Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: The Search For God and Guinness (Review)

What does God and Beer have in common?  Well, in terms of the Guinness family, a lot.

Historian Stephen Mansfield has drafted (pun intended) a biography of the Guinness family that focuses on how its members - beginning with company founder Arthur Guinness - have truly lived out their faith in the midst of company policy.

Mansfield follows the various family members - mainly the guys, since they were typically the ones running the business - showing decisions they made that were quite enlightening concerning employee treatment and the welfare of the poor.

Mansfield shows how Guinness was influenced by a variety of evangelical Christians, including John Wesley - the founder of the Methodist church.

It seems Wesley's insistence upon a "transforming brand of salvation" as well as his "evangelical social outreach" helped shape Guinness' world view.

Wesley's social outreach program and view of holiness included  (but was not limited to) visiting prisoners, taking up collections for the poor and urging the rich to fulfill their Christian obligations to society.

While Mansfield says Wesley's exact influence on Guinness is unknown; historians can show how the business owner lived out Wesley's social values for the remainder of his life.

This can be seen first, and foremost in Guinness' establishment of the first Sunday school movement in Ireland in 1786, which gave poor children instruction - not only in the Bible, but also in reading and other basic subjects. He believed education was the key to helping children in need.

Guinness truly believed his family motto: "Spes mea in deo" (My hope is in God), finding ways to using his wealth to help those less fortunate.

What I Thought
I found this book quite fascinating. I loved learning more about beer and how it's development played a role in history. I also found it interesting how Mansfield unpacked how the early church leaders - including Martin Luther, both Charles and John Wesley, and George Whitfield - played a role in the history of this beverage.

While a friend who is a Wesley scholar said Mansfield may have "stretched" the facts a bit regarding Wesley's use of beer and ale, that is but a small piece of this book.

It's impressive to think that something Wesley said - in terms of how Christians should treat the poor and less fortunate - not only shaped Arthur Guinness' life, but also the lives of his family for more than two centuries.

The course of the company's business - as well as life in Dublin - was forever changed because of the influence of the Guinness'.

In one case, a staff doctor's efforts helped wipe out the diseases of poverty - including tuberculous. He also encouraged the company's board to find ways to help its employees.

This ultimately led to the establishment of an amazing policy which provided a Guinness worker in the 1920s to enjoy "full medical and dental care, massage services, reading rooms, subsidized meals, a company funded pension, subsidies for funeral expenses, educational benefits, sports facilities, free concerts, lectures and entertainment" and, of course, "two pints of Guinness beer a day."

Pretty impressive. The benefits given to workers at the turn of century sound pretty good now, in 2011.

It's equally impressive to see how people not only ran a company, steeped in tradition and heritage, with success, but also found a way to help others - truly a rich blending of faith and wealth.

In a world filled  with corporate greed and ill-treatment of employees, it's nice to see that some people truly have a model of business that helps others.

On another note: It's quite interesting to know that there were, in fact three "lines" in the Guinness family: Beer, Banking and Ministry. One man traveled the world as a noted evangelist, others made huge differences in the English and Irish banking industry - so Arthur Guinness' beliefs not only impacted one facet of life in Ireland and England, but many through the actions of his decedents.

The Guinness family is truly remarkable.

More About the Author
Stephen Mansfield is a New York Times bestselling author and a popular speaker who is becoming one of the nation’s most respected voices on religion in American culture.

He is author of The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of the American Soldier, Then Darkness Fled: The Liberating Wisdom of Booker T. Washington, and Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, among other works of history and biography.

In 2008, Mansfield wrote The Faith of Barack Obama, intended as an objective look at Obama’s religious life and the controversies that have surrounded it. The book reflects Mansfield’s ability to compassionately describe theological and political views that are not necessarily his own.

Founder of both The Mansfield Group, a research and communications firm, and Chartwell Literary Group, which creates and manages literary projects, Mansfield also serves as a lecturer and inspirational speaker.

Find out more about Mansfield at his website:

Online Resources


Read more about it at Thomas Nelson Publishers
Buy The Search For God and Guinness @
Get The Search For God and Guinness for the Kindle

Note: As a freelance journalist, I am often provided books to review by various publishers. However, in this case, I actually purchased this book on the advice of a colleague - so the only thing that influenced this review is my wallet; just in case the FTC cares.

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