October 01, 2020

If You Could Read Only One Author from Church History, Who Would It Be and Why?

Nathan W. Bingham & Sinclair Ferguson
If You Could Read Only One Author from Church History, Who Would It Be and Why?

The Lord has graciously blessed His church with many great teachers and writers through the ages. If you could learn from only one of them for the rest of your life, whom would you choose? Today, Sinclair Ferguson thinks through his response to that challenging question.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: This week I'm joined by Ligonier Teaching Fellow Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. Dr. Ferguson, thank you for taking my call there in Scotland. A question our teachers are often asked is, if they could read one author from church history, who would it be, and why?

DR. SINCLAIR FERGUSON: Well, I don't know if the other teaching fellows have answered this question, but if they have, I'm going to try and find out what their answer is because it isn't actually such an easy question to answer. If I were asked if I could just have one book from one author, like if I was, say, shipwrecked on a desert island, the one book I would want would be Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible. And I think that would keep me going for many a long year.

But if it's an author who has written an entire corpus of works . . . well, first of all, let me, let me just reflect on how I'd go about the selection. I would look for somebody, an author with whom I had some familiarity, that I thought would meet in his written works, both my theological, and doctrinal, and biblical needs on the one hand and what you might call my existential or pastoral needs on the other. And for me, in terms of the authors with whom I'm most familiar, that would boil down to one of John Calvin, John Owen, and Thomas Boston.

And I think probably I would have to go for Calvin for a couple of reasons. One is because I've known his works I think probably since I was fifteen. So I go back a long way with John Calvin in that sense. And therefore, he's been a significant influence in my life.

Another lower kind of obvious reason for choosing Calvin is because his corpus of writings covers such a wide variety. So, he wrote commentaries on the whole of the New Testament and some of the Old Testament, gave lectures on books of the Old Testament. So just in terms of keeping on studying my Bible, Calvin would be a great help. And although, you know, he wrote his commentaries so many years ago, they're still, even by contemporary scholars, well regarded.

And then theologically, he wrote the Institutes. And it's a very engaging form of systematic theology. He wrote many, many letters. And so he would get me a good spiritual counsel. And he also wrote individual volumes on doctrinal matters. So short answer is I think it would be John Calvin.