One of the blogs that I read regularly is by Dan Dick (you can link to it at United Methodeviations on my link list). In the last couple of days, Dan posted what he is calling a Theological Smackdown, an attempt to classify the greatest theologians by their "weight class" as in boxing. I thought it would be interesting to see what you all might have to say on this, and well as challenging myself to come up with a listing. To that end, I'm using Dan's original criteria below, but adding a couple of conditions. First added condition, you are only allowed 12 theologians per category (i.e. 12 Heavyweights) and of those 12, half must be pre-modern and half modern or post-modern. Secondly each category and sub-category must include a woman. Dan's criteria include:
Heavyweight — those who do foundational theological reflection, characterized by originality, deep philosophical and practical reflection, and challenging the status quo and conventional wisdom of the day. Those who shape the thinking of others in significant ways. Identifying a heavyweight in no way implies that I agree with everything they say — only that their influence is unmistakable.
Light heavyweight — those who synthesize and adapt the deep theological reflections of the heavyweights. Not original thinkers, but incredibly adept at “connecting the dots” of others.
Middle weights — those who recycle important concepts into modern language and culture. Much of the thinking is derivative at best, but while there is little or no originality, there is a powerful ability to communicate and impact people’s thinking.
Light/welter/featherweights — those whose thinking is derivative and fairly simplistic. This is not to say that there is no value in the theology, just that it is basic and offers substance to newcomers and novices only. Those who have “trained, practiced, and conditioned” for more challenging matches will find little helpful or valuable here for their own continued development. I’m not going to name specific writers/thinkers/theologians in this category because I don’t want to sound like I am devaluing what they offer to the church. They primarily provide an entrance into the faith
So, with that in mind here's my list:
Heavyweights - PRE: Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Hildegaard of Bingen, Origen
POST: Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder, Elizabeth Johnson, Karl Rahner, Rudolf Bultmann, Reinhold Neihbur
Light Heavyweights - PRE: St. Francis, Huldrych Zwingli, John Wesley, John Calvin, St. Benedict, Julian of Norwich; POST: Moltman, Walter Brueggemann, Stanley Hauerwas, Luke Timothy Johnson, Gustavo Guiterrez, Amy-Jill Levine
Middleweights - PRE: Irenaeus, Tertullian,Clement,St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Terea of Avila, POST: Rowan Williams, Joan Chittister, N.T. Wright, John Crossan, Jon Sobrino, Walter Rauschenbush
So, what do you think?