Alumni books

Congratulations to our prestigious alumni authors–we are so proud of you!  If you are a University of Iowa Religious Studies alum and your book is not listed, please let us know by emailing

Dr. Michael Baltutis
SUNY Press, 2023

Dr. Baltutis is a 2008 PhD graduate and currently serves as Professor of South Asian Religions and Department Chair of Anthropology, Global Religions, and Cultures, and Chair of Global Council at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Picture of the cover for the book The Festival of Indra

Book description: The Festival of Indra details the textual and performative history of an important South Asian festival and its role in the development of classical Hinduism. Drawing on various genres of Sanskrit textual sources—especially the epic Mahābhārata—the book highlights the innovative ways that this annual public festival has supported the stable royal power responsible for the sponsorship of these texts. More than just a textual project, however, the book devotes significant ethnographic attention to the only contemporary performance of this festival that adheres to the classical Sanskrit record: the Indrajatra of Kathmandu, Nepal. Here, Indra's tall pole remains the festival's focal point, though its addition of the royal blessing by Kumari, the "living goddess" of Nepal, and the regular presence of the fierce god Bhairav show several significant ways that ritual agents have re-constructed this festival over the past two thousand years.

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Dr. Nathan Eric Dickman
Equinox Publishing, 2023

Dr. Dickman is a 2009 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies and is currently an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Ozarks.

Picture of the cover of the book Interpretation

Book description: This volume examines the nature of interpretation, strategies within interpretation, and negotiations about the adequacy of an interpretation, with special attention paid to possible roles interpretation plays in the academic study of religions. While many people engage in interpretation, it is not clear what interpretation is. Throughout the book, a number of fundamental questions posed throughout the history of hermeneutics (theory of interpretation) are addressed. What is an "interpretation"? What or who determines the meaning of a text? What helps in navigating competitions or conflicts of interpretation? What is the place of interpretation in the academy, relative to explanatory sciences and productive arts? The unique approach taken to interpretation here is based on the fundamental axiom of philosophical hermeneutics-the hermeneutic priority of questioning. Through this, the author makes a case for the critical value of interpretation. Most other books focus either on historical developments of hermeneutics, on key modern hermeneutic philosophers, or on specific sacred texts such as in biblical or Quranic hermeneutics. Each chapter of this book refines a conceptual element that combines with others into a theory of interpretation useful for the classroom and in scholarship on hermeneutics. 

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Dr. Kirk R. MacGregor
Pickwick, 2022

Dr. MacGregor is a 2005 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies and is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas.

Cover for the book "Molinist Philosophical and Theological Ventures"

Book description: This volume represents a significant advance of the philosophical and theological conversation surrounding Molinism. It opens by arguing that Molinism constitutes the best explanation of the scriptural data on divine sovereignty, human freedom, predestination, grace, and God's salvific will. The alleged biblical prooftexts for open theism are better explained, according to Kirk MacGregor, by Molinism. Responding to philosophical critics of Molinism, MacGregor offers a novel solution to the well-known grounding objection and a robust critique of arguments from explanatory priority. He also presents a Molinist interpretation of branching time models as heuristic illustrations of the relationship between possibility and feasibility. Seeking to push Molinism into new territories, MacGregor furnishes a Molinist account of sacred music, according to which music plays a powerful apologetic function. Finally, regarding the nature of hell, MacGregor contends that Molinism is compatible with both eternalism and eventual universalism.

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Dr. Peter Yoder
Pietist, Moravian, and Anabaptist Studies Book 6
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2021

Dr. Yoder is a 2011 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies, and as of 2021, he serves as Assistant Professor of Honors and History at Montreat College (Montreat, N.C.).

Cover for the book "Pietism and the Sacraments"

Book Description: Considered by many to be one of the most influential German Pietists, August Hermann Francke lived during a moment when an emphasis on conversion was beginning to produce small shifts in how the sacraments were defined—a harbinger of later, more dramatic changes to come in evangelical theology. In this book, Peter James Yoder uses Francke and his theology as a case study for the ecclesiological stirrings that led to the rise of evangelicalism and global Protestantism.

