Over on the Center for Pastor Theologians (well worth following), there has been a discussion of the most influential evangelical theologians and scholars of the past fifty years. Two lists were drawn up by Gerald Hiestand: one an initial list of twenty-two names and another with sixty. Important to note is that the question concerns the most influential evangelical theologians, not the evangelicals who have exerted the greatest theological influence.
The list as it currently stands is as follows. In alphabetical order:
- Greg Bahnsen
- Greg Beale
- Jeremy Begbie
- Henri Blocher
- F. F. Bruce
- Edward Carnell
- Don Carson
- Gordon Fee
- John Frame
- Timothy George
- Marc Goodacre
- Stanley Grenz
- Wayne Grudem
- Colin Gunton
- Richard Hays
- Carl Henry
- Michael Horton
- Tim Keller
- George E. Ladd
- Peter Leithart
- John MacArthur
- George Marsden
- I. Howard Marshall
- Bruce McCormack
- Alister McGrath
- Scot McKnight
- Al Mohler
- John Warwick Montgomery
- Doug Moo
- Leon Morris
- Richard Mouw
- Nancy Murphy
- Roger Nicole
- Mark Noll
- Harold Ockenga
- J. I. Packer
- Rene Padilla
- Eugene Peterson
- John Piper
- Alvin Plantinga
- Vern Poythress
- Phil Ryken
- Charles Ryrie
- Fred Sanders
- Francis Schaeffer
- Ron Sider
- Jamie Smith
- R. C. Sproul
- John Stott
- Carl Trueman
- Cornelius Van Til
- Kevin Vanhoozer
- John Walvoord
- David Wells
- Dallas Willard
- Doug Wilson
- Ben Witherington
- Nicholas Wolterstorff
- Tom Wright
- Ravi Zacharias
The list certainly includes quite a significant number of the theological movers and shakers of the evangelical world. However, I wonder whether it isn’t a little parochial in some respects. There seem to be a preponderance of Reformed theologians. It is also essentially a list of Anglophones, especially from Britain and America (Rene Padilla definitely seems like an odd one out). As Gerald also observes, there is only one woman on the list (and the merits of her inclusion were called into question in the comments). What are we to make of this and what it says about evangelicalism? Are there any influential female evangelical theologians who deserve inclusion on such a list?
Gerald’s remarks at the end of the second post about the relative absence of pastors on the list is significant, as is the lack of theologians actively involved in missions. Does this reflect or contribute to broader shifts in evangelical self-understanding, a loss of the sense of ourselves as framed by the ‘frontier’ of missions?
Are there any names that you think ought to be included on such a list? Which names should be removed? What are your thoughts about the list more generally? Tell me what you think in the comments.
I think Wright deserves the top spot, he’s been enormously influential on NT studies. After that, however, I think the entire list is up for grabs, and I would significantly re-arrange it.
After thinking about this for a few minutes, I would push Schaeffer, Hays, Vanhoozer, Bruce, Marshall, Morris, and Henry much further up the list.
I should have mentioned that the list isn’t supposed to be in any particular order. But, yes, I definitely agree.
Are there any names that you would add or remove?
Is Mark Noll a theologian? I always considered him a historian.
Church History is often considered to be a sub-discipline of Theology, so I think that it is probably fair to characterize Church historians as theologians.
I’m curious if you believe women should be pastors? The Bible says women can only be teachers.
I don’t. I’ve written on this at length in various contexts.
Hays, Witherington, and Marshall are the only identifiable Wesleyan-Arminians and they’re all biblical scholars. I’d add Tom Oden from that tribe. We’ve got some other up and comers who will be on that list someday.
Oden is definitely a worthy addition. On the Arminian biblical scholar front, I was wondering whether Craig Keener might be another person worth adding in the future. I have certainly benefited greatly from his works.
Keener is also a pentecostal. I don’t know how many people on that list are pentecostal/charismatic, but, yes, he’d be a great addition. Let’s put him right next to John MacArthur 😉
He’s also now on faculty at my Alma Mater, Asbury Theological Seminary. Fred Sanders went there, too, and while he’s written well about Wesley in the last couple of years, I’m not entirely sure of his persuasion. If it matters at all.
Lol! Great idea to put MacArthur and Keener together. 🙂
I’m not sure you want my opinion since I’m an ordained woman in the United Methodist Church, but I’ll give you my two cents. Craig Keener was one of my professors in seminary. He is an excellent biblical scholar. The books he has written are well researched.
