While we conducted our exclusive Christian survey this past summer, many respondents also wrote some comments as to the survey and the ranking scenario of these important historical Christians. The following are excerpted from some of them. To protect privacy, we will not list the names associated with the comments:
“I would not consider many of the names above as influencing Christianity. Some have influenced various cults which claim to be “Christian”, but by definition are not. Example: The LDS (Mormons) do not accept Christ by His own definition, recorded in Scripture, of who He says He is. You cannot be genuinely Christian when you reject the true identity of Jesus Christ. Others, like relativist Rick Warren, do not accept the Bible as authoritative Scripture. They may quote it for teaching value, but they do not believe it is authoritative, as Christians actually do. I do not regard Warren as a Christian leader, but rather a Religious huckster pushing a hipster brand of pluralism.”
“I wrote in Gutenberg, but thought better of it looking over the list. It seems like the suggested Christians had great influence on the development of Christians thought, as such. They influenced how Christianity understood itself, as it were, whereas Gutenberg influenced how Christianity was propagated through a technological advancement.
I also almost suggested St. Catherine of Siena. But stopped myself here too. As influential as she was and continues to be, I would have suggested her only because she was a woman. She doesn’t make the top 10. Unfortunately, I don’t think any woman does. That’s been the history of the Church thus far, much like Western society as a whole.
And, though this may be self-evident, the earlier the Christian thinker, the more influential he would tend to be. Joseph Smith might make the list in a 100 years, but he doesn’t make it today. Also, as a Thomist, it’s hard to put St. Thomas after Martin Luther. But it’s undeniable that Luther had more influence on the development of Christianity — including Catholicism.
So, kudos on the list. I like that both Catholic and Protestant thinkers are included. It’s a step toward Christian unity, I think.”
“Some of the names have significant impact in the U.S. but not so much world-wide. I tried to think in terms of world-wide influence over time. Therefore, of the contemporary names, none have had the impact or ongoing influence that King and Gutierrez have had.”
“The last two on my list being part of the 20th Century have had enormous impact already (Fulton Sheen was the most widely watched media personality – in any genre – of the 20th Century) and both were the most powerful example of using the media and modern tools such as air travel. One figure that I heard years ago said that Pope John Paul II had been physically seen by more people than any other individual in the history of the world. Who knows how far their impact upon history will continue and expand but certainly they are worthy of the top 10 even now.
Some of the other individuals mentioned were certainly very influential on history but objectively speaking were not legitimately “Top 10.” Many of them are very specific to the history of western Christianity and listing so many Protestants (and non-Christians such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Charles Taze Russel) seems to show a lack of understanding of the larger sphere of Christianity both within an historical context as well as within a contemporary 21st century context. Again, this is not meant pejoratively towards Protestants nor anti-trinitarians per se just objectively speaking, a good argument could be made that within the larger context of history, Protestantism is less significant than say Arianism. And whatever you want to say about Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are NOT Christian. Christian is definitively Trinitarian with a belief that Jesus IS God. Since Mormons and JW’s reject this they are no more Christian than Muslims are Christian. All three have a certain reverence for the historical Jesus, but they reject the notion that Jesus is God. But even from a specifically western-centric perspective, St. Benedict was more influential than any other individual mentioned and not otherwise on my list.”
“There are two ways of looking at the question you have posed. 1) Which of these people have influenced the most people in history through their teaching and 2) which have influenced me personally the most in my Christian life.
My top 8 are those who I believe have influenced the most people in the history of Christianity – for better or worse. I believe the greatest influencers were those who are bigger than just Christian denominations. All of my top 8 are men who have had great influence beyond one or more Christian denominations, but have rather influenced the tide of Christianity as a whole.
The final two are those who have been among the greatest influences in my life through their life and writings. I hope that this is something that fits with what you are using.
Although you didn’t have Darby listed, I believe that he has had a huge, though largely unrealized influence on Christianity. While he is not the founder of a specific denomination like many others on the list, he has had an even greater influence through the dispensational/millennial teaching he began. This is something that is bigger than any denomination and has permeated Christianity in the United States and many other countries in the world. I believe he deserves a high rank in your list.”
“The biggest question I take into consideration with this question is what you mean by “the history of the church.” When I consider the influential relationship between the church and the state in the Middle Ages, and the amorphous meaning of religion today, I wonder where “the church” stops and society begins. Since I believe the “church” comprises all who want to associate with it in any way, that includes a very broad segment of society – which affects the way I rank the top influencers.”
“It does not seem appropriate to measure good and evil on the same scale simply by influence.”
“Mother Teresa’s sisters continue to care for the poor world wide.”