Tuesday 31 January 2006

The winner: T. F. Torrance

My “greatest living theologian” poll seemed to attract more comments than votes. But although only 37 people voted, a clear winner emerged: T. F. Torrance, the only English-language theologian on the list, who claimed 35% of the votes. In second place was Jürgen Moltmann (27%), followed by Wolfhart Pannenberg (22%), and then Hans Küng (8%) and Eberhard Jüngel (8%).


Anonymous said...

Is Torrance the greatest English-language theologian of all time do you think? Perhaps that could be your next poll?

I'd go for T F Torrance again but he'd have some stiff competition from Forsyth, Wesley and edwards (to name but a few)

Anonymous said...

Good start, Steven.

Though I'm not a Methodist, I'm glad you mentioned Wesley. It's a shame that the occasional and homilitical nature of John's theology (along with his Armenianism and so-called perfectionism?) has delayed serious consideration of the founder of Methodism's theology, with its rigour, passion and piety, its ecumenical sweep and social concern. I assume you mean John, Steven, though as it is said that Methodist theology is best expressed in its hymnody, Charles might be in with a shout!

And if hymnody, why not poetry? George Herbert would be in my top ten English-speaking theologians.

Of the ones you mention, I'd go for Forsyth and Edwards over Torrance. Also in the mix: Richard Hooker, John Owen, and a nod to Newman

Ben Myers said...

Yes, definitely Hooker and Newman as well. And if we can include George Herbert as a theologian, then he would be very close to the top of my own list of English-language theologians.

If we're allowed to include poets, then perhaps I should put in a good word for Milton as well -- an immensely creative heterodox theologian.

Ben Myers said...

I agree with you about Pannenberg. My own personal favourite of the five is Jüngel -- but it seems to me that Pannenberg's thought has an exegetical, historical and theological richness that far surpasses that of any other contemporary figure. All in all, I reckon Pannenberg is really the most important Protestant theologian since Barth.

Isaac M. Alderman said...

What a great discussion. As a lurker for the past two or three months, this is my first comment. Ms. Fabricius, great comment re: Wesley. How he is underrated, I'll never know. My vote on the poll (from minneapolis) was Pannenberg. Jesus God and Man never seems to stop influencing my thinking.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Isaac, it's great to hear from you. I agree: Pannenberg's Jesus -- God and Man is still one of the best theological books I've ever read.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Isaac. It's a great site, isn't it?

I'm glad you agree about Wesley; and, like Ben, I agree about Pannenberg. And Robert Jenson is right up there, whatever the language. After the title of his own book on Edwards, he is "America's (contemporary) Theologian".

One thing though, guys. Although I don't mind in the least being referred to as a Ms. - and with a unisex name like Kim it's perfectly understandable - I should come clean and declare that I am, in fact, 100% prime American beef - or, as I am a preacher-man, perhaps I should say "bull"!.

More to the point, while not "great" English-speaking theologians - certainly not yet - for dropping huge rocks into the the theological pond in recent years mention should be made of George Lindbeck (The Nature of Doctrine) and John Milbank (Theology and Social Theory). And for sheer prophetic pugnacity, hands up for Stanley Hauerwas?

Ben Myers said...

Kim, perhaps you'll have to start signing your name "Mr Kim Fabricius"....

You're right about Lindbeck and Milbank too. They're definitely among the most important English-language theologians today.

Isaac M. Alderman said...

Sorry about that, Mr. Fabricius. the blogosphere is so masculine, I was excited by the thought of a little diversity.

Anonymous said...

Keep it to "Kim", please. My (late) father may have been "Mr." Fabricius, but I'm just Kim.

Even my own congregation now universally calls me Kim after years, for many, of insisting on the respectful "Reverend Fabricius"!

Chris TerryNelson said...

If we're on the greatest LIVING English-speaking theologian, barring Torrance, then I'd have to make a plug for my good ol' Barthian buddies: George Hunsinger and John Webster.

Sean said...

My commitment to Pannenberg is unwavering. His insights, breadth, arguments and sheer brilliance compel me. There is no other like "Pan, the Man"

Ben Myers said...

Goobynelly, I agree with you about John Webster: I've thought for a while now that Webster is shaping up to be the next great British dogmatician.

Jeremiah Kier Cowart said...


Good question as to who the theological up-and-comers for Catholicism might be. Cardinal Dulles was mentioned previously (by me) as someone the likes of whom ranks high in theology, Catholic or not. Also, Cardinal Ratzinger, though elevated early to the CDF wrote his several books during that time as a theologian, and not as head of the CDF. Those writings that came out of the CDF, it seems to me, are the ones to be attributed to him via that role. But, I don't think that, say, The Spirit of the Liturgy or The Feast of Faith is to be attributed so much to the head of the CDF, as it is to be attributed to a Catholic theologian. That is, he submitted many writings to the world prior to his election as pope last year as a theologian, and not as one of the highest ranking Cardinals.

But, it is true that although the 20th century seemed to be rich on that score of Catholic theologians (to name a few, Rahner, Congar, de Lubac, von Balthasar), it seems harder to find their equivalents today. Although, one can look on the horizon and see some significant figures. Surely, Aidan Nichols, OP would be one. I would also say that Francis Sullivan, SJ might be as well. The latter's historical and theological reflections on the nature of the Magisterium (and its connection with theologians and the sensus fidei) have been quite significant.

One could think of others, like Thomas Dubay, SM, & Luke Timothy Johnson who have had a good output, though not strictly confining themselves to highly theological projects, along the lines of Congar or von Balthasar.

As for a relative newcomer on the theological seen, it is likely that David Fagerberg of Notre Dame may prove highly significant. It is my understanding that his recent work on the liturgy (Theologia Prima) has been well received by quite a few Catholic graduate programs.

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