Thursday, July 23, 2020

Episode 45: Eric Eichinger on Eric Liddell: Chariots of Fire & The Final Race

Episode 45 is available on most podcast platforms, including Apple, Anchor, Google and Spotify!

Author Eric Eichinger and his wife Kara, continuing to learn
about and carry the memory of "Eric Liddell" (background)

is the author of The Final Race, a biography about Eric Liddell (remains famed today through the quintessential running film "Chariots of Fire", based on his appearance in the 1924 Olympic Games), but we learn whose most inspirational accomplishments come after the Olympics. These life stories penned by Eichinger echo Liddell's unwavering commitment to his faith and compassion for others whom he loved and served. Eric Eichinger, our guest for today's podcast, also ran competitively: varsity track and field at his alma mater Michigan State University, before also serving in China for several years, like the Scottish Olympic champion Eric Liddell. Also like Liddell, he worked in youth ministry and was drawn to seminary, and finally ordained into the office of the holy ministry (in 2006).  

Eric shares many more parallels with his own life and Liddell's in this 45 minute interview. What was the life of this introverted humble man, the world's fastest individual in his day who inspired millions roughly a century ago? Eric includes some glimpses into important breakthroughs in theology, and hints at some debates that still persist in Christianity today. However, several things are irrefutable: the overall message and continuous legacy of Liddell's life is that of unmerited grace and receiving the gospel message free of any attachments, never "earning" God's love, even amidst pursuit of perfection that marked earlier years, and with which he struggled. Throughout Eric's new book and multiple projects available for exploration at his website, his voice of compassion shines, an affirmation of human dignity, especially for the marginalized; Relationships are the heart of God's living kingdom, and we are made in His image -- to love. 

The story in a nutshell: Olympian, missionary, and pastor Eric Liddell sacrificed comfort, fame & fortune, and ultimately his life to share this message with those in need in China for almost two decades, during tremendous upheaval during depression and World War II, where he was a internment camp minister and resident.

Eric Eichinger currently serves as pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in the Tampa Bay area of Florida where he continues to work on the "Absolute Surrender" project and to transfer his screenplay and book onto the big screen in the near future. Eric lives with his wife, their three children and a feisty dachshund, Doppelbock.

The book "The Final Race: The Incredible World War II Story of the Olympian Who Inspired Chariots of Fire" is available on Amazon, Kindle and Audible (audio book):

Please visit his website for more (or to purchase a signed copy of the book directly):

About Chariots of Fire & Absolute Surrender (exerpts from Eric Eichinger's projects page)

The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and it won four of them... but Chariots of Fire was just the beginning of Eric Liddell’s emotional heart-wrenching story.  We have come to know him as the Olympian who refused to run on Sunday, switching from the 100m race to the 400m and victoriously winning the gold.  He became Scotland’s hero, and his faith was truly inspirational.


Though his Olympic feats were remarkable, arguably the most emotional and inspirational parts of LIddell’s life didn’t take place until after the Olympics.  His family had worked in China as missionaries during the boxer rebellion, and following the 1924 Olympics, Eric returned to North China. He taught Chemistry and organized sports to Chinese boys until being ordained as a minister in 1932.  In 1934, at the age of 32, Eric married Florence Mackenzie, the daughter of Canadian missionaries in Tientsin, China.  They would have three daughters together.


As World War II was heating up in China, the family faced increasing danger throughout the later part of 1930’s, and Eric’s travels had him crossing the Japanese army lines.  Both the Communist and Nationalist forces in China were quite hostile to missionary work at the time.  Following the Japanese invasion of China in 1940, the British government advised citizens to leave. Liddell arranged for his wife and two children (as well as one on the way) to leave for Canada to stay with her parents, and he stayed behind to continue his much-needed work in the villages who were experiencing so much hardship.


LIddell was soon sent by the Japanese to an internment camp, along with 1800 others.  At the camp, he continued his work much like he did in the villages.  It was clear that LIddell was still a leader and an inspiration to those around him.


By 1944, it was obvious that Liddell’s health was fading.  He himself attributed the cause to a nervous breakdown caused by overwork.  What no one knew is that he had a large brain tumor on the left side of his brain.  On February 21st, 1945, Eric Liddell laid back surrounded by friends at the internment camp, and uttered the words “It is surrender” just before passing away.


Absolute Surrender is the story of Eric LIddell after Chariots of Fire.  It is the remarkable journey of an extraordinary man whose race was just the beginning, and whose end was truly... absolute surrender.

Eric's desk, Avid Spartan fan at work!

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