Christians of all stripes universally point to the Bible as the most important Christian book, but it is far from the only Christian book. With 2,000 years of church history, hundreds of thousands of great Christian books, and an untold number of opinions on the most important, how could we ever pick 25 to feature? Well, you asked, so we tried. The topic of this issue has long been requested by our readers, and we’ve finally managed to pull it off—in 31 articles by 16 authors, quite possibly a record on both counts.
This is not Christian History’s first “greatest hits” issue. We’ve previously covered the 100 most important events in church history and the 10 greatest Christians of the twentieth century (issues 28 and 65). To identify the 25 most important Christian writings of all time, we turned to a group of people well versed in church history and familiar with Christian History’s readers—past writers for the magazine.
Over 70 of our past authors graciously offered up their five personal favorites, from which we tallied votes and compiled our list. We’ve also featured a few other writings that fell in the top 100. As a bonus, you’ll also find an article on the top 25 Christian hymns of all time. And, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like greatest hits, we’ve made sure your voice was heard too (see p. 45).
Some titles seemed obvious while others surprised us—as did the effects they had on the lives of others. Many of us know how Augustine’s conversion occurred when he heard a voice chanting “take and read,” a tale recounted in Confessions [#1]. But you may not know that Mere Christianity [#8] helped change Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, from scheming politico to repentant sinner; that The Imitation of Christ [#10] turned around the life of John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”; or that Dante’s Divine Comedy [#16] saved a modern writer from deep depression.
While we don’t have space to include all the rich content of the top 25, we hope to give you an idea of the stories behind them. How did they develop the tradition of orthodox faith? How did they affect later Christians who have found them sources of hope, comfort, challenge, and thought-provoking questions? And, last but not least, how are they still relevant today? Our brothers and sisters in Christ have much to teach us about welcoming both trials and joys, speaking to our world in transforming ways, and seeking refuge in Christ.
Maybe you’ve already read all the books on our list. But if you are like me and still have a ways to go, then take some time to read these stories and delve into the books behind them. You are guaranteed to be inspired and challenged.
As Lewis [#8] reminded us in discussing Athanasius [#9], “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” And one of our previous CH writers, Gene Veith, commented in his Christian guide to literature, Reading between the Lines, “Reading can never die out among Christians. This is because the whole Christian revelation centers around a Book.”CH
Jennifer Woodruff Tait
Managing editor, Christian History
This article is from Christian History magazine #116 Twenty-Five Writings that Changed the Church and the World. Read it in context here!
By Jennifer Woodruff Tait
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #116 in 2015]Jennifer Woodruff Tait is the managing editor of Christian History.
Fully man and fully God
The Nicene Creed [#7] and Athanasius’s On The Incarnation [#9] explained the Trinity to usJennifer Freeman
The Apostles’ Creed [#26]
The Apostles’ Creed summarized the basics of Christian faithJennifer Freeman
Irenaeus, Against Heresies [#21]
Against Heresies attacked an early and pervasive Christian heresyJennifer Freeman
“Take and read”
Augustine’s Confessions [#1] and City of God [#4] packed a punchAlex Huggard
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