John J. Thatamanil

 John J. Thatamanil
Address2201 West End Avenue
Nashville, TN 37240

Assistant Professor of Theology, Vanderbilt University Divinity School

John J. Thatamanil teaches a wide variety of courses in the areas of comparative theology, theologies of religious pluralism, Hindu-Christian dialogue, Buddhist-Christian dialogue, the theology of Paul Tillich, process theology, and Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality. Tying together these diverse interests is a basic commitment to a deeply metaphysical form of philosophical theology which he takes to be essential for any Christian theology that seeks to be in conversation with non-Christian religious traditions. Professor Thatamanil seeks to revive in his work a commitment to speculative reflection as found in the work of Paul Tillich and especially Alfred North Whitehead.
Professor Thatamanil’s first book is an exercise in constructive comparative theology. The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament. An East-West Conversation (Fortress Press, 2006) provides the foundation for a nondualist Christian theology worked out through a conversation between Paul Tillich and Sankara, the master teacher of the Hindu tradition of Advaita Vedanta.

He is currently at work on his second book tentatively entitled, Religious Diversity After “Religion”: Rethinking Theologies of Religious Pluralism (Fordham University Press). That book takes up the recent and extensive literature on the Western construction/invention of “religion” with the following questions in mind: If “religion” is a relatively recent invention of the modern West, then is the category applicable to non-Western cultures and traditions? Can we really divide the world up into a set of distinct and discrete world religions? If it is problematic to talk of “race relations” now that we know that race is a construct, a biological fiction, does it make sense to talk of interreligious dialogue if “religion” too is likewise a fiction? Does it still make sense to ask if the world’s “religions” are paths up the same mountain or paths up different mountains? How should theology of religious pluralism (TRP) be reconfigured in light of these new questions and challenges?

Professor Thatamanil is a past-president of the North American Paul Tillich Society (NAPTS), and he is Chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Theological Education Steering Committee (TESC). Dr. Thatamanil is also committed to adult religious education and teaches and preaches at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel on the Vanderbilt campus.

Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Professor Thatamanil taught at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS.

Areas of Interest


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