This post is my attempt to assuage any hurt feelings over my last one, and to clarify that my previous post was not meant to advocate further division between Baptists and Presbyterians (or any other denomination). Where division exists it will continue to exist, because we feel those matters are important enough. That said, we should not constantly focus on what divides us, but what binds us under the same banner—the Gospel, the glory of God, and the desire for others to hear about Jesus and to worship Him. In that light I have chosen a list of individuals who have either been extremely helpful in my own spiritual life or to the Christian faith at large.
1. Henry Jacob (1563-1624) – One might consider Jacob the forefather of the “Particular Baptists,” thus making him the forefather of modern-day Baptists in America (despite the rejection by many in the Baptist denomination of most Particular Baptist doctrines, they do draw their heritage through them). If for nothing else, I like the guy because of who he associated with, including William Ames and John Robinson. Reform of the Church of England was necessary, and Henry Jacob was one piece in the defense against the errors of the church. In 1616, he found the “JLJ” church which began the practice of baptizing believers.
2. John Bunyan (1628-1688) – Bunyan is typically known for his allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, the story of Christian on his journey from the City of Destruction, to the cross, through trials, and on to the Celestial City. This book is, of course, an amazing one; in fact, my wife and I are currently reading through it again. The allegory is truly a work of genius, down to the smallest detail. But it is another work of his that I remind people to read because of the importance it has had in my life, and it is a subject that is so often neglected: The Fear of God — What it is, and what it is not (1679).
The hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here;
Come, pluck up, heart, let’s neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.
-Christian at hill Difficulty-
3. John Gill (1697-1771) – Gill was pastor of his church for over 50 years, a supporter of George Whitefield and the Awakening in America, and a staunch defender of the orthodox faith in England. He was committed to the defense of Calvinism, the Trinity, and Baptist convictions—I can respect the force and persuasiveness of his defenses of Baptist beliefs, and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to debate him. Gill possessed an amazing intellect; he could read and speak Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—and is considered by many as the greatest Hebraists in Reformed history.
His most monumental contribution to the Christian world was a complete exposition of the Old and New Testaments (something even Calvin and Henry did not accomplish, nor any one since Gill’s time). His exposition of the New Testament has been particularly useful to me. Admittedly, I would like to know more about him and read more of his works in the future.
If any one man can be supposed to have trod the whole circle of human learning, it was Dr. Gill. ― It would, perhaps, try the constitutions of half the literati in England only to read, with care and attention, the whole of what Gill wrote.
4. Isaac Backus (1724-1806) – Isaac Backus was an important figure in the years building up to the Revolution. In his sermon, Government and Liberty Described; and Ecclesiastical Tyranny Exposed, he rightfully exposed the hypocrisy of the standing party in New England. The Congregationalists of New England complained about the taxes of Great Britain, many of which were used for the support of the Church of England, while levying taxes against Baptists in New England to support a Congregational church they did not belong to or support (the complaint of many a separatist at the time). Backus’s A History of New England: With particular reference to the denomination of Christians called Baptists, is a recommended resource for Baptists who have an interest in their American heritage. He was also a founding member of Brown University.
5. Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) – By the early 1700s Particular Baptist beliefs had drifted toward a Hyper-Calvinistic understanding of grace. Fuller wrote in defense of the necessity for the Gospel proclamation, and was one individual who reinvigorated the desire for missions among Baptists, and with his leadership in the Baptist Missionary Society (founded in 1792) and the support of those advancing the gospel (i.e. William Carey), he was a forerunner of modern-day missions.
Let not the sleight of wicked men, who lie in wait to deceive, nor even the pious character of good men (who yet may be under great mistakes), draw me aside. Nor do thou suffer my own fancy to guide me. Lord, thou hast given me a determination to take up no principle at second hand; but to search for everything at the pure fountain of thy word.
6. William Carey (1761-1834) – How could one not include the individual often described as “The Father of Modern Missions”? Having taken interest in missionary accounts by John Eliot and the journal of David Brainerd, Carey was struck with a great concern to advance the Gospel to the remote parts of the world. As a friend of Murray he became associated with the Baptist Missionary Society and was involved in defense against the Hyper-Calvinism of the time, writing his work An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens in response to their claims that God did not need the efforts of men to convert souls. Later he went on to become a missionary to India, translating the New Testament into the local language and establishing schools there. Despite numerous hardships, including the mental breakdown and death of his wife, Carey laid the groundwork for Christianity in India (through translations, schools, and social reform) and for missions around the world.
Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.
7. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) – I don’t know where to begin (or end) with Spurgeon, I think most will know why he is on the list without me even having to explain. Spurgeon is one of those guys that Calvinists, Arminians, Baptist, and Presbyterians like; I’m sure you could find his Morning & Evening devotional on a Roman Catholic’s nightstand somewhere; this guy was that good. I’ve enjoyed his devotional, his Treasury of David (Psalms), and listening to his sermons read out of his collections. The man had a way of taking complex doctrine and spelling it out for a dullard like me to understand. I would easily recommend him to a new Christian and not think twice about the fact that he was Baptist (we could get into the areas I disagreed later…but for his thoughts on the Gospel, and the passion with which he preached, he’s pure gold).
If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.
8. Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952) – As I proceed through this list I am reminded that many great scholars have arisen from the Baptist ranks. Pink is no exception. His tome on Hebrews is probably one of the most thorough and useful commentaries on a difficult book of the Bible. Like his American contemporary, J. Grasham Machen, Pink was an intellectual force to be reckoned with, and stood firmly against the encroaching liberalism of his time. His expository approach to preaching and the treatment he gave to the Word of God was partially responsible for a renewed emphasis on those things in America and Great Britain. Recommended works by Pink: Exposition of Hebrews (all of his expositions/gleanings really), The Divine Inspiration of the Bible, The Patience of God, Practical Christianity, and The Sovereignty of God.
9. John Piper (1946-Present) – Piper has always seemed like a Spurgeon reborn to me. Like my explanation of Spurgeon, just about every denomination has something about Piper they can like. The man has passion. He thinks deeply about the Scriptures. And he explains them in a way that most can appreciate. He is certainly a model for any preacher to emulate no matter the denomination. Piper’s podcasts through DesiringGod were some of the first I ever listened to, and he helped me greatly in understanding the doctrines of grace and the joy of knowing Jesus. Pick a book by him and I would likely recommend it, especially: Let the Nations be Glad, Don’t Waste Your Life, The Justification of God, Desiring God, or When I Don’t Desire God. Furthermore, to my mind, no one has preached better through the whole book of Romans, especially Romans 6-8 (listen as soon as possible if you haven’t; notwithstanding any disagreement I might have with his interpretation of 6:1-4).
The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.
10. Al Mohler (1959-Present) – Mohler may not be someone as high up on my list of favorites, but he certainly has valuable insights. He has also been a faithful leader of Southern seminary. His podcast, The Briefing, is a great way to start the day; it not only gives you some important headlines, but some ways to think about them Biblically. I also appreciate many of his blog posts about current events.
11. Paul Washer (1961- Present) – The best way to describe Washer is as a preacher with a purpose to awaken. the man has a way of blowing up comfort bubbles and easy-believism. If you’ve listened to his sermons for any amount of time, you know what I’m talking about. He certainly preaches with passion and zeal, and he seems to truly desire a revival in true, sold-out Christianity. For these qualities he is to be admired, even if I am not 100% on where he stands on all issues; his preaching is enough for me to know that I agree with his Gospel call, and the effects of a changed life. I’ve also benefited from many of his videos, and think them very convicting and useful. I’ll link a few of my favorites: Shocking Youth Message (probably one he is best known for); Come to Christ, He is Mighty to Save; and A Call to Wonder.
People tell me judge not lest ye be judged. I always tell them, twist not scripture lest ye be like satan.
12. James White (1962-Present) – White is an elder at a Reformed Baptist Church. His biweekly podcast, The Dividing Line, is the only one I really listen to regularly. And his ministry, AOMin, has been helpful to me throughout my Christian life. He provides great analysis and apologetic tools for dealing with Islam, Mormonism, JWs, Roman Catholics, attacks on the Biblical record, synergism/Arminiamism, atheism, homosexuality, and several other miscellaneous topics. Like so many on this list, the man is a scholar, and is always a good reminder of the contributions of my Baptist brethren.
Adoniram and Ann Judson: Congregationalist turned Baptist (Adoniram), became a missionary from North America to Burma with his wife.
Lottie Moon: American missionary. She was a Southern Baptist who spent 40 years educating and evangelizing in China.
Ken Ham: President of Answers in Genesis, a great resource for creation science.
John MacArthur, Jr: Preacher at Grace Community Church. He’s an author and heads the popular radio show/podcast Grace to You. I would’ve put MacArthur in my list, because of the benefit I derived from him early on (especially reading his book Hard to Believe), but with his rather dispensationalist and premillennial views I have not given as much attention to his ministry in recent years.