Buddhist and Christian views mix in contemporary theology class

Buddhist and Christian views mix in contemporary theology class

Nov. 17, 2015

Students taking Contemporary Theology with Dr. Andrew Irvine, associate professor of philosophy and religion, recently had an opportunity to speak firsthand with the author of many books they are reading.

Dr. Paul Knitter, professor emeritus at Union Theological Seminary in New York, joined the class via Skype. Known for his views on religious pluralism, Knitter is the author of books such as Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian and a leading theologian of interreligious dialogue.

Irvine, who developed a friendship with Knitter after being invited to speak to his doctoral students in 2012, said that students having an opportunity to direct their questions at Knitter himself is exemplary of the types of opportunities available to humanities students at Maryville College.

 “Experiences like this are one of the very special opportunities we have in the humanities at Maryville College. We have faculty who have trained at top institutions and who maintain personal connections with leading national and international researchers and scholars,” he said.

For Sarah Dianne Jones '16, a religion major, having an opportunity to speak with Knitter validated many of her impressions from reading and class discussion.

“His definition of salvation was really beautiful. He said that understanding salvation simply as life after death was limiting, missing a huge chunk of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To think of salvation as so much more, as being a sense of grounding and connectedness both to God and the community of the world, is both freeing and eye opening,” she said.

Nick Rose '16 was also drawn to Knitter’s view of salvation.

“We’ve been talking about it in class, and I had my own personal critiques. I was surprised he didn’t reject what I thought were opposing views but actually affirmed my critiques. It was nice to hear from him personally really defending his words in a human way,” he said.

Irvine regularly invites speakers to his class via Skype. In his comparative philosophy class last year, Hans-Georg Moeller, a German philosopher teaching in Ireland, spoke with students. Moeller is the author of 'The Moral Fool,' a Daoist-inspired argument for limiting the role of morality in our lives.

By Gerhard Schneibel, News and New Media Writer


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2017 semester is 1,181.