I forgot to add John Wesley, unless you are only looking for living persons. And it also depends on your definition of evangelical.
I’d add Joel Green who’s now at Fuller.
I’m surprised he was overlooked. He should definitely be in there.
It seems a real oversight to me that Lesslie Newbigin isn’t on this list, for one. Especially considering that Scot McKnight (!) is put at #2.
I also might be inclined to list John Murray of Princeton and WTS. In terms of his published work he would just squeak into the 50 year window, and some might complain again of another Reformed theologian, but within certain parameters he was quite influential, possibly just as much as Van Til.
Sorry, not only did I neglect to reply to your question inline, but I forgot that the list isn’t in any particular order. So please ignore that comment about McKnight. The list makes a lot more sense that way!
Yes, Newbigin came to mind for me, especially when I considered what might be a dearth of missional theology and experience on the list.
Newbigin–a worthy addition. Runs circles around some of those on the list.
I’d probably add Donal bloesch, brian mclaren, greg boyd and maaaaaaaybe Jurgen Moltmann (would he be evangelical, though?).
I think that the evangelical credentials of a number of those names would be contested. That said, there is definitely a case to be made for the inclusion of some. Perhaps someone like Clark Pinnock too.
True enough, but I figure if Wolterstorff (who is pretty far from a lot of typical evangelical theology) and McCormack (who by virtue of being a Barthian is automatically discredited from being a typical evangelical in most people’s eyes) are on that list, the other guys I listed have a shot. Moltmann is a stretch, though, I admit.
Yes. And then why exclude hugely influential figures such as T.F. Torrance or Oliver O’Donovan?
I didn’t even notice the last 50 years part. That’s what I get for speed reading. Yeah, Torrance is definitely there, in that case. Also, the list seems to be composed of primarily white males – perhaps there is some significance there. I’m not familiar with every name though, so I could be mistaken.
I would certainly add Anthony Thiselton to the list.
That is a surprising omission. Well caught.
If Doug Wilson is considered a theologian, C. S. Lewis should be too. And if N. T. Wright and Peter Leithart are considered evangelical, Lewis should be too.
Lewis wasn’t active within the last fifty years, which takes him out of the running.
Oh, I missed the “last fifty years” part. I saw Van Til and Schaeffer and figured it included dead people, so, potentially, Lewis.
As a tangent, this comment made me realize an important imprecision in how we speak:
Lewis definitely has been active during the last fifty years, since his words continue to be heard, acting on people, shaping them, and shaping words that are said today. (Of course, St. Paul and even Moses remain active for precisely that reason–and even someone like Joseph, whose words we do not have, is active, since his words were active on people (or a Person) who are still active.) What I think we mean by that phrase is that Lewis hasn’t spoken any new words for more than 50 years, but that isn’t quite what we say. We speak as if his words died with him.
Also, Jenson is evangelical, of sorts.
And definitely a highly influential figure. He was Gunton’s doctoral supervisor too, right?
I’m not familiar with Gunton, but wikipedia says yes. 😛
I’m curious as to why Roger E. Olson, Peter Enns and Michael Bird are not on the list.
Definitely worthy of inclusion. Also, someone suggested Moltmann earlier, but Volf might be a more evangelical figure who mediates Moltmann’s thought (I am pretty sure that Moltmann was Volf’s doctoral supervisor).
Someone should make trading cards. This could be a fun game. 🙂
Haha! I love it. 🙂
You’ve seen these, have you?
If Vern Poythress is worth including, it’s worth spelling his name correctly.
I corrected the spelling of his name in the list here last night: it was misspelled in the original, which I copied and pasted.
There’s several that I’ve no idea if they qualify as evangelical enough? So, in that list I’d think about James Dunn, Morna Hooker,
I’d add Thiselton for his work on hermeneutics and what about any of the Wenhams? Others maybe Alec Motyer, Tom Schreiner and Chris Wright
I am not sure that Dunn would count as evangelical. I don’t know enough about Hooker’s theological identity: she would probably merit inclusion if she were.
The Wenhams are a good suggestion.
Since the list is not rank-ordered, why not make that intuitively obvious by putting it into alphabetical order.
I’ve just changed it.
Robert Coleman, another Wesleyan (ordained United Methodist). He recently came out with a book about the theology behind the Master Plan of Evangelism that has been well received on both sides of the aisle. I think MPoE turns 50 this year.
Thanks for all of the Methodist recommendations! They really add some balance to the list. 🙂
Slightly disturbed by the lack of Welsh representation. Surely there is a place for Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
I did wonder about his omission. His influence has been immense (I studied at ETCW—now WEST—and his continuing influence was very much felt there). I initially thought that it was on account of the fact that he was more of a preacher and expositor than a theologian, but if people like Tim Keller are included, I can’t see why Lloyd-Jones shouldn’t be.
I like the fact that Keller burns a torch for Lloyd-Jones and often refers to him. As a rule we are a nation that has produced preachers rather than academic theologians.
There’s a very good theologian today at WEST, perhaps a successor to Lloyd-Jones: his name is Robert Letham.
Interested to know which other Welsh theologians you would recommend.
Oh, from the last fifty years….that is a struggle
Oh, and a case can be made for Goldsworthy and Sinclair Ferguson
If we are including N.T. Wright, perhaps Richard Bauckham should also be added.
Some great ideas here. I think most of the names listed above could have made the list (bear in mind that we didn’t make the list ourselves, but rather simply asked CPT readers who they thought should be on the list). I’d be pretty interested for Alistair to try the same thing and see what turns up, given the UK context.
In any event, my main motivation in soliciting names was not to see which individuals would be included, but to establish an overall picture. Even with the addition of the names added above, I don’t think the general picture changes all that much. No matter how you slice the top sixty evangelical theologians (probably even the top 100), there are virtually no females, very few non-whites, and very few pastors. And I think that says something. Alastair also rightly noted a lack of missionaries. I’m curious if anyone notices anything else significant from the overall picture.
My list probably wouldn’t have many names that haven’t already been mentioned. I think that the names currently selected are fairly representative.
What about Anthony Bradley? I don’t run in reformed circles but he’s an African American theologian who, I think, is an evangelical.
I’m throwing out Wesleyan-Arminian names, mostly Methodists, so that I don’t despair 🙂
Anthony Bradley’s a good guy, but I really don’t think that he is anywhere near the list in terms of significance. Also, as in the case of women, theologians of colour (and other minorities) tend to be subtly channelled in the direction of identity politics theology, limiting their influence upon the broader field.
Re ” I’m curious if anyone notices anything else significant from the overall picture,” there appears to be only a small representation of theologians and biblical scholars active in the creation-evolution-historical Adam debate, While this topic may not be high on many people’s lists of significant issues, it is likely to increase in significance in the future. On this basis, one could consider adding C. John Collins, Peter Enns, Denis Lamoureux, John Lennox, Ted Peters, John Polkinghorne, Holmes Rolston III, John H. Walton and/or Keith Ward.
Taken by itself, I am not sure how significant these debates are by themselves as a shaping factor upon evangelicalism. I suspect that, to qualify for the list, a person’s impact would have had to extend far further than these more focused debates. John Polkinghorne and Keith Ward might be examples of figures who deserve mention for their broader work in the area of science and religion, and the extent of their influence. I am less certain about the others (for instance, I wonder whether Peter Enns’ influence is as great on the ground as it might appear to be online). Alister McGrath (on the list) and Thomas Torrance (a recommendation not on the list) could also be mentioned as people who have done important work in this area, as part of far greater bodies of theological enquiry.
Michael J. Murray might be another one in this area for his work on the problem of evil. Not sure how he identifies himself.
The issue of representation has been raised at a number of points. What I would like to see is a little closer discussion of what exactly representation means or entails. The issue is frequently raised, but not so frequently unpacked or explored. Considering how many assumptions exist about the concept of representation in our culture and how powerful the influence of these assumptions can be, I would like to see a little more work done in unpacking them.
First of all, to what extent is representation of women and minorities relevant to the ostensive tasks of the discipline of theology? I think that most would agree that some degree of representation is important here. What is less clear is how significant it is. I have had extended conversations with some who seem to believe that the theological understanding of the Anglophone church is overwhelmingly conditioned by its whiteness and maleness and that all of our understanding is distorted as a result. I find such a position quite unpersuasive, as it seems to vastly overstate the degree to which one’s understanding of the realities under discussion in theology are conditioned by one’s gendered, racial, or economic vantage point (a vantage point within the life of the Church does, however, condition a lot). Exactly how my maleness leads me to misunderstand, say, the Eucharistic theology of Luke, the operation of the Levitical system, or the historical development of Trinitarian orthodoxy is far from clearly apparent to me (although that is possibly just because I am a white man…).
