August 2021 – A new study by Academic Influence reveals that open and relational thinkers are among the most influential scholars in theology over the last thirty years.

Open and relational thinkers ranking in the top ten are Thomas Jay Oord (#5), Rosemary Radford Ruether (#6), John B. Cobb, Jr. (#8), David Ray Griffin (#9), and James Cone (#10).

Ranking is based on a computational process that consults open-source data on the internet. The databases consulted contain billions of data points. The Influence Ranking program aggregates scholarly and academic citations, evaluates information databases, and searches periodicals, journals, and global media outlets. Results are not a popularity measure but come from records of achievement, frequency of citation, institutional sources, and more.

“Institutions are increasingly recognizing the power of the internet for theological education and information dissemination,” says Robert Duncan, President of Northwind Theological Seminary. “This ranking of influential theologians shows how various digital sources advance academic theology in multi-faceted and far-reaching ways.”

Other open and relational theologians in the top fifty are Keith Ward (#29), Walter Brueggemann (#32), Jurgen Moltmann (#35), Clark Pinnock (#44), William Hasker (#45), Charles Hartshorne (#52), Ian Barbour (#58), Marjorie Suchocki (#92).

“Open and relational thinkers come in many stripes,” says Tripp Fuller of the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University and host of Homebrewed Christianity, one of the longest-running and most influential theology podcasts. “This study shows their influence only continues to grow. This way of thinking makes sense not only to scholars but to the person on the street.”

Open and relational theology is a broad umbrella under which rests a variety of people. Their shared ideas include 1) the future is open and neither pre-decided nor foreknown by God and 2) God and creation are relational, in the sense of mutually influencing. Open and relational thinkers also often emphasize the priority of love, freedom, experience, and the possibility of transformation.

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