I get teased often (and I enjoy it) for the two middle names we have given to each of our sons. Last week someone jokingly remarked that he figured that we couldn't agree on a name so we gave Barnabas two middle names -- John Calvin (or Paul Stephan Lewis or Elijah James Edwards). At the risk of being vain and talking about my sons (and I am sure I have more vanity in me than I imagine), I thought I would use the explanation of my three sons middle name to recommend a few books and the general reading of biography (especially good Christian biography).
My three sons (wow, that sounds like a TV show) have three middle names, partially because I think it sounds cool and intelligent, and partially for a good reason. Each of their second middle names is one of my favorite authors or characters from church history. [Believe it or not, Molly was in for this move] Paul Stephan was given the second middle name "Lewis" after C. S. Lewis. Elijah James was given the second middle name of "Edwards" after Jonathan Edwards. Most of you can figure it out, that Barnabas was named after John Calvin.
Here are some great quotes on the reasons for reading good, Christian biography (quotes collected by John Piper):
Philips Brooks (an Episcopalian pastor in Boston 100 years ago) commented on the reading of Christian biography like this:
While it is good to walk among the living, it is good also to live with the wise, great, and good dead. It keeps out of life the dreadful feeling of extemporaneousness, with its conceit and its despair. It makes us always know that God made other men before He made us. It furnishes a constant background for our living. It provides us with perpetual humility and inspiration. (In W. Wiersbe, Walking with the Giants, p. 15)Isaac Watts wrote:
The lives or memoirs of persons of piety, well written, have been of infinite and unspeakable advantage to the disciples and professors of Christianity, and have given us admirable instances and rules how to resist every temptation of a soothing or a frowning world, how to practice important and difficult duties, how to love God above all, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, to live by the faith of the Son of God, and to die in the same faith, in sure and certain hope of a resurrection to eternal life. (In James Reid, Memoirs of the Westminster Divines, p. iv)Jonthan Edwards wrote:
There are two ways of representing and recommending true religion and virtue to the world; the one, by doctrine and precept; the other, by instance and example.
Here are three good biographies on the three men I mentioned above (with links to a review of each book):