10 People in History to Meet, See, or Watch

A week and a half ago, I logged into my Mac and found that the tool bar located at the top of the screen had disappeared and that no application would function or even open because of a dysfunctional Finder. As a result, I hadn’t been able to write or do many of the things I usually do on my computer. But after six hours this week at the Apple Store, I have a working computer again…. except that it is now wiped. The biggest thing I think I lost was my folder containing approximately thirty Bible study lessons I had prepared and liked to have to reference. No worries, though. The time I usually spend on my computer may have been transferred to reading, as I also recently started a Bill Clinton biography and a book about Alex Honnold and the climbing life.

As my dad and I hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls a few weeks ago, we began to discuss a complex, thought-provoking question: if you could meet or see in action ten people from the course of history, who would they be? I continued to think about this question following our discussion and compiled the following list. After the obvious first pick, my list is in no order.

  1. Jesus Christ: God in the flesh who came to dwell with man (John 1:14)? The Lord of the Sabbath? The eternal King and final Judge? The agent of Creation? The Anointed One who proclaimed the Good News? My savior and Lord? It feels like an understatement to say that I love him and want others to do the same.
  2. Plato: The first work of Plato I read was Timaeus, one of the most important religious philosophy works in history. Plato is known for quite a lot: his dialogues on metaphysics, the Academy, giving the soul a rational foundation, the list could go on. Some consider him the most influential and most studied philosopher of all time; this pick was a no-brainer for me.
  3. Aristotle: Plato’s student was also an easy pick. Aristotle invented or helped develop formal logic and main ideas regarding political theory, descriptive biology, and ethics. A class I am taking in the fall walks through his book Politics.
  4. Constantine: My interest in Greco-Roman civilization had to lead to a pick like this one. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, would be fascinating to meet or watch, as he ruled over the great empire and inserted himself into controversies in the church.
  5. Augustine: As my Origins of Christianity professor said, Augustine is probably the second most important Christian thinker in the history of the church, after none other than Paul the Apostle himself. Everyone should read Augustine’s Confessions, a 300-page autobiography that is one big prayer to God. His other famous works, City of God (read) and On the Trinity (have not read) are also some of the best works in Christian theology in the history of the church. Augustine’s high view of God’s grace is quite impactful on any reader, and his work on original sin in the midst of the Pelagian controversy is key to Christian orthodoxy.
  6. Moses: Moses was the author of the Pentateuch and the leader of God’s people amidst ups and downs out of a place of bondage and toward the promised land. Moses has always fascinated me, and if I could meet him right now I would certainly talk to him about his time in God’s presence on Mt. Sinai and the issuing of the Ten Commandments.
  7. John Calvin: Known primarily today due to debates surrounding Calvinism, John Calvin contributed heavily to Christian thought and theology in the story of church history. While many people probably think of him as a sort of grumpy, arrogant Christian thinker, he actually focused often on delighting and rejoicing in God our Creator and Jesus the Lord and Savior. I haven’t read his Institutes, but their contribution to Christian theology and his work on the sovereignty of God make me pick him over another reformer, Martin Luther, although both could have easily been on the list.
  8. Ben Franklin: We can call Ben Franklin lots of things: a Founding Father, author, political theorist, Freemason, scientist, diplomat, politician, and a ton of other labels that are probably on his Wikipedia page. I picked Ben over another favorite from the time period, Thomas Jefferson. Ben was allegedly a deist who grew up in a Puritan family. His involvement in helping lay the foundation of our great nation seems fascinating to learn much about.
  9. Isaac Newton: Newton would not have come to mind without talking about this thought experiment with my dad and consulting online sources. Newton, an influential scientist, formulated classical mechanics, universal gravitation, and the laws of motion. He also did work on the telescope. Additionally, and less known, he did work on biblical chronology and quite a bit of philosophical thinking. Newton took an Arian view of the Trinity in which Christ was created by God rather than being consubstantial and coeternal with the Father, a position that is not considered orthodox by the church at large and that was rejected at Nicaea. I would enjoy discussing with him both his work on science and his thoughts on Christianity.
  10. Franklin D. Roosevelt: This pick wavered between FDR, Paul the Apostle, and Augustus, and I ended up desiring a fairly contemporary politician. FDR is known for being a four-term president, essentially laying the foundations of the American welfare state, leading the U.S. into WWII, Fireside Chats, and much more. I only know that he has been labeled an Episcopalian, and I am not aware of his deeper spiritual thoughts or convictions. FDR’s impact on U.S. politics and the role of government is quite clear today; because of his leadership and footprint, he is one of the most influential presidents in U.S. history.
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