Second, what exactly is ‘representation’? Is representation a matter of effective advocacy for viewpoints? If this is the case, then it should be noticed that the most effective advocate is often not someone who belongs to the group that is being advocated for (a trained lawyer would be a better representative of my position than I would be in a courtroom situation, for instance). In this sense, ‘representation’ doesn’t demand that the group being represented need be an immediate party to the conversation. The more popular understanding of representation seems to proceed on the assumption that it entails the direct presence of the represented party within the conversation itself. However, this is more commonly assumed than argued for. To what extent do we need to identify in a more immediate and personal sense with our leaders in order for them to represent us?
Third, what is the purpose of this representation (in either sense)? Is it directly related to our achievement of the ostensive end of the discipline of theology (i.e. do we need lots more women primarily because it means that we will understand God and his truth so much better?)? Alternatively, is it directed towards the more general end of making the discipline of theology something that the broader constituency of the church can more immediately identify with and to encourage a situation in which a wider pool of theological talent can be drawn upon?
Fourth, even in the more popular sense, what exactly counts as representation? For instance, do we need equal numbers of women to men in politics for it to be ‘representative’? Is this position not at risk of suggesting that gender is a category that takes precedence over all others and is absolutely integral to the interests that are being represented in our politics? A politician is far more than just their gender, but represent a vast range of different concerns and interests, most of which have no direct relationship to their gender, many of which belong to identities that are not their own, and some of which even belong to the other gender. Likewise, in the field of theology, most of the questions that are explored are explored in a manner representative of more general Christian concern (or perhaps the concern of a particular denomination or tradition), not concern that is explicitly male or female. In fact, one could even make a case that, with the extensive work of feminist theologians and others, specifically female concerns may be far more widely represented in many theological contexts than specifically male ones.
Fifth, how much representation is enough? Is it sufficient that perspectives of women that might relevant to a given theological issue be mentioned in a broader conversation, even if they are mentioned by a man? How many women need to be immediately present in order for the viewpoints of women that might be relevant to the theological conversations in hand to be heard? If a group of theologians are aware of and alert to the concerns of women, is it necessary that women be among them in many contexts? Is the fact that there is only one woman on the list above really proof that women are not being represented in the field (even in a stronger sense of providing for identification)? Do the top figures in every field always reflect its broader composition? Is there really a straightforward way that we could ensure the presence of women or of minorities among the geniuses at the top of a discipline, even if we wanted to?
Sixth, sharpening the third point, to what extent does the discipline of theology need representation and could broader representation even be a liability? In order to perform its primary task, does it need people to identify with it? If we are speaking about representation in the sense needed for identification, is there a danger that a quest for such representation will distract theology from its primary object and draw it into a potentially narcissistic preoccupation with its own subjective vantage points? A male preference for theology seems to be fairly consistent with the male preference for related subjects such as philosophy. Other disciplines exhibit significant gender imbalances. One of the factors may be the mode of theological and philosophical discourse, which can be more combative and disputational, bad ideas being rooted out fairly aggressively. If the composition of the discipline of theology markedly changed, is there the potential that it would become less effective, as its very mode of discourse might start to shift?
Following on from these questions, it might be worth suggesting some of the things that greater representation of women might lead to:
1. Greater identification of women with the work of theologians. Greater interest among women in theological discourse. [Do women really need theology to be carried out by women in order to identify with its quest to understand God and his truth better?]
2. More role models for young women who might otherwise not get involved in theology or continue in it.
3. More female contexts of theological discourse.
4. The addition of different perspectives upon the realities under study in theology.
5. The exposure of the blindspots that can exist in a fairly homogeneous academic theological culture.
6. Changes to the mode of theological discourse.
7. An increased preoccupation of the discipline of theology with its own subjectivities.
8. A shifting of the weight of theological concern and enquiry.
9. The introduction of new areas of theological concern and enquiry.
Most of these things strike me as positive or even extremely positive. The sixth and seventh issues do concern me, though. The questions that were raised above also remain.
Women, for example, will experience God somewhat differently and will approach God from a different perspective. It is likely useful to hear about how they do those things. Women are also bearers of the image of God, and in a somewhat different manner than men. That might mean that women will perhaps have some different things to say about .
A few questions though:
1. How much of this kind of writing from women do we need to “get it”? Does it need to be 50/50?
2. Are there certain disciplines or areas of a discipline like theology where the gender of the writer doesn’t much matter?
