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  #46  
Old Mar 5, '13, 2:08 pm
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Khalid Khalid is offline
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Default Re: Top Five Christian Thinkers/Theologians/Philosophers??

Christopher Nolan was beyond amazing - I'm talking Darren Aronofsky good - when he did such films as "Memento", but he went downhill sharply when he started doing Batman. I think he tried to turn a superhero movie in to a psychological film, and failed at making a compelling film, a good superhero, or a believable psychological search or tension.
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  #47  
Old Mar 5, '13, 2:38 pm
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Khalid Khalid is offline
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Default Re: Top Five Christian Thinkers/Theologians/Philosophers??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swiss Guy View Post
All Star team (of 5):
1St. Paul
2St. Augustine of Hippo
3St. Thomas Aquinas
4St. Bonaventure
5St. Anselm of Canterbury
After two years, it seems like a general consensus has developed around these contours, and, as I've discerned a vocation, and learned vastly more theology (already I was probably in the graduate-student ranks, when I first entered this thread almost three years ago), I can not possibly see how any of the above would not enter a list, except maybe for St Bonaventura in fifth place, which would be either St Athanasius or Origen, or Ss Leo the Great or Cyril of Alexandria.

Modern thinkers - maybe solely due to an accident of time, that they were not born during the formative years of Christianity, were not raised up by God during the debates that Providence resolved in to the fundamental doctrines of God-given religion - can not compare for sheer influence, nor, often, for sheer brilliance, as too often they are derivative of one of the aforementioned, as indeed they must be, as the aforementioned were such giants, who ranged so widely across the Earth. The only important debates we really have going today within any form of "actual Christianity" (thus disregarding Unitarians, ones who have done away with Biblical morality, etc.) are three (in no particular order): 1) Biblical authority (which contains evolutionism, creationism, and the age of the earth; the role of women; Christian morality; etc., etc.) 2) Papal authority (the Filioque boils down to this, as does azymes, and pretty much every point of divergence with Orthodoxy), and 3) the authority and inspiration of the deuterocanonical books.

And, however important I believe creationism to be, it is not as fundamental as Trinitarianism, not by ten thousand miles, nor as fundamental as grace. Nor is complementarianism. Now, I think that Christianity will cease to exist, if something other than strict creationism prevails: but Christianity never would have existed, nor would have creationism even have been considered (although, through Jewish influence, patriarchy/complementarianism still would have been) if not for men like Paul, and Athanasius, and Augustine.

Christianity as we know it would not exist without the labors of those men listed above that God raised up:

St Paul wrote most of the New Testament, and elucidated and unpacked the often-cryptic theology of Jesus and the nascent Christians. The Bible would not exist if not for St Paul.

St Augustine elucidated and unpacked St Paul, and gave us an understanding of both Church and Grace, and laid the groundwork for all Western theology to follow. As has been said, "Western philosophy consists of a series of appendices to Plato", it is equally good and true to say "Western theology consists of a series of appendices to Augustine". The Western doctrines of grace and sin, and the universal doctrine of Church, would not exist if not for St Augustine.

St Athanasius pretty much single-handedly worked out the doctrine of Trinity in a cohesive manner; he was the first to teach and define what the church has always confessed and believed (using the Vincentian canon). The doctrine of the Trinity would likely not exist, if not for St Athanasius.

St Anselm pretty much innovated out of whole cloth an idea of the atonement - which was severely underdeveloped until his own time - which made sense from within the penitential and sacrificial system of the Church, and which made sense from within Patristics (even if it took them in a direction foreign to the mind of the Fathers), and from philosophy. The Western doctrine of the atonement would not exist without St Anselm.

St Thomas Aquinas synthesized all of the above in to one coherent whole, while at the same time baptizing a resurgent Aristotelianism, which could have ended in disaster. Without a man like St Thomas raised up by God, Aristotelianism in its Averroist form may have carried the day. It may have caused a schism. It may have driven all of civilization down a different road, so that the modern West was never born. Without St Thomas Aquinas, pagan philosophy would likely have never been baptized, and all of Christianity may have gone down the road of Tertullian, saying: "What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?", and we would not have a coherent, self-sustaining system of doctrine.


Now, my list for moderns is going to change dramatically from a few years ago:

1. Cornelius Van Til, a raging anti-Catholic but the most original Christian thinker (tied with John Henry Newman) since the counter-Reformation.
1.1 John Henry Cardinal Newman, for his Essay on the Development of Doctrine.
2. Greg Bahnsen, his disciple (Van Til's, that is).
3. Alvin Plantinga, a philosopher par excellence, whose three-volume series on warrant sets the terms for the modern discussion of epistemology.
4. Etienne Gilson, for revitalizing scholasticism, but possibly causing its downfall
5. The Modern Creation Scientists and Exegetes, such as Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, taken as a whole, receiving a massive promotion from my "most deleterious" list, to the bottom of my "most meritorious" list.

Honorable mentions: Karl Barth. Seraphim (Eugene) Rose. Hans Urs von Balthasar. Vladimir Lossky.

Now, for my "most deleterious" list - these men are in the top-five-most-influential list, too:

1. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Now I have a bitter taste upon my tongue....

