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28 Most Important Works of Christian Literature

28 Most Important Works of Christian Literature
28 Most Important Works of Christian Literature: From the Holy Bible begun in 1500 BC to Heaven by Randy Alcorn in 2005, + 26 in between!

The Most Important Works of CHRISTIAN LITERATURE is a vast topic. What you will see here is my best effort to attest to those that I believe are most important. I have chosen by this criteria:

  • The author must be or identify as a Christian

  • The work must have had a significant impact on the church or culture

  • The work must stand the test of time.

Most Important Works of Christian Literature from Ancient Times.

1. The Holy Bible is foundational. All subsequent Christian literature is judged by its standards. Over the last two millennia, 5 versions of the Bible have had the most impact:

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, 405. This was the first complete Bible in Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. Jerome was a scholar of Hebrew and Greek and produced this masterpiece that served the entire church for a thousand years. He did much of the work on it in Bethlehem! Luther’s Bible, 1532. A product of the Reformation, Luther’s Bible was the first in German, a national language, and it standardized the German language as one from many regional dialects. It also set a powerful precedent for nations and peoples to produce the Word of God in their native tongue. King James Bible, 1611. This did for English what Luther’s Bible did for German. The product of a group of multi-lingual Christian scholars, it was faithful to the Truth and expressed it in the most beautiful language English has ever known. More importantly, these men believed they were working with the Word of God and committed to delivering it faithfully and accurately. Schofield Bible, 1917. This was a “study Bible,” incorporating Cyrus I. Schofield’s dispensationalist views into extensive notes appearing on the same pages as the inspired text of the King James Version. It introduced Ussher’s chronology to date the events of the Bible and also interpreted the Book of Revelation’s eschatology with an authority that spawned great interest and speculation as to Christ’s Second Coming. English Standard Version, 2001. This work by a group of 100 evangelical scholars and pastors is a literal translation of the ancient text and has now largely replaced the KJV in evangelical churches. What it offers in clarity to 21st century reader it loses in beauty to the King James language as well as to the familiarity of wording that helps locate text via the concordance.

2. Didache.(Teaching) is short for title used by the Church Fathers, “The Lord’s Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” 1st Century. It is also a foundational document, setting forth the doctrines and practices of the early church. Accepted by all the Fathers, some thought it should have been included in the canon of the New Testament.

We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou didst make known unto us through Thy Son Jesus.

3. Against the Heathens and On the Incarnation. Athanasius, 317. These works laid the groundwork for his heroic stand against the heresy of Arianism, which was taking over the church in the 4th century. He stood firm, his motto “Athanasius against the world”, and his refusal to be moved saved orthodox Christianity and gave us the Athanasian Creed.

4. Confessions, Augustine 400. This is Augustine’s testimony of how Jesus saved him in answer to his mother’s prayer. It is also the first Christian autobiography recounting his conversion by reading St. Paul’s words in Romans 13:13–14: “Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its lusts.”

It is widely considered a great masterpiece of western literature

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

5. City of God, Augustine, 427. Written shortly after the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410, this book contrasts that city with the eternal City of God, the New Jerusalem.

Providing deep commentary on important theological issues like original sin, free will, and God’s omniscience, Augustine presents the eternal conflict between good and evil as one between these two cities. Despite its power and grandeur, Rome would fall, but the Kingdom of God will endure forever.

The whole of history since the ascension of Jesus into heaven is concerned with one work only: the building and perfecting of this “City of God.”

Most Important Works of Christian Literature from the Middle Ages

6. Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas, 1274. Aquinas was the foremost scholar and philosopher of the middle ages. The Summa is a systematic theological instruction book on the Christian faith. It remains the seminal work on Christian theology and the basis for Roman Catholic doctrine today.

Despite his vast learning and movement in elite circles, he led a holy life, and Jesus appeared to him in ways that made his theological writings “seem like straw.”

“Forasmuch as our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21), as the angel announced, showed unto us in His own Person the way of truth,”

7. The Divine Comedy, Dante, 1320. Aquinas’ theology reached a far wider audience through the poetry of Dante, in the Divine Comedy. Universally recognized as the greatest poem in western literature, it put Aquinas’s Latin prose into Italian verse and presented it all in a fascinating allegory of a journey from hell to Heaven.

