Roanoke College’s Center for Religion and Society will be renamed the Robert D. Benne Center for Religion and Society in honor of the leading theologian, scholar and professor who directed the center since its founding in 1982. Benne, a prominent figure in Lutheran ethics and social thought, has authored over 200 articles and ten books, most dealing with Christianity and society. At Roanoke, Benne was the Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion and chairman of the department of religion and philosophy for 18 years.
Dr. James Peterson, the Charles and Helen Schumann Professor of Christian Ethics, is the new director of the Robert D. Benne Center for Religion and Society. Peterson joined Roanoke College in 2011.
The Benne Center for Religion and Society sponsors speakers and programs to bring Christian religious and moral perspectives to contemporary challenges. It carries out the conviction that the most important human decisions, both public and private, benefit from informative dialogue across the disciplines.
Peterson is an ordained minister who has been a research fellow in molecular and clinical genetics. His most recent book, Changing Human Nature (Eerdmans 2010), examines the ethics of genetic intervention. Peterson has lectured at universities including the University of British Columbia, Harvard and Oxford. Peterson is also the President of the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation and the editor of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith – the 60 year academic journal of the American Scientific Affiliation.
Benne has taught, written, and lectured widely in the area of religion and society. His books include: Wandering in the Wilderness – Christians and the New Culture (1971); Defining America – A Christian Critique of the American Dream (1974); The Ethic of Democratic Capitalism – A Moral Reassessment (1982); Ordinary Saints – An Introduction to the Christian Life (1988 and revised second edition in 2003); The Paradoxical Vision – A Public Theology for the Twenty-first Century (1995); Seeing is Believing – Visions of Life Through Film (1998); Why Bother? A Whole Vision for a Whole People (1999); Quality with Soul – How Six Premier Colleges and Universities Keep the Faith with Their Religious Traditions (2001), and Reasonable Ethics – A Christian Approach to Society, Economics, and Politics (2005), and Good and Bad Ways to Think about Religion and Politics (2010), which was reviewed in the spring of 2011 by The Weekly Standard.
In January of 2009 a Festschrift (celebratory volume) in honor of Benne’s 70th birthday was published by Eerdmans. Entitled A Report from the Front Lines-Conversations on Public Theology, it was edited by Michael Shahan. It includes contributions by thirteen distinguished scholars who cover the themes that have interested Benne for many years.
Submitted by Roanoke College