3. Does the perspective of women have to be in the genre of theology specifically?
There are doubtless others, some of which you have articulated.
Good questions. Also worth asking whether being a part of a church where you are regularly exposed to and sensitized to the concerns of women, minorities, the poor, and other nationalities can accomplish much of this necessary exposure to our viewpoints and checking of our own. Does this exposure have to occur within the conversation of theology itself, or could it be a matter of maintaining ‘conversations between conversations,’ ensuring that theologians are also listening to persons who might not be present among theologians themselves? One might compare this to politicians’ duty to listen to the members of their constituencies.
It would be interesting to compare the female representation on this list to female representation on other lists.
Here’s a list of 20th century artists:
Charles Murray’s Human Accomplishment has many other lists:
I actually don’t think the list is all that out of line with what you find in many other areas of human achievement.
I wonder whether the most apt comparison would be with the representation of women at the top of the field of theology more generally, not just evangelical theology. While I suspect that more women would be on a list of the top 100 theologians of the past fifty years than would be on a list of the top 100 evangelical theologians of the past fifty years (and most of those would be famous specifically as feminist theologians, I suspect), I doubt that the overall balance would be that markedly changed. There are some incredibly brilliant female theologians working today (I am presently reading books by Sarah Coakley and Catherine Pickstock), but the field is still male dominated.
I also think that it is important to take into account the fact that the supposed maleness of the field would put many aspiring female theologians off. Theological discourse, much like philosophical discourse, can tend to take a rather male form and it is interesting to notice that both have about the same male to female ratio at the PhD level. Also, there haven’t been the same range of career opportunities for women who study theology as there have been for men—and this is especially true in evangelical circles, where women’s opportunities for teaching can sadly be quite limited. Women can be channelled into feminist theology, which often strikes me as, if not a ghetto, more peripheral to the wider field.
Bruce Waltke. Very influential as a biblical expositor, commentator, and for his work on producing reference and grammar works for the study of biblical Hebrew.
Good suggestion. We should compile a top 100 list soon: there have been a number of worthy additions mentioned so far.
What about people like Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig. Or are those considered more pure philosophers?
They have certainly been very influential. I would probably not categorize them as theologians, though.
I’m honestly surprised at the omission of Marva Dawn. I’m a bit surprised as well by the inclusion of Plantinga and Wolterstorff on the list. Not that I have anything against either of them, but I consider them philosophers rather than theologians. I suppose one could argue that case for Van Til or Willard as well if one were so inclined.
While I’m thinking about that philosopher/theologian distinction, it strikes me that many of those who are truly the most influential in the evangelical world ARE in fact pastors or Bible teachers. Rick Warren, Philip Yancey and Warren Wiersbe, and Charles Swindoll all have had far wider readership than perhaps any name on your list.
I would question Plantinga and Wolterstorff’s inclusion too. Van Til’s somewhat less so.
Your point about the most influential evangelical figures being pastors and Bible teachers is one that I strongly agree with. And this raises another issue. Looking at the list, there are a few figures who seem to be present more as pastors and Bible teachers who popularize theology—individuals such as Doug Wilson, John MacArthur, and Tim Keller—rather than as figures who are influential precisely as theologians (and this would further sharpen Gerald’s questions about the dearth of pastor theologians). Other figures might be more influential on account of their role in church politics, rather than on account of any pioneering or significant theological work that they have done (I wonder whether this is true of Al Mohler, for instance). Their properly theological contribution may be more limited. This poses the question of how to sharpen our criteria. I would suggest that an influential theologian might best be described as someone who influences other trained theologians in their theology.
A strong case can definitely be made for Marva Dawn’s inclusion (although, given the nature of her primary audience, I wonder how influential she is upon other theologians). She has definitely done more original theological work than a number of others on the list, though.
But then Noll and Marsden aren’t really theologians either.
“This poses the question of how to sharpen our criteria. I would suggest that an influential theologian might best be described as someone who influences other trained theologians in their theology.”
That’s good Alastair. And if we went with that criteria, I suspect that nearly all the pastors presently on the list, or suggested above, would be dropped. Perhaps not all, but just about all.
Jenson should be on there, if only because Hays and Gunton would put him there. So should F. Buechner – his influence on evangelical Christian pastors has been important. Oh and Jamie Smith (AKA James KA Smith) – can’t believe he isn’t on there.
