We asked 35 Christian leaders, “Who is the influencer with the biggest impact on your life and ministry?” Most of these leaders listed several influential thinkers, writers, innovators, and leaders more of us should get to know. This response is from Philip D. Kenneson, professor of theology and philosophy at Milligan College, Tennessee.
Over the years, I have been consistently challenged, convicted, and unsettled by the work of Stanley Hauerwas, Miroslav Volf, and Rowan Williams, three of the leading theologians of our day. All three not only ground their theology unapologetically in a Trinitarian understanding of God, but each deeply loves the church, writing and teaching in order to strengthen and edify the body of Christ.
Hauerwas has, among other things, consistently challenged the hyperindividualism of American culture, arguing persuasively that there are no “Lone Ranger” Christians. Rather, to be a follower of Jesus entails belonging to the community of Christ made possible by the Spirit of Christ.
Volf has brought his theological acumen to bear on a number of important subjects, including work and economics, the role of forgiveness and reconciliation in contemporary life, and the need for Christians to recognize the moral convictions they share with Jews and Muslims.
Williams, who was for a time the Archbishop of Canterbury, infuses his writings with his considerable knowledge of the early centuries of the church as well as of the history of Christian spirituality. Like Hauerwas and Volf, Williams calls into question on Christian grounds the contemporary penchant for violence, by echoing Jesus’ radical call to love and forgive our neighbors, even our enemies.
These three theologians have profoundly shaped the way I understand the church and its mission in the world: to bear embodied witness to the way of Jesus Christ.