Sunday, January 28, 2007

The 15 Most Important Theological Works of the Last 25 Years

Here are the most important works in recent theology as voted by the theo-blogosphere. About 50 people participated in the survey, which was made in January 2007. For more about the process see these posts.

1. John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (1985) 21 votes
2. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodramatik (completed 1983) 17 votes
3. George A Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (1984) 16 votes
4. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory (1990) 13 votes
5. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996) 12 votes
6. John Paul II, Theology of the Body (1979-1984) 11 votes
7. Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer on Christian Ethics (1983) 10 votes
7. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (1988-93) 10 votes
9. Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life. A Universal Affirmation. (1991) 9 votes
10. Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is (1992) 8 votes
10. T. F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith (1985) 8 votes
12. Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink From Our Own Wells (1984) 7 votes
12. Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology (1997-99) 7 votes
14. Jean-Luc Marion, God without Being (Dieu sans l'être) (1982) 6 votes
14. David Tracy, The analogical imagination: Christian theology and the culture of pluralism (1981) 6 votes

As I said when starting this project, I want to make this list into a source for info on these works, so now I invite those of you that have written something on these works - reviews, comments and so on - on you blogs to list such post in a comment to this post. I will move these links into the original post, so they will be easy to find. I won't be too strict when deciding what goes on the list, but it has to be a little bit more than just a quotation.

A lot of works came in on a shared sixteenth place: Borg, Childs, Cavanaugh, Hart, Newbigin, Ratzinger, Vanhoozer, Williams and Wright all got five votes each. Six votes thus seemed a good place to draw the line.

The full list of works nominated for this list is here.

I for one will do my best to read all the works on this list that I haven't read (the majority of them). It seems like a really good way to expand one's knowing on the current theological climate (in the English-speaking world, one should add).

The list shows commendable ecclesiastic width, and about half of the works are by writers that do not have English as first language. It sadly male-heavy, though, Johnson being the only woman to make the list. There were a number of other female theologians on the long list, but none of them got more than two votes. But then I don't think there were more than two female voters...

I also asked you which one work you find to be the most important. Many decided not to name one such work, but it is still interesting to see that these votes gave quite a different result:

1. John Paul II (6 votes)
2. Lindbeck (5 votes)
3. von Balthasar, Millbank (4 votes)
5. Pannenberg, Zizioulas ( 3 votes)
7. Gutierrez, Moltmann, (2 votes)

A big thank you to all the people who participated in the creation of this list, and since I'm sure theology giants like these also google their name every now and then, my congratulations to all the writers who made the list.

It'll be really interesting to see what kind of a list we'll get in 2012.


Sam Charles Norton said...

Hi Patrik - a worthwhile and intriguing exercise, thank you.

If I get a chance, I'll write something about Lindbeck. He's the only one I have qualms about (ie I think he is significantly over-rated; not necessarily 'bad' as such - just doesn't do anything half so interesting as people might be led to believe. That's my Wittgenstein influence coming out.) It won't happen for a while though.

And I am delighted that Zizioulas came top!

W. Travis McMaken said...


Thanks for putting this list together. It grants quite a bit of insight into the theological condition ofthe theo-blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that Jim West's Systematic Theology didn't make top spot!

Patrik said...

Sam, I'm looking forward to that! I read D.Z. Phillips book on Wittgenstein and Religion recently, and my thought is that the Wittgensteinian view of the function of religious language needs a dose of narrative theology... But I have to admit its been years since I read Lindbeck, and I read him in German, so I do feel I have to go back to that one.

byron smith said...

Thanks Patrik. Some more books to add to my reading list... I've only read three of these in their entirety (and parts of a few others).

Ben Myers said...

That's a very interesting result, Patrik. I must admit, I'm surprised that you got such a good result too -- on the whole, it's really quite a convincing "canon" of recent theological work (even though the omission of David Bentley Hart is inexcusable!).

::aaron g:: said...


michael jensen said...

Yes, interesting. I am disappointed Vanhoozer as the one roughly evangelical voice didn't make the cut. But then I am pleased that the neo-pagan works of Sally McFague didn't make it either - I am staggered she was even rated a mention!

I also share Rev Sam's feelings about Lindbeck: I was really underwhelmed on reading it recently. What's all the fuss about?

michael jensen said...

oops, forget Volf: a fine representative of evangelicalism in the top five.

Anonymous said...

I was robbed!

Guy Davies said...

I agree with Kev - his Drama of Doctrine should have been in the top three. I demand a recount on the grounds of electoral irregularity.

Patrik said...

It's no good complaining now... Better luck in five years... ;)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the absence of women here: I reckon Kathryn Tanner's Theories of Culture certainly deserves a place on the list.

One of Freedom said...

I did a review of "We Drink From Our Own Wells" a bit ago: