill was one of the last of the great orators and he was also a master of conversation, but it all comes down to the power of language. I think it’s still true that there are very few opportunities or episodes or examples of leadership where leadership is not translated into a great power of language.

Eighth, I want to speak about Winston Churchill and the power of humor. Alright, so in the modes of leadership that are available to us, as you think about modern leaders and you think about leaders of old, one of the most interesting things is that we are drawn to the leaders that were yes, most effective, most historically crucial, but also the ones that appear to be very human. A part of being human is a sense of humor. Leaders understand how to enjoy and deploy a sense of humor. Now, it has to be done rightly. Can’t be done wrongly. Winston Churchill did it, first of all, by the power of wit.

He saw an opportunity, one of his political enemies walked by on the floor of parliament. Someone turned to him and said, that’s a very humble man. Winston Churchill said, that’s a man who has much to be humble about. He’s just the bottom line. When he was a little boy, he had a teacher tell him that he was a worm. Winston Churchill turned around, went back to his seat saying, yes, but I’m a glow worm. It’s just understanding these things. When he was corrected one time in terms of his English diction–and this was a man who was a master of the English language–he said, that is the kind of nonsense up with which I will not put. If you’re going to speak to the English people and set them to war, you’re going to split some infinitives brother.

It’s the kind of humor that he used and sometimes it was a little earthier than that. Not rude, but it was just concrete human humor sometimes deployed in the most difficult of circumstances. For instance, even in Darkest Hour, the movie–which frankly takes a good deal of liberties with the historical facts–I think it does get Churchill’s personality down in so many ways. His colleagues would talk about the fact that even as you see depicted in the movie in Britain’s darkest hour, there were moments when Churchill would smile in ways that perplexed people. And a part of it was because he may have heard some good news that he couldn’t share with anyone else, but the other part of it was he enjoyed the human beings around him. And even in the crucible of Britain’s darkest hour, he could see human beings as the human beings they were and could see humor in himself.

He was quite able to laugh at himself, which is a good thing. He used humor in his oratory from time to time. He used humor as a defensive mechanism, probably learned from the time he was a boy. I think leadership requires a certain kind of humor. It’s not humor at someone else’s expense. It has to be a humor that is in some sense directed at the self in which you’re more or less saying to people, look, if I can do this, you can. You want feet of clay. Look here, we are human beings in all of that humanity. And sometimes it just comes out really funny, and sometimes it goes flat. Churchill, once when he was a very young man, walked into one of the gentleman’s clubs at which he was a member and saw a senior member of parliament, and he was quite large and it’s one of the few cases in which Churchill, it all backfired on him. He went up to the man and kind of poked him in the stomach and he said, is it a boy or a girl? And this is Victorian senior political leader. And the man took the cigar out of his mouth and looked at Churchill and said, well, I tell you Winston, if it’s a girl, I will name her Victoria after the Queen. If it’s a boy, I will name him Winston after the obvious. If it is gas, as I presume it is, it will be Winston for sure. I think he may have said he would name the boy George after the king. It’d be Albert the Prince at that point. But the point is this, if it was gas, it was Winston for sure. And the fact that we’re still talking about that particular anecdote is just a reminder of the fact that Churchill could take as well as he could give, and that’s essential for leadership. That’s one of the reasons why I think a part of God’s plan, for instance, for a man who’s a leader in particular, to be married and to have children and eventually, by God’s grace grandchildren, is because children will tell you the truth and children will see you for exactly who you are. And that’s one of the graces of the life of a leader is when you have children and grandchildren who know exactly who you are and love you for who you are and admire you for who you are. But I mean, after all, they have seen you in circumstances that are not so dignified.

Alright, two more points. The next point is leadership in the power of memory, and by this I’d simply want to point out the fact that we’re talking about Winston Churchill in the year 2024–a man who was born 150 years ago–and we’re talking about him now. There’s only one reason and that is because Britain cannot know who it is without rather constant mention of Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill has been the subject of a major biographical book published at least once a month since 1941. There has not been a month since 1941 that a major published work has not come out on Winston Churchill. Just in the last year, there have been at least 10 or 11 major works on Winston Churchill, and I bought most of them and read most of them, and most of them are worth reading. That’s the amazing thing. He’s such a giant historical reality, but again, the fact that we’re thinking about him–and talking about him in Louisville, Kentucky in 2024–has to be somehow explained. And it is because Winston Churchill lives in our memory and once you know even just a part of the story, he lives in a part of that memory. And this is a part of what Israel did even in the Passover, and it was just far more important, of course. It just had to keep remembering, this is what happened. You can’t be a child of Israel and not talk about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses, Joshua. We can’t be Christians without talking about Peter and Paul and, fast forward through history, Augustine, Athanasius, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, you just go down the list. There are people who live in our memory and there are people who at the time, someone thinks are an insignificant part of the story, and yet it turns out that’s not the case at all. You have Rahab and an entire succession of people who are mentioned in Scripture and, all of a sudden, you realize it turns out this was an important moment in salvation history. And it’s just important that we remember the stewardship of memory. Both ways. Both ways. We are those who remember and, let’s be honest, we hope at least to live a life that someone remembers.

Alright. The last word is leadership and the power of theology. And this is not to use Winston Churchill as a theological example. He wasn’t. Now he could see some things pretty clearly. He defended the divine creation. He defended the veracity of the Pentateuch, of all things, writing an article on the historicity of the first five books of the Bible. It would be wrong to describe him as a born-again Christian, partly because he was Anglican and assumed he was a Christian because he had been baptized christened as a baby. He had an awkward situation with the church. He was not a clearly identified convictional Christian. As a matter of fact, he spoke openly about the fact–not only, he’s not remembered that way, he wasn’t. Now, what did he believe? In his heart of hearts, I don’t know. That’s a part of the kind of aristocratic Anglican predicament we have. He just doesn’t speak very candidly about such things. But this is where we as Christians, theologically, have to remember. There’s a difference between talking about Moses and Winston Churchill. One of them is a part of salvation history. The other–and especially when you speak of someone like Abraham, is a part of salvation history. You speak about Winston Churchill–I’m not suggesting he’s a part of salvation history, he is a part about saving Western civilization in one of its darkest hours. It turns out that in God’s sovereignty that, too, is important. It’s not the same thing. It is not going to be at all the same thing in heaven, in the kingdom of Christ. Those who have done things for the kingdom are going to be honored–and then that’s going to be surprising because I think most of them will never have made the headlines anywhere–women and men who just did what was right and achieved greatness in the kingdom of God–I think very clearly that means that a lot of people who are our heroes in this life, they may simply be absent in the life to come in the kingdom of Christ. That doesn’t mean that in this life they’re not important and that our stewardship of thinking about their lives and learning from them isn’t important as well. I just wrote down those particular 10 points because I thought it might be an interesting way to kind of look at Churchill–and I was asked to speak for a certain amount of time and I have hit it and gone slightly beyond it. Very Churchillian.