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Cole Lectures

Vanderbilt University Divinity School announces the 2018 Cole Lectures

to be delivered by

Photo of Gary Dorrien

Gary Dorrien

Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics

Union Theological Seminary


Stubborn Ethical Radicalism: Christian Socialism as Political Theology and Economic Democracy

Thursday, October 4, 2018

7:00 pm

Benton Chapel

The New Abolition and the American Nightmare: DuBois, King, Christian Socialism, and the Black Social Gospel

Friday, October 5, 2018

11:00 am 

Benton Chapel

About the Cole Lecturer

Gary Dorrien teaches social ethics, theology, and philosophy of religion as the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. He was previously the Parfet Distinguished Professor at Kalamazoo College where he taught for eighteen years and also served as Dean of Stetson Chapel and Director of the Liberal Arts Colloquium.

Professor Dorien is the author of nineteen books and more than 300 articles that range across the fields of social ethics, philosophy, theology, political economics, social and political theory, religious history, cultural criticism, and intellectual history. In 2017, Dorien won the Grawemeyer Award for his book The New Abolition: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel.  In 2013, Dorien won the Association of American Publishers’ PROSE Award for his book Kantian Reason and Hegelian Spirit: The Idealistic Logic of Modern Theology. In 2010, Dorien won the Choice Award for his book Social Ethics in the Making.

Dorrien has focused on economic democracy and social justice politics, post-Kantian philosophy, and modern theology throughout his career. His early books on these subjects include Reconstructing the Common Good (1990), The Neoconservative Mind: Politics, Culture, and the War of Ideology (1992), Soul in Society: The Making and Renewal of Social Christianity (1995), The Word as True Myth (1997), and The Barthian Revolt in Modern Theology (2000).

His most recent books are Breaking White Supremacy: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Social Gospel and Imagining Democratic Socialism: Political Theology, Marxism, and Social Democracy, both published by Yale University Press in 2018. Imagining Democratic Socialism, to be published in November 2018, examines the intertwined history of Social Democracy, Marxism, and Christian socialism in Britain and Germany, making an argument for decentralized economic democracy.

Dorien has taught in recent years as the Horace De Y. Lentz Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School and the Paul E. Raither Distinguished Scholar at Trinity College. He lectures frequently in Germany, England, and Canada, and writes for Cross Currents, American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, Tikkun, Christian Century, Telos, Commonweal and other journals.


Philanthropist Edmund W. Cole , president of Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and treasurer of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust, endowed the annual Cole Lecture Series in 1892 "for the defense and advocacy of the Christian religion." Cole's gift provided for the first sustained lectureship in the history of Vanderbilt University.

The lectures have been delivered by such distinguished scholars as Harry Emerson Fosdick, George Buttrick, Rudolph Bultmann, H. Richard Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Walter Brueggemann, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, James Barr, Gustavo Gutierrez, James Cone, Edward Farley, Don Beisswenger, Gene TeSelle, David Buttrick, Jim Wallis, Lamin Sanneh, Mark Noll, Randall Balmer, James Lawson, John O'Malley, R. Scott Appleby and many others.

The Cole Lectures are free and open to the public.

Click here for a complete list of Cole Lectures from 1894-2015.