So many extraordinary volumes have emerged from the Christian faith that it would indeed take divine inspiration to do them all justice.
Of course, the Bible continues to be the world's all-time greatest seller. There’s a reason you won’t see your favorite version of the Holy Bible on this list: As the sacred Scripture that has guided Christian believers for two millennia now, the Bible is, by definition, in a class by itself. Indeed, without the Bible, it’s quite possible the books on this list could never have been written.
That said, here are our choices for the top 25 Christian books of all time. The simple criterion we followed: How profoundly they have influenced human society and the Christian faith.
Can anyone definitively say that "The Confessions of St. Augustine" is a greater book than, say, Dante’s "The Divine Comedy"? Or that John Milton’s "Paradise Lost" is a greater work than C.S. Lewis’s "Mere Christianity"? Admittedly, that’s a tall order.
That’s why after putting the top 10 choices in rank order, I’ve simply listed the 15 remaining choices in chronological order. These are all great books, and it probably is unreasonable to rank a current-day work by Pastor Rick Warren against a classic penned by Brother Lawrence in the 17th century.
Without further ado, and at the risk of rushing in boldly where angels fear to tread, here’s my collaboration with Newsmax on the 25 greatest books that Christendom ever created:
1. "The Confessions of St. Augustine" by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. c.400 — Augustine of Hippo’s magnum opus explains how a great sinner became a great saint. Augustine astutely notes that God has made us for Himself, and that our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Him. In Confessions, Augustine articulates the soulful inner search for meaning that in many ways remains a hallmark of Western literature even today.
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2. "The Book of Common Prayer" by Thomas Cranmer, 1549 — Used by devout Anglicans worldwide, there are some 300 million copies in print, according to literary agent Dan Balow. It includes familiar lines like: "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done…" The book continues to this day to undergo multiple revisions.
3. "Small Catechism for Children" by Martin Luther, 1529 — Luther’s work spread Luther’s Protestant interpretation of Scripture to generations of Christians, even into the 20th century. Luther credited it as one of his top literary achievements. The PBS special, "Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World” (9/12/17) said that during his lifetime, Martin Luther wrote a quarter of all books sold in Europe. Author Dr. Timothy J. Wengert says Luther became "the first living best-selling author."
4. "Institutes of the Christian Religion" by John Calvin, 1559 — It was written by the Reformation’s second major leader. Calvin's influence extended to the New World, where, as scholar Loraine Boettner notes, two-thirds of Americans in the founding era were indirectly schooled by him.
5. "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan, 1678 — It's said to be second only to the Bible in the number of copies it has sold, with 250 million copies in print. A spiritual allegory, it describes the Christian pilgrim’s journey on the road to the Celestial City.
6. "Foxe's Book of Martyrs" by John Foxe, 1563 — This massive tome chronicles the history of persecution of the Church from its beginning to the time of Foxe’s writing in the 16th century. Since then, 150 million copies have been printed.
7. "Summa Theologica" by St. Thomas Aquinas, 1274 — The Summa was the crowning achievement of the most respected scholastic theologian of the Middle Ages. The volume systematically examines several philosophical questions through a theological prism.
8. "The Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri, after 1307 — This work has been, according to The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, "recognized for more than 700 years as one of the world's great works of literature." In his sweeping epic, the poet describes his visits to hell, purgatory, and finally paradise.
9. "Paradise Lost" by John Milton, 1667 — Milton’s masterwork has been described as "the greatest epic in the English language." It poetically portrays the sweep of the Bible’s redemptive history, including the fall of Satan and of man and of God’s plan to redeem man through His Son Jesus Christ.
10. "Mere Christianity" by C. S. Lewis, 1952 — Perhaps better known in mass culture these days for his "Chronicles of Narnia," Lewis presents basic Christianity in a readable style with scholarly underpinnings. A former atheist, Lewis taught at Oxford and later Cambridge. Blogger Daniel Threlfell says that, according to Christianity Today’s "Most Influential Books" survey of 2000, "Mere Christianity" was nominated more times than any other book.
11. "The City of God" by St. Augustine, 430 — St. Augustine’s other classic laid "the foundations of a rational philosophy of history," according to Princeton's B. B. Warfield.
12. "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas à Kempis, 1418 — This book was printed 745 times by 1650 and is the most important devotional book in Catholic Christianity.
13. "The New England Primer" by Puritan educators in Massachusetts, 1692 — This is the book that taught millions how to read using Biblical truths, such as "A-in Adam's Fall, we sinned all. B-thy life to mend, the Bible tend. C-Christ crucified, for sinner's died." Its influence on America’s Christian roots has been vast.
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14. "Practicing the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence, 1693 — It has taught generations a basic daily spirituality.
15. "Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England," finished 1769 — This work provided a Judeo-Christian basis for many laws in the Anglo-American world. The concept of "the laws of nature and of nature's God" is Blackstonian to the core.
16. "American Dictionary of the English Language" by Noah Webster, 1828 — A little known fact today: The original version of Webster’s lexicon contained many Bible verses. As such, it had a significant influence on American discourse.
17. "The McGuffey Readers" by Rev. William Holmes McGuffey, 1836 — Educating America’s children in Christian doctrine and morality, McGuffey’s tome sold more than 120 million copies.
18. "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852 — As politically incorrect as it may be today, only the Bible outsold this classic in 19th century America. Stowe was an ardent Christian and active abolitionist, and the novel helped prick the conscience of the nation against slavery.
19. "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1879 — Considered one of the greatest novels ever written, Dostoyevsky wrestles with Christian belief versus unbelief, stating, "If there is no God, then all things are permissible."
20. "Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ" by Lew Wallace, 1880 — It has some 50 million copies in print. The novel was turned into three major motion pictures, including the 1959 version starring Charlton Heston that won a record 11 Oscars.
21. "In His Steps" by Charles Sheldon, 1896 — This Christian novel sold 30 million copies and gave the world the question it cannot ignore: "What would Jesus do?"
22. "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C. S. Lewis, 1950 — With some 85 million copies in print, this first of the seven-part "Chronicles of Narnia" introduces Christian beliefs to children.
23. "Lord of the Rings" by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1954 — Generations grew up reading Tolkien’s fascinating fables without fully recognizing their astute portrayal of the cosmic war between good and evil from a Christian worldview. The book today has 150 million copies in print.
24. "Evangelism Explosion" by D. James Kennedy, 1970 — This is the book that has been used to train millions of Christians in lay witnessing, resulting in 10.7 million people professing faith in Jesus just last year alone.
25. "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren, 2002 — The founding and senior pastor of Saddleback Church rocked the publishing world with this volume, which has sold 30 million copies. It relies on basic Biblical principles to answer life's key questions.
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Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written 28 books, including "The Unstoppable Jesus Christ," "Doubting Thomas" (with Mark Beliles), and "What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?" (with D. James Kennedy) and the bestseller "George Washington's Sacred Fire" (with Peter Lillback). More info can be found at djkm.org, jerrynewcombe.com, and on Twitter @newcombejerry. To read more of his reports , Click Here Now.
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