Timelines/Devotional Writers

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Timeline of Christian Devotional Writers

This timeline of devotional writers--specifically, those contained in Renovare's Spiritual Classics and Devotional Classics anthologies, includes short biographies of each of these writers.

This information was originally compiled by Tyler V. Snow[1], and used with his permission.

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Date (of Birth) Christian Writer
297 AD
  • Took part in First Council of Nicea
  • Later became bishop of Alexandria
  • Helped maintain Christian beliefs during a turbulent century
  • Wrote On the Incarnation
Gregory of Nyssa
  • One of the great fathers of the Church
  • Main use of the Bible was not for historical reflection but rather for growth in virtue
  • Died 396
John Chrysostom
  • Son of a wealthy Roman general
  • One of the finest preachers in the early Church
  • Known as “the golden-mouthed”
  • Baptized into the church in 368
  • Lived in mountain cave near Antioch for four years
  • 386 ordained a priest
  • 398 named patriarch of Constantinople
  • Wrote sermon Dead to Sin
  • Died 407
Augustine of Hippo
  • Most important convert to Christianity after St. Paul
  • A great doctor of the Latin church
  • One of the most significant thinkers in the history of the Christian church
  • Born in Numidia, North Africa
  • Had a long-standing liaison with a woman who bore him a son
  • Educated in philosophy and rhetoric at Carthage
  • Went to Rome as a teacher of rhetoric
  • Appointed professor at Milan, where he was converted
  • Took on a monastic way of life
  • 391 became a priest but continued living as a monk, for 34 years lived there
  • Finally he became bishop of Hippo
  • Made about 40-50 journeys as a bishop
  • Wrote almost 100 treatises, 200 letters, and 500 sermons that survive
  • Wrote Confessions and The City of God
  • Died 430 AD

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II. MIDDLE AGES (590-1500 A.D.)

Date (of Birth) Christian Writer
Bernard of Clarvaux
  • One of the great leaders in the history of the Church
  • Considered by many to be one of the holiest individuals who ever lived
  • At the age of 22 entered as a novice in the monastery of Citeaux
  • Supervised group of fellow monks in newly founded monastery at Clairvaux; remained there until his death
  • Works had profound influence on Martin Luther and John Calvin
  • Wrote On the Love of God
  • Died 1153
Hildegard of Bingen
  • Put in care of Jutta von Spanheim, an anchoress (religious recluse) attached to Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg
  • Elected abbess of the anchorhold, now a small convent
  • Died 1179
Richard of St. Victor
  • Native of Scotland
  • Entered monastic community of St. Victor in Paris in the 1150s
  • Wrote The Mystical Ark
  • Died 1173
Francis of Assisi
  • First of the Italian mystics
  • Heard God’s call to rebuild the church at San Damiano
  • Started Franciscan Order
  • Most beloved of the saints of the Middle Ages
  • Wrote The Little Flowers of St. Francis
  • Died 1226
Clare of Assisi
  • Founded Poor Clares
  • Converted under the influence of Francis of Assisi
  • Sickbed from 1224 until her death
  • Died 1253
Hadewijch of Antwerp
  • A Beguine, a devout woman who chose to lead a life of poverty and contemplation without taking vows as a nun; came from privileged families but rejected the life of the castle and the life of the cloister in favor of nonvowed religious life
  • A mystic
Marguerite Porete
  • Member of a creative and original group of prayerful European laywomen in the 13th and 14th centuries who are known as Beguines
  • Wrote A Mirror of Simple Souls
  • Died 1310 (burned at the stake)
Meister Eckhart
  • Entered Dominican order near Erfurt, Germany in 1277
  • 1294 became prior of Dominicans at Erfurt
  • Died 1328
Richard Rolle
  • One of the great spiritual leaders of England
  • Wrote The Fire of Love
  • Died 1349
  • Revered as St. Richard the Hermit
John Ruusbroec
  • Flemish contemplative
  • Lived in a hermitage in the Forest of Soignes, in Groenendaal
  • Wrote The Spiritual Espousals, Kingdom of Lovers, Little Book of Clarification, Book of the Twelve Beguines
  • Died 1381
The Cloud of Unkowning (anonymous)
  • Greatest spiritual classic to issue from the 14th century English contemplative movement
  • The author is unknown
Julian of Norwich
  • Most popular of the English mystics
  • Lived as a Benedictine nun in Norwich, beside the St. Julian Church
  • Wrote Revelations of Divine Love (first great female writer in the English language)
  • Seriously ill at the age of 30
Catherine of Siena
  • Born in Siena, Italy
  • Reared in poor but devout Catholic family
  • 18 became Dominican nun
  • Wrote The Dialogue
  • Died 1380
Thomas a Kempis
  • Became monk at Augustinian monastery where he would spend the rest of his life
  • Member of the Brethren of the Common Life, a religious community in Holland devoted to education and the care of the poor
  • Made subprior in 1429
  • Wrote The Imitation of Christ (1441) ranks second only to the Bible in its impact on the worldwide Christian community
  • Died 1471
Catherine of Genoa
  • Dad was Viceroy of Naples
  • Member of the Third Order of St. Francis
  • Wrote Life and Teachings, Dialogues
  • Died 1510

