Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave is a meditation on the nature and conditions of human authority. Men don't gain power mainly through force or wealth, says Breese, but through paradigm-shifting ideas that topple previously-held beliefs while establishing new ones.
Breese picks seven of the West's favorite whipping boys to investigate his theory: Darwin, Marx, Julius Wellhausen (a founder of textual higher criticism), Dewey, Freud, John Maynard Keynes, and Soren Kierkegaard. He defines their views, shows how they contradicted orthodox Christianity, and demonstrates the influence they continue to exert today. Breese tirelessly points us to Christian truth as the only antidote to the secular philosophies he unmasks.
This is a brief survey of the prominent Western ideas about religion, humanity, science, education, economics and government, epistemology, and meaning. Each thinker is presented quickly, though Breese is good at connecting each one to his contemporaries and important ideas that came before.
However, there is a fair amount of misrepresentation. Thinkers like Darwin and Marx, of whom much has been written, are pretty accurately portrayed, but things get rather uncomfortable in the last chapter on Kierkegaard, at least for those familiar with the melancholy Dane's writings and thought.
Breese misrepresents Kierkegaardian thought, neo-orthodoxy, and existentialism, burying all three in obscure language and references to their incomprehensibility. Now, existentialism should not be defended by Christians, but Kierkegaard did not found secular existentialism or invent neo-orthodoxy. That Breese makes these claims is particularly maddening in a book supposed to introduce us to important ideas. How many casual readers have been thrown off track by his shoddy summaries?
That said, 7 Men Who Rule the World from the Grave isn't all bad. Breese's consistent pointing toward Christ is refreshing, and the fact that he's even willing to engage secular ideas at all says something. Still, read with caution, and use this accessible text as a jumping off place for more thorough study.