Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Invitation to Guest Series: Recovering Neglected Theologians

Okay, theology bloggers.  I hereby invite entries for a series of guest posts on Recovering Neglected Theologians.  What theologian (perhaps especially from your own denomination or theological tradition) has lapsed into obscurity–or is in danger of such–and deserves to be more widely read and appreciated–and why? Each entry should be submitted to my email. I will go to several theo-blogs and biblio-blogs and invite people to participate, but don’t wait for an invitation if you are interested.

For the purposes of this series, we can define “theologian” rather broadly: Not just academics who teach/have taught systematic theology (dogmatics, constructive theology), but also pastor theologians if they have a body of publications and have been influential beyond their local congregation.  Biblical scholars count if they attempt biblical theology instead of only writing as historians or philologists or archeologists or literary critics.  Likewise, with church historians who write as historical theologians (e.g. Jaraslov Pelikan, Geoffrey Bromiley, Justo Gonzalez, Timothy George, etc.) instead of simply as antiquarians or social historians.

I strongly believe in interfaith dialogue, but for this series, I am not interested in submissions about non-Christian theologians. This is to be an in-house discussion among Christians, although interested outside observers are always welcome.

Each entry should name the neglected theologian, describe their work and context in 2-4 brief paragraphs, and say why you think said person should be rediscovered by the Church universal or even by those in her or his own tradition who are now neglicting her or him.  I have in mind primarily figures from 19th C. onward (the modern and “postmodern” eras), but will take entries from the 2nd C. onward throughout the history of the Church and in any cultural or denominational context.

This was inspired by Ben Myers’ series a few years ago, “For the Love of God,” and by some recent reading I’ve been doing. I hope entries will be lively, humorous, and upbeat–the intention is not to put down others as we build up our neglected favorites.  Even the most influential theologians (e.g., the Cappadocians or John of Damascus in the Eastern Churches, Augustine, Thomas, Calvin, Wesley, Barth, etc. in the West) go through periods of neglect–and sometimes periods of revival. The “revivals” can take a “fundamentalist” form (for lack of a better term) in which one tries to simply demand that the church today believe every word of said bygone saint or creative retrievals in which certain features of said theologian’s work are highlighted and reexamined in light of new challenges in new contexts. It will come as no surprise that I think the latter is more fruitful.

I hope this will be fun and profitable. If I participate myself, it will be after others have taken the lead–giving readers a break from my voice all the time on this blog.

UPDATE: Please, do NOT use the comments section to ask me about certain theologians. Just submit an entry to my email. Try for 1,500 to 2000 words as a rough length.  It’s not up to ME to judge if so-and-so neglected theologian is worthy of recovery. YOU who submit entries will make that judgment–and give an argument for why they need to be recovered to readers of Levellers–and your own blogs if you reprint them. Clear?


August 1, 2008 - Posted by | church history, testimony, theology, tradition


  1. I’m not qualified to write a post about him, but Jacques Ellul still has a great deal of importance to say to the church in contemporary society.

    Comment by Curious Presbyterian | August 1, 2008

  2. You are absolutely right, CP, and I hope someone does write on Ellul.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 2, 2008

  3. How about Matthias Scheeben, Emile Mersch, or Eric Mascall?


    Comment by Philip McCosker | August 4, 2008

  4. Well, Philip, if you’d care to argue for recovering any of these folk, send me a guest post by email and I’ll look it over and probably put it in the series. How’s that sound? So far, I have had plenty of interest, but no volunteers for the guest posts, so this series may not get anywhere.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 4, 2008

  5. I can do an entry on the Venerable Bede, if you think him worthy.

    Tim F.

    Comment by Tim F. | August 4, 2008

  6. Tim, the idea is for people to do guest posts on neglected theologians THEY find worthy. So, if you would like to profile the Venerable Bede and highlight his relevance for today, by all means, send me the entry. Since I know next to nothing about him, I would learn a great deal. This is one of my goals for this series–that I and others learn from the guest posts, whether or not we come to share the guest posters’ enthusiasm for their respective theologians.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 4, 2008

  7. How about British Methodist Theologian Richard Watson (early 19th century) and his 2 volume Theological Institutes.

    Comment by Matt R. | August 4, 2008

  8. Sure, Matt.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 4, 2008

  9. Although he was not strictly speaking I would suggest William Blake. Because he had a lot to say of theologicl significance, most of which is very relevant to now time.

    He was a rare being in Western religious history since the Renaissance in that he was still in touch with the Radiance of being, uch Radiance being the wellspring and source of all true religion and culture.

    He was also a tenchant critique of Newtons sleep and its one-dimensional spirit-radiance killing “reason”.

    A sleep to which the vast majority of his fellow country- men had already fallen in to. So to for Europeans altogether—wherever they were geographically on the planet, including the “colonies”.

    Comment by Sue | August 4, 2008

  10. Sue, submit an entry and make your case for William Blake there as a guest post, please.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 6, 2008

  11. I wonder could I present James Alison who is a great Catholic theologian but only among Catholics or Herbert McCabe perhaps.

    Comment by Andrew Bourne | August 25, 2008

  12. Send me an email submission about either Alison or McCabe, Bourne.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 25, 2008

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