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Date (of Birth) Christian Writer
Desiderius Erasmus
  • Sometimes referred to as Erasmus "The Humanist"
  • a Dutch philosopher and Catholic theologian who is considered one of the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance.
  • 1516 - Erasmus published a modern Greek NT with Latin appendix (showed translation errors in the Latin Vulgate)
  • Raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation.
  • Some historians have suggested "Erasmus laid the egg and Luther hatched it" (in reference to the Protestant Reformation)
  • Died 1536
Thomas More
  • English humanist
  • Wrote Utopia
  • Active in the government of Henry VIII
  • Did not support King becoming Head of the Church
  • Died 1535
Martin Luther
  • Preeminent among the Protestant Reformers
  • Born in Eisleben, Germany
  • Age 20, suffered deep anxiety about his own salvation
  • Entered an Augustinian monastery to soothe his religious conscience
  • 1505 became an Augustinian monk for 20 years
  • Ordained 1507
  • 1517 composed 95 theses, nailed to the door of the church in Wittenberg
  • 1522 Luther's German translation of the New Testament appeared
  • 1534 Finished translating the whole Bible into German with the first edition being published in Wittenberg
  • Deeply influenced by Augustine and Bernard of Clairvaux
  • Wrote On the Bondage of the Human Will
  • Died 1546
Ignatius of Loyola
  • One of the most influential religious founders in Christian history
  • Born at Casa de Torres in Guipuzcoa, Spain
  • 1538 established the Society of Jesus/Jesuits (a group of spiritual companions who took vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and loyalty to Pope Paul III)
  • Died 1556
John Calvin
  • Born at Noyon, France
  • Curate of St. Martin de Marteville 1527
  • 1534 converted to Protestantism
  • 1536 wrote Institutes of the Christian Religion
  • Considered father of Presbyterian and Reformed Protestant Churches
  • Deeply influenced by Luther and Augustine
  • Known for stern temperament and austere lifestyle
  • Died 1564
Teresa of Avila
  • Born in Avila, Spain
  • Age 20 entered Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation
  • Had occasional supernatural experiences
  • 1555 had second conversion
  • Wrote Interior Castle
  • Died 1582
John of the Cross
  • Carmelite monk in 1564
  • Spent life in service of Catholic Reform
  • Wrote The Dark Night of the Soul
  • Died 1591
Francis de Sales
  • Attended a Jesuit school
  • Ordained a priest in 1591
  • 1602 became bishop of Geneva
  • Wrote Introduction to the Devout Life
  • Died 1622