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Dr. Michele Kueter Petersen
Paul Ricoeur, Edith Stein, and the Heart of Meaning
Rowman & Littlefield, October 2021

Cover for the book "A Hermeneutics of Contemplative Silence"

Dr. Petersen is a 2011 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies.

Book description: This book probes the texts of Paul Ricoeur and Edith Stein to disclose the role of silence in the creation of meaning. To understand and live out of contemplative awareness as a way to think through transformative human experience is an ethical and spiritual task, one that warrants explanation and interpretation.

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Dr. Richard W. McCarty
SUNY Press, Dec 2021

Dr. McCarty is a 2008 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies, and currently a Professor of Religious Studies at Mercyhurst University, Erie, Pennsylvania.

Cover for the book "Under the Bed of Heaven"

Book description: Explores how concepts of sex in heaven can inform Christian sexual ethics in ways that challenge traditional norms and open new possibilities. Under the Bed of Heaven is a work of Christian ethics that examines how eschatology might reshape concepts of sexual morality. With the rise of institutional Christianity in the Roman Empire, Christian attitudes about sexual desire and activity were soon controlled by doctrines of virginity and celibacy, or, monogamous marriage for the sake of procreation. These moral theologies aligned with a certain track of Christian eschatology, which imagined the future resurrection of the body, but without any corresponding sexual desires. As a result, traditional Christianity developed a preference for celibacy on earth to match the loss of sexual desire and activity in heaven, making marriage and monogamy temporal goods only.

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Dr. Kirk R. MacGregor
Palgrave Macmillan. 2020

Dr. MacGregor is a 2005 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies and is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas.

Cover for the book "A Historical and Theological Investigation of John's Gospel"

Book description: This book provides original and controversial contributions into specific areas of Johannine studies, along with defenses of various traditional theological interpretations of John that are commonly overlooked in New Testament scholarship. MacGregor offers new insights into the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, the content of the underlying Signs Source, the meaning of the phrases “believe in him” and “believe in his name,” Jesus’ claim that Abraham saw his day, the significance of John 14.6, and why the resurrected Jesus upbraided Thomas. MacGregor employs the doctrine of middle knowledge to reconcile the seemingly paradoxical Johannine claims of divine predestination, genuine human freedom, and the universal divine salvific will. He defends the ontological equality but functional subordination of the Johannine Jesus to God the Father as well as the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit as presented by the Gospel of John. 

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Dr. Kyle Dieleman
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Verlage. 2019

Dr. Dieleman is a 2017 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies and is a Professor of History at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois.

Cover for the book "The Battle for the Sabbath in the Dutch Reformation"

Book description: Kyle J. Dieleman focuses on the doctrinal and practical importance of Sunday observance in the early modern Reformed communities in the Low Countries. My project investigates the theological import of the Sabbath and its practical applications. The first step is to focus on how Dutch Reformed theologians conceived of the Sabbath. The theology of the Sabbath, I argue, moves over time from an emphasis on spiritual rest to participating in the ministries of the church to a strict rest from all work and recreation. The next step is to explore congregants’ actual Sunday practices. By attending to church governance records at the national, regional, and local levels the importance of proper Sabbath observance quickly becomes clear. The provincial synod records, classes’ records, and consistory records indicate that church authorities were adamant that church members faithfully attend sermon and catechism services, refrain from sinful practices, and abstain from recreational activities. Equally as telling as the observance demanded of church members is how church authorities responded. The church records portray these authorities as fretting over the disordered and unregulated nature of improper Sabbath observance. Having established the importance of the Sabbath in Dutch Reformed theology and lived piety, I argue the emphasis on Sunday observance is best understood as resulting from two main factors. First, the emphasis on proper Sunday observance is a result of the Reformed church authorities attempting to maintain the pious reputation of the Reformed faith and establish the identity of the Reformed Church amid multiple other confessional identities. Second, proper observance of the Sabbath was important because it ensured order within the church and society more broadly.

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Dr. Pankaj Jain
New York, New York: Routledge. 2017

Dr. Jain is a 2008 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies and is an Associate Professor in Philosophy & Religion at the Univeristy of North Texas, Denton, Texas.

