The Value of Christian Biography

David Leach:

James Petigru Boyce 01[1]About 35 years ago as I began to build a theological library I had a primary focus on commentaries and "hard theology." By "hard theology" I mean solid and more substantial works as opposed to the various sorts of "pop" Christian books. After 1976 when I came to a sovereign grace soteriology, I bought Reformed and Puritan authors almost exclusively. As I began to seek out and purchase these titles, I had little interest in history and biography. And then one day in the late 70’s I read a comment by some (foolish) pastor who argued that Christian history and biography were too subjective and thus tended to be suspect, and ultimately unworthy of serious consideration -especially in terms of their value in contrast to theology and commentaries. In my youth and naiveté I foolishly adopted that line of reasoning. Thus for many years I virtually ignored history and biography, Christian and otherwise.

Hist_Bapt_Ind_dust_jacket_front__68351_zoom[1]Now as I move into my older years I find I have less interest in reading theology. By no means do I intend to say I have no interest in doctrinal truth! I most assuredly do, but my focus in reading has changed largely to reading books concerning church history and biography. Even within that genre I have an increasingly narrow focus…as I attempt to read a greater amount of Baptist history and biography – an area I have neglected in my pursuit of Reformed and Puritan history.

So what IS the value of Christian biography and history? Here are five reasons to increase your reading in this area.

John Gill1. Those who have lived faithful lives serve to encourage us, provide an example, and serve as role models for the productive Christian life.

2. Even Scripture teaches by way of the examples of godly men who proceeded us. Consider Hebrews 11 for instance: mini biographies with deep spiritual significance.

3. There is a logical (and very Scriptural) principle that we are influenced by whom we keep company with. Keep company with the great men of God whose faithful lives are described in print, and in their company you are bound to grow in grace and understanding.

Mountain Movers4. Even the descriptions of the deeds of the ungodly and foolish serve a legitimate purpose as a warning for the child of God. When we read of the sins and mistakes of others we enhance the likelihood we will become more circumspect and introspective in our own lives.

5. There is a pleasure and a joy in finding kinship in the lives of those who proceeded us. Read the biography of a great man or woman of God and invariably you will find at the conclusion of the last page that you have gained a worthy friend and companion.


– David Leach