Well, I'm now despondent. I don't want to have to think of the next-four-most-deleterious. That one is enough for any ten others.
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Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

Above all things Truth beareth away the victory: ... great is Truth, mighty above all things. - III Esdras 3:12,4:41

Last edited by Khalid; Mar 5, '13 at 2:53 pm.
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  #48  
Old Mar 5, '13, 7:13 pm
Charlemagne II Charlemagne II is offline
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Default Re: Top Five Christian Thinkers/Theologians/Philosophers??

St. Augustine
St. Thomas Aquinas
Blaise Pascal
John Henry Newman
G.K. Chesterton

Jacques Maritain (at his best)
Fulton J. Sheen (at his best)
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Last edited by Charlemagne II; Mar 5, '13 at 7:32 pm.
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  #49  
Old Mar 5, '13, 9:50 pm
jimmy jimmy is offline
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Default Re: Top Five Christian Thinkers/Theologians/Philosophers??

Maximus the Confessor
Kierkegaard
Gregory Palamas
Gregory Nazianzen
Cyril of Alexandria
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  #50  
Old Mar 6, '13, 12:43 pm
PoliSciProf PoliSciProf is offline
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Default Re: Top Five Christian Thinkers/Theologians/Philosophers??

Here are six who didn't make anyone's list but should have:

Thomas Merton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Storey_Mount

John Courtney Murray, SJ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Courtney_Murray

Stanley Jaki, OSB http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Jaki

Reinhold Niebuhr: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinhold_Niebuhr

Michael Novak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Novak

Jean Bethke Elshtein: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Bethke_Elshtain
( I recommend her Who Are We?)
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Last edited by PoliSciProf; Mar 6, '13 at 12:53 pm.
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  #51  
Old Mar 6, '13, 3:47 pm
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Khalid Khalid is offline
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Default Re: Top Five Christian Thinkers/Theologians/Philosophers??

Niebuhr was the leading Protestant intellectual of the mid-20th century, but did he leave any lasting contribution?

Michael Novak, as well-known as he is, strikes me as a "talking head of Catholicism" - a pundit and commentator - both in his liberal and conservative eras, more than a serious theologian.

Murray certainly did, but it's not in a direction I think is good - the Church to come to terms with modern liberal democracy pretty much through his influence. He had a major impact on Church-state relations, maybe more than anyone else in history.

Merton (an American Trappist) is like a Kempis or the anonymous author of The Way of a Pilgrim or Bunyan: incredibly influential in common spirituality and/or capturing the dominant trends of spirituality of the age and circumstances, but with little impact on doctrine. (For example, not many people realize that The Imitation of Christ is a polemic against philosophy.)

This list could probably be profitably broken down in to three:

1. Top Five Christian Doctrinal Thinkers (Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Athanasius, etc., those who I've included in my list)
2. Top Five Christian Social Thinkers (Murray, etc.)
3. Top Five Christian Spirituality Writers (Merton, a Kempis, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Teresa of Jesus, Teresa of Lisieux, etc.)

Or even four, being 4. Top Five Defenders of Christianity (which would have some overlap with all of the above, more with doctrinal than anything else).
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Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

Above all things Truth beareth away the victory: ... great is Truth, mighty above all things. - III Esdras 3:12,4:41
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  #52  
Old Mar 6, '13, 7:08 pm
PoliSciProf PoliSciProf is offline
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Default Re: Top Five Christian Thinkers/Theologians/Philosophers??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Khalid View Post
Niebuhr was the leading Protestant intellectual of the mid-20th century, but did he leave any lasting contribution?

Michael Novak, as well-known as he is, strikes me as a "talking head of Catholicism" - a pundit and commentator - both in his liberal and conservative eras, more than a serious theologian.

Murray certainly did, but it's not in a direction I think is good - the Church to come to terms with modern liberal democracy pretty much through his influence. He had a major impact on Church-state relations, maybe more than anyone else in history.

Merton (an American Trappist) is like a Kempis or the anonymous author of The Way of a Pilgrim or Bunyan: incredibly influential in common spirituality and/or capturing the dominant trends of spirituality of the age and circumstances, but with little impact on doctrine. (For example, not many people realize that The Imitation of Christ is a polemic against philosophy.)

This list could probably be profitably broken down in to three:

1. Top Five Christian Doctrinal Thinkers (Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Athanasius, etc., those who I've included in my list)
2. Top Five Christian Social Thinkers (Murray, etc.)
3. Top Five Christian Spirituality Writers (Merton, a Kempis, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Teresa of Jesus, Teresa of Lisieux, etc.)

Or even four, being 4. Top Five Defenders of Christianity (which would have some overlap with all of the above, more with doctrinal than anything else).
I think we are in agreement re your list of 3 (perhaps 4). My interests are in political philosophy rather than theology hence my focus in composing my list. None are in the same league as your first top five list (not many are!) but they all address significant moral and ethical issues of our nihilistic age and in doing so continue the dialogue between Athens and Jerusalem. And, they speak to both scholars and the laity--not an easy task. I could argue that the preservation (and extension) of theology in our age is at least as important as the laying of doctrinal foundations. In short, they make it difficult to glibly dismiss the Christian sensibility and Christian thinkers. Too much of contemporary discourse takes the form of "Shut up! he explained." [Ring Lardner's phrase] Those on my list of Christian political thinkers are not impressed by this argument. Of course their staying power remains to be seen though I think Murray, Merton, Niebhur and perhaps Elshtain will be read for quite some time. Jaki needs to be rediscovered especially by those who specialize in philosophy of science. By the way, I am sure you realize that my list was meant to stir this thread up a bit. I was glad to read your remarks.
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