I received my B.A. cum laude (1964) in philosophy and political science from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota, USA. My S.T.B. cum laude (1967) in theology is from Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. My M.A. (1972) and Ph.D. distinction (1976) in Special Religious Studies are from the Institute of Christian Thought, University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. My dissertation was entitled “History and Eschatology in Jonathan Edwards: A Critique of the Heimert Thesis.”
I have taught at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota (Summer, 1966), Waterloo Lutheran University, Waterloo, Ontario (1967–1969), University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario (Summer, 1972, 1973), University of Toronto, Extension, Toronto, Ontario (1972), and Renison College, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, since 1973. I hold an appointment as a Professor of Religion and Culture at Renison College, University of Waterloo, where I am also an Associate Professor of Social Development Studies. Since 1982 I have been part of the Supporting Faculty for the Consortium in Reformation History of the University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph. I served as the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo (1987–1993) and I am currently the Graduate Officer for the M.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo.
I have also been a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University, Cambridge, U.K., (1980), the Indian Institute of Islamic Studies, New Delhi, India (1986), the Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Studies in Philosophy, University of Madras, Madras, India (1987), Hamdard University, New Delhi, India (1993), and Nairobi University, Nairobi, Kenya (1994). I have lectured at numerous universities in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe.
I am the author of four volumes in the study of religion: To Whom It May Concern: Poverty, Humanity, Community, (Philadelphia, 1969), A World Broken By Unshared Bread, (Geneva, 1970), Religion in a New Key (New Delhi, 1992) and Jonathan Edwards’ Grammar of Time, Self, and Society (Lewiston, NY, 1993). I have also edited (singly or jointly) twelve further volumes in the field of religious studies including Exploring Unification Theology (New York, 1978), God: The Contemporary Discussion (New York, 1982), The Many Faces of Religion and Society (New York, 1985), Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy: Studies in His Life and Thought (Lewiston, NY, 1986), Interreligious Dialogue: Voices for a New Frontier (New York, 1989) and Pluralism, Tolerance, and Dialogue (Waterloo, 1989). I have compiled with Doris Jakobsh A Canadian Interfaith Directory (Waterloo, 1993). I have published more than forty scholarly articles including “Faith and History in Grant’s Lament,” “Media Ethics,” “Cinema, Religion, and Popular Culture,” “Sin and Society,” “The Consolations of Philosophy,” “New Religions: Issues and Questions,” “Towards a Grammar of the Spirit in Society,” “Interreligious Dialogue and Understanding,” “The Purposes of Christ: Towards the Recovery of a Trinitarian Perspective,” “From ‘De’ to ‘Re’ or Does the ‘Future of Ontotheology’ Require the Recovery of the Experience/Sense of Transcendence?”, “The Kumbha Mela: A Festival of Renewal,” and “To Hear the Stars Speak: Ontology in the Study of Religion.” My publications range across the broad area of religion and culture but can be broken down into the following areas: I. Theology and Ethics, II. Religion in North America, III. New Religious Movements, and IV. Interreligious Dialogue.
I have been teaching in Religious Studies for more than twenty-five years. At Renison College, University of Waterloo, I regularly teach courses on the Religious Quest, The Study of Religion, The History of Christian Thought, and Interreligious Encounter and Dialogue that employ the comparative, historical, and sociological methods common to the academic study of religion. I also teach courses from time to time on Religion and Politics, Religion and Literature, Religion and Film, and I have lectured in the course on Sects, Cults, and New Religious Movements. I have also taught graduate courses on Christianity and World Religions.
I am a long-standing member of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion, the American Academy of Religion, the Canadian Theological Society, the Society for Values in Higher Education, the Royal Asiatic Society, and the Society for Buddhist Christian Studies. I have served as a Consultant to major international and interreligious conferences including the Assembly of the World’s Religions (1985, 1990, 1992).
As a scholar of religion and culture, I have been engaged in the study of new religious movements since the mid-1970s. I have been interested to understand the origins, beliefs, practices and the relationships of these new movements to the wider culture. (Many of the new religions are not “new” in any profound sense, but are simply new to North American society.) I have also been interested in, and somewhat amused by, the intense, often hysterical, reaction of sectors of the public to the new religious movements. I have done extensive field work with several new religious communities in Canada, the United States, and India.
In relation to the Church of Scientology, I first became aware of this new religious community in the mid-1970s. Then I met members of the Church of Scientology in Toronto and Kitchener, Ontario. I was able to participate in some meetings in the late 1970s and early 1980s that brought together members of the Church of Scientology and scholars of religion to discuss the basic beliefs and practices of Scientology. I have met some members of American and British branches of the Church. I have had extended conversations with church members concerning their experience of Scientology and its impact on their lives. I have maintained a limited contact with some Canadian church members down to the present day. I have visited Scientology Centers in Kitchener and on Yonge Street in Toronto. Since the mid-1970s I have read many of the major publications of the Church of Scientology including Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, The Volunteer Minister’s Handbook, What is Scientology?, and The Scientology Religion. I have also read Church publications that address current social issues including drug abuse, mental health practices, and religious liberty. I have read scholarly articles and books, mainly by sociologists of religion, on the Church of Scientology.