Westminster Seminary California
Building the Minister’s Library: Biographies
John G. Bales


The Scriptures tell us that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The gospel, preached and attended to by the Holy Spirit, has the unique ability to transform enslaved sinners into free children of God. And that gospel is best illustrated to people from the lives of others who have come to know Christ. The book of Acts portrays several people who came to know Christ through the preaching of the gospel and their stories, filled with suffering and hope, are powerful as they bear witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ.

As the gospel has been preached through the centuries others have heard the good news of Jesus Christ and were saved. Their stories of salvation are no less inspiring and encouraging. It is especially informative to read the biographies of past saints who exemplified a “love of learning and a desire for God.” Below are ten biographies of profound Western Christians, mostly Reformed Christians. Needless to say I do not agree with everything that these Christians believed and taught, but they were thinkers who shaped Western Christendom. (Some include a second recommendation):

Bèze, Théodore de, and Francis Sibson. The Life of John Calvin. Philadelphia: J. Whetham, 1836. Readers will also want to consult: Godfrey, W. Robert. John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2009.

Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985.

Brown, Peter. Augustine of Hippo. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Busch, Eberhard. Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.

Edwards, Jonathan, and Norman Pettit. The Life of David Brainerd. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

Gleason, Ronald N. Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 2010.

Hart, D. G. Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Readers will also want to consult: Stonehouse, Ned Bernard. J. Gresham Machen, A Biographical Memoir. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954.

Trueman, Carl R. John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man. Great theologians series. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2007.

Vandenberg, Frank. Abraham Kuyper: A Biography. St. Catharines, Ont: Paideia, 1978.

Weisheipl, James A. Friar Thomas D'Aquino: His Life, Thought, and Work. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974.