Ben, over at the fantastic Faith & Theology blog, has a poll on his sidebar (here) asking readers to cast their vote for the world’s best living theologian. Personally, I had a tough time choosing between the great Archbishop Rowan Williams (the world’s best pastoral theologian, as far as I’m concerned) and Robert Jenson (the world’s best systematic theologian). I tend to see these two theological giants as representing different needs that the church has always, and will always, have.
Like Paul, Jenson is all about epistemological crisis. With the advent of the resurrection of Christ, Paul had to re-think everything he knew about God. Jenson’s mission is to do for a 21st century audience what Paul did for his Jewish/Gentile audience. Neither is affiliated with a particular church, although both are very concerned with ecumenical affairs. In this sense, Jenson’s project is to re-orient the church in accordance with the radicality of the gospel found in the Christ event – to look at all things as becoming new. Therefore, according to Jenson, “theology is the thinking internal to the task of speaking the gospel, whether to humankind as message or to God in praise and petition”.
Like James, the brother of the Lord, Williams is an intellectually gifted pastor. His theology is always intended towards praxis, no matter how theoretical. His enduring faith in the unity of the Anglican church is a lesson to us all about the importance of relationships between Christians of different stripes. James, as the leader of the early Jerusalem church, wrote his epistle to the scattered tribes of Israel, and his intent was to unite them in a practical Christianity that visited orphans and widows, avoided all forms of hypocrisy, and refused to find fulfillment in monetary consumption. Williams, with all of his effort, has crossed the orthodox/progressive divide in order to bring all before the same bread and wine.
That’s why I love these two theologians.
But what do I love, when I love Thee? not beauty of bodies, nor the fair harmony of time, nor the brightness of the light, so gladsome to our eyes, nor sweet melodies of varied songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs acceptable to embracements of flesh. None of these I love, when I love my God; and yet I love a kind of light, and melody, and fragrance, and meat, and embracement when I love my God, the light, melody, fragrance, meat, embracement of my inner man: where there shineth unto my soul what space cannot contain, and there soundeth what time beareth not away, and there smelleth what breathing disperseth not, and there tasteth what eating diminisheth not, and there clingeth what satiety divorceth not. This is it which I love when I love my God.
– St. Augustine