Its 14,000 lines (3 times longer than Hamlet) depict the Roman Catholic world view faithfully. The beauty of his language and artistry made Dante the model for future poets and launched the Renaissance.

“All hope abandon, ye who enter in!” – Warning over the entrance to Hell.

8. The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis, 1420. This devotional book sprang up quickly in the Netherlands and soon spread throughout Christianity. It has been translated into more languages that any book other than the Bible and retains its popularity to this day.

It consists of 4 books, dealing with turning from the world to Jesus, the highlight being book 3, a long conversation between Jesus and a disciple that will be of interest to all believers.

He who clings to a creature will fall with its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be strengthened….Cling, therefore, to Jesus in life and death; trust yourself to the glory of Him who alone can help you when all others fail .

Most Important Works of Christian Literature from the Reformation and 17th Century

9. The Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer, 1549. As Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer worked ceaselessly to produce an English prayer book that would reflect the Protestant Doctrine of the Reformation while continuing to honor the historic worship England had enjoyed by removing corrupt practices, superstition and ritual.

Next to the Bible, this is the most important and influential work of the 16th century, still used today all over the world.

God the father blesse you. God the sonne kepe you: god the holye gost lighten your understanding: The lorde mercifully with his favour loke upon you, and so fil you with al spiritual benediction, and grace, that you may have remission of your sinnes in this life, and in the worlde to come lyfe everlastyng. Amen. Book of Common Prayer, 1549

10. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, John Foxe, 1563. This book was inspired by the Reign of Mary Tudor (1553-1558), “Bloody Mary” who burned 300 Protestants at the stake, including Thomas Cranmer.

Although the book begins with the first martyr Stephen and others who died for their faith in ancient times, its overall focus in on the role the Roman Catholic Church played in executing heretics during the Inquisition and later under Mary in England and Scotland. It was influential in keeping Roman Catholics out of power in England to this day.

“Shall I disdain to suffer at the stake, when my Redeemer did not refuse to suffer the most vile death upon the cross for me?”

11. Paradise Lost, John Milton, 1667. This is English literature’s greatest epic poem, 10,000 lines of iambic pentameter blank verse. Amazingly, Milton wrote it after he had gone blind at age 54. It has earned Milton recognitions as England’s #2 poet, next to Shakespeare.

It is the story of Satan’s rebellion against God the Father because He elevated His Son above Satan whose thinking is “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” Based on Genesis 1-4, the epic has inspired other poets and artists, especially William Blake.

A poem which, considered with respect to design, may claim the first place, and with respect to performance the second, among the productions of the human mind. SAMUEL JOHNSON,

12. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, 1678. This is sometimes called the first novel. It is a story, in allegory form, of a man with a burden, convicted by the Word of God, who flees the wrath of God coming upon the City of Destruction and takes the straight and narrow King’s Highway to the Celestial City.

Along the way, we meet Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Apollyon, Giant Despair and Mr. Hate-Light and visit the Slough of Despond, the Valley of Humiliation, Vanity Fair and Doubting Castle. We are familiar with them all, for we are Christian and are on the same journey.

Pilgrim’s Progress was the runner up to the Bible in popularity until 1900 and is still a part of every educated person’s reading. Its Gospel message rings as true today as it did in Bunyan’s time.

“He that lives in sin, and looks for happiness hereafter, is like him that soweth cockle and thinks to fill his barn with wheat or barley.”

