There are all sorts of reasons why I should not be writing this article. First, I will not only flummox most non-believers looking at this website, but I will almost certainly lose about 95 per cent of believers as well. “You are writing about theologians?” they will exclaim in wonderment. “Why, that must mean you actually like theology!”
Well yes, I confess, I do rather like theology. OK, so that puts me in the land of cuckoos and fruit loops. It certainly puts me outside of much of Christendom which has decided that theology is unimportant, irrelevant, or maybe even an impediment to living the Christian life. But for those rare souls who see the importance of truth and doctrine in the life of the church, this article might be of some solace and enjoyment.
Second, talk of “favourite” theologians sounds like, well, favourite types of ice cream or donuts. Such matters of taste can be enjoyed individually, but do they need to be shared collectively? Who really cares what one thinks about this anyway? Well, as I say, a handful of people at least will be appreciative of such an article.
Third, the title is actually a bit misleading. There are plenty of theologians I quite enjoy, but perhaps what I am really getting at here is some of my favourite Christian thinkers and writers, most of whom also happen to be theologians, or New Testament scholars, or thereabouts. And to fellow lovers of Christian thought and commentary, some of these authors and books may be something you will like to explore further.
So now that I have weeded out most of you by now, for those few who remain, let’s reflect a bit on good theology and some important Christian thinkers and writers. This listing will of necessity be quite selective. For every author that I mention, I will probably forget another half dozen that I would also like to mention.
So this is a very haphazard listing, in no particular order, noting some of my favourite contemporary evangelical Christian writers and thinkers. Those writers who are no longer alive I will save for another article. Having recently finished reading a new volume by David Wells, let me start with him.
I don’t think I have disliked anything that Wells has penned over the past several decades. Of course I could be biased here. He was a prof of mine at seminary, and he has long emphasised the need for solid theology, the importance of truth, the need to let God be God, the dangers of church techniques and trends, the cultural captivity of the church, and so on.
His many books have focused on these various themes. His newest, which I have just reviewed on this site, continues the themes he has developed over the past few decades and is well worth digesting. His assessment of, and warnings about, the contemporary evangelical scene deserve very wide reading indeed.
D.A. Carson is another theologian who I always seem to find myself more or less in agreement with. (Of course good theologians are also those who challenge you and disagree with you.) He writes on a wide range of topics, from postmodernism (The Gagging of God), good commentaries (e.g., on Matthew and John) theodicy (How Long O Lord?), to Christianity and culture (Christ and Culture Revised – his latest volume).
Chuck Colson is another writer that I find myself resonating with in just about everything he says. He is continually on the cutting edge of where faith and society meet, and his insights are always worthwhile. His newest volume, The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters, is another great reminder of the importance of the mind, of good theology, and of a faith that has relevance and application to the issues of the day.
One pastor/theologian worth getting to know is John Piper. A keen populariser of the theology of Jonathan Edwards, his many volumes are always informed and helpful. He is both a capable theologian as well as one concerned about the practical issues of Christian living. His most recent book, a critical assessment of Tom Wright, leads me to my next author.
N.T. Wright is one of our most significant biblical scholars today, and is as prolific as he is challenging. There are some theologians and writers who always have important things to say, even if one does not always agree with them. This is certainly the case with Wright. Some areas, such as his view on justification and imputation, one may well have strong disagreement with. But nonetheless, he is a Christian thinker not to be missed.
His new volume, Surprised by Hope, looks at various eschatological themes. It contains recognisable and familiar material for those conversant with his previous writings. He challenges some traditional evangelical understandings of things related to the end times, but his insights and theological depth are always worthwhile.
Of course mention can be made of a host of other contemporary theologians and Christian writers. Alister McGrath, Os Guinness, Millard Erickson, Michael Horton, Ben Witherington, Craig Blomberg, R.C. Sproul, Richard John Neuhaus, and Philip Yancey, and many more come to mind.
Those already deeply into theology may not find much new or revealing here in this listing. But those who may be a bit new to theology, or have not done much reading in this area, might profit from this brief introductory list. Thus consider this a guide to new or interested believers who want some more depth and substance to their current reading.
In an age where theology is not much in vogue, and Christians are not always known for using their minds to the glory of God, these authors are a much needed corrective. They are heartily recommended to any newcomers to important Christian thinking and writing, as well as to those who are already there.