Cover for the book "Moving the Mountains: Science and Socio-Religious Revolution in India"

Book description: Scholars have long noticed a discrepancy in the way non-Western and Western peoples conceptualize the scientific and religious worlds. Non-Western traditions and communities, such as of India, are better positioned to provide an alternative to the Western dualistic thinking of separating science and religion. The Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO) was founded by Dr. Anil Joshi in the 1970s as a new movement looking at the economic and development needs of rural villages in the Indian Himalayas, and encouraging them to use local resources in order to open up new avenues to self-reliance.

This book argues that the concept of dharma, the law that supports the regulatory order of the universe in Indian culture, can be applied as an overarching term for HESCO’s socio-economic work. This book presents the social-environmental work in contemporary India by Dr. Anil Joshi in the Himalayas and by Baba Seechewal in Punjab, combining the ideas of traditional and scientific ecological knowledge systems. Based on these two examples, the book presents the holistic model transcending the dichotomies of nature vs. culture and science vs. religion, especially as practiced and utilized in the non-Western society such as India.

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Dr. Kirk R. MacGregor
Zondervan, 2019

Dr. MacGregor is a 2005 PhD graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies and is, as of August 2016, serving as Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas.

Cover for the book "Contemporary Theology"

Book description: Accessible and comprehensive, Contemporary Theology: An Introduction by professor and author Kirk R. MacGregor provides a chronological survey of the major thinkers and schools of thought in modern theology in a manner that is both approachable and intriguing.

Unique among introductions to contemporary theology, MacGregor includes:

  • Evangelical perspectives alongside mainline and liberal developments
  • The influence of philosophy and the recent Christian philosophical renaissance on theology
  • Global contributions
  • Recent developments in exegetical theology
  • The implications of theological shifts on ethics and church life

Contemporary Theology: An Introduction is noteworthy for making complex thought understandable and for tracing the landscape of modern theology in a well-organized and easy-to-follow manner.

"Contemporary Theology: An Introduction will assuredly—and quickly—become an indispensable addition to the required reading list for undergraduate and graduate courses on Christian theology and Christian ethics. As in all his publications, Professor MacGregor combines comprehensive and context-driven historical analysis with superlative writing skills. Difficult concepts are presented in a clearly-written, crisp, and engaging style. For the general reader interested in the positive impact of Christian ethics on our fragmented and contentious world, your understanding of the ongoing cultural struggle for ethical assurances, drawn from the long history of Christian theology, will be exponentially enhanced. Highly recommended!" -John K. Simmons, professor emeritus of religious studies, Western Illinois University


Dr. Wayne G. Johnson
Hamilton Books, 2016

Dr. Johnson is a PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies and as of January 2017, serving as Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Cover for the book "Judging Jesus"

Book description: Few persons have had greater impact on history than Jesus of Nazareth. That he existed is generally conceded. Who he was remains a major issue. Since great religions claim to possess basic and unique truths about the human venture, the Christian message about Jesus challenges other great religions. Much of world history is marked by the responses of great religions to this Christian challenge.


Dr. Daniel Morris
Lexington Books, 2015

Dr. Morris is a 2012 PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies and as of January 2017 a Teaching Fellow at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Cover for the book "Virtue and Irony in American Democracy"

Book description: What virtues are necessary for democracy to succeed? This book turns to John Dewey and Reinhold Niebuhr, two of America’s most influential theorists of democracy, to answer this question. Dewey and Niebuhr both implied—although for very different reasons—that humility and mutuality are important virtues for the success of people rule. Not only do these virtues allow people to participate well in their own governance, they also equip us to meet challenges to democracy generated by free-market economic policy and practices. Ironically, though, Dewey and Niebuhr quarreled with each other for twenty years and missed the opportunity to achieve political consensus. In their discourse with each other they failed to become “one out of many,” a task that is distilled in the democratic rallying cry “e pluribus unum.” This failure itself reflects a deficiency in democratic virtue. Thus, exploring the Dewey/Niebuhr debate with attention to their discursive failures reveals the importance of a third virtue: democratic tolerance. If democracy is to succeed, we must cultivate a deeper hospitality toward difference than Dewey and Niebuhr were able to extend to each other.

