Monday, June 05, 2006

Announcement: The World Cup of Modern Systematic Theologians

In honor of /protest against that thing in Germany I hereby announce the very alternative World Cup of Modern Systematic Theologians. It will take place right here, at God in a Shrinking Universe. During this event, we will see who is the greatest systematic theologian of the 20th century. Each theologian will battle their ways towards the number one spot, in a series of one-on-one battles. The winners in each match will be decided by YOU, dear Readers, by popular vote.

The Following theologians have auto-qualified (In no particular order):

  • Paul Tillich
  • Karl Rahner
  • Wolfhart Pannenberg
  • Jürgen Moltmann
  • Yves Congar
  • Hans Urs von Balthasar
  • Gustavo Gutierrez
  • Reinhold Niebuhr
  • Henri Lubac
  • Vladimir Lossky
  • Ernst Brunner
  • Jean Daniélou
  • Gerhard Ebeling
  • Ebehard Jüngel
  • Friedrich Gogarten
  • John Hick
  • Anders Nygren
  • Joseph Ratzinger
  • Edward Schillebeeckx
  • Gustaf Aulén
  • Rosemary Radford Ruether
  • Mary Daly
  • Leonardo Boff
  • Hans Küng
Now you have the chance to nominate theologians that fulfill the following criteria:
  1. Must be a systematic theologian, or a theologian that has primarily done systematic theology
  2. Must have been active mostly during the 20th century.
Nominations in comments please! Those that get the most nominations will enter the tournament. I might also choose to autoqualify some obvious oversight, or someone representing a minority group (women!).

Karl Barth has been disqualified due to illegal use of wissenschafftliche Assistentin. And to make the tournament more interesting.

The tournament will start on June 9th. You have time to nominate theologians until then. Do spread the word.

Now, who will host the bets?


Tim Chesterton said...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer needs to be in there for sure.

I'd also want to add John Howard Yoder - an Anabaptist voice. Your list is woefully short on Anabaptists - perhaps because they don't tend to practice Systematic Theology. Indeed, I wonder myself whether Systematic Theology is a tad anachronistic in a postmodern age.

Ben Myers said...

I'm still recovering from the shock that Barth won't be included -- although I loved your excuse about "wissenschaftliche Assistenten"!

Most of my favourites are already on the list -- but I'll also nominate Helmut Thielicke, Otto Weber, Hendrikus Berkhof, T. F. Torrance and Gerhard Sauter.

Most of all, though, I need very emphatically to nominate Robert W. Jenson, who wrote the 20th century's greatest English-language dogmatics!

Anonymous said...

How about an African Theologian?
John S. Mbiti
Kwame Bediako
Jean Marc-Ela
but to name a few
or an African-American
say James Cone

Anonymous said...

There are a few musts. I'm more than happy with Ben's nominations, esepcially Helmut Thielicke, Otto Weber, Tom Torrance, and Robert Jenson. But what about Ray Anderson? And Bloesch? More importantly, WHERE'S PT FORYSTH???? He is greater than even those who illegally use wissenschafftliche Assistentine. The greatest C20th theologian... again shafted in the ratings. If it comes down to a penalty kick situation, there's no one I'd more want on my team. Indeed, he's even a better captain that John Terry.

tchittom said...

Did I see Jurgen Moltmann in the list?

Patrick McManus said...

I'm shocked that nobody has mentioned Hans Frei! He must be on the list...even though his work was cut woefully short, what he has left us is theologically rich and of the utmost significance.

...and I agree with Tim about Yoder and with Ben about Jenson.

...and how does Reinhold Niebuhr make it and H. Richard Niebuhr (who undoubtedly was the better theologian of the two) doesn't?? Wait...was Bultmann on the list...Gogarten? and not Bultmann! What a scandal!

guanilo said...

Like Ben, I'm still reeling a bit from Barth's exclusion. But it will make things more interesting, as I'm not sure how much of a contest it is otherwise.

