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Monday, April 24, 2006

Who are your theological influences?

Here's a question for my readers: Whose ideas have exerted a shaping influence on your basic religious views? Who are your chief theological influences? Please, no thorough bibliographies or lengthy intellectual histories; don't worry about whether your list sounds high-falutin' enough; just three or four names of the people you think have been most influential for you. If you're a minister, please note that — and which denomination or tradition you serve.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 24 April 2006 at 8:37 PM

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Jigdral Dawa:

April 24, 2006 11:20 PM | Permalink for this comment

Big ideas for me:

- Spirit evolves through us. It is our duty to achieve higher levels of consciousness
- Perceptive reality is illusory. Search for your Self and for the nature of reality beneath that which ebbs and flows.
- Compassion towards one's self. Do not strive to control the mind, but rather work with it actively and in a nurturing manner to overcome influences which hide your true nature.
- Compassion towards others, who are ultimately not distinct from you.
- Serve all as you would serve yourself. There is no difference, no boundary. Working for the good of all is the only authentic life.

Traditions and teachers: Buddhism as a tradition has been a big influence - particularly Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and, through him, Pema Chodron. Sri Aurobindo and Sri Ramana Maharshi are big influences, as well as Krishnamurti (for his independent, "seek-your-own-way" mystical approach if nothing else).

Ron Robinson:

April 25, 2006 10:31 AM | Permalink for this comment

A general list of current influences on a Unitarian Universalist minister in the Christian tradition:

St. Paul
Frederic Henry Hedge
Peter C. Hodgson
Kathryn Tanner
Carl Scovel
David Tracy
Rodney Starks
Stanley Grenz, Stanley Hauerwas, Stanley Stowers

and a host of postmodern ecclesial writers such as Bill Easum, Thomas Bandy, Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, William Tenny-Brittain, Michael Slaughter, Dan Kimball, Eddie Gibbs/Ryan K. Bolger, Lyle Schaller (recent stuff), Aubrey Malphurs, Ralph Moore, Neil Cole.

Michelle Murrain:

April 25, 2006 11:18 AM | Permalink for this comment

Recently, Marcus Borg, Simone Weil, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton.


April 25, 2006 01:49 PM | Permalink for this comment

I don't really have any specific theologician names... But I've been brought up a Muslim. I'm not "officially" a UU, but it works well with me.

So many of my core beliefs are pretty much Islamic, but I agree with panentheism. Reincarnation's not out of the question. Umm, Samuel out of the Bible had some influence on me. St Augustine, Averroès (or Ibn Rushd as us Arabs call him), Zamakshari, Maimonides... Samuel Holdheim... There's probably more, but none are off the top of my head.

h sofia:

April 25, 2006 05:52 PM | Permalink for this comment

Raised Muslim, not Muslim at all now. Consider myself an agnostic, spiritual humanist. A few major influences: the Qur'an, Emerson, Nietzsche, Saramago (atheist novelist).

jay lavelle:

April 25, 2006 08:37 PM | Permalink for this comment

St Paul
Martin Luther
St Theresa of Avila
St John of the Cross
Friedrich Nietzsche
Thomas Merton
Simone Weil
Norman O. Brown
Rene Girard
Jurgen Moltmann


April 25, 2006 10:17 PM | Permalink for this comment

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza
Gustavo Gutiérrez
Marcella Althaus-Reid
Thich Nhat Hahn


April 25, 2006 11:56 PM | Permalink for this comment

God (personal experience)
Huston Smith
Alan Watts
process theology
being raised UU


April 26, 2006 10:23 AM | Permalink for this comment

major influences:
the Synoptic Jesus

also influences:
Thich Nhat Hanh
Paulo Freire
Jurgen Moltmann
Miroslav Volf


April 26, 2006 01:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

As a child: Essentially what I was taught in my conservative but "thinking" church. This would include not only the traditional Bible teachings but Francis Shaeffer, who had a very large and personal influence on our minister.

As an adult: The above, but further influenced/complicated by, in rough chronological order beginning sophomore year in college

Herman Dooyeweerd
Aldous Huxley
Alan Watts
D.T. Suzuki
Matthew Fox
Erich Fromm
Martin Buber
George Fox
Rufus Jones
Forrest Church
John Shelby Spong


April 26, 2006 04:20 PM | Permalink for this comment

As an adult:
John Shelby Spong
Dominic Crossan
The Jesus Seminar
Lloyd Geering
William Sloane Coffin
Forrest Church
Brian McLaren
John Robinson
Don Cuppit

Bart Mc:

April 26, 2006 04:45 PM | Permalink for this comment

Merton's New Seeds
C.S lewis radio broadcasts from WWII
Pope John Paul II (the Great)
everything he wrote is amazing.


April 26, 2006 05:43 PM | Permalink for this comment

I'm a Roman Catholic not a minister, but the R.C. lay trash equivalent thereof.
My biggest influences, as far as I'm self-conscious of them, are
Yves Congar
Karl Rahner (typical, I know)
James Alison
Thomas Aquinas (also typical, sorry!)
Elizabeth Johnson
Graham Greene

Oh yeah, and Jean-Marie Tillard, whom I'm supposed to be writing a dissertation on, rather than hanging out on blogs...


April 26, 2006 06:20 PM | Permalink for this comment

What great and fascinating responses so far! I'm delighted by the diversity of my readers. (Samawel, I hope you'll come back and tell us more about yourself; I haven't been able to read your blog, although I've known you've had a link to me for a while. Your story must be very interesting.)

My chief influences (as a non-ordained, theologically educated UU):

  • James Luther Adams, Gary Dorrien, William Hutchison: purpose and history of liberal theology

  • Alfred North Whitehead: nature of reality and human knowledge

  • Isaiah Berlin: meaning and history of political liberalism, importance of tragedy and conflict in human history

  • Martha Nussbaum, Amartya Sen: "human capabilities," an empirical approach to universal human rights

  • Carl Scovel: Christian life, preaching

  • Wendell Berry, Mary Midgley: limits of scientific technology and metaphors
  • Much less intellectually and more autobiographically, the essays of the Mormon literary scholar Eugene England and the fiction of Levi Peterson were lifesavers for me as I was struggling with my Mormon background in college; books by Loren Eiseley, James Baldwin, and Annie Dillard shaped my worldview in the immediate aftermath; Forrest Church's "Essential Tillich" and Paul Tillich's "Dynamics of Faith" gave me my first reintroduction to Christian ideas; Harvey Cox's "Religion in the Secular City" sent me to seminary; movies by Tarkovsky and Kieslowski made me want to be a mystic; Bach's music changed my life.

    For sheer joy, I listen to "Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy" or Mozart's "The Magic Flute."


    April 27, 2006 12:33 AM | Permalink for this comment

    I almost listed Midgley too. I highly recommend her. Grandpa would say she's got good horse sense.


    April 27, 2006 04:09 AM | Permalink for this comment

    David Hume, Joseph Campbell, John Donne, the Book of Job.


    April 27, 2006 11:23 AM | Permalink for this comment

    The Prophets (especially Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea)
    James Luther Adams
    Marcus Borg
    John Dominic Crossan
    Carl Scovel


    April 27, 2006 11:25 AM | Permalink for this comment

    Thich Nhat Hanh
    Ken Patton (minister of my home church, naturalistic humanist)

    Jason Pitzl-Waters:

    April 27, 2006 12:21 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Jordan D. Paper
    (amazing thinker on the nature of polytheism)

    Julian the Hellene
    (pre-conceived the re-birth of Paganism)

    Chas Clifton
    (historian and advocate of real nature religion)

    (an amazing writer on theology, activism, and social justice)

    Doreen Valiente
    (a great religious poet)


    April 27, 2006 01:20 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I may as well also mention "Songs of Innocence and Experience" by William Blake, a handful of Ingmar Bergman films (and a wonderful book about the theology of his work called "The Silence of God"), and the song lyrics of Leonard Cohen-- particularly those from 1984 on.

    Steve Caldwell:

    April 27, 2006 06:20 PM | Permalink for this comment

    John Dominic Crossan
    Rebecca Parker
    John Shelby Spong
    Robert Funk
    Carl Sagan
    Marvin Ellison

    And my personal experience (especially as a parent, religious educator, sexuality educator, and youth advisor)


    April 27, 2006 06:54 PM | Permalink for this comment


    "Fan Chi asked about wisdom. The Master said, 'Secure the rights of the people; respect ghosts and gods, but keep them at a distance - this is wisdom indeed.'" (6:22, tr. Leys)


    April 27, 2006 09:59 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I'm a Unitarian Universalist Minister.
    Influential people include but are certainly not limited to: James Luther Adams, John Clay Agnew, Lila Farrar,James Hillman, Jesus of Nazereth, Qohelet, Shunrio Suzuki, Miramato Musashi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Howard Thurman, Walt Disney, Walter Raushenbush, Hosea Ballou, the Universalist Humiliati, and the entire faculty of Andover Newton Theological School.


    April 27, 2006 10:03 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Ooops, how could I forget Charles Hartshorne!


