The 40 Greatest Theologians
Throughout history, there have been a large number of
people who have contributed significantly to our
understanding of God and how He works. These
theologians have shed light on religious and spiritual
matters, and even directed the course of human
history. Learning about these theologians can be a
great way to help you find out more about your own
If you are interested in learning more about theology
and spiritual traditions, you can read the words of the
great theologians. Often, we focus on Christian
theologians, since here in the West Christian theology
has had a profound influence on society. This list
focuses mostly on great Christian theologians, but also
includes some influential non-Christian theologians.
Here are 40 great theologians from throughout history:
Early Christian Theologians
Technically, early Christianity is considered as
Christianity prior to 325 A.D. However, for the purpose
of this list, the theologians included are those up
through the Reformation. Early Christian theologians
helped shape the course of Christianity for the course
1. St. Ignatius of Antioch: Also known as Theophorus is
considered on of the Apostolic Fathers, and was the
third bishop of Antioch. His letters have been preserved
as evidence of early Christian theology.
2. Polycarp: Another influential father of Christianity. His
exhortations to avoid materialism are considered part
of Christian theology, and he was enthusiastic in
combating heresies. His martyrdom is considered one
of the defining points of Christianity.
3. Clement of Alexandria: Clement was known for his
combination of Greek philosophical traditions with
4. Saint Augustine: One of the most authoritative figures
in Christian theology is Saint Augustine, who
successfully completed the merger of Greek
philosophical practice and Judeo-Christian religious
traditions. His treatises on authority and other
theological issues have influenced Christian tradition
5. Saint Jerome: Widely considered one of the most
learned of church fathers, Jerome translated the Bible
into Latin, providing one of the most important texts in
the Catholic church.
6. Gregory the Great: This pope was very influential as a
theologian who revised worship and wrote prolifically
about theology and spirituality.
7. Bernard of Clairvaux: This advisor to five different
popes wrote eloquently about different matters of
doctrine, especially on the love of God, and on humility.
8. Francis of Assisi: This saint became devoted to
austerity after making some wild choices in his youth.
He is one of the most well-known theologians, and had
much to do with the development different orders
within the Catholic church.
The Reformation is generally considered to last from
1517 to 1648. This was a time period marked by
transformative theology. Learning about reformation
theologians can help you find out more about your
faith and spirituality.
9. Martin Luther: Many religious scholars pinpoint the
beginning of the Reformation from when Martin Luther
nailed the 95 Theses to the door of church. Luther
directed religious thought for centuries.
10. John Calvin: A French reformist who broke with the
Catholic church and helped with Protestant reform
efforts, influencing Christian theology and religion.
11. John Knox: Brought the Reformation to Scotland, and
rose in the ranks of the Church of England, contributing
to the Book of Common Prayer.
12. Teresa of Avila: This saint reformed Carmelite nuns,
and was a prominent theological thinker, and apologist
13. John Hooker: Theologian who was instrumental in bring
reason and tolerance to the Church of England. His
influence has been felt in Anglicanism for centuries.
14. Richard Baxter: One of the leading Puritan theologians,
he was a non-conformist who influenced Christianity
through his writings and hymns.
15. John Milton: His polemic writings have had a great deal
of influence on theology, as well as serving under
16. Jacob Boehme: A free thinker whose writings have
been theologically influential.
During periods of religious awakening, theologians
often appear to provide new insights into theology and
other weighty matters of the spirit. The great
theologians of the “Awakenings” in 1727, 1792, 1830,
1857, 1882, and 1904, can provide some great insight
into the development of religion.
17. Jonathan Edwards: One of the most important
philosophers and theologians of American revivals,
Edwards focused on determination and harmony.
18. Charles Wesley: Leader of the Methodist movement,
and a theologian with a number of writings, and known
for his hymns.
19. John Wesley: Like his brother Charles, John Wesley was
known as a religious thinker who helped lead the
20. George Whitefield: This revivalist helped bring the
Great Awakening to Britain and influential in the
21. William Booth: Founder of the Salvation Army, and a
theologian instrumental in providing aid to those who
needed it. The Salvation Army is well-known
throughout the world.
22. Joseph Smith, Jr.: Founder of the Latter-day Saint
movement, Smith was known for his new theology for
that time. He was inspired by the revivals of the Second
23. William Burt Pope: Theologian focusing on the “big
picture” of Christianity, and a linguist who translated
24. Soren Kierkegaard: A prominent theologian that
focused on the practice of Christianity. Considered one
of the first existentialists.
Even today, Christianity is changing. Theologians offer
insight into the word of God, and new ideas about
religion are always emerging. You can keep up with the
latest in understanding religion and God with some of
the modern theologians.
25. Karl Barth: The father of “neo-orthodoxy” and
influential in the movement to reject theological
26. Gordon Clark: Well-known American philosopher and
theologian, his ideas of scripturalism have influenced
modern Christian thinking.
27. C.S. Lewis: One of the most well-known modern
Christian theologians. Also known for his fiction, much
of which contains Christian undertones.
28. Joseph Ratzinger: The current pope, Benedict XVI, is a
well-known academic and theologian who continues to
influence the direction of the Catholic church.
29. John Stott: A noted leader of the modern evangelical
movement worldwide, and a theologian whose writings
30. Albert Schweitzer: Medical missionary and religious
philosopher who challenged many commonly held
views from skeptics and Christians alike. He was
awarded a Nobel prize in philosophy.
31. Marilyn McCord Adams: Prominent religious
philosopher looking into theology, and teaching
philosophy to the next generation of theologians.
32. Elizabeth Stuart: A feminist theologist specializing in
Other religions have their own theologians as well. If
you are interested in understanding the teachings of
other spiritual traditions, and if you want to understand
other ideas of religion and deity, you can learn from
some of these great historical theologians.
33. Abraham Joshua Heschel: One of the leading Jewish
theologians of the 20th Century.
34. Rachel Adler: An influential Jewish theologian, focusing
especially on gender issues and Jewish law.
35. Prophet Muhammad: The founder of Islam is
considered one of the foremost theologians in the
world — someone whose view of theology has shaped
the world for centuries.
36. Leila Ahmed: The first women’s studies professor at
Harvard Divinity School, Ahmed is interested in gender
studies in Islam.
37. Buddha: While possibly not truly a theologian,
Buddha’s spiritual teachings nevertheless have
influenced millions of people through centuries.
38. Ketut Wiana: One of the foremost scholars of Hindu
theology in the world today, and an expert Agama
39. Baháu’lláh: This Persian nobleman and theologian is
the founder of the Baha’i faith — someone who has
influenced spiritual thinking for the past 150 years.
40. Confucius: While Confucianism doesn’t espouse a
specific theology, there are spiritual elements involved,
and his thoughts on spirituality, and metaphysics have
been influential over thousands of years.
posted by Team Napres