I'll second (or third, as the case may be) the inclusion of Jenson. You might throw in Ratzinger, too. And to bolster the one Orthodox entry, how about Sergei Bulgakov and/or Dimitru Staniloae (or Alexander Schmemann)?

thegreatswalmi said...

John Hick made it and John Howard Yoder didn't? Pretty shocked Frei didn't make it either.

Patrik said...

Thanks for all you nominations! Keep them coming! Bultmann was disqualified as primarily an exegete, while obviously also important as a theologian. Thanks for filling me in on the americans, a blind spot in my theological knowledge. I always get those Niebuhr confused... Who wouldn't?

Moltmann and Razinger are already on the list.

And it's not a scandal untill the list is complete! We will have 32 names on Friday!

Anonymous said...

Colin Gunton, the most important British theologian of the last 50 years and helped recover the importance and centrality of the doctrine of the Trinity

guanilo said...

Oops. So he is, tut mir leid.

Jason said...

I second James Cone.

What about George Lindbeck or Kathryn Tanner? And can the Brits claim ex-pats such as Geoffrey Wainwright or Sarah Coakley? (And can the Americans claim Dan Hardy?) Also David Ford, John Webster, Nicholas Lash, Donald Mackinnon and Rowan Williams (if he is properly considered 'systematic'? How technical are we being?) deserve to compete, IMHO.

Katerina Ivanovna said...

I suggest the removal of Jean Danielou from the competition...unlike his nouvelle theologie peers de Lubac, Bouyer and Balthasar, Danielou's main focus and drive was historical work in early Jewish Christianity and the Fathers, as well as Patristic exegesis. Indeed, he wrote a number of works on contemporary trends in theology, but never would have considered himself a systematician as he always admitted recasting the Fathers with little to no adaptation (as opposed to say, de Lubac, who deliberately incorporated modern philosophy into his work).

I'd like to nominate Louis Bouyer (underrated, yet no less profound than Ratzinger), Avery Dulles (first American Catholic theologian to be named a Cardinal and fore-most American Catholic systematician), David Tracy (one of the three most important theologians at the elite University of Chicago Divinity School), Jean-Luc Marion (has virtually set the agenda for post-modern theology, Catholic and Protestant, not to mention is the most influencial French commentator on Descartes) and Karol Wojtyla (have we seen such a theologically and philosophically informed Pope since Gregory the Great???).

With all due respect, I cannot see the justice of auto-qualifying Danielou while overlooking these thinkers.

guanilo said...

Oy, yes, I knew we were missing someone: David Tracy is a must.

Chris Spinks said...

Though probably not as well known as many, James Wm. McClendon was nevertheless an instrumental (systematic) theologian, especially for the new generation of (ana?)baptists. He is the only theologian I am aware of who attempted to construct a systematic theology for little-b baptists.

Ben Myers said...

Well, there would be a good case for including Bultmann -- after all, Barth was forever accusing Bultmann of being a systematic theologian disguised as an exegete! (And of course Barth knew that no insult would offend Bultmann more than to call him a dogmatician!)

Anonymous said...

Presumably the reason why Barth is not on the list is because he is the Pele of theologians and would make the competition one-sided.

Well done, Jason, for nominating the Congregationalist Forsyth, the great Barthian before Barth (whose own polity-preference, of course, was for Congregationalism.

What about some Asian theologians - like Kosuke Koyama (Japanese), Choan-Seng Song (Taiwanese) and Hyun Young-hak (Korean) - for a truly World Cup?

John Hick is a theologian?

By the way, do you know the Monty Python sketch of the classical philosophers playing the beautiful game? And the Monty Python "Philosophers' Song" to go with it?

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant /
Who was very rarely stable; /
Martin Heidegger was a boozy beggar / Who could think you under the table; / David Hume could outconsume / Schopenhauer and Hegel; / And Wittgenstein was a beery swine / Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel; / There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya / 'Bout the raising of the wrist; / Socrates, himself. was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will, / On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill; / Plato, they say, could stick it away, / Half a crate of whiskey every day; / Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle, / Hobbes was fond of his dram, / And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart: / "I drink, therefore I am."

Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed, / A lovely little thinker, / But a bugger when he's pissed.

Jordan Barrett said...

Colin Gunton cannot be forgotten, nor Robert Jenson.

::aaron g:: said...

Here is another nomination for David Tracy.

Anonymous said...

What about Zizioulas

Katerina Ivanovna said...

I second Zizioulas. But if we do end up including Tracy, how can we neglect Dulles, whose maverick work in ecclesiology and ecumenism during the 70's and 80's had far-reaching effects?

If what we mean by "greatest" is a measure both of profundity and of influence, and we're concentrating on the 20th century, perhaps we ought not to focus on the globe in our nomination process, and certainly not on demoninational affiliation. Would not those theologians who have crossed denominational lines and have exerted gross influence across the ecclesial spectrum be what we should be looking at? This is not to minimize the contributions of all the great thinkers so far nominated, but simply is a more sober and honest way of evaluating. Granted, this is a highly subjective exercise, but I think a strong concensus can be reached. Just my thoughts...please don't take them as an attempt to hijack the contest!

Perhaps the 21st century World Cup will be more inclusive. With the exception of a hand-full of Latin American and African American thinkers, was not the past centry dominated by the European/American traditions? Impoverished? Yes. Obvious? Equally so.

byron smith said...

I add my voice to those who've mentioned:
Colin Gunton, Zizoulas, Yoder, Jenson, Bonhoeffer, T. F. Torrance

And how about:
Paul Ricoeur
E. Käsemann
Emil Brunner (is there also an Ernst Brunner, or was this a typo?)
John Webster (perhaps he is disqualified, since it is likely his greatest contributions will be 21stC)
Carl Henry (conservatives seem a little under-represented)
Rowan Williams (ditto Anglicans)
D. B. Knox (who was both conservative and Anglican, and represents that most marginalised of all groups (often all too justly...): Australians)

And a negative vote against Hick.

One of Freedom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
One of Freedom said...

Much as I'd like to see Ricoeur on the list I think he is more of a philosopher.

I removed this because I suggested Volf who is obviously 21st C. Doh!

Keith said...

I'd like to reaffirm these nominations:

T.F. Torrance
Robert Jenson
John Webster

Keith said...

I'd like to reaffirm these nominations:

T.F. Torrance
Robert Jenson
John Webster

Patrik said...

Thanks for the nominations everybody! I hope that no one is taking my list of auto-nominations too seriously. I'm not suggesting that these are in fact the greatest one's. It is just an off the top of my head list, the make the nomination process easier.

I agree with the case against Danielou. He may have to go. There are a few others, too, that might not make it to final 32.

Ernst = Emil.

I think this project will be much more of a learning experience than I first expected!

Still a few days left for nominations! Do we have anymore women, or was the 20th century really that pathetically one-gendered?

Ben Myers said...

Well, I'll also add my vote to have John Hick taken off the list....

axegrinder said...


I've got to go with my three favorites: T. F. Torrance, Colin Gunton, and Alexander Schmemann.

I'd also like to suggest two darkhorses: John Zizioulas and Geoffrey Wainwright.

Looking forward to the competition.

Jason Kranzusch

Anonymous said...

I think Bultmann should be on the list after all: He was as much a systematic theologian as an exegete (even though he wouldn't admit it...), and his work has been, and still is, of enormous importance for systematic theology.

I support the nominations for Robert Jenson, David Tracy and Nicolas Lash.

One brilliant theologian not yet mentioned is Walter Kasper: he has my vote. And if we put on the list living authors who might well make it some time in the 21st century (like Jenson), I would vote for Otto Hermann Pesch as well: Both he and Kasper have written some wonderful books.

Anonymous said...

B. B. Warfield

One of Freedom said...

