Thursday, September 29, 2011

Greatest Influential Living Theologians

Generations like to name their greatest influences, whether it is in art, science, or theology. Typically it takes a while to evaluate this, because fame does not equal influence, nor does influence equal influence, in the sense that someone who is very widely read at the time does not always translate to subsequent generations, whereas someone mostly ignored in their lifetime later rises to prominence.

A colleague was recently asked by an older pastor and lectionary study group participant to name the theologians that were most influential with us "younger" clergy. This particular pastor name Joseph Sittler and Paul Tillich, among others. For this exercise, I set a limit. I had 15 minutes to write down as many names as possible. They had to be living theologians, preferably alive and still writing. I had to have read at least a few books by anyone I mention, and I had to have had significant conversations about their work with pastors or fellow theologians.

I tried to break them down into lists (theologians like Sittler, theologians like Tillich), and they needed to be theologians I value reading right now, and I believe have a fighting chance of being theologians that endure.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list. It's enigmatic and unique to me as a reader. But I think it's helpful at illustrating what a profound and transformative generation of theologians we inhabit.

Theologians like Sittler (confessional, ecological, or both):

Eugene Peterson
Wendell Berry (not exactly a theologian, but worthy of this list)
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Ellen Davis
Jurgen Moltmann
Vitor Westhelle
Walter Brueggemann
Phylis Trible
Nicholas Lash
Serene Jones
Risto Saarinen
Desmond Tutu
Brian Brock

Theologians/authors like Paul Tillich:

James William McClendon Jr.
Robert Jenson
Douglass John Hall
Wolfhart Pannenberg
Rowan Williams
David Ford
Colin Gunton (I know, he died, but too soon, so I include him)
John Zizioulas
Gordon Kaufman
Eberhard Jungel
Alasdair MacIntyre
Elizabeth Johnson
Bruce Marshall
Hans Kung
Kathryn Tanner
Sara Coakley
Walter Kasper
Francis X. Clooney

Other theologians that will have an enduring influence (I think):

Stanley Hauerwas
Marilyn Robinson
Will Willimon
Gary Dorrien
Timothy Wengert
Robert Kolb
Peter Leithart
Miroslav Volf
Richard Hays
John Milbank
James Cone
Justo Gonzalez
David Bentley Hart
Cardinal Ratzinger
Oliver O'Donavon
Oswald Bayer
N.T. Wright
A.K.M. Adam

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