Famous 20th Century Theologians

Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Theologians

Right IconThis ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

 1 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(Theologian Known for His Staunch Resistance to the Nazi Dictatorship)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
8
Birthdate: February 4, 1906
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: April 9, 1945
Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer is remembered for his anti-Nazi stance, for establishing the Confessing Church, and for authoring the book The Cost of Discipleship. He was sent to the Flossenbürg concentration camp after being imprisoned for a year. He was eventually hanged after being charged of plotting to assassinate Hitler.
 2 
Desmond Tutu
(First Black African Archbishop of Cape Town & Nobel Peace Prize Winner)
Desmond Tutu
8
Birthdate: October 7, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Klerksdorp, South Africa
Died: December 26, 2021
Desmond Tutu is known for his anti-Apartheid activism in South Africa. The first black Archbishop of Cape Town, he has also been the Bishop of Johannesburg. His efforts to eradicate AIDS, poverty, anti-LGBT sentiments, and human rights violations earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
 3 
Albert Schweitzer
(Physician and Founder of the “Albert Schweitzer Hospital” in Lambaréné,)
Albert Schweitzer
8
Birthdate: January 14, 1875
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kaysersberg-Vignoble, France
Died: September 4, 1965

Albert Schweitzer was an Alsatian polymath who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophical work, Reverence for Life. He is credited with founding the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, which was a direct result of his philosophical expression. Schweitzer is also credited with influencing the Organ reform movement, which began in the mid-20th-century.

Recommended Lists:
 4 
Reinhold Niebuhr
(American Reformed Theologian, Ethicist and Commentator on Politics and Public Affairs)
Reinhold Niebuhr
6
Birthdate: June 21, 1892
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wright City, Missouri, United States
Died: June 1, 1971
An American Reformed theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote and spoke frequently about the intersection of religion, politics, and public policy. He is widely known for his philosophical perspective known as Christian Realism and his book Moral Man and Immoral Society. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 and the Time magazine posthumously called him "the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards."
 5 
Edith Stein
(Philosopher, Christian Nun and One of the Six 'Patron Saints of Europe')
Edith Stein
4
Birthdate: October 12, 1891
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: August 9, 1942

Edith Stein was a German Jewish philosopher who studied at the University of Freiburg and completed her dissertation on empathy. Always interested in Catholicism, she read the autobiography of the mystic Teresa of Ávila and converted to Christianity, and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp and is canonized as a martyr.

 6 
Thomas Merton
(Writer & theologian was ordained to the Catholic priesthood and given the name "Father Louis".)
Thomas Merton
9
Birthdate: January 31, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Prades, France
Died: December 10, 1968

American Trappist monk and theologian Thomas Merton was ordained a priest and named Father Louis. He was a member of the monastery Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. He is remembered for his bestselling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, and for his study of Eastern religions such as Buddhism.

 7 
Martin Niemöller
(German Theologian and Pastor Known for His Most Famous Poem 'First They Came...')
Martin Niemöller
5
Birthdate: January 14, 1892
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lippstadt, Germany
Died: March 6, 1984
Best remembered for the quote “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out...,” Martin Niemöller was a German pastor who tried to counter discrimination against Christian converts with Jewish heritage. His Confessing Church was perhaps his apology for initially being a Nazi sympathizer.
 8 
Rudolf Otto
(German Theologian and One of the Most Influential Scholars of Religion in the Early Twentieth Century)
Rudolf Otto
5
Birthdate: September 25, 1869
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Peine, Germany
Died: March 6, 1937

Initially a professor of theology, philosopher Rudolf Otto later contributed to some of the most significant works of theology, such as The Idea of the Holy. He was also a member of the Prussian Parliament and is remembered for his services to Christianity and his idea of numinous.

 9 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
(Jesuit Priest who Co-developed the Concept of Noosphere & was Part of the Discovery of Peking Man)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
8
Birthdate: May 1, 1881
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Orcines, France
Died: April 10, 1955

French paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is remembered as someone who deviated from theology to science. He discovered the fossilized remains known as the Peking man in China, but faced a lot of opposition from his religious superiors when it came to publishing his scientific thoughts.

