It is by living and dying that one becomes a theologian, Martin Luther said. With that comment in mind, we have resumed a Century series published at intervals since 1939 and asked theologians to reflect on their own struggles, disappointments, questions and hopes as people of faith and to consider how their work and life have been intertwined.
It takes a certain level of self-deception to be a lukewarm evangelical. Intense piety is in the tradition’s DNA. The need for not only a conversion experience but a life in which the gospel is internalized and alive and demonstrated in the world has given evangelicalism an impressive vitality.
Looking back to history to find yet another approach to atonement will not solve the problem, but a reconsideration of the physical or mystical theory of how Christ saves us might contribute to more fruitful and civil conversation.
Nicholas Lash, professor at Cambridge University, has been one of the most influential theologians in the English-speaking world for the past generation. His work has helped spur the renewal of confidence among orthodox theologians working in mainline academic settings in the United Kingdom and the U.S.
German Protestant Jürgen Moltmann was declared the greatest theologian of the 20th century in the finals of the Systematic Theology World Cup, conducted on the Internet while the world’s top soccer tournament was being played in Germany.
Everything that Jürgen Moltmann writes is worth reading and thinking about, beginning with his Theology of Hope (1964) and its compelling message that Christianity is deeply and essentially about hope—not optimism, but hope based on trust in God’s redeeming activity even in the midst of dreadful circumstances.
Robert W. Jenson recently retired as senior scholar at the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton. He and longtime colleague Carl Braaten founded the journals Dialog and Pro Ecclesia and the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. He has taught at Luther College, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Oxford University and St. Olaf College.