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The Most Influential Christians From The TIME's Top 100

The 35 most influential Christians in the TIME's Top 100

How do we determine influence? Recently I wrote about the most influential Christians in terms of their SOUL-WINNING RECORD, identifying those who had taken the Gospel to a million people or more.

Another method has been chosen by TIME Magazine which has RANKED THE TOP 100 historical figures in terms of “significance.” But this begs the question. Here is their approach:

We ranked historical figures just as GOOGLE ranks web pages, by integrating a diverse set of measurements about their reputation into a single consensus value.

The 100 Most Significant Figures in History

I looked at everyone on TIME’s 100 list and identified those who were Christians and hence, the most influential Christians.

The 35 listed below all believed in Jesus for salvation and accepted the Gospel’s teaching of His life. There are at least another 25 who were “theists” or who claimed the name of Christian but did not meet the standards just described.

These 35 did meet them and lived for Jesus and His Gospel.

1 Jesus* is indisputably #1 in influence/significance even in secular criteria. His importance as Redeemer, Savior, Creator, and KING WITH ALL POWER IN HEAVEN AND EARTH amplify this a million times. * after a name means there is a short biography of that person in SPIRITUAL LIVES.

4 William Shakespeare is universally recognized as the greatest playwright and writer in English. He was CERTAINLY A CHRISTIAN. He was brought up in the church and was familiar with the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible.

Biblical stories and allusions were a rich source for him. A thoughtful reader with Bible knowledge will sense in Shakespeare’s plays far more than merely forced familiarity with the Bible but a genuine love of it.
The plays contain over 1,000 conscious uses of Scripture and many other unconscious uses of Biblical words by a person who loved and read the Bible.

He is a most influential Christian because he is so widely read, known, and respected.

11 Henry VIII of England was a life-long Christian who introduced the English Bible to his people and established the Church of England’s independence from Rome.

Although some might dispute my including him as one of the most influential Christians because of his treatment of his wives and his taking of many lives,

his influence through his introduction of the Bible to the English people and his outspoken affirmation of Christian doctrine overcome those sins for our purpose here.

13 Elizabeth I of England was Henry’s daughter with Anne Boleyn, a committed Protestant.

Elizabeth remained a faithful Christian her whole life following in her mother’s faith and taking pride in being “a virgin queen.”

16 Queen Victoria, the greatest monarch of her time, Queen of England, and Empress of India, was a DEVOUT AND FAITHFUL BELIEVER. When a woman asked her if they would meet in heaven, the Queen replied:

“By the all-availing blood of Jesus, you most certainly shall, my dear! I have His word on it!”

17 Martin Luther* started the Protestant Reformation insisting that salvation is by grace alone through faith.

Protestants look to the Bible as the final authority on spiritual matters and reject the Pope.

Luther was a multi-faceted genius and influence, translating the Bible into German and writing hymns to encourage congregational singing as he founded the Lutheran Church.

His life and work make him undoubtedly one of the most influential Christians of all time.

20 Christopher Columbus was a devout Believer and hoped to teach the Gospel to people of every race in the New World he discovered. When he landed on San Salvador HE PRAYED:

O Lord, Almighty and everlasting God, by Thy holy Word Thou hast created the heaven, and the earth, and the sea; blessed and glorified be Thy Name, and praised be Thy Majesty, which hath designed to use us, Thy humble servants, that Thy holy Names may be proclaimed in this second part of the earth.

21 Isaac Newton was the greatest scientist/mathematician ever, famous for his work in the laws of motion and universal gravitation.

He spent more time on theology than on science; indeed, he wrote about 1.3 million words on biblical subjects. Newton’s understanding of God came primarily FROM THE BIBLE, which he studied for days and weeks at a time.

He took a special interest in miracles and prophecy, calculating dates of Old Testament books and analyzing their texts to discover their authorship.

22 Charlemagne*(742-814) was king of the Franks and united western and central Europe under his reign.

Roman Catholicism was established throughout his domain, and he brought stability and peace.