 10 
Francis Chan
(Theologian, Author)
Francis Chan
13
Birthdate: August 31, 1967
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hong Kong

The Cornerstone Church and Eternity Bible College founder Francis Chan is a popular Protestant preacher. Apart from authoring the New York Times bestseller Crazy Love, Francis has also penned children’s books such as Halfway Herbert and Ronnie Wilson's Gift. He has also co-launched the discipleship movement named Multiply.

 11 
Paul Tillich
(Christian Existentialist Philosopher and One of the Most Influential Theologians of the 20th Century)
Paul Tillich
4
Birthdate: August 20, 1886
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Starosiedle, Poland
Died: October 22, 1965

German-American theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich is remembered for his work in the field of Christian existentialism and for concepts such as the method of correlation. His notable works, such as The Courage to Be and the three-volume Systematic Theology, has inspired intellectual thinkers and commoners alike.

 12 
Francis Schaeffer
(Theologian, Philosopher)
Francis Schaeffer
5
Birthdate: January 30, 1912
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: May 15, 1984

Francis Schaeffer was an American philosopher, evangelical theologian, and Presbyterian pastor. He is credited with co-founding the L'Abri community, an evangelical Christian organization, along with his wife Edith Schaeffer. Francis Schaeffer's work has influenced several Christian conservative leaders like Tim LaHaye as well as members of the L'Abri community.

 13 
N. T. Wright
(New Testament Scholar, Pauline Theologian and Anglican Bishop)
N. T. Wright
6
Birthdate: December 1, 1948
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Morpeth, England

N. T. Wright is an English New Testament scholar. Also a Pauline theologian and Anglican bishop, he served as the bishop of Durham from 2003 to 2010. He calls for a biblical re-evaluation of theological matters and has authored several books and seminars about theology and Christian life. He is highly regarded in academic and theological circles. 

 14 
Jacques Ellul
(French Philosopher Known for His Study on the Interaction Between Christianity and Politics)
Jacques Ellul
7
Birthdate: January 6, 1912
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: May 19, 1994

French philosopher, Christian anarchist, and social scientist Jacques Ellul initially wished to be a naval officer but was pushed to study law. He is best remembered for his iconic volume La Technique, or The Technological Society. He taught social history and the history of law at various universities.

 15 
William Lane Craig
(Philosopher, Theologian, University teacher, Writer)
William Lane Craig
11
Birthdate: August 23, 1949
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Peoria
William Lane Craig is an American analytic philosopher and theologian who is known for defending the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God. He has authored or edited over 30 books, and a hundred articles in professional journals. Craig is a professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology.
 16 
Karen Armstrong
(Theologian, Writer, University teacher)
Karen Armstrong
9
Birthdate: November 14, 1944
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Worcestershire

Karen Armstrong is a British commentator and author best known for writing books on comparative religion. Her work emphasizes the commonalities of major world religions like the Golden Rule and the importance of compassion. Karen Armstrong has received several prestigious awards, such as the Freedom of Worship Award and the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding.

 17 
Josemaría Escrivá
(Spanish Priest Who Founded the Organization 'Opus Dei')
Josemaría Escrivá
4
Birthdate: January 9, 1902
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Barbastro, Spain
Died: June 26, 1975

Josemaría Escrivá was a Spanish priest best remembered for founding an organization called Opus Dei. He is also remembered for authoring a book titled The Way. The book has been translated into many languages and has sold millions of copies around the world.

Abraham Joshua Heschel
3
Birthdate: January 11, 1907
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Warsaw
Died: December 23, 1972

Born into a family of rabbis in Warsaw, Abraham Joshua Heschel managed to move to London before Germany’s invasion of Poland but lost his mother and sisters to the Holocaust. The theologian eventually set base in New York, where he continued his work on Jewish philosophy and American civil rights.

