Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Top ten systematic theologies

Some of the biblical studies blogs have been churning out Top Ten booklists on various subjects. So I felt obligated to offer my own systematic theology Top Ten list (and see also Jim West’s outrageous alternative list):

1. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics
2. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae
3. Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith
4. John Calvin, Institutio christianae religionis
5. Origen, De principiis
6. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology
7. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology
8. Emil Brunner, Dogmatics
9. Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology
10. Helmut Thielicke, The Evangelical Faith

It’s hard to decide the exact order—the first four definitely belong together as the four greatest systematic theologies. Karl Barth has no contenders for top place, but the order of the next three is fairly arbitrary—Calvin and Schleiermacher could just as easily have changed places. Origen’s De principiis (number 5) deserves special honour, since this is really the work that invented the discipline of “systematic theology.”

After Origen, the list gets much more arbitrary: Tillich and Pannenberg definitely deserve their places, but the last three are more a matter of taste. Perhaps among the last three I should have included instead the works of Gerhard Ebeling, or Herman Bavinck, or even Augustus H. Strong (his work is still the only great Baptist systematic theology); or perhaps I should have included the small but still significant systematic works of Karl Rahner (Foundations of Christian Faith) or Hans Küng (On Being a Christian) or Hendrikus Berkhof (Christian Faith) or Peter Hodgson (Winds of the Spirit). But for the time being I will leave things as they are.


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