It’s Top 10 Thursday again, and it’s time to discuss another important topic: my faves. Today’s top 10 list involves my favorite saints (after all it is All Saints Day). Now here’s the thing: I’m Protestant and don’t actually believe in the separation of super-Christians and regular Christians. All true believers are saints. That being said, you will find most of the people on this list have not been canonized by Rome or the OC and that’s fine by me. In reality, I used the word “saints” to describe my favorite people in church history, but that seemed like too long of a title for a Top 10. Some of these people will be repeats from previous blogs; at least I’m consistent. By the way, I am leaving off the apostles; those are a given.
Even though Tertullian went off the deep end at one point in his life, he recanted and came back to orthodoxy. His writings are some mind-blowing works on doctrine and faith. My favorite thing he wrote (and I paraphrase) is how Christianity is the only crime for which Rome imprisoned and tortured people in order to get them to deny committing it. Every other criminal is imprisoned and tortured until they confess committing the crime.
9. D. L. Moody
While D. L. Moody and I would definitely disagree on some theological issues, I must say that he did so much for the kingdom of God. Being converted out of Unitarianism and loving Christ, wanting others to love Him just as much, God set Moody on fire to proclaim the gospel all throughout Chicagoland. I recall the story of his preaching one night. The sermon lasted longer than expected during that revival, so he dismissed the people without an invitation to receive Christ. Surely they would be back the next night. However that night was the night of the great Chicago fire. October 8, 1871 was a night Moody would never forget. The fire lasted three days and up to 300 people were killed. He was convinced that some had been to the revival and had perished because they did not receive an invitation to Christ. He vowed never to let another service go without an invitation.
I love Athanasius. I have ever since I heard his story from the voice of John Piper. Back in the fourth century, he was caught “contra mundum” against the world for proclaiming that Jesus was God. While this was the teachings of the apostles, a man named Arius defied such teaching and his arguments seemed so plausible that people seemed to abandon orthodoxy and joined him saying Jesus was God’s highest and first created being. Athanasius stood against this heresy and would not back down. He would be exiled from his church in Alexandria seven times, but he would not deny the deity of Christ. Because of his tenacity, we remain in the orthodox teaching of the Trinity.
6. J. C. Ryle
Ryle was an Evangelical Anglican bishop in the 1800s and brought a clarity to the Word of God like few have been able to do. I was introduced to this man’s writings just a few years ago, since moving to the St. Louis area. The first book I read was Thoughts for Young Men. How I wish I had read this when I was a young man. I have multiple copies of this short book to hand out to young men as they are in need of it (yes, need of it). His works on holiness and preaching are top notch and eye-opening yet so clear and understandable.
5. Martin Luther
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Martin Luther. He was the one who nailed the 95 Thesis to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany (Saxony). This was originally meant to be a debate amongst scholars, but someone translated his work from Latin to German and printed multiple copies. These copies got into the hands of the commoners and a firestorm reigned down on the Church of Rome. Luther went on to testify at the Diet of Worms (deet of verms) where he made his famous “Here I Stand” speech that has gone down in history. Of course, Luther would translate the Bible into German and do a whole lot of other things in his life. Luther and I would disagree on a few doctrines, but if not for Luther, I fear I’d still be in the shadow of Rome, darkened from the gospel.
4. John Calvin
Yup. Not a surprise, is it? Calvin was the theologian of the Reformation. Luther was good, but Calvin was unmatched. My goal was to read through Calvin’s Institutes a couple of years ago. I almost got through on my own, but as the year was ending I had to listen to part of it on audio. Being a Calvinist, I appreciate his works on explaining soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) known as the doctrines of grace. But his contributions and commentaries that help us to understand Scripture and theology are virtually unmatched in history.
Unless of course, you go to Augustine. Calvin considered himself an Augustinian in much of his theology. Augustine is the second of actual “saints” canonized (the first was Athanasius). If I recall correctly, the first I read from Augustine was his Confessions autobiography. This was superb, just reading about his life as a pagan and his conversion in the garden, tears streaming down, hearing “tolle lege” and reading the Bible and so receiving Christ. I read parts of his de Trinitate (On the Trinity) which was more difficult obviously than his autobiography, but very helpful. Augustine is one of the few that all “sects” of Christianity would accept in the room (Rome, Orthodox, and Protestant). If memory serves me correctly, the OC have some greater issues than Rome and Protestants, but each have their disagreements.
2. Charles Spurgeon
I just published part one of a biographical sketch of Spurgeon on our church’s blog. I appreciate this pastor’s heart and his ease at which he preached, and so dubbed “The Prince of Preachers”. He spoke the truth and stood for the truth when no one else seemed to be willing. He did not have an easy life as his wife was in need of constant care, he was embroiled with controversy with the Baptist Union, and suffered often from depression and gout. Yet, here stood the man of God casting every care upon Him.
1. R. C. Sproul
Perhaps I am being a little nostalgic since Sproul only died last year on December 14, 2017, but it was Sproul that opened up my eyes to the beauty of God’s sovereignty. It was his work, The Holiness of God that stirred my heart toward the God who was bigger and greater and holier than I had ever imagined. He was straight-forward and pulled no punches when he spoke or wrote. A great man of God who found joy and delivered it to others based upon God’s holiness and sovereignty.
There’s my top 10 list. How about you? Who are your top “saints” in church history? Let me know by commenting below. I’d love to hear who is near and dear to you, and why .