I was pleasantly surprised to receive a number of responses to my February 10, 2021, Perspective on “Why Read Full-length Historic Christian Biographies?” Several people kindly emailed to affirm the tremendous blessing and benefit such biographies have been to them. Some respondents mentioned a few or even several of their favorite biographies. Others requested a list of my top recommendations.
So here are some of my top-tier biography suggestions on a dozen outstanding servants of Christ during the last three centuries. Of course numerous other worthwhile biographies have been written about many other remarkable Christians from throughout Church History. Periodically in future Perspectives I’ll seek to share additional lists of some of my other high-ranking biography recommendations. Meanwhile, here are some great biographies with which people can get started.
The individuals featured here are simply listed in alphabetical order by their last names, rather than in any type of priority listing. I’ve included more than one quality biography for most of these subjects. These specific people have been selected for a variety of reasons, including their exceptional prominence and the extraordinary impact of their ministries. These particular biographies present some of the most enjoyable and spiritually-beneficial accounts of their lives and ministries.
1. William and Catherine Booth (1829-1912, 1829-1889), British Methodist evangelists and founders of The Salvation Army: The General Next to God: The Story of William Booth and The Salvation Army, by Richard Collier (Fontana/Collins, 1985). William and Catherine: The Life and Legacy of the Booths, Founders of The Salvation Army, by Trevor Yaxley with Carolyn Vanderwal(Bethany, 2003).
2. William Carey (1761-1834), British Baptist missionary to India, considered to be the father of the modern missionary movement: William Carey: “The Father of Modern Missions”, by S. Pearce Carey (Hodder & Stoughton, 1923; Wakeman, 2008). William Carey: Missionary Pioneer and Statesman, by F. Deauville Walker (Moody, 1951).
3. Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), American hymnwriter. Blind from six weeks of age, she wrote nearly 9,000 hymns in her lifetime and became the world’s premiere hymnist of her era: Fanny J. Crosby: An Autobiography (Baker, 1995). Her Heart Can See, The Life and Hymns of Fanny J. Crosby, by Edith Blumhofer (Eerdmans, 2005). Fanny Crosby, by Bernard Ruffin (Pilgrim, 1976).
4. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), American Congregational minister prominent in promoting America’s First Great Awakening (spiritual revival): Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, by Iain H. Murray (Banner of Truth, 1996).
5. Billy Graham (1918-2018), American evangelist, world’s premiere evangelist of the second half of the 20th century: A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, by William Martin (Morrow/Quill, 1991). Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (Harper Collins/Zondervan, 1997).
6. Dwight Moody (1837-1899), American evangelist, world’s foremost evangelist of the second half of the 19th century: Moody: A Biography, by John Pollock (Baker/Christian Focus, 1997). They Called Him Mister Moody, by Richard Curtis (Eerdmans, 1967). The Life of Dwight L. Moody, by his son W.R. Moody (Barbour, 1985).
7. George Muller (1805-1898), German-born Brethren minister in Britain best known for his faith-based orphan ministry: George Muller: Delighted in God!, by Roger Steer (Shaw: 1981). George Muller of Bristol: His Life of Prayer and Faith, by Arthur T. Pierson (Kregel, 2000).
8. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), British Baptist minister, the world’s premiere preacher of his day: Spurgeon, by Arnold Dallimore (Moody, 1984). Charles H. Spurgeon: London’s Most Popular Preacher, by W.Y. Fullerton (Moody, 1966).
9. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), British missionary to China, founder of the non-denominational China Inland Mission: Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China, by Vance Christie (P&R, 2011). J. Hudson Taylor: A Man in Christ, by Roger Steer (OMF, 1991). Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, by Howard and Geraldine Taylor (Moody, 1989).
10. Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), Hollander, Nazi concentration camp survivor, evangelist to the world: Corrie ten Boom, Her Story (The Hiding Place, Tramp for the Lord, Jesus Is Victor), Corrie’s three best-known autobiographical works in one volume (Inspirational Press, 1995). Corrie ten Boom: Her Life, Her Faith, by Carole C. Carlson (Revell/Spire, 1984).
11. John Wesley (1703-1791), Prominent evangelist in Britain’s 18th century Evangelical Revival, founder of Methodism: John Wesley, by John Pollock (Victor, 1989).
12. George Whitefield (1714-1770), British Anglican priest, used of God as the human sparkplug of Britain’s Evangelical Revival and America’s First Great Awakening: George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century, by Arnold Dallimore (Crossway, 1990; Dallimore’s original comprehensive two-volume work on Whitefield is available from Banner of Truth). Memoirs of George Whitefield, by John Gillies (Pietan, 1993).
Most of these proffered biographies are of more-substantive length. Shorter biographies of all these individuals are also available, and doubtless would be of greater benefit for reading by children. But for adults the extra time and effort needed to read fuller accounts of these people’s lives are well worth the investment. Newer editions of several of these recommended books are no doubt available. Some of these works are now out of print but copies of them can still be found through various online booksellers.
Copyright 2021 by Vance E. Christie