I love to read biographies. John Piper has an excellent post today on WHY we should read Christian Biographies. This is really great stuff.
Perhaps, Hebrews 11 is still the most compelling biblical mandate for reading Christian biography. Together with Hebrews 13:7 all those biographical lessons in faith seem like an overwhelming summons to keep finding such stories and “considering” them.
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7).
But Philippians 3:17, together with 1 Corinthians 11:1, add something remarkable to the motivation. Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). And then in Philippians 3:17 he takes this out three generations beyond Christ.
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and fix your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17).
Notice the sequence:
- Jesus lives the perfect life for imitation.
- Paul imitates Jesus.
- Others “walk according to the example they have in us.”
- Finally, we fix our eyes on those who follow Paul’s example.
What makes this so remarkable is that Paul says it is spiritually wise to consider not just Jesus’ life, and not just the lives of those who follow him, but also the lives of those who follow those who follow him.
This seems to imply that the line of inspiration and imitation goes on and on.
Indeed it does. And the centuries are laden with the lives of saved sinners whose failures and triumphs of grace are meant to inspire and strengthen and guide the rest of us.
So among all the other things you do to grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ (2 Peter 3:18), follow Paul’s summons to “fix your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
For starters, here are ten of my favorites:
- Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography
- George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life
- Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther
- T. H. L. Parker, Portrait of Calvin
- Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography
- David Daniell, William Tyndale: A Biography
- Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon
- Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael
- Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson
- Mary Drewry, William Carey
***UPDATE: Here is a very good article by Carl Truman on hagiographical biographies.