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June 18, 2007



I really don't see this happening. It seems to me that Moltmann's best insights are to be found in much more robust and responsible forms in other places. For instance, I would claim that Gunton's Trinitarian theology is well superior to Moltmann's. He was certainly a key playing in his age, and someone who deserves attention in our own age, but I am not of the opinion that he will register among the giants.


I don't see Moltmann going anywhere, but I think Luther beats him into a top-5 anyday. Otherwise, a solid list. (I'm somewhat flexible on Calvin, though...since Barth's about as close as I want to get.)

Michael Westmoreland-White

To limit the giants to 4 seems very narrow--no Cappadocians, no pre-Nicene theologians, no Medievalists except Aquinas, etc. And for a Baptist not to include any Anabaptists nor any of our own theologians is criminal.

But I certainly consider Moltmann to be the greatest systematic theologian since Barth.


How much T.F. Torrance have you read, Michael?

Ben Myers

For what it's worth, I reckon Pannenberg is definitely the best dogmatician since Barth (perhaps the second-best dogmatician of the entire century). His work towers over Moltmann's in every respect, even though Moltmann is admittedly a more engaging writer.

Michael Westmoreland-White

WTM, I have read about half Torrance's work and consider him second tier. (Of course, I'm maybe 5th tier, if that!)


I'd love to be able to say, yes, Andy, but I don't think so.

However, I'm not sure that there are many others I'd put before him as a #5.


The only one I've read is Calvin (Institutes) and I'll be starting Moltmann (TofH) in a couple weeks. After reading Institutes though, I kind of lost my excitement about reading these so-called giants. I did not see in Calvin what was so giant. Can someone or several people post on what was so giant about Calvin?


Of course, "changing the theological debate" is in the neutral voice, yes? The change can be for the better or the worse. I think I'd agree on your first three choices (I think it's still way to early to determine Barth's longlasting influence). But I'd say that each of them changed the debate for the worse: Augustine supplanted the Greek mystagogical tradition, Thomas the monastic theological tradition, and Calvin--omg!


I certainly agree that you cannot really do theology without engaging Moltmann. I have enjoyed what I've read so far (Crucified God; Trinity and the Kingdom; and currently Theology of Hope) but my major concern about calling Moltmann "the fifth" in your very exclusive "top four," giants is that 1.) without downplaying his genius, I have to agree (tentatively) with WTM that what Moltmann has done has been done better by other theologians and 2.) I have yet to be convinced that Moltmann is really a "systematizer," (not necessarily a bad thing) and so also question "Moltmann's theology" to be a comprehensive corpus of ideas (but hey, this might mean that Moltmann's staying power will be even longer, as it would be easier for portions to survive even if some is rejected) 3.) I REALLY have to agree with Ben Meyers about Pannenberg at the very least being added to your list, if not supplanting Moltmann as a candidate, due to Pannenberg's speculative and systematic prowess, and his ability (even if you disagree with his specific conclusions) to be encyclopedic in his thought process. I'd even have to follow Ben in saying that, behind Barth, Pannenberg is the best dogmatician of this century!

Frank Emanuel

I'm definitely in the "I truly hope" category. For me Moltmann was pivotal and because of that comes into almost every theological expedition I undertake. I certainly see Moltmann being a classic that is revisited time and again, but has he changed the conversation enough that we can no longer do theology without engaging him? Even though I think we should, I'm not convinced this is the case yet.


I would second the worries about the western orientation of this list. Surely Athanasius, Cyril, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus, Maximus Confessor, John Damascene, et al play such a foundational role that one simply cannot responsibly ignore them.

But I can understand why Augustine and Aquinas would make the list. With Augustine you have a fertile field of thoughts on nature, grace, the freedom of the will, the relation of the church to secular society and the turn towards interiority. With Thomas Aquinas one has a virtual encyclopedia of rigorous, methodical work. There's Aristotle in Thomas, but also Augustine and Damascene and . . .

Barth and Calvin I can even make some guesses. But in what is Moltmann's genius supposed to consist? It's not a polemical question--I simply haven't read any of his work.

For Augustine

andy goodliff

Thank you for all your comments. I knew in part this list of theological giants was deficient and Western-orientated, see the subsequent post, which some of you have also commented on.

Some of the comments are really helpful. Yes Maiden 'changing the theological debate' is and should be a neutral phrase.

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