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Date (of Birth) Christian Writer
John Milton
  • One of the great writers of the English language
  • By 43 he was totally blind
  • Wrote two great epics, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained
  • Died 1674
Brother Lawrence
  • Born in Lorraine, France
  • Lay brother in Discalced Carmelite order in Paris
  • Wrote The Practice of the Presence of God
  • Died 1691
Jeremy Taylor
  • Born and educated in Cambridge, England
  • Ordained 1633
  • Moved to Ireland 1658
  • Consecrated bishop of Down and Connor
  • Wrote Holy Living and Holy Dying
  • Died 1667
Isaac Penington
  • Son of the Mayor of London
  • 1658 joined Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Wrote Letters on Spiritual Virtues
  • Died 1680
Blaise Pascal
  • Best remembered for his genius in mathematics
  • His work as a philosopher and theologian remains perhaps the most insightful of all his works
  • Born in France
  • Heard sermon that brought about a profound religious experience, 1654
  • Wrote Pensees
  • Death at 39
  • Died 1662
George Fox
  • Born in Puritan England
  • Became founder and most prominent leader of the Quakers (Society of Friends)
  • Wrote The Journal of George Fox
  • Died 1691
John Bunyan
  • Born in parish of Elston, two miles from Bedford, England
  • Wrote Grace Abounding to teh Chief of Sinners
  • Pastor of Baptist Church in Bedford
  • Wrote Pilgrim’s Progress 1678; a monumental classic, thought to be second only to the Bible in the number of copies sold since its first printing
  • Died 1688
Madame Guyon
  • Born at Montargis, France
  • Lived in a convent under royal order for a year
  • Almost 25 years of her life were spent in confinement
  • Wrote Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ
  • Inspired Francois Fenelon, John Wesley, and Hudson Taylor
  • Died 1717
Francois Fenelon
  • Archbishop of Cambrai 1695
  • Influenced by Madame Guyon
  • Wrote Maxims of the Saints
  • Denounced by Pope Innocent XII
  • Banished by Louis XIV
  • Died 1715
Jean-Pierre de Caussade
  • Born in Toulouse, France
  • Ordained member of Society of Jesus in 1708
  • Wrote Spiritual Instructions on the Various States of Prayer
  • Died 1751
William Law
  • A devout Anglican priest
  • A spiritual director
  • Inspired by John Tauler, John Ruusbroec, and Thomas a Kempis
  • Wrote A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life which appeared in 1728, and The Spirit of Love (1752-54)
  • Greatly influenced the English Evangelical Revival
  • Later in life, involved w/writings of Protestant mystic Jacob Boehme
  • Important factor in the English Evangelical Revival
  • Died 1761
Jonathan Edwards
  • One of America’s greatest theologians
  • Born in Connecticut and educated at Yale
  • Ministered for 23 years at church in Northampton, MA
  • Missionary to Indians at Stockbridge
  • 1758 named president of Princeton University, died a few weeks later
  • Died 1758
John Wesley
  • Ordained an Anglican minister
  • Helped found Methodist movement
  • By evangelizing the common people of 18th century England, Wesley saved the country from a bloody revolution
  • Wrote Christian Perfection
  • Died 1791
Charles Wesley
  • Helped found the Methodist Church
  • 1735 took Anglican holy orders
  • Wrote Love Divine, All Loves Excelling; Hark the Herald Angels Sing; Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today; Jesus, Lover of My Soul; O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  • Died 1788
John Woolman
  • Born in NJ to a Quaker farm family
  • Wrote Journal
  • Died 1772
Hannah More
  • Poet, playwright, spiritual writer
  • Left her London circle to live at Cowslip Green
  • Wrote Religion of the Heart
  • Died 1833

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V. MODERN PERIOD - 19th Century (1800s)

Date (of Birth) Christian Writer
John Henry Newman
  • Anglican clergyman and later a Roman Catholic priest
  • Established a house of prayer
  • Wrote Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, A Grammar of Assent, Parochial and Plain Sermons
  • Wrote poem Lead Kindly Light
  • Died 1890
Phoebe Palmer
  • Born to a devout Methodist family
  • Wrote The Way of Holiness
  • Died 1874
Soren Kierkegaard
  • Born in Copenhagen
  • 1843 wrote Eitehr/Or
  • Died 1855
Frederick William Faber
  • Huguenot descent
  • Persuaded by John Henry Newman’s writings
  • Joined the Tractarian Movement
  • Received Anglican ordination in 1839
  • Entered Roman Catholic Church
  • Founded Wilfridians, or Brothers of the Will of God
  • 1847 ordained priest
  • Wrote Lives of the Saints; All for Jesus, Growth in Holiness, Creator and the Creature
  • Died 1863
George MacDonald
  • Native of Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Became a Congregational minister, then a freelance preacher and lecturer
  • 1855 wrote Within and Without, and afterward made literature his profession, writing novels, fairy tales, poetry, and Christian allegories of the quest for God
  • Wrote Phantastes (1858) and Lilith (1895) which were influential to many other writers, including C.S. Lewis
  • Wrote Princess and the Goblin and Princess and Curdie
  • Wrote Unspoken Sermons
  • Had a deep trust in God and a sunny, playful disposition
  • Died 1905
Leo Tolstoy
  • Wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina
  • Wrote The Lion and the Honeycomb
  • Died 1910
Andrew Murray
  • Dutch Reformed missionary leader
  • Pastored several South African churches
  • Vigorously promoted the call to missions
  • Wrote 240 works on the devotional life (Abide in Christ, With Christ in the School of Prayer, and Waiting on God)
  • Died 1917
Christina Rossetti
  • An English poet
  • A devout High Anglican
  • Semi-invalid for much of her life
  • Died 1894
Hannah Whitall Smith
  • Quaker born in Philadelphia
  • Wrote The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life 1870
  • Died 1911
Charles Spurgeon
  • Born and reared in Essex, England
  • Became Baptist in 1850
  • Appointed pastor 1852
  • Wrote Spiritual Revival the Want of the Church
  • Died 1892
Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • One of the great innovators in English poetry
  • Converted to Catholicism, entered the Society of Jesus
  • Died 1889

