Monday, 22 May 2006

New poll: Reformed theologians

I have just added a new poll to find out which Reformed theologian you like best. This poll presented very special difficulties. On the one hand, it is a curious fact that, since the 16th century, the dominant theological thinkers have tended to come from the Reformed tradition. (To illustrate: which 18th-century theologian from any tradition could be placed alongside Edwards? Which 19th- or 20th-century theologian could be placed alongside Schleiermacher or Barth?)

More than other traditions, Reformed theology has been characterised by a series of tremendously powerful individual personalities. For a poll, this creates a further problem: it would be ridiculous to place other modern Reformed theologians in the same poll as Barth—as though it were even meaningful to draw a comparison between Barth on the one hand, and Brunner, Torrance and Moltmann on the other. Apples are apples; oranges are oranges.

For the purpose of this poll, then, I have chosen a broad historical spread of five thinkers. Since Moltmann is so popular today, I have also added him to the poll—even though I could have done more justice to the history of Reformed theology by adding another formative thinker like Zwingli or Bullinger, or a heterodox thinker like Arminius or Amyraut, or a Puritan thinker like Owen or Baxter, or a later promoter of orthodoxy like Warfield or Bavinck.

Anyway, come and cast your vote—and if your own preferred Reformed theologian wasn’t included on the poll, let us know whom you would have voted for.

17 Comments:

Jim said...

Well I'm wordless. To have a poll on Reformed theologians without including Zwingli is, well, like having a poll on reformed theologians without including Zwingli.

There would be no Reformed theology without Zwingli who, without question, layed the foundation upon which Calvin and Bullinger built. Further, without Zwingli, there's no Calvin and without Calvin there's no Barth.

Anyway- I'm almost as miffed at you as I am at Barth for his dismissal of Zwingli. I may forgive you one day. But not today.

;-)

PS- Given the terribly limited choices, I chose Calvin- the greatest one on your detesticularized list.

Ben Myers said...

Hmmm, somehow I expected you would have something to say about Zwingli, Jim! In all honesty, I was concerned that only one or two people would vote for him, and that in this way his true significance would be undermined rather than affirmed.

Does this explanation help me to merit your forgiveness? Perhaps we could do a trade: if you'll forgive me for omitting Zwingli, I'll forgive you for choosing Calvin over Barth....

;-)

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Thanks for including Jonathan Edwards, I voted for him because I am not really thrilled with John Calvin and I simply do not understand Barth and never have. Barth drove me to Brunner because Brunner made sense while Barth seemed to love to speak in riddles.

Pontificator said...

To illustrate: which 18th-century theologian from any tradition could be placed alongside Edwards? Which 19th- or 20th-century theologian could be placed alongside Schleiermacher or Barth?)

That's an interesting challenge. Are there no 18th century Lutherans that can be pitted against Edwards?

As far as 19th century theologians, I think I'd pit John Henry Newman and Matthias Scheeben against Schleiermacher.

And against Barth in the 20th century, surely there is only one other theological giant, Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Aaron G said...

We must not forget Rousas Rushdoony...

:-)

Jim said...

Ok Ben, I can grant something of a conditional forgiveness IF you quote Zwingli at some point this week. Oh, and your explanation sounds very political- almost lawyerish. Are you sure you aren't a lawyer? ;-)

Joshua said...

Pontificator, let's not read back von Balthasar's importance into the 20th Century. Even if von Balthasar is more important now, the only Catholic that could be pitted against Barth is the other Karl...Rahner.

Rich(luthsem) said...

Well I'm Lutheran and I pick Moltmann and then Barth. I just can't pick Calvin.

Ben Myers said...

Thanks for your forgiveness, Jim. I will certainly quote Zwingli this week to atone for my sins.

Meanwhile, I'm horrified by the fact that no one has yet voted for the great Schleiermacher. (I suspect Barth himself would have voted for Schleiermacher...)

Jim said...

I can't vote for Schleiermacher. I'm too Brunnerian for that.

By the way- in my estimation
Calvin > Schleiermacher > Barth
Zwingli > Brunner
(so far as influence is concerned I mean).

michael jensen said...

apologies to all but I just added a vote for Calvin. I am re-reading the institutes right now and there's some mighty fine work there.

Nobody has stuck up for Francois Turretin I notice...or Colin Gunton...

michael jensen said...

NOW - what about ANGLICAN theologians? That would be an interesting and confused poll. Do you include Anselm, Ockham and Scotus?
Hooker, Cartwright, Perkins, Owen Cranmer? Temple, Rowan Williams, Maurice? Paley? John Milbank? Hans Frei?
Does Newman count?


(please no-one say CS Lewis, with respect...)

Patrik said...

Maybe it would be better to focus on a period, like the 20th century, like you did with the Catholics and Lutherans.

Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...

Zwingli who?

Jim said...

Joe Cathey is EVIL.....

;-)

Deep Furrows said...

I abstained from the Lutheran theologians poll because I just haven't read them (despite what Ratzinger and Balthasar have done to rehabilitate Luther for me).

For this poll, I went with Edwards because he truly seems to be a brilliant theologian. He recognized that the encounter with Christ changes everything. He was very interested and engaged with the thinkers of his day. I confess I'm just beginning with Edwards, but I like what I've seen so far.

And I haven't been able to read Barth either.

coram_deo said...

Hard to choose just one, I have favourites in each century since the reformation.

16th John Calvin
17th John Owen/Herman Witsius/Francis Turretin
18th Jonathan Edwards
19th Abraham Kuyper
20th Cornelius Van Til

I went for Edwards overall though.

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