Most Important Works of Christian Literature from the 18th and 19th Centuries

13. Hymns

a. Isaac Watts, 750 hymns 1719. “Godfather of English Hymnody” When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; Joy to the World and Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun (Based on Psalm 72). b. Charles Wesley, 6,000 Hymns 1707-1788. Son of Susannah and brother of John, Charles was one of the first “Methodists,’ a diligent preacher and missionary whose hymns were the backbone of early evangelical preaching; Hark, the Herald Angels Sing; O for a Thousand Tongues; Christ the Lord is Risen Today. c. The Olney Hymns, 348 hymns by John Newton and William Cowper, 1779. Newton was a minister and Cowper a poet and friend. Between them they wrote about “the principal TENETS of the Evangelical faith. Among them, Amazing Grace, by Newton and There is a Fountain Filled with Blood, by Cowper. d. Fanny Crosby, 8,000 hymns 1820-1915. Blind from infancy, her songs stressed Jesus as compassionate and loving, and were very popular among women. She determined to “win a million people for Christ,” and moved toward that goal as her songs were used in D.L. Moody’s campaigns. Blessed Assurance; Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior; Rescue the Perishing.

14. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law, (1729). Law was an Anglican curate and friend of Edward Gibbon and Dr. Johnson. He knew the Wesley brothers and greatly influenced George Whitefield and the Evangelical movement of his time.

A Serious Call also “deeply touched” William Wilberforce as he worked to abolish slavery. But the chief value of this work is its clear and intense teaching on living for Jesus day by day.

“From Morning to Night keep Jesus in thy Heart, long for Nothing, desire Nothing, hope for Nothing, but to have all this within Thee changed into the Spirit and Temper of the Holy Jesus. Let this be thy Christianity, thy Church, and thy Religion.”

15. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Jonathan Edwards, 1741. A literary classic taught in American high schools, this sermon marked the beginning of the first “Great Awakening” in America. Edwards has been called America’s first intellectual, and his standing in that regard remains high today.

The images of the filthy sinner inspiring anger in God are not popular today, nor were they then, and Edwards suffered for his staunch faith. But his testimony and work are as important today as they were in his time.

“Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering.”

16. Sermons of Charles Spurgeon, 3,563 from 1834-1892. The “Prince of Preachers” was converted at age 15 and became the most famous preacher of his day. A staunch and fundamentalist Baptist, he was opposed to liberalism and fought what he called the “downgrade” of the Bible.

He wrote hundreds of tracts, books and devotions in addition to this 3,500 sermons.

I wish that our ministry—that mine especially—might be tied and tethered to the cross. I would have no other subject to set before you but Jesus only.

17. In His Steps, Charles Sheldon, 1896. One of the bestselling books of all time, In His Steps is a novel Sheldon wrote in segments for his Sunday evening worship services.

Each chapter presents a character who illustrates “What Would Jesus Do?” in a particular situation.

“Do not do anything without first asking, ‘What would Jesus do?'”

Most Important Works of Christian Literature from the 20th Century

18. Ash Wednesday, T.S. Eliot, 1927 The conversion of the world’s most famous poet shook the intellectual/literary world of the twenties.

Well known for “The Wasteland” and other poems with a bleak and agnostic outlook, Eliot’s work changed dramatically as he now expressed his Christian faith in such well-known works as “Ash Wednesday,” The Four Quartets” and “Murder in the Cathedral.”

Lord, I am not worthy Lord, I am not worthy but speak the word only.

19. My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald/Biddy Chambers, 1934. This popular devotional was compiled by Chambers’ wife from his lectures and sermons. First published in 1924, it consists of 366 daily readings of about 500 words.

It has been translated into 39 languages and has influenced such prominent people as columnist Cal Thomas and President George W. Bush.

Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. …

20. Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis 1952. This book is a compilation of radio broadcasts Lewis gave during the Second World War on the BBC. Its focus is on the essentials of Christianity, “mere” here meaning “basic” or “pure and simple.”

It has become one of the most popular and influential book about the Christian faith in the evangelical community. Many have come to salvation as a result of reading this, among them Chuck Colson.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.

21. Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, 1954. This is one of the most popular self-help books ever written. Peale was a minister with wide influence, the pastor of the Trump family, but the emphasis here is on self-help not turning to Jesus.

In an article entitled “Pitchmen in the Pulpit,” EDMUND FULLER, writes that Peale’s books have no connection to Christianity and that they “influence, mislead and often disillusion sick, maladjusted, unhappy or ill-constructed people, obscuring for them the Christian realities…. They offer a cheap ‘happiness’ in lieu of the joy Christianity can offer.”

More dangerously, it led to a “Christianity” without sin and a prosperity gospel focused on God’s gifts and not the Giver.

What you are determines the world in which you live, so as you change, your world changes also.

22, Riverside Sermons, Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1958 Fosdick was the most famous pastor of the 20th century. Although he was “born again” as a youth, he soon forsook the Bible and became the leading exponent of modernism.

In a May 1922 sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Fosdick replied by repudiating the core beliefs of the fundamentalist faith: belief in the virgin birth was unnecessary; the inerrancy of Scripture, untenable; and the doctrine of the Second Coming, absurd. – Christianity Today

23. THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, Alexandre Solzhenitsyn, (1973). Like Fosdick, Solzhenitsyn was born into a Christian family but then forsook his faith to become a communist and soldier in the Red Army.

For criticizing Joseph Stalin, Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. In prison, he was converted after seeing the love of Jesus reflected in the lives of Christians suffering there. His novels outraged the Soviet government who revoked his citizenship.

He fled to the United States and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. His testimony was important in showing what the USSR really was and helped topple it.

And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire 20th century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithier than to repeat once again: “Men have forgotten God.”

24. A Christian Manifesto, Francis Schaeffer, 1982. Published as an answer to the Communist Manifesto and the Humanist Manifesto, Schaeffer’s work attacked secular humanism and attributed the decline of the West to pluralism and a forsaking of the Bible.

This led to “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” first a book and then a film opposing abortion and sparking the pro-life movement in America.

We must understand, it’s going to cost you to take a stand on these things. There are doctors who are going to get kicked out of hospitals because they refuse to perform abortions; there are nurses that see a little sign on a crib that says, “Do not feed,” and they feed, and they are fired. There’s a cost, but I’d ask you, what is loyalty to Christ worth to you?
How much do you believe this is true? Why are you a Christian? Are you a Christian for some lesser reason, or are you a Christian because you know that this is the truth of reality? And then, how much do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? How much are you willing to pay the price for loyalty to the Lord Jesus?

25. The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren, 1995. This highly influential book is aimed at pastors and church leaders and expounds the spread of the Gospel and church growth using marketing management methods. A pastor of a megachurch himself, Warren has been a key factor in the spread on megachurches in the United States.

“On the one hand we are obligated to remain faithful to the unchanging Word of God. On the other hand, we must minister in an ever-changing world.”

Most Important Works of Christian Literature from the 21st Century

The 21st century is still young, and therefore its Christian Literature is still dominated by 20th century authors. At this time, we don’t know what will endure the test of time. But with this in mind, I’ve made 3 choices about Christian books/multi-media presentations that have already staked a claim to importance.

26. Left Behind is a series of 16 novels TIM LAHAYEand JERRY B. JENKINS, 1995-2007. The theme is drawn from the Book of Revelation and deals with the struggle of loyal Believers standing against the global system of the Anti-Christ.

They have been perpetual best-sellers, several reaching number one on the NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST. In 2016, 65 million copies were sold in various languages.[8]

“In terms of its impact on Christianity, it’s probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible.” -Jerry Falwell on Left Behind, book one

27. Systematic Theology, 1994 and Politics According to the Bible, 2010, by Wayne Grudem.

Systematic Theology has become the standard for evangelical Christians and has been very popular amongst college students.

Politics According to the Bible, steps into political arena courageously, advocating Biblical positions on major issues and arguing that Christians have a duty to influence politics and government.

28. Heaven, by Randy Alcorn, 2004 This book is the best one ever about heaven. It answered every question I ever had about what heaven will be like with a solidly based Bible answer.

I am not alone. Rick Warren called it “The best book on Heaven I have ever read.”

“Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1) This is a direct command to set our hearts on Heaven. And to make sure we don’t miss the importance of a heaven-centered life, the next verse says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” God commands us to set our hearts and minds on Heaven.”

What a blessed heritage we have in this impact making work of Christian Literature. Do you have any to add, or some you think I should delete? I’d love to hear from you. Just use the comment area below. Thanks for reading and following Jesus. Please share this blog with someone who needs Jesus!

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kindly help get some of those theology materials.

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