Famous American Theologians

Find out more about the greatest American Theologians, including Cornel West, Jimmy Swaggart, John Hagee, Reinhold Niebuhr and William Lane Craig.

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

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 1 Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist, Minister
Birthdate: January 15, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died: April 4, 1968

A leader in the civil rights movement in the mid-twentieth century, Martin Luther King Jr. is best remembered for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience. A man of Christian faith who was inspired by Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent activism, he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality.  

 2 Paul Tillich

Paul Tillich
Famous As: Christian existentialist philosopher
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.

 3 Reinhold Niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr
Famous As: Theologian
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."
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 4 Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton
Famous As: Writer & theologian was ordained to the Catholic priesthood and given the name "Father Louis".
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.

 5 Francis Chan

Francis Chan
Famous As: Theologian, Author
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.

 6 Joseph Smith Jr.

Joseph Smith Jr.
Famous As: Founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement
Birthdate: December 23, 1805
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sharon, Vermont, United States
Died: May 27, 1844

Religious leader Joseph Smith Jr. is known as the founder of the Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. He also published the Book of Mormon. He established his communities in Ohio and Missouri and eventually founded the city Nauvoo in Illinois, which became the center of his spiritual activities.

 7 William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig
Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian, University teacher, Writer
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.
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 8 Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards
Famous As: Preacher, Theologian, Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1703
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Windsor, Connecticut, United States
Died: March 22, 1758

Jonathan Edwards was an American philosopher, revivalist preacher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Considered one of America's most prominent and influential philosophical theologians, Jonathan Edwards played a major role in shaping the Evangelical Revival of the 1730s and 1740s. His theological work is credited with paving the way for a new school of theology called the New England theology.

 9 Timothy J. Keller

Timothy J. Keller
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: September 23, 1950
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States

The author of the New York Times bestsellers The Prodigal God and The Reason for God, Timothy J. Keller also chairs Redeemer City to City, which establishes new churches and trains pastors. He is also the founder of the Manhattan-based Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 2020, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

 10 Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer
Famous As: Theologian, Philosopher
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.

 11 Max Lucado

Max Lucado
Famous As: Theologian, Writer
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.

 12 Jeremiah Wright

Jeremiah Wright
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: September 22, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Philadelphia

Dr. Jeremiah Wright had initially served the Marine Corps before joining the U.S. Navy as a cardiopulmonary technician. He has also been a professor, and his research interests include Black Sacred Music and African diaspora studies. He also led the Trinity United Church of Christ as a pastor.

 13 John Witherspoon

John Witherspoon
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: February 5, 1723
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Gifford, Scotland
Died: November 15, 1794

John Witherspoon was a Scottish American slaveholder, Presbyterian minister, and Founding Father of the United States. A signatory to the Declaration of Independence, Witherspoon also signed the Articles of Confederation. He also played a crucial role in shaping public policy in the United States of America.

 14 Daniel Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan
Famous As: Peace activist, Theologian, Writer, University teacher
Birthdate: May 9, 1921
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Virginia
Died: April 30, 2016

Daniel Berrigan was an American anti-war activist, Jesuit priest, Christian pacifist, author, poet, and playwright. Berrigan gained national attention for his protest against the Vietnam War, which landed him on the FBI's most-wanted list. He remained a popular anti-war activist throughout his life, co-founding an anti-nuclear weapons movement called the Plowshares movement in 1980.

 15 John F. MacArthur

John F. MacArthur
Famous As: Author
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.

 16 Theodore McCarrick

Theodore McCarrick
Famous As: Priest
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.

 17 R. C. Sproul

R. C. Sproul
Famous As: Theologian, Philosopher, Non-fiction writer, University teacher
Birthdate: February 13, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pittsburgh

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.  

 18 Edward Everett

Edward Everett
Famous As: Former American senator
Birthdate: April 11, 1794
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts
Died: January 15, 1865

Edward Everett was an American politician, diplomat, educator, pastor, and orator. Widely regarded as one of the great orators of the Civil War and antebellum eras, Everett is remembered for his two-hour speech at the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg in 1863, where Abraham Lincoln delivered his popular Gettysburg Address. Edward Everett also taught ancient Greek literature at Harvard University.

 19 Peter L. Berger

Peter L. Berger
Famous As: Sociologist, Theologian, University teacher
Birthdate: March 17, 1929
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vienna

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.

 20 John Ortberg

John Ortberg
Famous As: Author, Theologian, Psychologist
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.

 21 Alvin Plantinga

Alvin Plantinga
Famous As: Theologian, Philosopher, University teacher
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.

 22 John Hagee

John Hagee
Famous As: Televangelist and founder of Cornerstone Church
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.

 23 Elaine Pagels

Elaine Pagels
Famous As: Historian
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.

