Faculty Profile

John Kenney, PhD

Professor of Religious Studies, Emeritus
View Curriculum Vitae

Ph.D. Brown University
A.B. Bowdoin College

I studied ancient philosophy at Bowdoin, majoring in Classics and Philosophy. I did graduate work in Philosophy at the University Pennsylvania, and then completed my Ph.D. at Brown in Religious Studies. After a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard, I taught for 15 years at Reed as Professor of Religion and Humanities. I came to Saint Michael's to be Dean of the College in 1995. Since 2006 I have been teaching full-time as Professor of Religious Studies. I also offer courses in the Humanities Program

Areas of Expertise:

Philosophy of Religion, Ancient Christianity

Courses I Teach:

  • Ancient and Medieval Civilization
  • Catholic Christianity
  • Medieval Christianity
  • Understandings of God
  • The Problem of Evil
  • Christian Mysticism

Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maine, 1973

National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship (1984-85): "The Foundations of Neoplatonic Theology."

National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship (1991-92): "The Theistic Epistemology of St. Augustine."

Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award, Reed College, 1990

Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award, Saint Michael's College, 2008

My research centers on Early Christianity and Ancient Philosophy. My first book examined the development of ‘pagan monotheism’ among Platonists, especially Plotinus. I have written studies on Gnosticism and early Christian philosophy, and edited a volume on Philo of Alexandria, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher. I am now studying St. Augustine, having published two books on his thought. What Augustine had to say about God and the soul seems to me challenging and arresting and profound, and well worth trying to grasp on its own terms.

John Kenney, professor of religious studies, eminent St. Augustine scholar, author and former dean, who is retiring after this academic year, delivered the Humanities Center Annual Lecture, titled "On God, the Soul, Evil, and the Rise of Christianity," with his longtime colleagues and students packing the Farrell Room lecture space to capacity.
(posted June 2019)

John Kenney, professor of religious studies faculty and the former dean, is a leading scholar of St. Augustine and has written a new book that just came out titled On God, The Soul, Evil and the Rise of Christianity. The publisher’s website describes the book as follows: “Reading Augustine is a new line of books offering personal readings of St. Augustine of Hippo from leading philosophers and religious scholars. The aim of the series is to make clear Augustine's importance to contemporary thought and to present Augustine not only or primarily as a pre-eminent Christian thinker but as a philosophical, spiritual, literary and intellectual icon of the West … John Peter Kenney shows us that Augustine offers an unusually clear vantage point to understand the essential ideas that drove that transition.
(posted January 2019)

John Kenney, professor of religious studies, has been named co-editor of a new history to be published by Cambridge University Press. Entitled Christian Platonism: A History, the volume will explore the complex association of Platonism and Christian thought from antiquity to the present. John also recently has been appointed a member of the Cambridge Center for the Study of Platonism.
(posted June 2018)

John Kenney, professor of religious studies, has published the following articles in recent months: “Plotinus and the Apophatic Augustine,” in Defining Platonism: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of John M. Dillon (Catholic University of America Press, 2017); “Platonism and the Iconic Imagination: A Response to Douglas Hedley,” Modern Theology (on-line: May 2017; print: July, 2017). Also, in November 2016, John attended the American Academy of Religion Conference where he joined a Book Symposium about The Iconic Imagination by Douglas Hedley, and chaired a session of the Platonism and Neoplatonism Group. On May 30, 2017, John was keynote speaker in the Brother Robert J. Sullivan C.F.X. Lecture Series at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, MA, speaking on "St. Augustine and Fake Religion."
(posted June 2017)

John Peter Kenney, professor of religious studies, delivered a paper at the Seventeenth International Patristics Conference, Oxford University, August, 2015. His title was: "Nondum me esse: Augustine’s Early Ontology.”
(posted January 2016)

John Kenney, professor of religious studies, gave the 17th Annual Lawler Lecture in Theology at Creighton University, the Jesuit University in Omaha, NE, on March 18. The topic was: The Mysticism of St. Augustine.
(posted April 2015)

John Kenney, professor of religious studies, is author of a chapter, "Faith and Reason,” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, ed. by Eleonore Stump and David Meconi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). He also presented a paper, “Plotinus and the Apophatic Augustine,” during a conference organized by the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Philosophy on “Defining Platonism” in September, 2014. In May 2014, John presented another paper, “Augustine’s Early Ontology,” at the North American Patristics Society Annual Meeting in Chicago.
(posted December 2014)

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