10 Outstanding Theologians (of Whom You May Not Have Ever Heard)
Sir Isaac Newton, borrowing a phrase from Bernard of Chartres, once noted, "If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This maxim holds just as true in the realm of theology as it does in the sphere of scientific investigation. Anyone who has given himself or herself to a diligent study of theology will acknowledge that we are standing on the shoulders of such men as Augustine, Anselm, Athanasius, Bernard of Clairvaux, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Bunyan, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards and just about every other theologian whose name is "John!" While the hall of faith, full of men who have blessed the church with profound insights into the Scriptures, is well travelled, there are rooms in the annals of church history that have been, at various times, seeminly hidden from the sight of men--though they are also full of noteworthy theologians. As 2016 comes to an end, I want to introduce you to 10 theologians of superior giftedness--who have not always received their due respect--upon whose shoulders you may safely stand:
William Strong - A member of the Westminster Assembly, Strong was a substantial theologian in his own right. Thomas Manton, once described this renown theologian of his day as being "an eminent and a faithful servant of God, a man eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures, and a burning and shining light in the church of Christ." Strong's published works include: The Saints Communion with God, and Gods Communion with them in Ordinances, Heavenly Treasure, or Man's Chiefest Good, ed. Howe, Thirty-one Select Sermons, The Eternity and Certainty of Hell's Tortures, A Treatise showing the Subordination of the Will of Man to the Will of God, and A Discourse on the Two Covenants. His Discourse on the Two Covenants is far and away the most substantial of all his writings.
John Maclaurin - Maclaurin was one of the foremost theologians in Scotland in the 18th Century. Additionally, he was one of the chief correspondents with Jonathan Edwards. A life-long minister in Glasgow, the best of Maclaurin's work is to be found in his lengthy sermons--which read more like rich theological discourses. Among his most celebrated sermons are Glorying in the Cross and God's Chief Mercy. You can find everything that Maclaurin ever published in The Works of John Maclaurin vol. 1 & vol. 2.
Robert Hawker - An Anglican minister in England in the late 18th and early 19th Century, many praised Hawker for being among the greatest evangelical preachers of his day. The best of Hawker's writings is his Poor Man's Morning and Evening Portion. Charles Spurgeon, in his Commenting and Commentaries, says of Hawker (and of this work in particular):
"Gentleman, if you want something full of marrow and fatness, cheering to your own hearts by way of comment, and likely to help you in giving your hearers rich expositions, buy Dr. Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary. Dr. Hawker was the very least of commentators in the matter of criticism, but he sees Jesus, and that is a sacred gift which is most precious whether the owner be a critic or no. There is always such a savor of the Lord Jesus Christ in Dr. Hawker that you cannot read him without profit."
Joel Beeke also weighs in on the significance of this work when he writes:
"Robert Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary edifies believers by providing spiritual comments on each section of Scripture. The prayerful 'reflections' section that follows Hawker's comments on each chapter of Scripture marvelously enhances this devotional character. For the genuine Christian, here is devotional writing at its best: warmly Christ-centered, eminently practical, personally searching. I commend it highly for private and family worship."
John Colquhoun (pronounced Cal-houn) - One of the Marrowmen (i.e. those 18th Century Scottish Presbyterians who defended the free offer of the Gospel against hyper-Calvinism), Colquhoun wrote some of the most outstanding theological expositions one can find in his A Treatise on the Law and Gospel, The Covenant of Works, A View of the Covenant of Works and Grace, The Promises of the Gospel and Spiritual Comfort. Colquhoun is, in no way, inferior to his colleagues--Thomas Boston and the Erskine brothers.
John Dick - A pastor and professor of theology in the United Secession Church, John Dick was one of the foremost systematic theologians of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries in Scotland. The most prized of his writings was his Lectures on Theology vol.1 and vol. 2--a systematic theology of the highest caliber that made it's way into many other substantive theological writings of men in the 19th Century. In addition to that work, Dick is remembered for his Lectures on the Acts of the Apostles and his early sermon on "Confessions of Faith Shown to be Necessary."
Walter Lowrie - Perhaps the least known of the men on this list, Walter Lowrie was a Presbyterian missionary to the Chinese (as well as to the British colonists in China) in the first half of the 19th Century. If you are looking for a biography to read, I would highly recommend the Memoirs of Rev. Walter M. Lowrie. The greatest of his publications is his Sermons Preached in China--which yeild some of the best expositions of portions of Scripture that one will come across. A cursory reading of his sermon on Martha and Mary will suffice to prove the value of this work. I have returned to this volume of sermons almost more than to any by other.
Joseph Hall - Bishop Hall, one of the foremost 17th Century Anglican Puritans, was celebrated by many for his Contemplations on Holy Scripture--a series of expositions of Scripture written in the form of prayers. In some respects it is the Augustine's Confessions of Bible Commentaries. You can find Contemplations, together with Hall's sermons and other writings in vol. 1 of his Works. You can find all of his works here.
Gustav Oehler - A 19th Century Lutheran theologian in Germany, the value of Oehler's works--particularly his Theology of the Old Testament--is found in the fact that Oehler was himself a product of the famous University of Tübingen, yet strongly opposed the theology of the Tübingen School theologians such as Schleiermacher. Later in life, Oehler declined a call to succeed the great Hebraist, Franz Delitzsch. Oehler's Theology of the Old Testament is one of the greatest Old Testament introductions ever written--comparable in greatness to that written by William Henry Green, the 20th Century professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature of Princeton Theological Seminary.
Stuart Robinson - A Southern Presbyterian theologian of the highest caliber, Robinson has often been the focus of studies on "the spirituality doctrine of the church"--a controversial subject in light of the events surrounding 19th Century American Southern Presbyterianism. However, Robinson should be most remembered for his contributions to ecclesiology (see his work on The Church of God) and redemptive history (see his Discourses of Redemption). The latter work is one of the best biblical-theological volumes written. It is full of redemptive-historical nuggets. It is a volume to which I return often.
William Henry Green - Last but certainly not least is the venerable William Henry Green. As has already been noted, Green served at the Profession of Biblical and Oriental Literature of Princeton Theological Seminary in the mid-19th Century. A linguist of the highest caliber (as was his colleague Robert Dick Wilson), Green wrote some of the most scholarly defenses of Scripture in refutation of the writings of the leading theologians of the German Higher Criticism schools. So distinguished for his theological ability, the board of Princeton Theological Seminary offered Green the Presidency, which he turned down in 1868. Among Green's most profitable writings for pastors and seminarians are his General Introduction to the Old Testament and his Argument of the Book of Job Unfolded. Green's more scholastic productions include: The Unity of the Book of Genesis, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch, The Hebrew Feasts in Their Relation to the Recent Critical Hypotheses Concerning the Pentateuch, Prophets and Prophecy, The Pentateuch Vindicated from the Aspersions of Bishop Colenso, Old Testament Literature, and Professor Robert Smith on the Pentateuch.