Yes, Matthew Petersen mentioned Jenson earlier.
Sorry just noted Jamie Smith. Still griping about Jenson & Buechner.
Can we include Herman Bavinck purely on the basis of how long his Reformed Dogmatics has been available in English?
I think that that would be bending the rules just a little too much! 🙂
Interesting though as to the pastors that do get on the list vs. those that don’t. What separates Keller, Wilson and Piper from Warren and Driscoll?
Theological knowledge, acumen, and engagement with the field, I suspect.
Does this match the following standard though: “someone who influences other trained theologians in their theology”?
I would probably omit Wilson, Keller, and Piper.
Is this (“someone who influences other trained theologians in their theology”) the right criteria though?
Sometimes the popularizers are important in their own right. As an analogy, Richards Dawkins is not the great theorist of looking at evolution from a gene centred perspective, that would be a combination of Hamilton, Williams and Trivers (and maybe Smith), but he’s nonetheless important for putting together a readable synthesis that publicized and made intelligible the ideas, not just among the public, but among other scientists as well.
Sometimes, popular books are actually more theologically groundbreaking than we think. Lewis was long thought of as a mere popularizer. Similarly, something like Wilson’s book on Biblical satire opens up a topic that very much needs to be discussed and was previously quite neglected, and says some important things to get the discussion started.
I don’t want to deny the significance of popularizers. Nor would I want to deny that some classed as popularizers do constructive theological work. I am just not sure that I see many theologians taking their cues from Wilson or Keller, for instance. This means that they don’t really escape the category of popularizers for me, despite the fact that their work is exceedingly important and valuable.
Robert A.J. Gagnon?
I think that his influence is limited to one particular debate and more a matter of presenting a definitive statement of the traditional view than breaking new ground.
Well, he has gone a long way towards showing that the Bible, not just the classical Christian ethical tradition, speaks about the world in teleological terms. There may be others who have done that (suggestions would be welcome), but I don’t know of them.
Isn’t all this rather pompous and puerile, silly and immature. Who are we to rate the servants of God on a worldly kind of scale (celebrity-ism – the bane of Evangelicalism that puffs up the gods of the seminaries.
“Humilty . . . a real annihilation of ourselves, proceeding from a thorough knowledge of our own weakness, the entire absence of lofty pretensions and a conviction that whatever excellence we p;obsess comes from the grace of God alone”.
And somewhere the Genevan speaks of lauding men as robbing God of his glory.
Thanks for the comment, Roger. The purpose isn’t that of a running a popularity contest or determining who is the greatest. Rather, it is an attempt to discern the lay of the theological land within evangelicalism.
Corrections : Omitted to close brackets, and correct the spelling of “possess”. People may guess the identity of the Genevan, a French exile, who did not even wish for his grave tobe marked.
Pingback: Women, Theology, and Representation | Alastair's Adversaria
Without quibbling overmuch about the criteria for “evangelical,” I’d include Paul King Jewett, Clark Pinnock, Thomas and James Torrance, Alan Torrance, Anthony Thiselton, Oliver Crisp, Steve Holmes, Ray Anderson, John Stackhouse, John Murray, William Abraham, Gerrit Berkhouwer, Kenneth Kantzer, Donald Bloesch, and Myk Habets. Others will come to me as soon as I post this, I’m sure.
Some good suggestions. Thanks, Charles.
I have a particular appreciation for Steve Holmes and Alan Torrance, having studied under them in St Andrews.
Yes, Miroslav Volf (a big omission).
Even though it nearly chokes me to mention them, I suppose Norman Geisler and RJ Rushdoony should be included.
Yes, Rushdoony would be an interesting addition.
Another major omission: Veli-Matti Karkkainen
I’m wondering if you might give your opinions on which of these Evangelical theologians, on or off the original list, are actually most worthwhile. You might give thought to a Top 5 or Top 10, though that is fairly arbitrary, so if you wanted to do 4 or 7 or 12 people, I don’t think anyone would object. I would personally bias the shorter list towards people who have the most insight themselves, rather than those who merely provoke it in others, but you may differ. Specific suggestions for books would be most welcome.
(I believe you have mentioned James B. Jordan, Peter Leithart and N.T. Wright as particularly insightful yourself.)
Of the names mentioned so far, it is hard to pick just a few and certainly to rank them. A few that I would highly recommend reading include:
Oliver O’Donovan: Desire of the Nations, Self, World, and Time, and Resurrection and Moral Order. O’Donovan is brilliant and packs so much in a limited space.