    April 28, 2006 05:59 AM | Permalink for this comment

    This got me thinking.
    I'm a soon-to-be British Unitarian ministerial student.
    For today:

    Jesus of Nazareth
    Mansur Al Hallaj
    James Luther Adams
    James Martineau
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    A. Powell Davies
    Tom Owen-Towle
    Karen Armstrong
    My dad, Rev Prebendary David Lingwood
    Desiderius Erasmus
    William James
    Paul Knitter
    Brother Roger of Taize

    Dudley Jones:

    April 28, 2006 12:12 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Nobody mentioned Alister E. McGrath:

    I thought he might have attracted some attention.

    I tried to read one of his books awhile ago.

    James Ford:

    April 28, 2006 04:25 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Another UU minister.

    Among my major influences these days:

    Stephen Batchelor ("Buddhism Without Beliefs" among others)
    Nagarjuna ("Verses from the Center" among others)
    Eihei Dogen ("Shobogenzo" at least many parts)
    Ekaku Hakuin ("Wild Ivy" among others)

    James Ford:

    April 28, 2006 04:34 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Okay, a couple more...

    Robert Aitken (all, but a good way in is "Taking the Path of Zen" or "Mind of Clover.")
    Lao Tzu ("Tao Teh Ching" just about any translation)
    Chuang Tzu ("Inner Chapters")
    Joko Beck (anything, and just about anything by her Dharma heirs, such as Ezra Bayda, Diane Rizzetto and Barry Magid)
    Ken Jones ("The New Social Face of Buddhism")
    John Tarrant ("The Light Inside the Dark" and "Bring Me the Rhinocerous")


    April 29, 2006 05:11 AM | Permalink for this comment

    Ah, my story's not interesting, yet. I'm only a first year college student, that thinks for a change. Got a long road to walk.

    Geralyn Horton:

    April 29, 2006 12:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

    1940s-50s: childhood through high school--
    Unitarian Sunday School, The Bible and The World Bible, George Eliot, Shakespeare, Greek myths and Greek dramatists, Bertram Russell & Will Durant Theology a subset of philosophy/narrative.
    1960s: college & desegregation with CORE and anti- Vietnam--
    Plato, Aristotle, existentialists, Suzuki, Alan Watts, Ram Dass, ML King, Emerson, Huxley, Wm James, Wm Blake, Keats & Shelly, Buber, Niebuhr, A N Whitehead, S. Langer, Cox & Coffin
    1970s-80s: MA in Feminist Spirituality from Goddard. Read all the relevant female theologians I could beg or borrow. Also studied with James Luther Adams at Arlington St. Church: Tillich, mostly. Re-connected with the Transcendentalists and wrote plays about the Spiritualists, E. C. Stanton, & W E Channing.
    1990s-2000s: studied Islam, but without achieving the empathy I'd hoped for. Shocked and awed at the rise of the Fundamentalists. Also caught up in rise of the Internet and the consequent shortening and coarsening of my attention span. Martha Nussbaum, Sen, Said, Armstrong. Grateful for periodic dollops of Buddhism from James Ford, my minister.

    Dan Harper:

    April 29, 2006 09:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Jesus in Matt Mark Luke Thom
    Henry Thoreau
    Sophia Fahs
    James Cone
    William R. Jones
    Hosea Ballou
    George Fox

    Me: theological Transcendentalist, lifelong Unitarian Universalist, Unitarian Universalist minister


    May 6, 2006 12:20 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I am shocked that no one mentioned Martin Buber. He's one of my big influences. Cornel West. Schleiermacher, St. Augustine, Thandeka, Adin Ballou and Thoreau. Einstein and Stephen Hawking are very important to me as well. And I've learned a lot from El 'Sup, the Zapatistas and the indigenous liberation theology. Also, David Fernandez Davalos (Mexican Jesuit priest and liberation theologian, I don't think any of his writings are in English). Kay Jorgensen's been very important to me as well. No so much because of what's she's written but because of how she's lived. I should mention Dorothy Day too.


    May 6, 2006 03:40 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I'm a UU minister.

    Theological writers who have influenced me most are

    Reinhold Neibuhr
    Marcus Borg
    Gustavo Guttierez
    Martin Luther King

    A couple of "secular" books that really changed my ethical views were "Against Our Wills" by Susan Brownmiller in the 70's and "Next of Kin" by Roger Fouts.


    May 6, 2006 04:23 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Howard Thurman
    Dorothy Soelle
    Gustavo Gutierrez
    Lao Tse
    Rebecca Parker
    Theodore Parker
    James Luther Adams
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Thich Naht Hanh
    Arundathi Roy
    A Powell Davies
    Reinhold Niebuhr

    not a UU minister, but in seminary

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