With the recent release of Seven Summits in Church History, designed to give a brief introduction to major figures in the history of Christianity for churches and all readers, I have asked several friends, pastors, and scholars to answer:
Who are your “Seven Summits”? Or, what figures in church history would you enjoy sharing a meal with?
On Fridays over the last few weeks, I have shared their responses and would love your thoughts and invite you to join the conversation in the comments.
Today, it is my delight to share who Ed Stetzer and David Prince think are seven summits in church history worth knowing:
Ed Stetzer’s Seven Summits:
- Clement of Rome: because I have some questions about how things changed so quickly in the post-apostolic era
- John Wycliff: because Lollards!
- Martin Luther: needs no explanation, though I really gotta’ hear about that lightening storm
- David Brainerd: basically, the person who created missions to America
- Charles Spurgeon: because he was a theologian, preacher, and planted churches out of his church
- William Seymour: Pentecostal forerunner for the fastest growing movement in the history of global Christianity
- Karl Barth: lots to argue, but his missio dei idea shapes conciliar, Catholic, and evangelical missiology today
Ed Stetzer is the Executive Director of LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tennessee and is the Senior Fellow at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois. In addition to serving as the Executive Editor of The Gospel Project, he is the author of Subversive Kingdom and Transformational Groups.
David Prince’s Seven Summits:
The seven summits in church history I have listed have had a profound impact on the way I think about life and ministry. I consider each of them companions as I attempt to walk in line with the gospel in my generation. I will list these seven people from church history in chronological order with whom I would most want to spend a day.
- Irenaeus: Second-century theologian, Irenaeus’ defense of the gospel in the face of the Gnostic heresy and his emphasis on the Christ-centered organic unity and eschatological-orientation of Scripture has impacted all of my pastoral ministry and academic scholarship. His book, On Apostolic Preaching, is one of the books I read every year. Irenaeus’ commitment to the unity of the Bible meant that the Son of God, the last Adam, would recover all that was lost in the first Adam. Jesus, the eschatological Adam, was the one in whom the entirety of redemptive history would be summed up. Thus, Jesus Christ was both the center and telos (end) of the biblical drama of redemption because Jesus is the only lens through which the Scriptural witness can be rightly understood. I would love to talk with him about the early church and the process of his theological formation.
- Andrew Fuller: No historical author outside of the Bible has influenced my thinking as significantly as Andrew Fuller. What draws me to Fuller’s life and writings is that he addresses everything with the sober-minded clarity of a working pastor. His work as a theologian, apologist, and missionary never lost sight of Jesus, his church, and his gospel. No topic that Fuller addresses is treated in a merely abstract and hypothetical way, but rather, he treats every subject as having concrete implications for week-by-week gospel preaching, congregational worship, pastoral care, and church governance. I read a portion of Andrew Fuller’s Complete Works almost every day. Fuller’s life and ministry taught me that we must seek “the truth as it is in Jesus” (a phrase he used incessantly) in every aspect of his life and ministry.
- James M. Pendleton: Pendleton was born in 1811 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and was raised from the age of one in Christian County, Kentucky. He pastored churches in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He was a prominent Southern Baptist whose life coincided with the racial debates surrounding the founding of the SBC and the American Civil War. He had everything to gain by siding with his denominational brethren on the slavery issue, but he courageously chose to argue for the end of slavery. His son would die in battle as a Confederate soldier, but Pendleton believed the Bible when interpreted correctly, could not be co-opted into a pro-slavery agenda. I would love to hear his stories and ask him about his struggles when he stood virtually alone for racial justice.
- Lottie Moon: I think that Lottie Moon would probably be the individual on this list who would be the most fun person with whom to spend a day. She was feisty, passionate, convictional, and courageous. When I read the book of her letters, I would go from laughing to nearly weeping again and again. I am fascinated that a woman who introduced herself as Charlotte D. Moon, and said that the “D” stood for devil as a teen, became the most well-known missionary in Southern Baptist life. I would love to talk to her about almost being married to Crawford Toy, but deciding not to because of his move away from the Bible as the inerrant word of God. What a woman! As the father of five girls, that is a conversation I would love to have.
- Branch Rickey: Branch Rickey loved Jesus, and he was thankful for the game of baseball, which he cherished (as do I). Rickey said that he thought, “a man could play baseball as a call of God.” In 1945, Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the MLB color barrier. What I find so amazing about the story is that in 1903, he was a 21-year-old head baseball coach at Ohio Wesleyan and had a black catcher named Charles Thomas. OWU traveled to South Bend, Indiana for a game against Notre Dame. When they arrived, the hotel clerk refused to allow Thomas to stay because of a whites-only policy. Rickey persuaded the hotel to allow Thomas to go to his room. That evening Rickey found his catcher sobbing and rubbing his hands and arms convulsively while muttering, “It’s my skin. If only I could wipe off the color they could see, I am a man like everybody else!” Rickey told him to “Buck up!” and said, “We will beat this one day!” but later noted, he never felt so helpless and vowed at that time that he would do whatever he could to end such humiliation. I would love to ask him why he thought as a 21-year-old small college baseball coach, 61 years before the Civil Rights Act, that he had the audacity to believe he could do something about systemic racial injustice? What hopeful courage he had!
- George Eldon Ladd: It was through reading Ladd that my understanding of the Bible become more cohesive and holistic as I began to recognize the “already / not yet” tension of the Kingdom and the difference it makes for interpreting the entire Bible. Jesus did not simply bring a new teaching, but rather his presence was the inauguration of the eschatological kingdom. One of the reasons I am drawn to want to spend a day with Ladd is that his enormous theological influence was matched by a personal and family life that was deeply troubled. John A. D’Elia’s biography of Ladd, A Place at the Table, was one of the most disturbing reads of my life. I would love to talk to him about his faith and his struggles.
- Edmund Clowney: In his preaching, academic labors, and his writings Edmund Clowney taught a generation how the whole Bible bears witness to Christ. Clowney influenced a generation of preachers to apply evangelical biblical theology to its preaching, treating the whole Bible as a narrative that finds its meaning in Jesus. He wanted to bridge the gap between study and pulpit and opposed moralistic preaching and lifeless doctrinal preaching. His writing and preaching ministry reinforced to me that preaching Christ from all the Scriptures is not simply an automatic product of an abstract hermeneutical method but rather reading the Bible instinctively with Jesus the Messiah as the hero of the entire redemptive-historical narrative. I would love to spend the day with Clowney, simply talking and asking him questions about Jesus in all of the Scripture.
David Prince serves as the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and as the Assistant Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of Church with Jesus as the Hero.
Who are your Seven Summits?
Join the conversation in the comments below and learn who are my Seven Summits and more about the book here.
Other posts in the Seven Summits series: