Tara from Denton, Texas asks, “You said C.S. Lewis is one of the top five people who have influenced you the most. Who are the others in your top five?”
I wondered if that question might come back. When I said that, I didn’t even think about five, but I gave some thought to this.
Let’s just be clear here, you just threw out “top five” as general parameter, not because you had it all figured out.
Absolutely. I would put them at the top. I will see if I can fit him in.
Parents and Preachers
Right at the top I am going to put Bill and Ruth Piper, Mom and Dad, because of tens of thousands of influences that are incalculable and unremembered by the little boy John Piper. I mean, who of us could begin to estimate the impact of Christian parents on us, even if we can’t remember decisive theological turning points? So, I am going to write my parents right at the top and give them the honor that I think they are due. They are way above C.S. Lewis in shaping me, I am sure.
“Who of us could begin to estimate the impact of Christian parents on us, even if we can’t remember decisive theological turning points?”
Second, Daniel Fuller, my teacher in seminary, introduced me to a way of reading the Bible called arcing, and he introduced me to a great, glorious God whose pursuit of his glory is the overarching way the Bible is unified. He introduced me to a great God of glory whose pursuit of his own glory and whose commitment to his own glory is the unifying principle of the Bible. He gave me those two things: a way of reading the Bible that has borne fruit to this day forty years later and a vision of a sovereign God unifying the Bible through his pursuit of his own glory. Daniel Fuller is right up there in place number two or three.
Right under him comes Jonathan Edwards, whose book Freedom of the Will locked me down as a Calvinist, and whose hand touches everything and inflames it. I mean, I just go to any part of Edwards and start reading, and things get on fire. I just don’t know why he does that for me, but he does. He was alive to the glories of Christ. And so he is just unfathomably rich in the way he handles divine things.
Probably right there is where C.S. Lewis is going to fit in.
I want to throw in one more, a surprising one. E.D. Hirsch wrote a book called Validity in Interpretation in 1967. The point of the book is simply this: There is such a thing as valid interpretation — interpretation that is right or wrong. The criterion of that validity is the author’s intention, and that is what you should pursue.
I mean, that is so simple. It seems to me like it is the most obvious, common-sense thing in the world. If I write a love letter to Noël, I don’t want her making up meaning, right? I want her to see my heart and know my heart and know my intention. Therefore, that is the way we should read the Bible as well.
Puritans of Our Era
You gave us four authors. Let’s say we talk about specific books and authors we can read. According to your list here, it would be Edwards, Lewis, Owen, and Hirsch. Who would be number five? You have a free slot now.
“What made the Puritans so rich was that they were utterly saturated with the Bible.”
I think I should probably throw into that mix a contemporary author. The top three I am going to put are J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and Sinclair Ferguson. These men are latter-day Puritans. And what made the Puritans so rich was that they were utterly saturated with the Bible. They had a huge God. They pushed that God with that Bible into all areas of life, so every time I have picked up those guys and read them, my heart has been warmed and my mind has been made sharper. That is where I would send people.