 19 
John F. MacArthur
(Author)
John F. MacArthur
12
Birthdate: June 19, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

John F. MacArthur is an American author and pastor best known for his television and radio program Grace to You which is broadcast all over the world. MacArthur has been playing an important role in the prosperity of a non-denominational, evangelical megachurch called Grace Community Church where he has been serving as a pastor-teacher since 1969.

 20 
Swami Vivekananda
(Indian Monk & Philosopher Who Introduced the Vedanta and Yoga to the Western World)
Swami Vivekananda
13
Birthdate: January 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: July 4, 1902

The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.

 21 
Hans Urs von Balthasar
(Theologian and Catholic Priest Known for His 15-Volume Trilogy on Beauty, Goodness, and Truth)
Hans Urs von Balthasar
7
Birthdate: August 12, 1905
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lucerne, Switzerland
Died: June 26, 1988

Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar was one of the chief figures behind the formation of the Community of St. John. He also co-launched the Catholic journal Communio and penned numerous books on themes such as classical literature. Declared a cardinal, he died shortly before his investiture.

 22 
Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi
(Islamic Scholar, Reformer)
Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi
9
Birthdate: June 14, 1856
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bareilly
Died: October 28, 1921

Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, also known as Ala-Hazrat, was a renowned Islamic scholar and an Urdu poet. Born in Bareilly, British India, he belonged to a family of Rohilla Pushtuns who had migrated from Qandahar. He wrote about various subjects such as philosophy, science, and astronomy.

 23 
George Pell
(Cardinal)
George Pell
9
Birthdate: June 8, 1941
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ballarat, Australia

Australian archbishop George Pell had served as the first prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. He had also played professional Australian rules football before stepping into priesthood. He made headlines in 2018, when he was convicted of child sexual assault, though the conviction was reversed later.

 24 
Martin Adolf Bormann
(German Theologian and Roman Catholic Priest)
Martin Adolf Bormann
4
Birthdate: April 14, 1930
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Grünwald, Bavaria, Germany
Died: March 11, 2013

Son of a top Nazi official, laicized Roman Catholic priest Martin Adolf Bormann found shelter in a church after Germany lost the war. Ordained as a priest, he later served in Congo before leaving the ministry to become a teacher of theology. After retirement, he began traveling across Germany and Austria, talking about the horrors of Nazi rule in schools.

 25 
Max Lucado
(Theologian, Writer)
Max Lucado
12
Birthdate: January 11, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Angelo
A best-selling author and pastor at Oak Hills Church, Max Lucado is known for combining poetic storytelling and homespun humor. With over 120 million copies sold in 54 languages, Max is dubbed as America’s Pastor. He received three Gold Medallion Book of the Year awards for his books, Just Like Jesus, In the Grip of Grace, and When God Whispers Your Name.
 26 
Leo Baeck
(German Rabbi, Scholar and Theologian)
Leo Baeck
2
Birthdate: May 23, 1873
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Leszno, Poland
Died: November 2, 1956

German rabbi and spiritual leader Leo Baeck remains a symbol of liberal Jewish thinking of the Nazi era. He is best remembered for The Essence of Judaism and This People Israel, the latter of which was penned by him while in a Nazi concentration camp.

 27 
R. C. Sproul
(American Theologian, Philosopher and Non-Fiction Writer)
R. C. Sproul
5
Birthdate: February 13, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: December 14, 2017

R. C. Sproul was a Reformed theologian. He was an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America and also the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries. He has been described as the greatest proponent of the recovery of Reformed theology in the 20th century. He was a popular speaker and a  co-pastor at Saint Andrew's Chapel as well.  

