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Who are the three most important Christians from the time of (and not including) the apostles until today?
Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)
The three most important Christians from the time of the Apostles until the present day no doubt vary from person to person, however, for me it is Augustine, Luther, and Edwards. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo died as the barbarians were at the gate of his city. It was an ominous time, yet Augustine served the church well with his Confessions and The City of God. Instead of being the end of the church, His works helped in its triumph over the barbarian threat. Martin Luther was the obscure monk who shook his world to its foundations. Catapulted into fame, he brought the church back to a biblical foundation and the evangelical truth of justification by faith. Jonathan Edwards brought forward Puritan heart religion. Evangelical and reformed, his writing on revival and the publication of Brainerd’s journal stirred the imagination and created a thirst for missions and revival.
Robert Cole (Pastor, Berean Baptist Church of Ceres, California)
The three most important Christians, in my opinion, all share something in common (other than Christ, obviously). They were all used by God in awakenings of the Christian faith.
1. Augustine(354-430). He was used by God to shape the way people think about God. In the midst of an extremely hedonistic, secularist world, he challenged the manner in which people think. Jerome said Augustine,”established anew the ancient Faith.” An awakening. Important indeed.
2. Martin Luther (1483-1546). He was used by God to challenge the heresy of the Roman Catholic Church and begin what would become a world wide reformation. Turning the attention back to the Word of God as the source of truth and authority over all of life. This was indeed an awakening. Important indeed.
3. Carolyn Walker (1974-present). She was used by God to bring an offensive gospel to an offensive, perverse sinner. To most, an ordinary girl. To this writer, an instrument in my salvation. Used by God in my own awakening. Important indeed.
Matt Foreman (Pastor, Faith Reformed Baptist Church of Media, Pennsylvania)
Pretty standard for the first two –
1) Augustine – The most influential theologian of the early church. His ecclesiology became the baseline for the Roman Catholic Church; his soteriology for the Protestant church.
2) Calvin – The premier theologian of the Reformation. Many outside of Reformed circles are simply unaware of how much Calvin’s thought influenced subsequent history – not only in theology, but in politics, economics, ethics, etc.
3) Martyn Lloyd-Jones – This one may be obscure and surprising, and certainly reveals a theological bias. But since I believe that the recovery of Reformed theology and the Reformed Resurgence is a good thing, there is simply no figure more historically important in that recovery than Lloyd-Jones. At a time when the influence of Reformed theology was at its weakest, Lloyd-Jones was used by God to provide an example of powerful preaching and church practice, and to begin a movement that has reshaped the current landscape.
Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)
Augustine is at the top of the list. Augustine’s City of God is unmatched in Christian writing. He was foundational in clearly articulating biblical soteriology and showing a true example of experiential divinity.
Martin Luther is either loved or hated. While there are certainly many things that could be said about some of Luther’s ideas and practices, he is undoubtedly a man that God used in a way that can be said of no other in the recovery of true biblical teaching in the face of great apostasy. He is, in my opinion, a hero of the faith.
William Carey is known as the father of modern missions. His challenge to the church to engage in world evangelization set a course for missions that has remained relatively unchanged since the late 18th century. Without Carey, we would be much further behind in our task to fulfill the great commission.
Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)
Hendrix, Dylan… wait. Wrong list. Everyone is going to say Augustine, which I have to follow. He is the one who soteriologically founded reformational doctrine and ecclesiologically established medieval Roman identity. Just to be different, I’ll put Anselm as my second, because of the influence he had in centering Western Christianity (I believe rightly so) on forensic justification. For the Reformation, which you have to choose someone on that topic, it’s hard to choose between Luther, whom God used to catalyze the whole thing, or Calvin, whom God used to systematize it, but in the end, I think Luther was more essential even though I agree far more theologically with Calvin. I do hope someone chooses Spurgeon or Carey though, as cases can be made for either, and we need some Baptists on the list.
Keith Thompson (Pastor,Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania)
- Emperor Constantine. I know there are still debates as to whether his “conversion” was motivated by genuine faith or political savvy, but either way, the Lord used him to legitimize the Christian faith allowing the message of the cross to spread freely. Ramifications of his conversion have echoed through the centuries resulting in Christian thought and morays being the foundation of Western Civilization.
- Although not an individual Christian, my #2 goes to the British Navy which defeated the Spanish Armada. Had it not been for that naval victory, it is widely speculated that there would be no protestants.
- How can I not put John Calvin in my top 3? Although Luther is credited with starting the Reformation, Calvin’s Institutes gave invaluable intellectual credibility to the Protestant cause. Even secular historians often put the Institutes in their list of the top 5 most influential books of all time.
Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)
3. Martin Luther. I wanted to pick Calvin here, but though Calvin systematized Protestant theology, it was Luther, standing on the backs of previous martyrs and reformers, who had the nerve to stand up to the entire medieval system of abuses and perversions that was the Church in his day. Are there any more famous words than “Here I stand?”
2. Constantine the Great. I know that many question whether he even was a Christian. I don’t put him here because of the brilliance of his own personal faith, but rather because without Constantine, there would be no Nicea—the bedrock of all orthodoxy. Also, Constantine—for better or for worse—changed the course of Christianity forever, turning it from a backwoods sect where believers could very possibly be put to death, to the official religion of the greatest Empire in world history. Plus, he has a great city named after him. Or wait, is that Istanbul? No, its Constantinople.
1. Augustine was perhaps the most prolific writer of the first thousand years of church history. His City of God was the cornerstone of shaping Western Christian thought, his views of salvation and his Confessions were profoundly biblical and experiential. He was the full package and the most influential Christian outside of the New Testament.