Dr. Duane Olson

Photo of Dr. Duane Olson

Professor of Religious Studies

Ph.D., Theology, Ethics, and Culture, University of Iowa

M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary

B.A., Humanities, Trinity College

  • Faculty member since 2000

  • Committees: Faculty Senate, Intellectual Climate Committee

  • Teaching interests: Biblical studies, the history of Christianity, and contemporary issues in Christianity

  • Research interests: German/American philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich, pluralism and the encounter of the world religions, religion and history, religion and science, and religion and the environment

  • Books: The Depths of Life: Paul Tillich’s Understanding of God (in preparation), Issues in Contemporary Christian Thought (2011)

  • Professional affiliations: Member of the American Academy of Religion and President of the North American Paul Tillich Society

From writing a new book to singing at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Dr. Duane Olson made the most of every moment during his spring 2017 sabbatical. The extended time for research, writing, and growth enabled him to shed new light on 20th century philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich’s work, while also performing a contemporary composer’s interpretation of the Gospel on the side.

As a professor of religious studies, Olson enjoys exploring different perspectives in humanity’s understanding of God.His completed draft of The Depths of Life: Paul Tillich’s Understanding of God extracts several of Tillich’s revolutionary ideas from his collected writings and brings them to life for 21st century readers. “My claim is that Tillich’s understanding of God is groundbreaking and significant for the contemporary period,” Olson said.

Quotation Graphic"The problem is that his idea of God is housed in his larger work, which makes it difficult to understand and access. I abstract his understanding of God and show potential directions of meaning to which it can be applied, given changes in the cultural context from the early 1960s, when he completed his work, and our own day."

A few years ago, Olson also used his first sabbatical to write the majority of his first book. The process of writing a large work is an experience all its own, he says, and one that benefits from the sustained time for reflection that a sabbatical allows. It also has enabled him to learn new material and grow as a person, which in turn, brings more to his classes.

One such personal experience for Olson was being able to sing a contemporary piece called “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” as part of his 14th season with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus. This artistic rendition of the Gospel story includes texts from mostly women writers, giving a unique musical perspective to an aspect of Olson’s own field of study. The chorus performed the piece in St. Louis and New York this past spring.

Learn more about McKendree University and our Religious Studies degree program.


Make It McKendree  Apply Today!