Kasper would get a seconding from me. I've only read one book by him but it was very insightful.

Anonymous said...

if you are looking for more women,
Elizabeth Johnson

Anonymous said...

Yes! Walter did he slip by?

Love her or not, I agree Elizabeth Johnson should be included. Her She Who Is is a landmark in feminist theology.

Anonymous said...

i'll add my vote

however, webster's work is too late in the game. his systematic work will be 21st century

Anonymous said...

It seems like Dutch theologians are missing:

G.C. Berkouwer
Hendrikus Berkhof

and the greatest of them all:
H. Bavinck

But I vote for Pannenberg. Definitely.

Patrick McManus said...

I'm really pushing for Hans Frei, and since nobody else is, here's a second for Hans Frei!

Postliberalism wouldn't be postliberalism without him! His major work on Barth and 19th century theology (his Ph.D diss.) is a true theological tome and needs to be consulted by anyone claiming to know Barth!

Personally, I neither read Scripture nor think about Jesus in the same way as before reading Frei! The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative is the most important contribution to hermeneutics in the latter half of the 20th century and The Identity of Jesus Christ is arguably one of the most important contributions to christology in the same period.

As well, the theological typology of Types of Christian Theology is absolutely brilliant! David Tracy & Carl Henry are really the same under the skin!!

So, here's to Hans Frei (also an Anglican...)

Anonymous said...

Additionally, there are two names that should be included, as well:

Louis Berkhof (I know, he mostly echoes Bavinck, but he has had an enormous influence in Reformed circles as a textbook writer).

E.Y. Mullins (VERY influential in most Southern Baptist circles).

L. S. Chafer (ditto for Dispensationalists).

About the "lack of inclusivity": Bollocks. I am a Latin American myself, Continental Member of the Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana, and I don't care if Hispanics or blacks or women are not included. I would like to see a good theologian without recourse to his culture, ethnicity, or sex.

Anonymous said...

As for Dutch scholars: Schillebeeckx (who of course, is Flemish) worked almost all his life in the Netherlands.
I would add P. Schoonenberg: The importance of his article on sin and original sin in Mysterium Salutis can hardly be overestimated.

guanilo said...

I too will throw down on omitting Hick. As for women, which is a point well taken, I'd advise adding Elizabeth Johnson as well, and especially substituting Sallie McFague for Mary Daly. The former has had far more influence (and Daly is unintelligible to read). Sarah Coakley could be in the running, although she may better fit in the C21.

Anonymous said...

Also missing from the pool (unless I missed them):

Ernst Käsemann
Stanley Hauerwas
Dorothy Sölle
Herbert McCabe
Graham Ward
James Alison

Hick, Cupitt and Spong can be waterboys.

Patrik said...

Just out of curiosity, why the campaign against Hick? I mean, he was one of the few americans I was to read as an undergraduate... Is it because you people feel he does not qualify as a theologian, (like more of a philosopher), or is it because of his theology?

I'll put up a new list tomorrow, with 32 names, and you will have another day or so to protest or give comments.

guanilo said...

Patrik, for my part I think Hick is a philosopher or at best, a religious studies scholar (which is very different from a theologian!).

Ben Myers said...

I'll second the call for Dutch theologians -- especially Schillebeeckx, Hendrikus Berkhof (not to be confused with the tedious Louis Berkhof!), and G. C. Berkouwer.

I'd also gladly agree with the nomination of Herman Bavinck, whose massive Reformed Dogmatics is really one of the best systematic theologies ever written -- but I think Bavinck should really be viewed as a 19th-century theologian.

Anonymous said...

Bavinck should really be viewed as a 19th-century theologian

No, not really. He became Professor of Theology at the Free University in 1902. He delivered the Stone Lectures in 1908. He died in 1921.

I think he qualifies, and should definitely be in the starting line-up.

Anonymous said...

Anybody feel Gerald O'Collins belongs?

I'll second Lindbeck, Marion and Dulles!

