Monday, 5 June 2006

New poll: Anglican theologians

Well, we’ve had polls recently for Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed theologians. And a few people suggested a poll for Anglican theologians as well. Of course, it was hard to choose representative theologians for the Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed polls, because there are just so many great thinkers in these traditions—there is an embarrassment of riches. But when we turn to Anglican theology, we find the other kind of embarrassment: although the Anglican tradition has produced many great scholars, it has produced few great theological thinkers.

Fortunately, though, there are some good constructive Anglican theologians working today. So I thought I’d limit this poll to contemporary Anglican theologians. As a New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright might seem like an odd choice—but I’ve included him since a lot of his work crosses the boundary between New Testament scholarship and contemporary theological reflection.

So which contemporary Anglican theologian do you like best? Come and cast your vote!

27 Comments:

steph said...

OK so the reason I voted was to take a vote away from that NTW but I suppose it won't do much. He has so many groupies it's just unhealthy!

Joshua said...

although not averse to ntw, i cannot believe that he is this far ahead already. i think the other four, especially williams, milbank, and tanner are doing some of the best (like him or hate him in the case of ro) constructive theology today.


as the lone american and woman (and bc she is my genuine fav) tanner gets my vote.

kim fabricius said...

I'm with Joshua on Wright's early lead and potential primacy. Wright over Rowan Williams? That's like choosing Walter Brueggemann over Robert Jenson - indeed worse - OT scholar Brueggemann is a much more interesting theological reflector than NT scholar Wright.

Milbank? No Williams, no Milbank! And though there is no doubting Milbank's brilliance, his prose, so tediously turgid, is a quite disastrous example for theological discourse.

Of course, if the poll weren't contemporary, it would be a one-horse race - George Herbert (with Richard Hooker an honourable runner-up)!

PS: To test your patience with yet another reference to Flanner O'Connor, she once wryly remarked, "Scratch an Episcopalian and you're liable to find most anything."

dan said...

I voted for N. T. Wright and I am quite happy to see that he has taken an early lead.

For I am not ashamed of the N.T. because in his works we discover "the power of God for salvation" and the revelation of the righteousness of God.

Jason said...

Ben:
First off, I love Faith and Theology; I only discovered recently you, but I really appreciate what you are doing here.

Second, as an Anglican studying at Cambridge, I am shocked -- shocked! -- that you do not include David Ford.

Unlike the other polls you've done, I am quite torn how to vote. They are all good, and I find Williams, Milbank, and Wright to be especially wonderful -- in that order, so I will vote for Williams. It would be even harder if Ford were in the mix.

Also worth mentioning (besides Ford) would be Sarah Coakley, Eugene Rogers (pretty sure he's Anglican), Dan Hardy, Ben Quash, even John Webster. I even understand Stanley Hauerwas has made the journey to Canterbury.

Again, thanks for such a great site.

Michael F. Bird said...

Well if NTW can't trump Bultmann at least he's got one over Williams!

I get the feeling that some of the theological-bloggers out there think of the NTW "groupies" as unread and uncultured plebs who couldn't taste the difference between a Cab Sav and a Cab Merl or tell the difference between Wagner and Motzart ;-)

Gaunilo said...

I'll have to throw in w/ those who are perplexed at Tom Wright's lead, even if his groupies aren't plebs :). ++Williams' theology crosses a surprising number of confessional and ideological boundaries and has some of the deepest theological thinking combined with profoundly devoted churchmanship - whatever one's opinion might be on the way in which Canterbury is handling current Anglican problems.

Kim is right on about Milbank, imho. And I'll go with Josh on giving Tanner a close second.

IGod said...

Second time I've had to show up here to clear up this Tom business:
*Booming voice*
NT Wright, of course is the man! Why bother voting?
*end Booming voice*

Chris Tilling said...

Well, who are we to argue with igod?

Rory Shiner said...

ODonovan deserves much better. He is where my vote went.

Ben Myers said...

You're right, Jason -- I should have somehow included David Ford, who is excellent in every way. But is John Webster an Anglican? Given his Reformed approach, I assumed he must belong to one of those British Reformed denominations.

But if he is Anglican, then he would definitely get my vote!

Jason said...

Actually, I am fairly certain that Webster is Anglican. (I will check again and report back here if I am mistaken.) The C of E tends to be more comprehensive (or muddled?) here than Anglicanism elsewhere, and so you will find the very reformed, the very evangelical, the very charismatic, the very catholic, and the very broad here. When I think of our church boasting both NT Wright and Rowan Williams, a brilliant evangelical and a brilliant catholic, in prominent episcopal chairs, it makes me feel quite proud (although we could do a heck of a lot better encouraging this sort of synthesis on the ground, let me tell you). Sadly, I hear that the United Reformed Church is not doing well, and what's more has been beset by a sorry streak of anti-intellectualism. Colin Gunton, of blessed memory, found little support for his ministry and preaching, if reports are to be believed.

