The 10 Most Influential Living Theologians Today

Written by Nathan Amerson (Instructor at NHCC)

For this blog post, I hope to highlight ten living theologians who should be household names to any student of the Word. In another post, I will speak to those greatest theologians who may no longer be living but should be read by every student. Here I will simply concentrate on those who are currently living, as their works will continue to be published and updated. Of course, some bias exists in my choices and I am open to critique. An immediate bias may be seen in that these are all Protestants. I do read Catholic and Orthodox thinkers, and perhaps another blog post could draw attention to some of them. Additionally, they are listed in order of birth date, and otherwise this list in no way presents any proposed hierarchy or order of merit.

  1. Phyllis Trible (b. 1932) is widely known as a foundational figure particularly within American feminist theology. Trible taught at Wake Forest University and spent many years at Union Theological Seminary before returning to Wake Forest, ultimately becoming the president of that university. Although criticized by fundamentalist leaning evangelicals, Trible’s work has spoken with depth to viewing the Bible (and the Old Testament particularly) through a lens no longer colored by the patriarchy which has dominated two thousand years of the Church and biblical scholarship. Her published works include God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (1978) and Texts of Terror: Literary-feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (1984).
  2. Walter Brueggeman (b. 1933) is a renowned scholar of the Old Testament. Although currently retired, he spent many years at Columbia Theological Seminary. He has written 58 books, numerous journal articles, and contributed to many commentaries. His 2003 Introduction to the Old Testament is subtitled The Canon and Christian Imagination, a theme which is woven throughout many of his works. Brueggemann is a great theologian and his contributions to the exegesis of the Hebrew Bible cannot be overstated.
  3. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. (b. 1933) is the Colman M. Mockler distinguished Professor of Old Testament and former President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Kaiser is well-rounded in academia having not only taught Old Testament for over four decades but additionally having served as senior vice president of education, academic dean, and senior vice president of distance learning and ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His books Toward an Old Testament Theology and Toward Old Testament Ethics continue to speak into the world of academia and are used widely in evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges. Additionally, his Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, written with Moises Silva, remains a foundational work of value to any seminarian.
  4. D.A. Carson (b. 1946) is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and president and co-founder of the Gospel Coalition (along with another household name, Tim Keller). Something of a Renaissance man, he is well regarded as an expert in many fields, including New Testament, hermeneutics, biblical theology, the Greek New Testament, the use of the Old Testament in the New, and more. Carson has written or contributed to over 60 published works and as the editor of Themelios magazine has greatly enhanced scholarship in the field of biblical studies. He is rightly regarded as one of the great scholars of the Bible of our time.
  5. Richard Bauckham (b. 1946) is an English Anglican scholar of the New Testament primarily, although he has written on a variety of subjects. His most widely read book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2006) defends a historical and factual view of the Gospels as written by the men who were there with Jesus. He has contributed significantly to New Testament scholarship and has written a number of books on the theology of Jurgen Moltmann, whom we address below. He also has authored or co-authored a wide variety of New Testament commentaries. No student of the Bible should approach New Testament scholarship without at least some familiarization with this great writer and thinker.
  6. N.T. (Nicholas Thomas) Wright (b. 1948) is an English New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and Anglican bishop. Wright is an ardent advocate for the authenticity and authority of the Pauline corpus and has often stated that Paul is abused and overlooked in the current context of biblical interpretation. Some of his most popular works include Surprised by Hope, a treatise outlining a biblical view of the resurrection, and his 2012 work How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. Wright holds to the traditional view of the historical Jesus as espoused by Albert Schweitzer and has contended against more liberal views of the historical Jesus such as those defended by the Jesus Seminar.
  7. William Lane Craig (b. 1949) is professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University and Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He is best known for his contributions in the field of Christian apologetics and his website is a treasure trove of his writings. One of his most well-known works is his 2010 book On Guard, which is an excellent starting point for any student of apologetics. Craig has lectured and taught extensively on the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of God, a concept adapted for the modern day from medieval philosophers. He has published numerous journal articles as well as multiple other books on the nature of God, His essence, and His interaction with the created world.
  8. Ben Witherington III (b. 1951) is Professor of New Testament Interpretation as Asbury Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. Witherington has written extensively on the New Testament with over 60 works published. He has challenged the foundation of Calvinist theology in evangelicalism in America, arguing instead for a consistent exegesis of the New Testament which offers opposition to the five points of Calvinism. His 2016 two-part series, New Testament Theology and Ethics is a must have for any New Testament scholar, reader, or student. He advocates for what he calls a socio-rhetorical approach to exegesis.
  9. Roger Olson (b. 1952) is Professor of Christian Theology of Ethics at the Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University. He is best known as a historicist of theology and developed the method currently taught at Truett of doing historical theology. He is an advocate of Arminianism and has written several works on the topic. His seminal history, The Journey of Modern Theology should be in every Christian library today. Partnering with Stanley Grenz, he also wrote two additional excellent works, 20th Century Theology and Who Needs Theology?. He has authored over 20 other books and innumerable journal articles.
  10. Kevin Vanhoozer (b. 1957) is an American Bible scholar and theologian, currently holding a position as professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago. Well known for his work in hermeneutics, Vanhoozer’s book The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology won the Christianity Today 2006 Book Award for best book in theology. His concept of theo-drama as the means by which God is active in the world holds consistent weight and is often cited by other theologians. His 1998 book Is there a Meaning in this Text remains a foundational work in hermeneutics, contributing much to the current evangelical perspectives on understanding the meaning of the Scriptures.

I hope my readers have enjoyed this very brief cross-section of contemporary Protestant theologians and that their continued striving to be the best students of the Word they can be is enhanced by it.

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