N.T. Wright: The Climax of the Covenant, New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, his Romans commentary.
Richard Hays: The Moral Vision of the New Testament, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, The Faith of Jesus Christ.
Robert Jenson: Systematic Theology. I have some very strong differences with Jenson, but his work is very stimulating.
Lesslie Newbigin: The Open Secret, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.
Greg Beale: The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. His Biblical Theology has been a fantastic recent read.
Peter Leithart: A House for My Name, Deep Exegesis, The Priesthood of the Plebs, but mostly his blog!
Anthony Thiselton: The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text and some of his books on hermeneutics.
The Torrances: Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace (James), and several of Thomas’s works (lots of great stuff there). I have fond memories of Alan Torrance’s classes in St Andrews too.
Kevin Vanhoozer: The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion, and Authorship. Vanhoozer’s treatment of the drama of doctrine could benefit from a much thicker doctrine of the sacraments, among other things, but well worth reading nonetheless.
A.W. Tozer? James B. Jordan?
Pingback: Wednesday Link List | Thinking Out Loud
Where is Chuck Smith? Everyday, thousands of people listen to him in addition to pastors. Where is he?
Hey how you consider professor William Barclay!
Somewhere, I read this comment: “Is Christianity a white man’s religion? This may sound absurd, but some individuals lay claim to this belief” (Black Christian News Network 1). Evidence abounds that the LORD God — whose Son Christ Jesus was a welcome child political refugee in Africa (Matthew 2:13-23) and was later given an African helping hand en route to Calvary where He redeemed the human race (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) — also raised up several continental African theologians who have remarkably influenced Christianity and the Church throughout the centuries. For starters, I would mention three ancient African theologians and one 20th century West African theologian, all of whom left indelible imprints on Christendom with a ripple effect today. They are as follows:
Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 293–373), born in Egypt (North Africa), played a key role at the Council of Nicea (AD 325) and greatly influenced the Early Church to embrace the deity of Christ Jesus as an Evangelical Biblical truth; the conviction that salvation of repentant sinners by the Risen LORD is an absolute must; and that belief in Christian monotheism was urgent amidst prevailing religious pluralism. No wonder he was exiled at least five times by the Roman government.
Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430), who was born in what is today Algeria (North Africa), amazingly impacted organized Christianity in ways we cannot overlook. He advocated the Church as a universal “Community of Faith” (Galatians 6:10, MSG) rooted in “unity in the faith” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV). His extensive writings developed our Bible-based understanding of the problem of evil. And his mentorship of church leaders gave birth to homiletics (the art of preaching). All three Augustinian concepts of Biblical Christianity still hold sway over modern-day churches.
Origen of Alexandria (AD 185-254) was also an Egyptian, like Athanasius, and the “torch-lighter” of the ancient African theologians. Despite his questionable theology (such as errors in the Scripture), Origen elevated the authority of Scripture, and held to a conviction that the Bible has a literal, moral, and spiritual meaning for frail humanity; a view that still influences our evangelical perception of God’s Word.
Byang Henry Kato (1936-1975) — a Nigerian theologian with an earned doctorate in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary — still looms large today as the “Founding Father of African Evangelical Theology” (Dictionary of African Christian Biography). At the new BASILEIA INDUSTRIAL UNIVERSITY (Nimba County, Republic of Liberia), the Byang Kato Center (For African Christian Research) will house the unfolding STUDD THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (STS); named for British missionary statesman C.T. Studd (1860-1931) who died on the mission field in Africa, where he is buried. Confronted by widespread Christo-paganism and syncretism in his days, Dr. Byang Henry Kato famously exclaimed: “Let African Christians be Christian Africans”! Since his sudden death by drowning in Kenya at age 39, Kato’s lifetime search for transformational African Evangelical Christianity has continued to gather momentum with a growing number of global partners and participants.
Conclusion, Biblical Christianity has been called “a global Gospel with a Jewish accent” — that was born at Calvary; broadcast abroad by faithful men and women; brought into the lives of once hopeless sinners on the brink of Christ-less eternity; still barricaded today in the hearts of the saved by the power of the Spirit of God; and booming wherever God-followers undertake New Church Planting. No list of the world’s most influential Evangelical Theologians is complete without the four luminaries briefly mentioned above. After all, Christianity is NOT a white man’s region!