Roanoke College

Gerald McDermott

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Gerald R. McDermott
Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion
Distinguished Senior Fellow, Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion
Roanoke College
West Hall 309
221 College Lane, Salem, VA 24153
540-375-2375
mcdermot@roanoke.edu

 




Research Interests

I am interested in Christian theology generally, the relationship between Christianity and other religions, and Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century theologian widely regarded as America's greatest religious mind. Oneof my recent books (The Theology of Jonathan Edwards, Oxford University Press) proposes that his theology is uniquely suited for global Christianity in the 21st century. Christianity Today awarded it their top prize for books in theology/ethics for 2013.

 

One Holy and Happy Society: The Public Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Penn State Press, 1992) is the first comprehensive study of Edwards's socio-political theory. It argues that, contrary to scholarly stereotypes, Edwards neither championed America as a redeemer nation nor expected an American millennium. It also argues that Edwards elaborated a social and political theology at least as nuanced as those of his liberal contemporaries.

Seeing God: Jonathan Edwards and Spiritual Discernment
(Regent College Publishing, 2000) is a re-writing of Edwards's theological magnum opus on spiritual discernment--the Religious Affections. I use stories from church history and my own experience to put flesh on the skeleton of Edwards's criteria for discerning true from false religion.

Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods: Christian Theology, Enlightenment Religion and Non-Christian Faith (Oxford University Press, 2000) analyzes Edwards' battles with deism over reason, revelation and the religions. It reveals a "strange, new Edwards" (at least to traditional understandings of "America's theologian") who was fascinated by world religions, and tried to incorporate their existence and peculiarities into his theological framework.

Understanding Jonathan Edwards: Introducing America's Theologian (Oxford University Press, 2008). This is a collection of essays by some of the world's best Edwards scholars, and responses to each by European scholars from a variety of disciplines. Each is written as a general introduction to an important component of the American theologian's thought, pitched at a level that is accessible to the general reader. I wrote one chapter plus the introduction and conclusion, and edited the rest.

My work on other religions has culminated in three books. In the first, Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions? Jesus, Revelation and the Religions (InterVarsity, 2000), I argue that there is revelation from God in other religions that can help Christians see more of God's revelation in Christ. After showing that not only biblical authors but also Augustine, Aquinas and Calvin used thinking from outside Israel and the church to help understand God in Christ, I use four case studies (Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian and Islamic) to illustrate what Christians can learn. This book won Christianity Today's 2001 Award for Missions and Global Affairs.

My more recent book, God's Rivals: Why God Allows Different Religions-- Insights from the Bible and the Early Church? (InterVarsity Press, 2007), wrestles with the question, If God is the Father of Jesus Christ, why did this God permit the rise and flourishing of the other great world religions? Many readers will be surprised to discover that the Bible and some of the early church Fathers (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen) had a lot to say about this. The book's premise is that for many of the biblical authors, and especially for the early church theologians, the major world religions are not simply human constructs but real spiritual entities. They represent, at least in part, fallen supernatural powers that reflect both light and darkness. I go on to discuss the implications of these views for today's Christians who struggle to know how to understand other religions.

World Religions: An Indespensible Guide (Thomas Nelson, 2011) This is a concise and easy-to-understand introduction to the most important world religions. Special features include testimonies by actual believers in each religion, a Christian analysis of each religion, and treatment of the most-asked questions about each religion, such as: Is Islam inherently violent? How are women treated in non-western religions? Why don't Jews accept Jesus as messiah? Why is the DaVinci Code so controversial? Why were some books kept out of the Bible?

I teamed up with Robert Millet, a prolific Mormon theologian from Brigham Young University, to write a book about Jesus. In Evangelicals & Mormons: Exploring the Boundaries (Regent College Publishing, 2010), Bob and I debate the implications for our understanding of Jesus such topics as the Book of Mormon, the Trinity, faith and works, and many other issues at the heart of Mormon-evangelical disagreements.
Here is an interview conducted with me about this book.

The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Oxford University Press, 2010). This is a 500-page volume with articles by thirty-two of the top evangelical theologians and scholars. The chapters survey the state-of-the-discipline on topics of the greatest importance to evangelical theology, and suggest ways in which evangelical theology should move forward. Each chapter is written by a theologian or scholar who is widely recognized for his or her published work on that subject, and is considered a leading thinker on that topic. The chapters critically assess the state of thinking on subjects from both the classical and evangelical traditions, and propose future directions for evangelical thinking on those subjects.

The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide (InterVarsity Press, February 2010) surveys the thought of eleven of the church's greatest thinkers: Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Friedrich Schleiermacher, John Henry Newman, Karl Barth, and Hans Urs von Balthasar. It sketches the biographies of each, highlights their greatest contributions to Christian thought, includes a reading selection, and provides a study guide for small group discussions.

The Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2011) This 45-chapter volume, co-authored with Michael J. McClymond, is the most comprehensive survey of his theology ever produced. It makes use as never before of the recently-completed 73-volume online edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards (Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale), and measure the vast secondary literature by careful attention to this massive literary corpus. The result is a multi-layered analysis that treats Edwards as a theologian for the global Christian community, whose rich thought provides bridges between the Christian West and East, Protestantism and Catholicism, conservatism and liberalism, and charismatic and non-charismatic Christian communities. This won Christianity Today's 2013 award for top book in theology/ethics.

A Trinitarian Theology of Religions: An Evangelical Approach (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). How should Christians think about non-Christian religions? How should Christians relate to religious others? This book, co-authored with missiologist Harold Netland, uses core Christian understandings of the Tri-personal God to address such questions as whether there is revelation in other religions, whether conversation with other religionists is necessary, how to distinguish between religion and culture, and what it means to be a Christian witness in a pluralistic world.

hjhjkjjkjI have also joined with an oncologist to write three books on cancer and pastoral theology: Living with Cancer (Word Books, 1992), Dear God, It's Cancer (Word, 1997), and Cancer: A Medical and Spiritual Guide For Patients and Their Families (Baker Books, 2004). The new book has new chapters on alternative medicine and the mind-body connection, and all the medical chapters have been thoroughly updated. It is the only book on the market, as far as I know, that is written by both an oncologist and a theologian. Each book answers both medical and spiritual/theological questions raised by cancer.

 

My articles, educational background, and other academic activities are available on my curriculum vitae.

Teaching Interests
I teach courses in Christian Theology, American Religion and the history of Christianity and other religions, such as Religion in America (Protestants, Catholics and Jews); New Religions in America (Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Black Muslims, New Age, Scientology, Branch Davidians et al); Christian Theology of the Religions. I also teach the Theology of Jonathan Edwards.

Biography
I grew up in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, went to a Jesuit high school in New York City, graduated from the University of Chicago (B.A., New Testament and Early Christian Literature), lived in religious communes for seven years, started and ran a private school for three years, pastored for five years in Iowa, and earned a Ph.D. in religion at the University of Iowa. I am an Anglican priest who assists at St. John Lutheran Church in Roanoke, Va.

I am married to an artist, Jean; we have three sons and seven grandchildren. I love to run and read; for 54 years I have followed the Boston Red Sox through thick and thin. You could say that I am familiar with both tragedy and redemption.