Top Ten Theological Works of the 20th Century?

Henry Karlson at Vox Nova has offered a list of the top ten theological works of the 20th century, “based upon either their influence or the value I see they should have for the future of theology.”

Here is his list:

  • 10. Henri de Lubac, Catholicism.
  • 9. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology.
  • 8. Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation.
  • 7. Sergius Bulgakov, Bride of the Lamb.
  • 6. Karl Rahner, The Trinity.
  • 5. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.
  • 4. Pavel Florensky, Pillar and Ground of the Truth.
  • 3. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama.
  • 2. Henri de Lubac, Mystery of the Supernatural.
  • 1. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics.

The only serious mistake in this list has to be the Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation.  I wouldn’t point that out except for the fact that Henry used the word “should” in his sentence about the influence on and value of these works for the future of theology.

There’s no way Gutierrez can be recommended for the future of theology, given what he has already visited on the past and the present — a Marxist conception of history, human nature, and value itself. 

The rest of the list is pretty good, and I really appreciate the inclusion of Barth, though I would make the #1 slot a tie between the Church Dogmatics and von Balthasar’s Glory of the  Lord, not his Theo-Drama.

I’m also glad Henry remembered Tillich’s Systematic Theology which I read as an undergraduate and helped to lead me toward the Christian faith.

Two books from Henri de Lubac may be pushing it a bit, especially when the list contains nothing by John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Anders Nygren (Agape and Eros), Yves Congar, Jean Danielou, Louis Bouyer, Wolfhart Pannenberg, etc.

Deal W. Hudson


Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

Crisis Magazine Comments Policy

This is a Catholic forum. As such:

  1. All comments must directly address the article. “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
  2. No profanity, ad hominems, hot tempers, or racial or religious invectives. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. We will not tolerate heresy, calumny, or attacks upon our Holy Mother Church or Holy Father. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  4. Keep it brief. No lengthy rants or block quotes. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
  5. If you see a comment that doesn’t meet our standards, please flag it so a moderator may remove it. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
  6. All comments may be removed at the moderators’ discretion. “But of that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36)
  7. Crisis isn’t responsible for the content of the comments box. Comments do not represent the views of Crisis magazine, its editors, authors, or publishers. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)