Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Great Theologians: An Interview with Gerald McDermott

While shopping at a local used bookstore recently I came across a book that caught my eye, The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide by Gerald McDermott. The book offered a survey of the top eleven theologians (as the author sees it) in church history. The eleven theologians are as follows:
  1. Origen: The Greatest Teacher After the Apostles
  2. Athanasius: The Black Monk Who Saved the Faith
  3. Augustine: The Most Influential Theologian Ever
  4. Thomas Aquinas: The Teacher of the Catholic Church 
  5. Martin Luther: The Monk Who Rose Up Against Heaven and Earth 
  6. John Calvin: The Greatest Theologian of the Reformed Tradition
  7. Jonathan Edwards: America's Theologian 
  8. Friedrich Schleiermacher: Father of Liberal Theology 
  9. John Henry Newman: Anglican Theologian Who swam the Tiber
  10. Karl Barth: Most Influential Twentieth-Century Theologian 
  11. Hans Urs von Balthasar: Stellar Catholic Theologian of the Twentieth Century

Monday I published my review of McDermott's book (read it here) and he was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about theology in general and the book in particular. Dr. Gerald McDermott earned his Ph.D in religion at the University of Iowa and is an Anglican priest who serves as the teaching pastor at St. John Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Roanoke, VA. He is also the Jordan-Trexler professor of religion at Roanoke College and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. He blogs at Northampton Seminar

In the short interview below, I seek to ask questions that the author was not asked in his interview with Trevin Wax (Who Are the Great Theologians? A Conversation with Gerald McDermott) and I encourage you to read that interview as well.

1. If you were to write a second volume of The Great Theologians, who would be the next 5 or so?

How about nine? Hah! Here they are: Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa or Basil the Great, Anselm, Teresa of Avila, John Wesley, Charles Hodge, CS Lewis, Simone Weil, Benedict XVI.

2. Of these eleven theologians, you have written the most on Jonathan Edwards. Why? What separates him from the other theologians in history?

He did more with God's beauty than anyone else in the history of Christian thought. That is particularly attractive in a postmodern era. It is also extremely helpful for both apologetics and personal piety.

3. Several modern theologians, such as Drs. Millard Erickson (in his book Christian Theology, 65) and Roger Olson (Where have all the [theological] giants gone?) have lamented the lack of theological giants in our day. Do you agree with that and if so where have all the theological giants gone?

I disagree. There is one--Benedict XVI. Now before evangelicals scream, let me tell them that the very first sentence in his recent The Faith is, "The most important thing in life is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Benedict knew Luther's critique of later medieval Catholic theology and basically agreed with it. He is a master of not only biblical scholarship but also historical theology and even the world religions. I would recommend to your readers his 3-volume Jesus of Nazareth.

4. The majority of the readers of this blog are Protestant and many of them are of the Reformed tradition. If you were to write a book called The Great Theologians of the Reformation, outside of Martin Luther and John Calvin, which five theologians of the 16th century would you include in your book?

The same ones Timothy George masterfully portrayed in his Theology of the Reformers: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Menno Simons.

For more:
"The Great Theologians" by Gerald McDermott: A Review
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Living

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