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VI. MODERN PERIOD - 20th Century (1900s)

Date (of Birth) Christian Writer Source
Lilias Trotter
  • Volunteered with YWCA
  • 1888 organized mission to the poor of Algeria
  • Had 40 year love affair with Algeria
  • Died 1928
Amy Carmichael
  • Born in Northern Ireland
  • Spent most of her life as a missionary, including in India
  • Anthology is Spiritual Witness
  • Died 1951
Oswald Chambers
  • Scottish Baptist evangelist and teacher aligned with the Holiness Movement
  • Wrote My Utmost for His Highest
  • 1911 founded the Bible Training College
  • 1915 assigned as YMCA chaplain to Cairo, Egypt
  • Died 1917
G.K. Chesterton
  • Agnostic by 16
  • One of history’s most prolific and thoughtful writers
  • Christian apologist
  • His beliefs were utterly traditional; his methods of argument fresh and original
  • 1922 became a Catholic
  • Wrote Orthodoxy
  • Died 1936
Evelyn Underhill
  • Religious conversion at the age of 32
  • Devout Anglican
  • Wrote Mysticism, Worship
  • Relied on John Ruusbroec
  • Died 1941
William Temple
  • Born in Exeter, England
  • Chaplain to archbishop of Canterbury
  • Bishop of Manchester
  • Archbishop of York
  • Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-44
  • An outstanding leader of modern Protestantism
  • Pioneer of the ecumenical movement
  • A tireless church reformer
  • Wrote Christianity and Social Order
  • Died 1944
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  • A child of a devout Catholic family
  • Entered Jesuits in 1899
  • Ordained in 1911
  • Wrote The Divine Milieu; Hymn of the Universe
  • Died 1955
Frank Laubach
  • Missionary to the Philippine Islands
  • Wrote Letters by a Modern Mystic
  • Died 1970
E. Stanley Jones
  • Missionary and religion swriter
  • Worked among high caste Hindus and Muslism in India
  • Envangelistic missions in the US
  • Started Ashram retreats
  • Wrote Conversation
  • Died 1973
John Baillie
  • Professor of Systematic Theology
  • Wrote A Diary of Private Prayer
  • Died 1960
Sadhu Sundar Singh
  • The St. Paul of India
  • Raised a Sikh
  • Saw vision of Jesus
  • Wrote With and Without Christ
  • Died ~1933
George A. Buttrick
  • Entered Presbyterian ministry
  • Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in NYC
  • Wrote Prayer
  • Died 1980
Thomas R. Kelly
  • Born into devout Quaker farm family near Chillicothe, Ohio
  • Wrote A Testament of Devotion, The Eternal Promise
  • Died 1941
Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Wrote Mind of the Maker, The Man Born to Be King
  • Died 1957
A.W. Tozer
  • Born in western Pennsylvania
  • Became an active Methodist lay preacher
  • Joined the Christian and Missionary Alliance
  • Pastored churches in WV, Ohio, and Indiana
  • Accepted call to the Southside Alliance Church in Chicago where he stayed 31 years
  • Preached on Moody Bible Institute radio station, WMBI
  • Wrote The Pursuit of God
  • Last pastorate at Avenue Road Alliance Church in Toronto, Ontario
  • Died 1963
Agnes Sanford
  • Born in China as the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary
  • Lived for years in New Jersey as the wife of an Episcopalian rector
  • Wrote The Healing Light
  • Died 1982
Dorothy Day
  • Cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement
  • Wrote The Long Loneliness
  • Died 1980
Paul Tournier
  • Lived and worked in Geneva, Switzerland
  • Religious doctor and counselor
  • Wrote The Adventure of Living
  • Wrote The Meaning of Persons
  • Died 1986
C.S. Lewis
  • One of the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century
  • Born in Ireland
  • Converted to Christianity in 1931
  • Wrote Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity
  • Died 1963
Watchman Nee
  • One of the great Christian leaders of the 20th century
  • Headed dynamic movement of the Spirit known as the Little Flock, one of the early efforts to forge an indigenous Chinese Christian witness independent of foreign missions and traditional denominations
  • Flourished in 1930s and 1940s with large gatherings of thousands in Shanghai
  • 20 years in prison under CCP
  • Wrote What Shall This Man Do?
  • Died 1972
Alan Paton
  • Educated at University of Natal (South Africa)
  • President of South African Liberal Party
  • Wrote Instrument of Thy Peace; Cry the Beloved Country
  • Died 1988
Karl Rahner
  • One of chief architects of the Second Vatican Council
  • Entered Society of Jesus 1922, ordained 1932
  • Wrote Theological Investigations, Encounters With Silence
  • Died 1984
Dag Hammarskjold
  • Secretary-General of UN
  • Born in Sweden
  • Wrote Markings
  • Died 1961
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Born in Breslau, Germany
  • Grew up in Berlin
  • 16 began study of theology
  • 1933 denounced German public for its blind obedience to Hitler
  • Left for England where he served as pastor of two churches
  • Called to go back to Germany to serve as head of seminary to train young pastors
  • Wrote Cost of Discipleship; Life Together
  • Arrested April 1943; implicated in plot to assassinate Hitler
  • Died 1945
J.B. Phillips
  • Anglican clergyman
  • Wrote contemporary translation of the New Testament
  • Wrote Your God is Too Small; Plain Christianity; A Man Called Jesus
  • Died 1982
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Wrote A Gift from the Sea
Simone Weil
  • French social activist and political radical
  • Remarkable 20th century mystic
  • Born a Jew
  • Visited Trappist Abbey in 1938
  • Hesitated to become a formal Christian
  • Wrote Waiting for God
  • Died 1943
Catherine Marshall
  • Wrote memoir about her husband, A Man Called Peter
  • Wrote novel Christy
Thomas Merton
  • In his 20s became a Roman Catholic (1938) and later a Cistercian (Trappist) Monk (1941)
  • Wrote The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), Contemplative Prayer
  • Monk (and later a priest) in the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky
  • Died 1968 during journey to Asia
Elizabeth O’Connor
  • Early member of the Church of the Saviour in Washington DC
  • Wrote Letters to Scattered Pilgrims
John Main
  • Influenced by John Cassian
  • Founded Benedictine Priory of Montreal
  • Wrote Moments of Christ
  • Died 1982
Frederick Buechner
  • An ordained Presbyterian minister
  • Wrote Sacred Journey, Telling Secrets, A Room Called Remember
Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Father and grandfather were Baptist preachers
  • Formed by Paul Tillich and Reinhold Neibuhr
  • African American Baptist minister
  • Led civil rights movement in the U.S.
  • Rose to national prominence through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
  • I Have a Dream speech; essay Walk with Freedom
  • Died 1968
Andre Louf
  • Cistercian (Trappist) religious community
  • Wrote Teach Us to Pray
Desmond Tutu
  • South African Anglican cleric and theologian
  • Bishop of Johannesburg, Archbishop of Cape Town
  • Wrote The Book of Joy
Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Born in Nijkerk Holland
  • Came to the US in 1964
  • Roman Catholic priest and psychologist
  • Wrote Wounded Healer, Genesee Diary, With Open Hands, Gracias, Road to Daybreak
  • Died 1996

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VII. MODERN / CONTEMPORARY - 21st Century (2000-present)

Date (of Birth) Christian Writer
Eugene Peterson
  • American Presbyterian minister, scholar, theologian, author, poet
  • Born in Washington, grew up in Montana
  • Founded Christ Our King Presbyterian Church where he served for 29 years
  • Wrote over 30 books, including The Message
  • Died 2018
Brennan Manning
  • American author, laicized priest, and public speaker
  • Wrote The Ragamuffin Gospel
  • Died 2013
Dallas Willard
  • Professor with over 30 publications
  • Wrote The Spirit of the Disciplines
  • Died 2013
Gerald May
  • American psychiatrist and theologian
  • Born in Michigan
  • Wrote Addiction and Grace
  • Died 2005
Adolfo Quezada
  • Founded Equanimity Center
  • Wrote Wholeness, Walking with God, Through the Darkness, and Loving Yourself for God’s Sake
Richard Foster
  • Born in New Mexico
  • Quaker background
  • Wrote Celebration of Discipline, Prayer, Life With God Bible (assisted)
  • 1988 founded Renovare
Annie Dillard
  • One of our finest contemporary writers
  • Wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Holy the Firm, and Teaching a Stone to Talk
Kathleen Norris
  • Wrote Falling Off, Dakota, The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace, Quotidian Mysteries
N.T. Wright
  • New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, Anglican bishop
  • Author of over 70 books

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Additional Resources


  1. First appeared in a public post last accessed 11/15/2021:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hnM5FdI4y0mT12qv2xs1hLfBBoHi1xPltdg5uYZC5gs/edit#