D.W. Congdon said...

Yes, John Webster is an Anglican. He, Gunton, and Ford are my top three picks. But in terms of sheer importance, Samuel Coleridge simply has to be on this list. Milbank, Tanner, and Wright should be replaced by these three.

kim fabricius said...

As a minister in the United Reformed Church, UK, and a friend as well as a colleague of Colin Gunton, I can confirm that Jason is right: the URC is not doing well. It is true that there is an anti-intellectual streak on the right, but basically our problem is paucity of talent and popular indifference rather than outright hostility, exacerbated by a lengthy process that we are presently going through somewhat pretentiously called "Catch the Vision", as it has has turned out, in spite of good intentions, mainly to be a prudential exercise in cost-cutting and re-organisation. Cries from the wilderness (like out here in west Wales!) that better theology rather than more effective management is the faithful way forward fall on deaf errors, confirming that we are in cultutral captivity and will not get out of exile without repentance. When students come out of Reformed colleges with little knowledge of the likes of Calvin and Barth, and even less respect for them, yet all enthusiastic about the latest fashions like Myers-Briggs, what can you expect?

Ben Myers said...

It's sad to hear this about the United Reformed Church. I imagined that Colin Gunton's influence might have helped to counter this kind of anti-intellectual / anti-theological tendency -- or did most of Gunton's students end up in other denominations?

Anyway, in light of important new information, I am currently repenting in dust and ashes for omitting John Webster from the poll. Webster is one of the best theologians working today, and I reckon he will be the next great English-language dogmatician.

So I am now protesting against my own poll, and am submitting my write-in vote for Webster.

kim fabricius said...

Jason,

Are you sure about Hauerwas going over to Canterbury? An American Methodist colleague observed to me a few months ago how Hauerwas' theology is more Reformed than Wesleyan (so to, he suggested, Methodist Bishop William Willimon's), and that he spends a lot of time preacing in episcopalian churches, but he didn't say that he had actually gone over to the Dark Side yet!

John Webster is definitely an Anglican.
Colin Gunton was definitely Reformed.

Gaunilo said...

fwiw, Hauerwas himself told me at Duke last year that he was now an Episcopalian.

steph said...

Wright groupies probably drink too much red wine and can't spell Mozart:)

Patrick said...

Williams is great, and so is another writer who has become an Episcopalian: Miroslav Volf.

PS Eugene Rogers, IIRC, is a Lutheran.

Ben Myers said...

Yikes! Miroslav Volf has also become an Episcopalian? The credibility of my selection for the poll is in tatters....

michael jensen said...

Hmm... Hauerwas might be an episcopalian in terms of church attendance, but he is still a mennonite-catholic in his theology.

I dispute NTW's right to be in this poll at all.

O'Donovan's Desire of the Nations is a landmark book and as his student I can vote for no other! He is Biblical where Milbank refuses to be. But Webster as a straight sytematician would have been a hot candidate.

No Australians, Ben? Peter Carnley perhaps?

kim fabricius said...

With all this church-hopping going on, a famous rhetorical question becomes germane: "Is the Pope Catholic?"

joshua said...

maybe you can do another poll. best anglican theologian that i didn't know was anglican.

michael jensen said...

Actually, the pope has recently started attending a small episcopal church in upstate Maine.

Gaunilo said...

How about Best Nondescript/Church-Hopping Theologian? (there could be a special category for those whose affiliation is up for grabs, or even better, theologians without churches at all)

Jason said...

Kim,
Friend Gaunilo has beat me to it. And, yes, As Michael has put it SH is unrepentent in his Menno-catholicism -- but I'm not sure that makes him a bad Episcopalian! (Nor, FWIW, does having a more Reformed than Wesleyan theology.) I must admit that I am surprised at Volf, but the general tenor (apart from Eugene Rogers,apparently) is that we have an embarrassment of riches. I suppose they were the 'players to be named later' in the deal wherein we acquired Matthew Fox!

Perhaps, building off of Gaunilo's suggestion, we might do a poll of theologians who don't care and have no particular ecclesial/confessional identity? Or maybe a poll of theologians we wish would change denominations, either positive or negative?

Aaron G said...

I hear have heard rumours that Aaron Ghiloni has recently become Anglican too. If this is indeed true, his groundbreaking work makes him a strong candidate for the top Anglican theologian.

Shame on you, Ben, for omitting A. Ghiloni!

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