Daryl Aaron's new book The 40 Most Influential Christians deals with a vast sweep of time- two millennia- and his book points a novice of Christian Theology such as myself to some of the main players.
(I have read Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas as well as his Amazing Grace, which features William Wilberforce. Wilberforce did not make this list of the 40 most influential Christians, but he could have. Space only permits so many...and it must have been terribly hard to decide who to include. The author did a great job compiling this selection of people who have influenced Christian thought!)
What Daryl Aaron's book has done for me is pique my interest in several men whose works I haven't been blessed by yet, like Karl Barth, who lived in Germany the same time as Bonhoeffer did under the rein of Adolf Hitler. Now I'll search for something to read about Karl Barth.
As Daryl Aaron points out, lots of time and people have paved the way before us. Some were great thinkers, who handled the Truth in a such a way that their words make the Gospel more clear to us as we read their insights- hundreds of years after they first put pen to paper.
Some of these people influenced us in a different way: they muddied the water with additives like feminism or human-centered theology.
Some of them bled and died for their faith, martyrs and saints.
Some were almost unknown until after they died.
All of their lives are still being felt today.
The old hymn is right:
Only One Life, It Soon Will Pass. Only What's Done for Christ Will Last.
Daryl Aaron earned his ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary and his PhD at Graduate Theological Foundation. He spent fourteen years in pastoral ministry before becoming a professor of biblical and theological studies at Northwestern College. He lives with his wife in Mounds View, Minnesota.