Thinkers you just can’t get into

Peter Leithart has posted a very helpful summary of Frederiek Depoortere’s Badiou and Theology (T&T Clark, 2009), which in turn serves as a nice explanation of why Badiou’s philosophy is seen as being significant for contemporary theology. As I was reading the post, however, I realized that for me Badiou falls into that category of thinkers that other people think are really important, but that I just don’t care about yet. Although I know quite a number of very intelligent people who insist that Badiou is someone that we need to pay close attention to, I just can’t do it.

That started me thinking about other theologians and philosophers that I hear a lot about but just haven’t been able to get interested in for one reason or another. At the risk of making myself look like a complete idiot, the people who come to mind off the top of my head  include Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, John Milbank (anyone catching the pattern here?), Sally McFague, Alister McGrath, Jurgen Moltmann, and (for some unknown reason) Rowan Williams. That’s not to say that these are unimportant thinkers (especially Williams!), just that I haven’t been able to get interested in their theology to this point.

What do you think? Who are the theologians and philosophers that you’ve heard a lot about but you aren’t convinced yet that you need to spend that much time on them? I’m particularly interested in people who are still writing/teaching today that you don’t think you need to spend your time on, but I’d be interested in what you have to say about historical figures as well. And, you don’t have to limit yourself to philosophers and theologians. If there are Bible scholars that work this way for you, add them to the list.


About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 19, 2010, in Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I did a top 10 list a couple of years ago about authors I wasn’t the least bit interested in reading. On that list I had Slavoj Žižek, Stanley Hauerwas, and John Howard Yoder among others. To it I’d add Rowan Williams (although I have actually read 2 of his books; both of which I enjoyed), Robert Jenson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Karl Barth (although I have read some Barth, and plan to read some more, I’m not convinced that he’s as important as most folks make him out to be). If I were to add an authors I’ve read but found to be a waste of time then I’d have to say Jürgen Moltmann.

    • What is it about Williams? I actually like what I’ve read, but I just can’t get interested overall.

      Your earlier list was interesting as well. I hadn’t considered adding more popular figures like Rob Bell. But, if I went that route I’d have to add Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and others.

  2. Dead: Jonathan Edwards, Greek Fathers, Karl Rahner, Certeau
    Living: James Dunn, Jurgen Moltmann, Zizek, Alvin Plantinga, TF Torrance

    • Well, I guess I can figure out why you didn’t take the Greek Fathers class! I’m intrigued by Edwards. Is that because you’ve engaged him quite a bit and just haven’t liked what you’ve found? Or, is he someone that you just haven’t been able to get into?

      And, Rahner would definitely make my list.

    • I should probably point out that TF actually passed away a couple of years ago. So, you’ll need to put him in the other category.

      • Dead: Jonathan Edwards, Greek Fathers, Karl Rahner, Certeau, TF Torrance
        Living: James Dunn, Jurgen Moltmann, Zizek, Alvin Plantinga, DA Carson

  3. Given where Brian is tonight, it seems fitting to add Marcus Borg and all things Jesus Seminar to my list.

  4. I wouldn’t claim extensive engagement with Edwards. I wrote a paper on him in college (phil. of mind class), and had to read him (some) in seminary. I’d like to like him, but just can’t get into him. Not going to try anymore.

    All things Jesus Seminar as well (nothing like being on the cutting edge of 19th c. theology!:)

  5. The Jesus Seminar may be included on this list but I must say last night’s event was interesting. I know Borg’s thoughts on the matter since I have read him already. But Anderson’s work with the Fourth Gospel has potential to dispell some of the misconceptions that John is ahistorical or not valuable for understanding the historical Jesus. So having Anderson in dialog with Borg was nice because it made the picture a bit more clearer in regards to what Anderson is doing.

    • Are you familiar with Baukham’s work on the historicity of John? Is Anderson’s similar?

      I still have to say that the Jesus Seminar is firmly fixed on my list. But I like Jesus. I’ll keep reading his stuff.

      Marc via cell

  6. westernseminaryblogadministrator

    I have read a little bit of Bauckham’s work. While I only got an interview of Anderson’s it seems like a hybrid between Bauckham’s eyewitness paradigm and R. Brown’s redactor/editorial community paradigm. That being said it is neither one of those! 🙂

    I like Jesus too.

  7. Geez, I keep revealing my secret identity!

  8. I agree with all the Jesus Seminar guys. I’m also not interested in reading any more Rob Bell (although I’ve read two of his books – just not that impressed) Doug Pagitt and Brian McClaren. I’ve also tried, but haven’t been able to get into, James Dunn or Dallas Willard. I really want to like Dallas Willard, but just can’t seem to connect with him. He lost me on “Divine Conspiracy.” Some of the guys ya’ll (that’s Texan for “you guys”) have mentioned I’ve never even heard of so I’m not sure if I’d like them or not.

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