55 Comments

I think the most influential evangelicals today are Lausanne Covenant type urban pastors (a lot of them rooted in Reformed theology but a bit more ecumenical than the Piper types)—think Jon Tyson at COTC NYC, John Mark Comer at Bridgetown, Dave Lomas at Reality. You can even get a sense for it from the size of their congregation (and makeup). Because they tend to be less culture war types than the prior generation, they also tend to impact culture more. (Keller interestingly was probably the bridge between the generations.)

The other category is writers—Marilynn Robinson and Min Jin Lee come to mind as pretty explicit about how faith shapes their writing. Maybe literature more broadly—there used to be a bunch of pieces about Mumford & Sons and their relationship with faith.

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I believe that William Lane Craig fits the bill fairly well. He is identifiably Protestant (Baptist), has made several high-level intellectual contributions in the area of philosophy of religion and theology (ex. the Kalam Cosmological Argument), and is reasonably well-known.

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Perhaps its the circles I run in, but West and Michael Eric Dyson seem like solid examples. I am a Catholic, so perhaps it is due to personal blind spots, but I would have a hard time coming up with many others.

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I believe Jordan Peterson will be one day though he might come into the faith as a Catholic. He most likely will be forced to become an American at some point sadly. For now I second Adam with Carl Truman and would add Glenn Sunshine and John Stonestreet. And yes this might be a blatant advertisement for the Colson Fellows Program on worldview I am currently taking.

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Also, writer Mark Steyn is a Baptist.

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Jan 20, 2023·edited Jan 20, 2023

He wouldn't be the most prominent but demographer Lyman Stone should make the list. He is Lutheran.

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Oh, I was going to recommend Nicholas Nassim Taleb, the author of Black Swans and Antifragile, but he's Greek Orthodox, not Protestant.

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Cornell West is a true racist. He hates White people and needs a better barber.

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Os Guinness would qualify (I've got a forthcoming essay making the case why aspiring Christian intellectuals ought to look to him) and has had much closer to an older era's influence on public policy and public discourse than anyone else on the list—e.g., the Williamsburg Charter—but he's not that much younger than Plantinga.

Alan Jacobs might prove to be a successor, but not in the institution-building manner of Os (fittingly, Jacobs covered one of Os' attempts at a similar consensus statement in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and Douthat did in his days at The Atlantic).

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I think Hans Boersma might be somewhat of a public theologian. If you are looking for leaders in their fields I think that many of the people Ken Myers interviews on Mars Hill Audio would qualify (as might Ken Myers himself). I would also look at frequent Protestant contributors to Touchstone Magazine.

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Thank you for your comment. I find your reference to Duns Scotus evocative, since I associate him with the chain of thought that results in the rejection of universals in metaphysics and of eudaimonia in ethics, culminating in the nominalism of Ockham and Descartes — which I view as philosophical siblings to Reformation theology. Man is alone in a universe with just God and God’s determination to save or damn him. I realize I am oversimplifying but the starkness of the post-Reformation mindset, in theology, philosophy, ethics, art and literature, is not one conducive, methinks, to the curiosity I associate with a public intellectual.

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Since you mention West, you are obviously not limiting to right-of-center Protestant intellectuals/academics which is good because the main ones I can think of would probably be thought of as left-of center. I'm in the sciences, so I mostly know those disciplines. There is an academic organization, the ASA (American Scientific Affiliation) that is focused on faith/science discussions and is overwhelmingly Protestant, both mainline and evangelical. While a lot of the common members are theologians/pastors/or small school professors with limited influence, usually their plenary speakers at the annual meeting are fairly big names in various fields:

Collins

Katherine Hayhoe (atmospheric scientist and climate change)

Joshua Swamidass (computational biologist and AI)

Nigel Cameron (tech and ethics)

Ian Hutchison (nuclear engineering)

Annabelle Pratt (electrical engineering and renewable energy)

(Although interesting--now that I typed that out, I think three of those names are originally from Canada, UK, and South Africa and came to America for education and/or jobs, so maybe US Protestants just don't do a very good job of launching intellectuals into the top levels of society.)

Didn't look like you were particularly interested in pastors, although Keller and Wilson's names were mentioned on the twitter thread. To that I would add Tony Evans, who pretty uniquely has following in both the white and black Protestant churches. He also has a version of your three worlds outline--although fitting a former chaplain for the NFL, he uses a sports metaphor saying Christians have gotten used to living in an America where we are the home team and are now in a world where we need to prepare for the constant boos and jeers that the road team receives.

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Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at Harvard.

Condoleezza Rice, director of the Hoover Institution.

George Marsden and Mark Noll must qualify as first-rate historians in their own right.

Though he recently passed, the late Dallas Willard must also qualify. Professor of philosophy at UCLA. He is well known for his writings on Christian spirituality, but he also is known for his work on phenomenology and translation of Husserl.

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Although I don't think he really qualifies as a public intellectual, I'm going to throw in the name Robert Murphy, Austrian economist.

I met him a number of years ago. I decided to look him up just now and, funny enough, he was recently on a Mises Institute podcast entitled "Decline of the Public Intellectual", which I don't have time to listen to:

https://mises.org/library/decline-public-intellectuals

I wonder if there is anyone more accomplished or impressive of a communicator within Austrian economics, who is also a Protestant. It seems like a field that might draw conservative Christians.

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Who are the leading Protestants invited to Davos this week?

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Os Guinness? He lives in America. He loves America. AND He has a British accent so Americans are more apt to trust him.

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