Canon of Theologians

Reading is an exercise in listening and learning. I hope by God’s grace to spend some time each month listening to and learning from the following dead theologians. I got the idea from Mark Dever. But it was C.S. Lewis who supplied the inspiration:

“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. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

–C.S. Lewis, “Introduction” in St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1944/1993), 4-5.

None of these men were perfect. They all made mistakes. But their writings have withstood the test of time.  I hope some of the great books of the past will bear fruit in the present by identifying and correcting some of my own “characteristic mistakes.” I look forward to keeping company with these old friends and having the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through my mind for a little while each month.

My Canon of Theologians

January
Augustine (354-430)

February
Martin Luther (1483-1546)

March
John Calvin (1509-1564)

April
Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)

May
John Owen (1616-1683)

June
John Bunyan (1628-1688)

July
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

August
John Newton (1725-1807)

September
J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

October
Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

November
Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)

December
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

“A student who does not want his labor wasted must so read and reread some good writer so that the author is changed, as it were, into his flesh and blood. For a great variety of reading confuses and does not teach. It makes the student like a man who dwells everywhere and, therefore, nowhere in particular. Just as we do not daily enjoy the society of every one of our friends but only that of a chosen few, so it should also be in our studying.”

–Martin Luther, What Luther Says: An Anthology, comp. Ewald M. Plass (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), entry no. 344, 112.

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7 responses to “Canon of Theologians

  1. Fantastic site. You are a voracious reader, and what you read is excellent top-notch books. Sadly I confess I have not read near as much as you, although I have read many of them and are familiar with almost all of them. Very good. Praise the Lord for your abilities He’s given you.

    I do not have a website; the website posted is our church’s which I help maintain. If you have a moment you might want to check out some of the studies supplied on our site. Doctrinally it seems we coincide on probably just about everything.

    I will point others towards your site. Thanks for your efforts in keeping it up. It is being used.

    God bless.

  2. Looking out for daily readings by C S Lewis I came upon your website and as others have said, I find an affinity with your reading and so probably with you. I have added your address to my favourites. I have had to accept I have ideas which which require radical rethinking. It’s good to find fellow readers searching for the universals which never change.

  3. Ryan Sparks

    Thank you for curating so vast a repository of worthy quotations. I make use of your site nearly every week in searching up meditations for worship bulletins in our church. You are feeding many a gospel hungry soul!

  4. I have found your site so encouraging over the years. Not only with the quotes, but the example you set of calling us to the discipline of reading. I have started numerous fiction series because I’ve seen you mention them in your annual reading list. I’m curious about this list though, have you stuck with this same basic structure for your year? I have a large collection of “collected works” that I have accumulated over the years, but haven’t read through many of them and want to start. I’m wondering if this way of doing it would be helpful rather than simply choosing one (like Owen) and staying in it until I’ve finished all 23 volumes. Or dividing up the year and for the next 10 5-10 years reading Owen, Newton, Charnock, Brooks, etc. in part every year until I’ve finished. Any input? Thanks again for the blessing that you are to the church!

    • Thank you, Shawn, for your encouraging words. It means a lot. I still follow the general structure of the Canon. Because of time constraints, I don’t always finish entire works of these theologians during the year because I’m often only hanging out with them for a month or so. Sometimes I might only finish a long sermon or treatise. But it adds up over the years if you stick with it and I’m in no rush. I think your suggestion of taking a longer term approach is a solid idea. Pick the works/authors you are already most edified by and most eager to read and slowly work through them at your own pace. The goal is to read, not to have read. And remember that the Bible is the only “must” read. Everything else is grace upon grace.

      I’ll pray now for wisdom for you. Happy New Year, and happy reading!

      –Nick

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