He is regarded as “the Father of Europe” since he was the first to rule over all of west since the classical Roman Empire. The church grew and prospered under his reign.

It is due to his leadership as Holy Roman Emperor and staunch DEFENDER OF THE FAITH and his people that he has become one of the most influential Christians of the Middle Ages.

Francis of Assisi*(1181-1226) obeyed a vision of Jesus saying, “Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.”

He began at once, renouncing his wealth and living in poverty as Jesus had lived, ministering to the lepers and the very poor. He taught that Jesus loved the poor and unlovely and cared about our every need.

He was the first to stage a Nativity scene with live animals. Soon many others joined him, and the Pope helped him establish the Franciscan order. The order became corrupted, but his testimony lives on.

And it is this testimony and his prayer life that have touched millions of lives that make him one of the most influential Christians. He did not make TIME's list, but he should have. He put in here either by error or Providence, (Thanks to a meticulous reader who checked this out.)

24 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was a LIFE-LONG BELIEVER:

God is ever before my eyes. I realize His omnipotence and I fear His anger; but I also recognize His love, His compassion, and His tenderness toward His creatures.

26 Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) was the most powerful king of his age and a DEVOUT WORSHIPPER:

He made his devotions daily regardless of where he was, following the liturgical calendar regularly.
Under the influence of his deeply religious second wife, he became much stronger in the practice of his Catholic faith.
This included banning opera and comedy performances during Lent.

31 Carl Linnaeus 1707-1778) the great Swedish botanist, was raised in a Christian home and believed in the Bible completely, including the GENESIS ACCOUNT OF CREATION.

“The Earth’s creation is the glory of God, as seen from the works of Nature by Man alone. The study of nature would reveal the Divine Order of God’s creation, and it was the naturalist’s task to construct a ‘natural classification’ that would reveal this Order in the universe.”

It is a combination of his universal recognition as a genius of science and his committed faith in the Bible that he has earned a place among the most influential Christians.

32 Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was brought up by a godly mother, went to a Christian college, and was a regular churchgoer. In 1980 he said:

I am BORN AGAIN, and I am a Bible believer.

34 Paul the Apostle* was a prominent Pharisee and enemy of the church but was saved when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

His missionary work and epistles helped create the first churches in Asia Minor and Greece and are still today encouraging untold numbers of Believers to live for Jesus. He too was executed by Nero.

There can be no doubt that Paul is among the most influential Christians of the last 2,000 years.

39 Charles I of England (1600-1649) was the head of the Church of England and a strong defender of the Anglican faith.

This pitted him against the Puritans and Parliament who won their war with the Royalist and executed him. He is regarded as a martyr by the Anglican Church.

41 James I of England*(1566-1625) was heir to the throne of Elizabeth I and a committed Protestant.

He authorized a new translation of the Bible by 47 Christian scholars published in 1611 as the King James Bible, or the Authorized Version.

Because it was authorized to be read in churches it became the best-known Bible of all time and is considered the finest work of literature in the English language.

It is still the most widely used Bible today and has helped save and sanctify millions, including me!

43 Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) was brought up in the Protestant Episcopal Church and was a firm BELIEVER IN THE BIBLE:

FDR’s spiritual consciousness was deeply embedded in his life. Once when asked about his philosophy, he replied,

“Philosophy? I am a Christian and a Democrat. That is all.”

I don’t know the depth of his faith, but my Dad told me this was his favorite Hymn:

Abide With Me! Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Henry F. Lyte, 1847.

45 Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), our first Secretary of the Treasury and author of the Federalist Papers, had been a protégé of George Washington and was a churchgoer and BELIEVER IN THE BIBLE.

His mother was a Huguenot and he attended both Anglican and Reformed churches. On his deathbed, in excruciating pain:

Hamilton finally let go of Mason’s hand, clasped his own hands together, looked up to heaven, and cried, “I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

47 Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was our 28th President, son of a Presbyterian minister and president of Princeton University. He read the Bible daily and was committed to his faith.

Wilson’s public policy and Christian motives gained him the highest recognition and respect of any American president and quality him as one of the most influential Christians of the 20th century.

