Monday, September 19, 2022

Who is there and who is missing?

A while ago I read a FIRST THINGS post with the auspicious title: Seven Protestant Theologians Every Catholic Should Read.  You might take a gander.  At first I thought it was satire.  I mean really -- Harvey Cox???  After perusing the article it is clear that it is not a joke or humor of any kind.  Now what are you supposed to make of it?

There was no Lutheran on the list.  Interesting.  I guess that is because Lutherans are not really Protestants in the sense that term is usually used so I should be comforted that no Lutheran (good or bad) was on the list.  As I thought about it, however, it did infuriate me.  Apparently either Lutherans are marginal when it comes to heavyweights in the theological arena or else Lutherans are not considered all that important.  In any case, Roman Catholics ought to be paying more attention to confessional Lutherans than they should to somebody like Harvey Cox.

The theologians on the list seem to all fall around those who celebrate the new forms of religiosity arising worldwide -- so I should be glad we Lutherans did not show up on such a list.  That is about the last thing that needs to be shared with Rome.  Rome has its own problems with pachamamas and popes who send unclear signals about what is to be believed and what is not so important.  We Lutherans have some who consider themselves part of the clan but whose theology sounds more reformed (dare I say it?  deformed) than Lutheran and we seem to have the same problem as Rome does in trying to set the boundaries of orthodoxy.  So perhaps it is good that our mess is not paraded as a must read for [Roman] Catholics.

It does bring up a real question.  Who are the best voices of the various traditions of Christianity -- those who deny their faith or weasel out of what is believed or those who faithfully confess what is believed without apology or embarrassment?  Honestly, I thought that FIRST THINGS would have made sure it was the latter and not the former whose views were put on the pages of a journal dedicated to where orthodoxy and politics intersect.  But it just goes to show you that you cannot count on most things these days.  I wonder what Richard John Neuhaus would have thought of such a list?  Is there a value to lists like these?  Is it merely subjective or is there something more objective that would encourage the reading of good theological books?

There is not a small amount of overkill in the article:  Stanley Hauerwas is the most discussed and debated (living) theologian in the Anglo-American world.  I know Hauerwas and have a volume or two of his in my library but the idea that he is the most discussed and debated living theologian in the Anglo-American world is a stretch.  In the end, lists like these tell as much about the one who puts them together as they do about the people on that list. 

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