The following is a guest post by Russell Pulliam, an Indianapolis Star columnist who directs the Pulliam Fellowship summer intern program for the Indianapolis Star and the Arizona Republic.
Name the best biography you have read.
You can’t pick just one?
Okay, give me your five best.
Here are mine, in alphabetical order, from the past couple of decades, with a 1970s classic.
Bavinck, A Critical Biography | James Eglinton (2020). Bavinck, a Dutch theologian, is overshadowed by the more famous Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), the journalist, theologian and prime minister. Eglinton brings Bavinck (1854-1921) out of the Kuyper shadow very well, revealing how he was a key ally in the reformation of Holland. Bavinck was also a journalist, theologian and key political figure in Holland. Think about Lou Gehrig to Babe Ruth for the New York Yankees, and you see who Bavinck was to Kuyper – the indispensable teammate.
Calvin | Bruce Gordon (2009). John Calvin has been a challenge for so many biographers. Gordon covers his story with academic impartiality and sets the 16th century context very well. Calvin fled persecution in France, then transformed his native land and Europe by sending so many trained missionaries and pastors back home as well as to other places. Calvin was a strong preacher, commentator, pastor and leader of the reformation. Gordon covers another rare angle – Calvin could be a very good friend.
Daws | Betty Lee Skinner (1974). Dawson Trotman was the founder of the Navigators ministry and an important pioneer in making spiritual disciplines practical for the average person. The Navs emphasized II Timothy 2:2, along with disciplines of memory verses, prayer and Bible study. Betty Lee captures the drama of the life of a working class guy who challenged Billy Graham and many others to grow in grace and vigorous discipline. Iron sharpened iron with anyone who knew Trotman. Historian Richard Pierard summed up the book this way: “Few will come away from the book without being challenged to reexamine the quality of their own spiritual lives.”
Jonathan Edwards | George Marsden (2003). A lifetime student of history, Marsden is a real pro, having taught at Calvin College and Notre Dame. His other books have more of an academic flavor. In this one he captures Edwards in new ways, showing why the New England Puritan belongs in several American Halls of Fame, as a pastor, theologian, philosopher, missionary and father.
The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899-1981 | by Iain Murray (2013). Lloyd-Jones has stayed well-known with the commentaries he wrote after his retirement from preaching. Murray wrote two great volumes on the life of this foremost 20th century preacher in Great Britain. Then he condensed and updated the story in this shorter and more recent version. This shorter biography could make you want to read the two volumes.