Monday, January 05, 2009

A Theologian to Study

In John Piper's book, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, readers are encouraged to select a theologian to study over the course of their entire lives. I love that idea. Granted, part of that section of the book annoyed me-- he said that ancient guides were much better than modern ones. In other words, we can learn a lot more from Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and John Owen than we can from Jack Hayford, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren; and I just don't buy that. I believe God has placed prophets and disciple-making men and women in every era of church history. Anyway...enough disclaimer...

So...Piper picked Jonathan Edwards, and I think it really shows in his preaching. Who would you pick?

10 Comments:

At 11:40 AM, Blogger joe said...

dietrich bonhoeffer. i claimed him about 4 years ago.

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes - and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent”

"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die"

 
At 12:34 PM, OpenID crauser said...

I have been wanting to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer but I also enjoy Henri Nouwen a great deal.

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just telling Heather last night that mine would probably be Bonhoeffer. Although Nouwen is also a great idea. Hmm....

-Ryan Z

 
At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Will Johnston said...

Hmm, that's a good question. I'd have to think about it for a while. However, I do think that I would be more inclined to choose a historical figure rather than a modern one.

People like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels are great men/women of God. However, Church leaders of old, at least the ones we remember, have stood the test of time. Undoubtedly there were many people doing amazing things for God during the first millennium of the church, but Augustine stands above all others from that period (barring Biblical figures). As we look forward we find people such as Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth.

There were thousands of theologians that have lived over the past 2000 years, but a few stand out from the crowd. Rick Warren and Bill Hybels will certainly be figures in Church history, perhaps significant ones but perhaps not. Only time can tell us.

That's not to say that studying one's contemporaries isn't worthwhile. I would read their books and listen to them speak, but I think I would be less inclined to make any of them the figure around whom I centered my theological study.

Then again, I'm sure plenty of arguments could be made in the other direction. :)

 
At 7:11 PM, Blogger Heather Z said...

I totally agree, Will. I didn't mean to suggest that perhaps we should consider a contemporary leader to revolve our theological explorations around. Simply saying that Piper's claim that we can't learn much of worthwhile from the new guys was ridiculous (to avoid a conversation that we've already had on that topic here). I should have made it clearer that I was referring to historical figures whose entire bodies of works we can draw from (and people who ended well) I totally agree with you on that. But I'm still going to read as much as I can from Warren and Hybels! :)

 
At 7:56 PM, Blogger Pat said...

I actually have 4 -- 2 men & 2 women: A.W. Tozer; Jeanne Guyon; Andrew Murray and Teresa of Avila.

 
At 11:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point, Will. It's like they say -- you should never name anything after someone until they've passed away, because you never know how they're going to finish up.

In favor of the (relatively) contemporary folks, however, I would just point out that often the more recently someone lived, the fewer cultural differences you need to account for. I think Piper and Jonathan Edwards are a case in point. Piper advocates Edwards' style of preaching wholeheartedly as an example to be followed today. I'm not entirely convinced that's a good idea -- Edwards was preaching to a pretty different culture which likely responded to his messages differently than they'd be received today.

-Ryan (I really need to remember by blogger username...)

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger Brett said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger Todd Gorton said...

Maybe if we all spent as much time reading Hybels and Warren reading theologians like Paul, Timothy, Peter and James our communion in this world would look more like heaven than earth.

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Nate Meyer said...

Mine would probably be John Donne. I love that guy (although Spurgeon comes in a close second). If you're unfamiliar with Donne, he's the one that coined the phrase, "No man is an island..."

 

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