 24 Mary Daly

Mary Daly
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 16, 1928
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Schenectady, New York, United States
Died: January 3, 2010

 25 Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: June 4, 1948
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, US

 26 Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann
Famous As: theologian, university teacher
Birthdate: March 11, 1933
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tilden

 27 Stanley Hauerwas

Stanley Hauerwas
Famous As: Ethicist, Philosopher, Theologian
Birthdate: July 24, 1940
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dallas

 28 Johnny Lee Clary

Johnny Lee Clary
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: June 18, 1959
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Martinez
Died: October 21, 2014

A prominent 1980s’ wrestling champion, Johnny Lee Clary later came to be known as Johnny Angel. He had been part of the Ku Klux Klan and had also appeared on shows such as Oprah, where he defended racism. He later renounced the Klan and became a Christian evangelist.

 29 Walter Rauschenbusch

Walter Rauschenbusch
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: October 4, 1861
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rochester, New York, US
Died: July 25, 1918

Walter Rauschenbusch was an American Baptist pastor and theologian. He played an important role in the single tax and Social Gospel movements by propagating the importance of theology through his book A Theology for the Social Gospel which he published in 1917. Walter Rauschenbusch's work influenced prominent personalities like Martin Luther King Jr., Norman Thomas, Desmond Tutu, and James McClendon.

 30 H. Richard Niebuhr

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

 31 Irvin Baxter Jr.

Irvin Baxter Jr.
Famous As: Televangelist
Birthdate: July 8, 1945
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Richmond, Indiana, United States
Died: November 3, 2020

 32 Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi

Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi
Famous As: Educator, Theologian
Birthdate: 1975 AD
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States

 33 C. I. Scofield

C. I. Scofield
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: August 19, 1843
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Michigan, United States
Died: July 24, 1921

 34 Charles Hodge

Charles Hodge
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: December 27, 1797
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 19, 1878

 35 Nicholas Wolterstorff

Nicholas Wolterstorff
Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian
Birthdate: January 21, 1932
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bigelow

 36 Jaroslav Pelikan

Jaroslav Pelikan
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 17, 1923
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Akron, Ohio, United States
Died: May 13, 2006

Jaroslav Pelikan was a scholar of the history of Christianity and Christian theology. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He joined Yale University in 1962 and had a brilliant academic career. He was the author of more than 30 books. He was a recipient of the John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences. 

 37 Richard Foster

Richard Foster
Famous As: Theologian best known for his 1978 book Celebration of Discipline
Birthdate: 1942 AD
Birthplace: New Mexico, United States

 38 Albert Barnes

Albert Barnes
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: December 1, 1798
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rome, New York, United States
Died: December 24, 1870

 39 Charles Hartshorne

Charles Hartshorne
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 5, 1897
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kittanning, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: October 9, 2000

 40 Thomas J.J. Altizer

Thomas J.J. Altizer
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: September 28, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Virginia, United States
Died: November 28, 2018

 41 Shmuley Boteach

Shmuley Boteach
Famous As: Writer, Theologian, Rabbi
Birthdate: November 19, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Los Angeles

Orthodox rabbi and author Shmuley Boteach, also known as the host of Shalom in the Home, soared to international fame with the release of his book Kosher Sex. The father of nine was a spiritual advisor to Michael Jackson and has founded the pro-Israel non-profit The World Values Network.

 42 Philip Schaff

Philip Schaff
Famous As: Church historian, Translator, Theologian, University teacher, Writer, Bible translator
Birthdate: January 1, 1819
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chur
Died: October 20, 1893

Swiss-American theologian Philip Schaff is remembered for his works such as The Creeds of Christendom. He believed that the positive aspects of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism could be blended into an ecumenical form of spirituality. He later founded and headed the American Society of Church History.

 43 Martin E. Marty

Martin E. Marty
Famous As: Historian of religion
Birthdate: February 5, 1928
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: West Point, Nebraska, United States

 44 Timothy M. Dolan

Timothy M. Dolan
Famous As: Theologian, University teacher, Catholic priest
Birthdate: February 6, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: St. Louis

The archbishop of New York, Timothy M. Dolan has previously also served as the archbishop of Milwaukee. He has also penned several religious books, such as Doers of the Word and Called to Be Holy. He was also assigned with the task of handling cases of priests engaging in sexual abuse.

 45 Peter John Gomes

Peter John Gomes
Famous As: Preacher
Birthdate: May 22, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: February 28, 2011

Listed by Time Magazine as one of "Seven Stars of the Pulpit", Peter John Gomes was a much respected preacher and theologian. Also Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School and Pusey Minister at Harvard's Memorial Church, he authored two bestselling books and published ten volumes of sermons. A celibate gay, he also worked for acceptance of homosexuality.

 46 Calvin Ellis Stowe

Calvin Ellis Stowe
Famous As: Biblical scholar
Birthdate: April 6, 1802
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Natick, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 22, 1886

 47 Richard John Neuhaus

Richard John Neuhaus
Famous As: Cleric
Birthdate: May 14, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pembroke, Canada
Died: January 8, 2009

 48 Murray, John Courtney

Murray, John Courtney
Famous As: American theologian
Birthdate: September 12, 1904
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: August 16, 1967

 49 Ian Barbour

Ian Barbour
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: October 5, 1923
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Beijing, China
Died: December 24, 2013

 50 James Strong

James Strong
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: August 14, 1822
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: August 7, 1894