I love theology and like everybody who loves theology, I have my go-to theologians (I include pastors in this list). These are my top 10 favorite go-to guys when it comes to theology. These are not necessarily in any order because I go to some for certain issues and others for different issues.
10. Tertullian – A few years ago, I read almost everything by this guy. It was a bit dry at times, but it was very helpful. Tertullian was an early Christian theologian/Church father (late 2nd/early 3rd centuries). He was pivotal in early Christian doctrine. He did for a while get way off orthodoxy, but later repented and came back to the fold. For the most part, his works are helpful. Even St. Augustine found his works helpful in developing his own theological issues. Two of the thoughts (not doctrines) I remember from Tertullian were his argument that Christianity is the only crime for which one is tortured until he denies his crime (thus denying following Christ) and that many Christians refused to join the Roman military lest they be forced to fight their Christian brethren.
9. Augustine – What can one say about St. Augustine that hasn’t been said already? He is superb. There is a reason that both Romanists and Protestants claim him. He was so instrumental in the doctrines of the church, and the systematic understandings of Scripture. Neither Romanists nor Protestants would agree with everything he wrote or taught, each having their favorite doctrines and others they wish didn’t exist, but much of what he wrote is most definitely helpful. My first taste of Augustine proper (not just reading what other said he said) was de Trinitate (On the Trinity) and then his Confessions. Read them both.
8. John Calvin – Of course! I’m a Calvinist; why would I not include him? He is probably the most well-rounded theologian of all. His Institutes are a must read. I use his commentaries constantly as I prepare for Sundays. He is a must go-to guy.
7. Thomas Watson – I love this guy! A Puritan and a shepherd. To me, he is the easiest of the Puritans to read. I have read his books on prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and repentance. Each one is rich and deep, but understandable. “The Sacrament is chiefly intended as a spiritual banquet; it is not to indulge the senses but to feed the graces.” (The Lord’s Supper, Banner of Truth Trust, 2004)
6. John Piper – The enthusiasm of this man for God’s glory is second to none. I have read many, though certainly not all, of his books. I spent one year a few years back reading one book a month. It was my year of Johns (Calvin’s Institutes, and 12 Piper books). My first experience with John Piper was his Desiring God pastor’s conference in 2004. I got a copy of Don’t Waste Your Life and was hooked.
5. Charles Spurgeon – My second son’s middle name is Haddon. Need I say more? I love to go to Spurgeon’s sermons. In fact, I am hoping to soon start a regimen of reading one sermon a day. His Morning & Evening is one of my favorite devotionals, his Soul Winning book is one of the best I’ve read. I love his Treasure of David commentaries on the Psalms. If I have a question on the Psalms, I usually go to him first. AND! the only bobble-head that I own, is a Spurgeon bobble-head.
4.Richard Baxter – I’ve only read The Reformed Pastor, but it is one of the few books that I have read more than once. I usually will read a book once and never touch it again, except to find a quote or such thing. Baxter’s book (and thus theology) on pastoring is humbling and encouraging.
3. John MacArthur – On most doctrines, John MacArthur is spot on. Again, his commentaries are generally a set that I will go to, though I haven’t acquired them all as of yet. I fell in love with this guy when I read The Gospel According to Jesus. Clear, concise, and helpful. He is a master of theology.
2. Benjamin B. Warfield – While I’m not a Presbyterian, I find his stuff fascinating. If I remember correctly, it was his book on Tertullian and Augustine that got me reading these two.
1. Joel Beeke – Again, these are not in actual order. Sometimes Beeke is my number 1 and sometimes not. In all actuality, all of the above have been my number 1 at some point. I will say that if you have not read his book, Living for God’s Glory you need to stop what you’re doing and pick up a copy and read it. Beeke is articulate and to the point. Sometimes he can get a little dry, but who doesn’t? You’ve probably yawned once or twice just reading this blog, haven’t you?
So there you are. These are the theologians that I find to be most helpful. Some runners up would be: Edwards, Luther, Beale, Storms. How about you? Who are your favorites? Let me know!