This week, I devoted one post each day to the Top 5 Most Important Theologians in Christian history. Here are the five I considered to have been most influential:
What follows is a list of honorable mentions: theologians who impacted Christian theology in important ways, but who (usually for a few good reasons) do not make the Top 5 List.
Irenaeus – for his apologetic defense of historic Christianity in the face of Gnosticism. He also popularized the recapitulation theory of the atonement
Anselm of Canterbury – founder of scholasticism. Formulated the ontological argument for God’s existence.
Martin Luther - for his instrumental role in the Reformation. He was definitely a theologian in his own right, although I see him more as a revolutionary than a theologian. Calvin is the one who took the Reformation insights and systematized them and therefore becomes more influential as a theologian.
Friedrich Schleiermacher & Adolf von Harnack - Schleiermacher made the subjective experience of the believer (specifically the feeling of total dependency) the center of theology and thus became the “Father of Liberalism.” Together with the later work of Adolph von Harnack, these two packed quite a punch. The reverberations continue to echo throughout Christian theology.
John Wesley - an important leader of a renewal movement within Anglicanism which eventually became Methodism and the Holiness churches. While probably deserving a place in the Top Ten or Fifteen, I don’t believe Wesley’s theological contributions earn him a Top 5 ranking.
Jonathan Edwards – If I were making a list of the Top 5 Most Important American Theologians, then Edwards would probably be #1. A fine preacher and interpreter of Puritan theology, Edwards’ legacy cast a long shadow over American evangelicalism.
C.S. Lewis – I don’t consider him to be primarily a theologian. He was a terrific apologist, and he ably articulated the essentials of the Christian faith. But one can hardly speak of a “Lewisian” school of theology that has grown up because of his contributions.
Who else do you think of? Did I get these right or wrong?