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'The Hound of Heaven' Still Rings True for Humans that Flee from God

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him…”


If you’ve never heard those famous opening lines from Francis Thompson’s classic poem, “The Hound of Heaven,” it’s not surprising. In our day, this 19th century poet has fallen into obscurity. But there was a time when Thompson’s fellow writers praised his pen as among the most poignant in the English-speaking world. He profoundly influenced men like G. K. Chesterton, Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and upon reading his work Oscar Wilde is said to have exclaimed, “Why can’t I write poetry like that?”


But open up Thompson’s biography and you’ll find a story punctuated by sorrow, failure and addiction. The squalor and self-medication of his age come through in every chapter of his life, ultimately ending in his death at age 48. But Thompson’s real legacy is not the opium that consumed his body, but the paw prints of a Hound he says relentlessly pursued his soul.


Thompson knew that Hound as the God Who draws sinners to Himself even as they flee from His voice. And an updated version of his poem is reintroducing a new generation of Christians to that dauntless Hunter of hearts. I’m sharing it with you, not just because it’s time we rediscover Francis Thompson, but because one of the men behind this retelling is none other than a Colson Center Centurion—Asbury University professor, Greg Bandy.


Greg is the producer on Emblem Media’s production of “The Francis Thompson Story” and an editor on the modern adaptation of “The Hound of Heaven.” He says his Centurions training influenced him profoundly, inspiring a passion to tell lost stories to modern audiences. He’s been involved in a host of similar projects, including the movie “Amazing Grace,” and documentaries on the stories of John Newton and C. S. Lewis.


Greg can’t say enough good things about Chuck Colson or the Centurions Program, which he calls “a watershed experience” in his life.


But Chuck started shaping Greg’s thinking even earlier. Greg recalls his father telling him to read a commencement speech Chuck gave at Wheaton College. That’s when Greg says a light came on. He started to think “worldviewishly”—especially about entertainment and media. And he applied that understanding in his production work and in the classroom. And now Greg helps audiences and students grasp why the messages they read and they watch really matter.


Greg even wrote Chuck Colson a letter about his experience, and, to his surprise, Chuck wrote back. His reply boiled down to this: “You need to join the Centurions.”


That program, says Greg, “was hugely motivational in finding stories to share with people.” And the story of Francis Thompson and “The Hound of Heaven” is, appropriately, one that’s pursued him for years.


Greg walked in the London poet’s footsteps with a film crew. They visited the streets where Thompson sold matches after he flunked out of med school, the home of the magazine editor who brought him to the public’s attention, the priory where Catholic priests helped him overcome his opium addiction. And they also interviewed the great grandson of the man who rescued Thompson from the gutters.


Their journey uncovered a story they hope their films and book can reintroduce to the world—a story not just about a poem, but about God’s relentless pursuit after even the most broken individuals.


“Alack, thou knowest not,” says the Hound after catching Thompson, “How little worthy of any love thou art! Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, Save Me, save only Me?”


Well, thank God that Hound is still hot on all our trails! Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll tell you how you can get a copy of this timeless, beautiful poem retold. And thanks to Emblem Media, you can also watch a limited, special online screening of these films. Don’t miss this great opportunity.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: November 25, 2014

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