 28 
John Stott
(Theologian)
John Stott
3
Birthdate: April 27, 1921
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: July 27, 2011
 29 
Abraham Kuyper
(Prime Minister of the Netherlands (1901 - 1905))
Abraham Kuyper
3
Birthdate: October 29, 1837
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Maassluis, Netherlands
Died: November 8, 1920

After studying subjects such as literature and theology, Abraham Kuyper became a pastor and founded the Calvinist paper De Standaard. He later established the Anti-Revolutionary Party and also served the Netherlands as prime minister. He was also the founder of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

 30 
Gustavo Gutiérrez
(Peruvian Catholic Theologian, Philosopher, and Dominican Priest)
Gustavo Gutiérrez
4
Birthdate: June 8, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lima, Peru

Gustavo Gutiérrez is a Peruvian Catholic theologian, philosopher, and Dominican priest. A respected theologian, Gutiérrez has served as a visiting professor in many prestigious universities in Europe and North America. Gustavo Gutiérrez has also taught at the Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the University of Cambridge, and the University of California, Berkeley among other schools.

 31 
Karl Rahner
(One of the Most Influential Roman Catholic Theologians of the 20th Century)
Karl Rahner
4
Birthdate: March 5, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Died: March 30, 1984

One of the most significant theologians of the 20th century, Karl Rahner was a disciple of Martin Heidegger at the University of Freiburg. His works such as Spirit in the World and Hearers of the Word showcase the Roman Catholic doctrine and its many interpretations.

 32 
Peter L. Berger
(American Sociologist and Protestant Theologian)
Peter L. Berger
4
Birthdate: March 17, 1929
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: June 27, 2017

Born in Austria, Peter L. Berger initially moved to Palestine and eventually to the U.S. after World War II. While aspiring to be a Lutheran minister, he ended up being a sociologist. He taught at various institutes, such as Boston University, and penned the iconic book The Social Construction of Reality.

 33 
Alvin Plantinga
(Theologian, Philosopher, University teacher)
Alvin Plantinga
4
Birthdate: November 15, 1932
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ann Arbor

Alvin Plantinga is an analytic philosopher best known for his work in the fields of epistemology, philosophy of religion, and logic. He has also served as a professor at institutions like the University of Notre Dame. From 1983 to 1986, he served as the Society of Christian Philosophers' president and is sometimes regarded as the greatest Christian philosopher alive.

 34 
William Barclay
(Author,Theologian)
William Barclay
6
Birthdate: December 5, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Scotland, United Kingdom
Died: January 24, 1978
 35 
Theodore McCarrick
(Priest)
Theodore McCarrick
9
Birthdate: July 7, 1930
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City, United States

Theodore McCarrick is a former cardinal and laicized bishop of the Catholic Church. He became the first cardinal to resign from the College of Cardinals because of sexual abuse claims in July 2018. Known as a champion of progressive Catholicism and social justice causes, McCarrick was found guilty of sexual crimes and abuse of power. He was dismissed from clergy in 2019.

 36 
Adnan Oktar
(Turkish Sex Cult Leader Who Believes in Islamic Creationism and Anti-Darwinism)
Adnan Oktar
5
Birthdate: February 2, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ankara

Turkish sex cult leader Adnan Oktar is an advocate of Islamic creationism and opposes Darwinism. He has previously been arrested for several crimes, such as financial fraud and sexual abuse. He once sent copies of his book The Atlas of Creation, penned as Harun Yahya, to several French and American institutes, unsolicited.

 37 
Norman Geisler
(American Christian Systematic Theologian, Philosopher and Apologist)
Norman Geisler
3
Birthdate: July 21, 1932
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Warren, Michigan, United States
Died: July 1, 2019
 38 
John Ortberg
(Author, Theologian, Psychologist)
John Ortberg
7
Birthdate: May 5, 1957
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rockford

John Ortberg is an evangelical Christian speaker and author. A prolific writer, John Ortberg's book If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat won the 2002 Christianity Today Book Award. In 2008, his book When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box won the ECPA Christian Book Award.

 39 
Rudolf Bultmann
(German Lutheran Theologian and One of the Major Figures of Early-20th-Century Biblical Studies)
Rudolf Bultmann
6
Birthdate: August 20, 1884
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wiefelstede, Germany
Died: July 30, 1976

A professor of New Testament at the University of Marburg, Rudolf Bultmann was a German theologian, known for his work on demythologization, a process that separates cosmological and historic claims from philosophical, ethical and theological teachings. An influential theologian of the post-war era, he undertook pioneering research in historical Jesus, attempting to reconcile faith and reason in a modern context.

