Top Ten Most Influential Christian TheologiansChristian theologians are scholars that have studied the area of Christianity in depth. They are often the academics who defend the faith and explain the most difficult aspects of the faith. They are, arguably, some of the smartest people to have ever lived. Some have had an incredible influence in the Faith and theories have gained considerable amount of traction. Today we'll be looking at the ten most influential theologians. Note this list is not about the best, but instead who made the most significant changes to the thinking of the time and whose theories are still held as a staple in the Faith. For the purposes of this list, I will not be listing figures from the Bible such as Paul the Apostle, Simon Peter, or even Jesus himself. Hope you enjoy and feel free to comment or remix.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was by far the most influential theologian. Luther was the leader of the Reformation and spoke heavily against the Catholic Church. His arguments against the Papacy, transubstantiation, and indulgences in the form of the "95 Theses" were a watershed moment in the religious world. Luther also had very influential views regarding atonement and Sola Scriptura. He was one of the first theologians to openly develop Substitutionary Atonement (scholars disagree on whether Luther supported Penal Substitutionary Atonement). Luther was also one of the first theologians to endorse the Justification theory. A middle ground between Calvinism and Catholicism. Martin Luther's influence in the Faith cannot be understated.
I don't believe Christianity in any form but from the sounds of it he was very brave to challenge the Catholic Church as publicly as he did.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is immensely important in the Faith. He wrote the "Summa Theologica" which remains to this day one of the best books explaining theology. He touches on almost everything in the book. Aquinas was also one of the first Christian Apologist. Aquinas's Five Ways is taught in almost every denomination. Aquinas was a proponent of the satisfaction view of atonement. Despite being Catholic, Aquinas is one of the most highly respected and influential theologians in most churches.
Augustine (354-430) was one of the very first theologians. He wrote a lot on soul-body union and more philosophical ideas. He was the first theologians to develop a systematic view of amillennialism. Augustine also developed the City of God theory which is a beautiful piece of writing to comfort Christians. Augustine is most popular for his theories on original sin. This theory would be one of the staples of Catholicism and lead the way to infant baptism.
John Calvin (1509-1564) is obviously the key advocator of Calvinism. Calvinism has entrenched itself in many Church doctrines and is staunchly held to. Calvin takes a very radical view of predestination and even believes in double predestination which is the foundation of Calvinism. Calvin is also a Papal denier and transubstantiation denier like Luther, but splits with Luther on Sacraments, Calvin believing only Baptism and Communion are God ordained. Calvin was also an advocate of Substitutionary Atonement, limited Atonement, and was even an early supporter of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
Origen (185-253) was one of the earliest theologians. He was the very first person to propose the Ransom Theory of Atonement in its full form. One of his biggest teachings was the preexistence of souls. Origen was also an early Christological scholar. He significantly developed the ideas of the Trinity and the Logos. However, for some reason he believed that The Son was less than the Father and the Spirit was less than the Son.
Athanasius (296/298 - 373) was a very influential Church Father and theologian. He is most known for his passionate stand against Arianism and a key promoter of Trinitarianism. He was one of the biggest proponents for the homeostasis and the Logos. Athanasius was also the first person to list all 27 books of the New Testament we see today as Biblical canon.
Hugely influential, particularly in the first great awakening. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God remains one of the greatest sermons of all time.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was definitely more well known as a fiery preacher from the Revivalists era. He was one of the first "Fire and Brimstone" preachers. He is most known for his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". He was most definitely an ardent supporter of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. He was much more influential in the world of preaching, but he did have great theological influence.
Not much is known about Ignatius, but it has been said that he was a follower of John the Apostle. He was one of the first people to promote the change from Sabbath to the Lord's Day. He was also a early advocate of the Deity of Christ. He was the first person to endorse a single bishop at the head of the Church and he used the word Catholic when describing the Church (though all Catholic means is universal and was used way before this time).
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) is definitely more well known as a author and Christian Apologist. His theology slips into his writing though. He is an advocate for Ransom Theory Atonement and Christus Victor. He is also famous for Lewis's Trilemma which is used in Apologetics, but is also very theological in essence. Thank you for reading this list!
I knew that his stories had Christian allegories but I didn't know he was considered an actual theologian.
John Wesley (1703-1791) was another revival preacher and was one of the biggest advocates of Arminianism which set him at odds with Calvinist. Him and his brother, Charles, were advocates of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. John Wesley was also one of the first people to invite woman preaching.
Spurgeon deserves higher. He was a great Biblical teacher and will always inspire me with his simple yet beautiful messages. He also led the largest protestant church of his time.
Spurgeon was one of the best preachers ever, but theology wasn't his biggest priorities.