I was recently asked a sort of two fold question. The first fold was my list of theologians who have had the greatest impact on me. This wasn't a difficult question for me. In order I would say John Calvin, N.T. Wright and Karl Barth. That's hardly a reassuring list to conservative evangelicals. Any attempt to extend beyond my top three would include theologians of more conservative backgrounds but they wouldn't come close to these top three. R.C. Sproul and Alistair Begg would be mentioned. Augustus Strong would be on the list. And rounding out the list would be some fringe names like William Inge, Markus Barth and Athanasius.
The second fold was the same question but with living theologians. This is surprisingly more simple. Some of the same people show up. But there are also some new names. This is my attempt to answer that question.
This selection is controversial for conservatives. It shouldn't be. But anyone who challenges the normative language of the church often revives the evil eye. Wright is one of those guys.
His views on justification have raised more than a few eyebrows. And his full doctrine on the subject can't be accepted blindly. But his views on the kingdom of heaven, the Kingship of Christ and the historicity of the resurrection make him an invaluable resource to the modern church.
I don't think I am exaggerating when I say he is the most important Theologian, and Christian, alive right now. He is a prolific author and his writing will be the foundation of the church for generations.
Sproul is the most important Reformed teacher of our day. He has been teaching in the Reformed tradition for decades. The clarity of his teaching is second to none. The warmness of his spirit is matched by few.
These features make Sproul an invaluable resource for all people wanting to learn theology in the comfort of their home. His videos are fantastic and cover the full scope of the Scriptures. His books will continue to be irreplaceable for the church.
In many ways Gentry is the theologian with the least cultural impact of the group. While being a great teacher on multiple subjects Mr Gentry is the best teacher I can recommend on eschatology. His preterist understanding of Daniel, the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation are the best available.
His books remain the standard on Preterism and Postmillennialism. Everyone who comes after him will have to study him. Those who disagree will need to refute him. His best books are written at a very high level. But his efforts in the Made Easy series are to be commended. In this laymen format he has written on postmillennialism, the Olivet Discourse, the book of Revelation, predestination and God's law (theonomy).
This addition is unique. Bishop Ware serves in the Eastern Orthodox Church. British by birth and Anglican for much of his early life, Ware has provided profound insight into the EOC for me. His writings on the history and doctrine of the church remain the most important writings for people interested in the EOC.
For the EOC, his writing has greatly increased their public exposure and helped remove many false stereotypes in the western world. Far from "essential" for Protestants, Bishop Ware immediately becomes a warm and pleasant walking partner when evaluating the old church. For those studying church history he is a must. For those interested in expanding their theological universe, he is an essential gateway.
I'm just running the gauntlet on less than conservative recommendations. Doug Wilson is a great theologian. A consistent preterist and postmillennialist. A devout Reformed thinker who has some social taint for his affiliation with the Federal Vision. While all that stuff is good to know, it isn't the reason he is on the list.
Doug is on the list because of his extensive writing on the family. He really has covered a large scope of family life in a practical manner. Boy, girls, family life, education, discipline, a Christian home. You name it and he has written about it.
Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.