Indeed, Hick and Daly should both be stricken from the list.

Ben Myers said...

Hi John -- "I think [Bavinck] qualifies".

Okay, fair enough. I was thinking mainly of the fact that the first edition of his dogmatics was written in the 19th century (1895-99). But I'd certainly be happy to see him on the list, so I'll agree that he could still qualify.

Anonymous said...

As for female theologians, I'd give my vote to Mary Daly. Not because I am especially fond of her theology, but because she is the single most important feminist theologian of the twentieth century: Everything in feminist theology written after 'Beyond God the Father' can be read as a reaction to that book. She should make it to the tournament.

Mark Thompson said...

I'd second the nomination of D B Knox the conservative Anglican theologian from Australia. Perhaps J I Packer needs to be included since there are so few conservatives being mentioned.

I would also applaud the nomination of Colin Gunton and Eberhard Jungel.

Jason said...

I would like to add my voice to the growing chorus to set aside John Hick from consideration. Frankly, I would feel this way in any event, because I think he goes badly wrong in his work -- but I wouldn't push to have him excluded on this basis. But I do think that since the focus is on systematic theologians as such, he might be set aside; as Gaunilo adverts, it seems his work is more along the lines of philosophy or religious studies. Others who have done work that might be considered more properly systematic theology and who might be considered (broadly) in agreement with Hick might be substituted: Gordon Kaufman comes immediately to mind, as well as more process-oriented theologians such as John Cobb or David Ray Griffin. I'm not particularly a 'fan' of these theologians, either, but they might better fit the category under discussion.

One of Freedom said...

I heard John Cobb speak once and was very impressed. I have been meaning ever since to read some of his work - just too many theologians and not enough time. The thing that struck me was that he had an obvious love of God that kept sneaking through his address. It was the most delightful dynamic.

guanilo said...

Good thought, Jason. Cobb or Griffin would be ideal alternatives to Hick.

Stijn - Daly has been influential, but I'd wager that Ruether (who is already on the list, of course) or McFague have been more influential on the broader mainstream of theology.

Anonymous said...

cobb (or another worthy process theologian) certainly should be included

Anonymous said...

Dumitru Staniloe

Pontificator said...

T. F. Torrance
Robert W. Jenson
Austin Farrar
Lionel Thornton
Eric Mascall

Andrew Paterson said...

rPatrik - well done for doing this, great idea! Shame about Barth -

I would second J I Packer from an earlier blog - a big influence in 20th century Western theology.

Anonymous said...

D B Knox - Australia might not have any theology if it wasn't for DBK and he was a Trinitarian Theologian long before it became sexy to be one!

Gunton & Packer

Anonymous said...

Pity there is as yet no mention of Bernard Lonergan, perhaps the most systematic of 20th. century theologians; certainly, his later work on Method has not earned him the attention that it ought, probably owing to a misperception of this project as inveterate liberalism.

Paul Allen
The Lonergan Website:

Patrik said...

Yeah, the lack of support for Lonergan suprised me, too.

Skoegahom said...

Besides those already mentioned and since Kierkegaard can't participate:

Jacques Ellul
George Eldon Ladd

Sometimes the wildcards win...

Anonymous said...

I'm with Patrick. Hans Frei definitely.

Also Jenson and Lindbeck. And Yoder if he counts as systematic (which I would argue for on the basis of his Preface to Theology).

I like the "Hick and Spong can be waterboys" comment!

Anonymous said...

'The theological task of understanding and communicating the Christian message requires both humility and courage, and the wisdom to discern which is most required in a given situation. Theology must not adopt an authoritarian stance where a humble acknowledgment of the limitation of its insight is called for. Theology must avoid a false humility which evades its responsibility to speak with clarity and conviction. The writings of Berkouwer provide a perspective which promises to be of enormous value in the confused climate of contemporary theology' (final paragraph of my book, 'The Problem of Polarization: An Approach based on the Writings of G C Berkouwer').