48 Johann Sebastian Bach* (1685-1759) was the greatest composer of all time and a devout Lutheran. 750 of his 1000 works were written to honor God:

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul — JSB

57 David, King of Israel*(1085-1015 BC) was the great poet of the Bible, his psalms being known by Christians everywhere. He knew Jesus prophetically, and indeed, Jesus was “the son of David.”

I love all his psalms, but my favorite and best in the 23rd, “the LORD is my Shepherd.”

58 George III of the United Kingdom (1738-1820) was a faithful Christian with a PRACTICAL FAITH he practiced daily. He was a regular churchgoer and believed God played a role in history and daily affairs.

George’s religious faith and practice existed holistically. Church on Sunday was meant to be part of a piety that permeated his thoughts, feelings, and actions throughout the week…. George’s devotion to a God of daily action, to whom one should pray and expect a tangible answer, stood in contrast to the deism prevalent among the founders of the new United States.

65 Saint Peter* was a Galilean fisherman Jesus called to be a disciple. He was the most outspoken among them and the first to recognize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

He became the first leader of the church at Pentecost, and later wrote 2 Epistles, in the early 60’s. A leader of the church at Rome, he was executed by the emperor Nero.

The Roman Catholic Church claims him as the first Pope, and his life and testimony have inspired many to give their lives to Jesus.

Peter’s life, testimony, writings, and leadership put him near the top of our list of most influential Christians ever.

67 Constantine the Great* (272-337) was raised as a Christian by his mother Helen but did not announce his faith until he was 40, inspired by a vision. Then Christianity became first legal and later the official state religion.

Masses of the Empire’s 50+ million population accepted the faith, and Constantine is regarded as a saint by the Orthodox Church and called isapóstolos – equal to the apostles.

No one knows how many were truly “born again,” and certainly many brought with them their pagan rites that slowly corrupted the church.

Nevertheless, Constantine himself was a true believer and active advocate for Jesus and the Gospel.

It was Constantine’s position as Emperor that made him an important figure in the Roman world and one of the most influential Christians of history.

72 Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was the first great philosopher and writer of Christianity. As the Roman Empire was falling, his work offered hope and help for those living in fear and inspiration from his own testimony in the first biography, Confessions.”

His thinking and doctrine on original sin became the foundation for Catholic and Reformed theology. He is important to all philosophy and discussions of theology because of his “proofs” for the existence of God.

Augustine’s theology and writing made him first among the most influential Christians in the literary and academic worlds.

74 Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was a mathematical genius who created a model of the solar system with the sun at the center, not the earth as was the prevailing view.

He was a canon in the Catholic church and saw NO CONFLICT BETWEEN HIS VIEW AND THE BIBLE’S.

Copernicus believed that God designed and created the universe. He further believed that God’s design was mathematical with the everywhere appearing symmetry of nature supporting this belief.

76 Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) was the greatest soldier of his time and was offered command of the Union Army before he decided to remain loyal to Virginia.

He modeled Christianity to his troops and the world at large. Here is a TESTIMONY TO HIS PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP TO JESUS:

General Lee was a saved, born-again, Christian man, and everyone knew and respected him for it. He wrote to his chaplains who informed him of their prayers for him that he thanked them and needed all of the prayers they could offer on his behalf.
And then he said: “I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation.”

83 Louis XVI of France (1754-1793) was not a good king, but HE WAS A GOOD CHRISTIAN. His children have initiated a canonization process in the Roman Catholic Church where Louis devotedly worshiped:

He was tried by the Convention, found guilty of treason, and sent to the guillotine on the feast of St Agnes, virgin and martyr, on 21 January 1793.

He began the day by hearing Mass and receiving Holy Communion. At the place of execution, he addressed the crowd, saying,

I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I pardon Those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are now going to shed may never be visited on France; and you, unfortunate people….
The remainder of his words were not heard, as an officer hastily ordered his drum corps to beat the drums loudly and drown out the speech.

Albert Camus said this execution marked the end of God’s role in history,

84 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (1500-1558) was the most powerful man in Europe and a DEVOUT ROMAN CATHOLIC.

He did, however, allow the German states to choose between Lutheran and Catholic worship in 1555. His desire was to unite Christianity in Europe and extend it through direct missionary efforts to the New World.

In 1556….

the burdens of the realms had grown too great, and Charles abdicated his throne to retire to a monastery, depressed and failing in health. When he died two years later, his last word was “Jesus.”

Charles qualifies as one of the most influential Christians because of the size of his domain and his commitment to teaching the Gospel to all people.

86 Michelangelo (1475-1564) was the greatest sculptor of the Renaissance and a devout Catholic as well. In 1554 he wrote:

“Neither painting nor sculpture will be able any longer to calm my soul, now turned toward that divine love that opened his arms on the cross to take us in.”

Michelangelo’s GENIUS AND FAME is undisputed, but few recognize HIS DEEP FAITH, as deep as any of the Christians celebrities we see here.

90 Thomas Aquinas*(1225-1274) was the foremost scholar and theologian of the Middle Ages.

His Summa Theologiae has become the foundational basis for Roman Catholic theology and doctrine to the present time. Jesus revealed Himself to Thomas in visions after which he stopped writing; his masterpiece still incomplete.

When his secretary asked him why he did not continue, he replied: Reginal, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me.

He was also the writer of Panis Angelicus, still sung today. He saw the necessity of faith:

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

Like Augustine, Aquinas joins the company of the most influential Christians through his superlative writing on theology.

96 Dante Alighieri*(1265-1321) used Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine to write the first great Christian poem, THE DIVINE COMEDY.

Here it received a much wider audience than in its original form.

It beautifully depicts the Gospel life and the world view of the Bible. It is often cited as the beginning of the Renaissance and universally recognized as the finest poem ever written.

Dante is universally recognized as a great poet and his presentation of the Gospel in his work qualifies him as one of the most influential Christians not only of the Middle Ages but of our time too.

97 Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was the chancellor of Prussian who orchestrated the unification of Germany and the German Empire.

A master of power politics, he also created the first welfare state and became an orthodox Lutheran. He expressed HIS CHRISTIAN FAITH in these words:

“I do not understand how one can live in a well-regulated society and fulfil one’s duties to oneself and to others, without the belief in a revealed religion, a God whose will is for good, a supreme judge, and a future life. If I were not a firmly convinced Christian, if I did not possess the admirable support of religion, I should never have been the Chancellor you know.”

99 John Calvin*(1509-1564) was a French lawyer who converted from Catholicism after reading Luther.

He is famous for his Reformed theology, built upon the absolute authority of the scriptures and that salvation is all of God, man’s free will has been destroyed by disobedience and that it is only God’s grace and mercy that saves “the elect.”

His views are summarized as T.U.L.I.P.

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin) Unconditional Election Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement) Irresistible Grace Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

Calvin died young, aged 54 in 1564, but remains to this day the most important Protestant theologian. Today, “Presbyterian,” “Reformed” and many Baptist denominations honor him and follow his teachings, honoring the Bible and the Sovereignty of God and His grace in saving the elect through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Calvin INSPIRED MANY MISSIONARIES AND EVANGELISTS who spread the reformed religion and contributed to the growth of capitalism and democracy.

This makes him a leader among the most influential Christians of his own time and ours as well, as Reformed churches stand firmly against the corruption of modernism and faithlessness.

A Final Word on the Most Influential Christians

These 35 Believers had an impact on their culture and on the lives of people aroung them. I am amazed at all the positions and arenas these most influential Christians filled. Their influence was significant to the world at large as ours may not be. But each of us does have influence and significance, especially to our family, friends, and coworkers. My takeaway from this article is that I can use my life to share with others the Gospel of Jesus and the love and Eternal life He offers all.

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Sep 05, 2023

Why put an asterisk*, and not explain it ?

*usually asterisks are explained at the bottom of a page or the end of a book.

Why is Francis of Assisi added in this list when he is not in the Times 100 list? He's not the only one missing that should be there.


Aug 06, 2023

Why George Washington not on this list?

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