 40 
Elaine Pagels
(American Historian of Religion Known for Her Extensive Research into Early Christianity and Gnosticism)
Elaine Pagels
11
Birthdate: February 13, 1943
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Palo Alto, California, United States

Elaine Pagels is an American historian who serves as a professor at Princeton University. Pagels, who is credited with conducting extensive research into Gnosticism and early Christianity, came up with the influential book The Gnostic Gospels. The book has been named among the 100 best books of the 20th century by Modern Library.

 41 
Horst Kasner
(German Protestant Theologian and Father of Former German Chancellor 'Angela Merkel')
Horst Kasner
5
Birthdate: August 6, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Pankow, Berlin, Germany
Died: September 2, 2011

Horst Kasner is best remembered as the father of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Part of Hitler Youth, he had served Hitler’s army during World War II and was held prisoner at 19. He later became a Protestant theologian and pastor in the town of Templin.

 42 
Walter Brueggemann
(theologian, university teacher)
Walter Brueggemann
4
Birthdate: March 11, 1933
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tilden
 43 
Stanley Hauerwas
(American Theologian, Ethicist and Public Intellectual)
Stanley Hauerwas
5
Birthdate: July 24, 1940
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States
 44 
Avery Dulles
(Jesuit Priest, Theologian and Cardinal of the Catholic Church)
Avery Dulles
6
Birthdate: August 24, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Auburn, New York, United States
Died: December 12, 2008

Avery Dulles was a Jesuit priest, cardinal of the Catholic Church, and theologian. Renowned for his skills as an author and lecturer, Dulles was associated with Woodstock College and the Catholic University of America from 1960 to 1974 and from 1974 to 1988, respectively. Over the course of his illustrious career, Avery Dulles received several prestigious honors and awards.

 45 
Mary Daly
(Philosopher)
Mary Daly
7
Birthdate: October 16, 1928
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Schenectady, New York, United States
Died: January 3, 2010
 46 
Gregory A. Boyd
(American Theologian, Pastor and Author)
Gregory A. Boyd
3
Birthdate: June 2, 1957
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: United States

An advocate of Anabaptism and pacifism, pastor Gregory A. Boyd is associated with the Woodland Hills Church and also leads Reknew.org. He has also penned books such as Seeing is Believing and The Myth of a Christian Nation, teaches theology at Bethel College, and has appeared on TV and radio shows.

 47 
Edir Macedo
(Brazilian Evangelical Bishop, Television Evangelist and Founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God)
Edir Macedo
5
Birthdate: February 18, 1945
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rio das Flores, RJ, Brazil

Edir Macedo is a Brazilian evangelical bishop, writer, and billionaire businessman. He is the founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) and the co-owner of RecordTV, the third-largest TV network in Brazil. He began his career as a civil servant before moving to a religious career. He has been accused of racism and misogyny. 

 48 
John Hagee
(American Pastor and Televangelist)
John Hagee
20
Birthdate: April 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Baytown, Texas, United States

The founder of the John Hagee Ministries and the Christians United for Israel, John Hagee has also established the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. He has penned several bestsellers, such as Absolute Power, and is also known for his controversial concepts, such as the blood moon prophecy.

 49 
Jürgen Moltmann
(German Reformed Theologian)
Jürgen Moltmann
3
Birthdate: April 8, 1926
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany

Currently Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, German Reformed theologian, Jürgen Moltmann, is especially known for developing a form of social trinitarianism. Describing his views as Post-Barthian, he has penned down numerous works including Theology of Hope, The Crucified God, God in Creation etc. He is of the view that God suffers with humanity, while also promising a better future through the hope of the Resurrection

 50 
H. Richard Niebuhr
(Theologian)
H. Richard Niebuhr
4
Birthdate: September 3, 1894
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wright City, Missouri, United States
Died: July 5, 1962