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More Thoughts on the Best in Contemporary Theology

As I’ve thought more about Patrik’s “The Best in Contemporary Theology” meme, I thought I’d expand on it a little since after all, making long lists is the easy thing. So, what I’ve got here are key categories in contemporary theology and two books from 1981-2006 (though I tried to be as recent as possible, even cheating and including one book that’s technically from 2007) that I think are essential reading in that field. Maybe it’s cheating to include the full sets of Jenson, Jones and Pannenberg, but whatever. They’re still essential reading.

American Mainline Theology

  1. Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology, 2 Vols.
  2. Joe Jones, A Grammar of Christian Faith, 2 Vols.

American Evangelical Theology

  1. Kevin Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine
  2. Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

German Theology (Protestant)

  1. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, 3 Vols.
  2. Juergen Moltmann, The Crucified God

British Theology (Protestant)

  1. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory
  2. Colin Gunton, The One, The Three, and The Many

Catholic Theology

  1. J.-M.-R. Tillard, Church of Churches
  2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith

Eastern Orthodox Theology

  1. John Zizioulas, Being As Communion
  2. David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite

Liberation Theology

  1. Daniel Bell, Jr., Liberation Theology After the End of History
  2. J. Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account

Theological Ethics

  1. Stanley Hauerwas, With The Grain of the Universe
  2. Samuel Wells, God’s Companions

Old Testament

  1. Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament
  2. Brevard Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments

New Testament

  1. N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God
  2. Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament


  1. daniel greeson wrote:

    Very interesting that you put Joe Jones up there. When I was at the Ekklesia Project this past summer in Chicago I had the fortune to have breakfast with this fellow.
    I did not know it at the time exactly who I had strolled into the cafeteria with, but it was a pleasure to eat and talk with him.
    He and I shared somewhat distantly related ecclesial backgrounds. I, who grew up in the church of Christ branch of the Restoration movement and have since left, and he who has stayed within the Disciples of Christ branch of the Restoration movement. He was a very humble and gracious man and really put up with this young fool. He mentioned that Samuel Wells had given his book a good review also. I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet, it is a little bit expensive and I dont recall finding it on amazon or powells for cheap.
    I am interested to see what you thought were the high points of the book!

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 1:57 am | Permalink
  2. Ben Myers wrote:

    That’s a great list, Halden. I still haven’t gotten around to reading Joe Jones yet, but I like what I’ve seen of it.

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 3:46 am | Permalink
  3. St.Phransus wrote:

    great list!! in grad school i have encountered many of these theologians and everyone that you have listed that i have read has been a profound influence on shaping me theologically. thanks.


    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 5:02 am | Permalink
  4. Brian Hamilton wrote:

    Great list, indeed. I guess J. Kameron Carter’s book is the 2007 one, since I can only find references to its being forthcoming. Do you know of some précis that’s been written already? Carter’s bio on the Duke web site makes him sound enormously helpful, so I’m looking forward to seeing what this book is like.

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
  5. D.W. Congdon wrote:


    Excellent list! I’ll post my own in the next several days.

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 3:58 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    Thanks for all the comments, guys.

    Ben, Yes Joe Jones is an interesting theologian. The only competition he had for the list was James McClendon, who is also very important. In fact on the back of Jones’ book Stanley Hauewas comments that he, Jenson, and McClendon are the three most important American systematicians in recent history. I’m inclined to agree.


    Yes, Carter’s book is the 2007 one. I’m not yet sure when it will be out this year, but hopefully it will be soon. Essentially Carter completely calls into question the construction of modern race as a theological category. Basically he’s saying that the racial construction of ‘blackness’ is based on Constantinianism. In other words, the very idea of race as it has been constructed in Christendom and modernity is a distinctly theological problem requiring a theological answer. Another way of summarizing his argument is to say that the modern construction of race is actually a social-economic way of configuring the relationships between bodies (persons) in social space. Thus, blackness is constructed in such a way as to order the lives and relationships of persons in accordance with capitalism ,etc. And this way of configuring bodies (i.e. racially) is based on Christian theology, namely the form of Christian theology that gave rise to Christendom. Carter’s answer is to provide a different theological solution that is profoundly trinitarian and ecclesial. For him the modern construction of race (as a particular way of configuring bodies in relation) is radically reordered (and in fact destroyed) in baptism. Through being inducted into the body of Christ, the bodies of Christians are translated out of the configuration of relations that is the modern construction of race and into and entirely new social configuration that transcendes the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic polarity of oppression and racism. In other words, the church is the theological site at which the modern construction of race is essentially deconstructed and destroyed and persons are reconstructed eucharistically as members of the body of Christ which transcends every ethnos and brings all people into communion with one anthothe though Christ.

    Anyways, that’s a bit wordy, but hopefully that gets the gist across. I’ve met Carter a couple times and he’s an amazing speaker and theologian. Essentially I’d say that he is to black theology what William Cavanaugh and Daniel Bell are to liberation theology, if that helps put things in context. Although that would only help if you’ve read Cavanaugh and Bell. If not, do that before Carter’s book comes out and you’ll be well prepared! :)

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  7. ::aaron g:: wrote:

    thanks for this helpful list

    Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 2:22 am | Permalink

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