Aim of this Series
This post kicks off a new series on the blog. The title is fairly self evident. My aim is to introduce people to the Top Ten Theologians of church history. Yes, I will rank them in order. I will start with #10 and work my way down to the #1 person I believe to be the greatest theologian. My aim is wrought with danger. I am foolish to attempt ranking the ten greatest theologians. I will leave out some people you think should be in the top ten. I will have some people lower in the list than you might think. I will proceed nonetheless because these people need to be known by the Bride of Christ.
What is a theologian?
A theologian is most simply someone who thinks about God. Is an atheist a theologian? Yes, an atheist has thoughts about God. Their thoughts lead them to the conclusion there is no God, but the Atheist is a theologian. Everyone is a theologian. Are there any Atheists on our Top Ten list? No. That leads me to the Criterion upon which led to the formulation of the Top Ten list.
First, to make the Top Ten list you need to be a Christian theologian. I should have, technically, called this Top Ten Christian Theologians, but I simply opted for a shorter title. Have there been theologians beneficial to humanity who did not have Jesus as their Savior? Yes, but this list seeks a different purpose.
Second, to make it on the Top Ten list you must be a positive influence. Friedrich Schleiermacher was an incredibly influential “Christian” theologian, yet he had a negative influence on orthodox Christianity (what everyone has believed everywhere for all time). I would refer to Schleiermacher ultimately as a heretic. I know, harsh words, but my list of Top Ten Heretics and why each person should bear that title is for another series. Overall, each one of these Top Ten Theologians positively influenced the Church.
Third, each one of these theologians must have had a broad influence in how people understand God. Faithful pastors all over the world help their congregations, through God’s Word, better understand and live for God. The Top Ten Theologians influenced not only their immediate congregations but also positively influenced people all over the world for decades and centuries to come. A man like Charles Spurgeon was a wonderful pastor and biblical teacher but he will not be on the list. I love Spurgeon dearly but these ten men on the list influenced the church at a deeper and wider level than Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s ministry stood on the shoulders of many of the men in this series.
We’ll look at each of these Ten Theologians through a consistent grid:
First, in order to appreciate each of these Ten Theologians we must have a certain understanding of their world. Our understanding of their influence in their world will help us to be benefited for the sake of our world. Each post in the series will contain enough background information to hopefully allow us to appreciate the setting within which these people lived.
To appreciate the Top Ten Theologians we need to examine the life they lived. Many of the Top Ten Theologians experienced tremendous health problems. If you don’t care about the details of their lives you will fail to appreciate what they accomplished through their circumstances.
Ultimately, it is their thoughts we are seeking to most understand and appreciate. Many of these people wrote volumes as they meditated upon Scripture. We will spend a considerable portion of every post getting an overview of their influential thoughts.
What has been the influence of each theologian? If their thoughts are a rock falling into a lake, their influence looks at the ripples in the water spreading out from the impact. This is one of the key areas where these people will be set apart from many other people who could have been contenders for the Top Ten list. Why have the thoughts of these people influenced so many?
A foible is defined as a minor weakness or eccentricity in someone’s character: “they have to tolerate each other’s little foibles”. Only one person who has ever lived deserves worship. Jesus Christ. Each of these ten theologians would fully agree with the previous statement. If you ask any of these people, “Are you perfect?” “Should I worship you or should I worship Jesus?” They would all plead with us to worship the living God.
Each one of the theologians had aspects of their thought and of their lives which I would not recommend you follow. Some acted in ways which would even be criminal at certain times and places. Every human being, if you dig deep enough, will have parts of their life which are not admirable. Every human being desperately needs a living Savior. We will spend time in each post discussing the foibles of every person on the Top Ten list.
Their Effect on Us
We will then spend time explicitly seeing areas where each one of the theologians should positively affect our life. By becoming friends with these theologians my hope and prayer is your thoughts about God and your life lived before God will be the better for the time you spend hanging out with a bunch of dead people.
My list is set. If you made a list right now who would be your Top Ten? Hint, do not add yourself, you will be automatically disqualified. Please post your list in the comments. Up next #10. His name is…
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