"Sometime in the spring of 1968—marked, as it was, by the assassinations of MLK and RFK, and the Tet Offensive—the New Left replaced the Old and the focus of sociopolitical attention shifted from economics, the distribution of power, institutional purpose, and progress to political identity, suspicion of power, self-fulfillment, and revolution. The shift was probably both necessary and inevitable, but a decade and a half into the twenty-first century, many of the concerns of the Old Left are ascendant. We are, therefore, fortunate to have Dan Morris' new book re-introduce us to two towering figures of the Old Left: John Dewey and Reinhold Niebuhr. Morris deftly links the philosopher and the theologian to each other, managing not only to walk us through their work and their conflicts but to bring their insights to bear on some of the most pressing issues we now face." Mark Douglas, Columbia Theological Seminary.

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Dr. Patrick McCauley
Schiffer Publishing, 2015

Dr. McCauley is a PhD Graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies in 2006, and as of 2016, serving as an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia.

Cover for the book "Into the Pensive: The Philosophy and Mythology of Harry Potter"

Book description: This book takes a look at the arc of the storyline in Harry Potter, digging below the surface to explore ethical, mythological, and religious meanings in J.K. Rowling’s best-selling series. Why do we find ourselves so intrigued with the tale of Harry Potter? Many of the millions who passionately read the Harry Potter series found they could relate to the details, dreams, and fears of Harry’s life. From a phoenix that dies and rises again to Dumbledore, a character who appears in a realm beyond death, there can be little doubt that Rowling’s story delves into profound themes and ideas. She tackles issues of grief, responsibility, individual excellence, and heroism in the face of violence and corruption. This philosophical analysis shows that if, in fact, we do find ourselves reflected in Harry’s story, then we may also find that our destiny and individual potential resonates with his as well.

"Patrick McCauley's 'Into the Pensieve' is the most important piece of new-wave scholarship by an individual author that has come out in the recent tsunami of re-evaluation of the Hogwarts Saga by academics and fandom at large. His insights about Rowling's just-below-the-conscious threshold theme of violence against women taken alone are more than worth the price of the book; they open up our understanding not only of Harry's adventures but Rowling's subsequent work in 'Casual Vacancy' and her Cormoran Strike novels. McCauley's writing is lucid, crisp, and engaging and his arguments cogent. Every serious reader of Harry Potter, of any of the works of Joanne Rowling, will benefit from and enjoy her and his re-immersion in the Wizarding World via McCauley's 'Pensieve." -John Granger

Dr. Daniel Boscaljon
Pickwick Publications, 2014.

Dr. Boscaljon, a 2009 PhD graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies, is as of 2016, serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Cover for the book "Hope and the Longing for Utopia"

Book description: At present the battle over who defines our future is being waged most publicly by secular and religious fundamentalists. Hope and the Longing for Utopia offers an alternative position, disclosing a conceptual path toward potential worlds that resist a limited view of human potential and the gift of religion. In addition to outlining the value of embracing unknown potentialities, these twelve interdisciplinary essays explore why it has become crucial that we commit to hoping for values that resist traditional ideological commitments. Contextualized by contemporary writing on utopia, and drawing from a wealth of times and cultures ranging from Calvin's Geneva to early twentieth-century Japanese children's stories to Hollywood cinema, these essays cumulatively disclose the fundamental importance of resisting tantalizing certainties while considering the importance of the unknown and unknowable. Beginning with a set of four essays outlining the importance of hope and utopia as diagnostic concepts, and following with four concrete examples, the collection ends with a set of essays that provide theological speculations on the need to embrace finitude and limitations in a world increasingly enframed by secularizing impulses. Overall, this book discloses how hope and utopia illuminate ways to think past simplified wishes for the future.

"This is a strong and timely volume that, in its counter to the dystopic tendencies of the last hundred years, offers significant hope in breaking down the old (and ongoing) divisions between the religious and the secular and between our status in quo and our future longing." -Andrew W. Hass, University of Stirling, Scotland

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Dr. David J. Howlett
University of Illinois Press, 2014.

Dr. Howlett, a 2010 PhD graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Religious Studies, as of 2016 serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Skidmore College, New York.

Cover for the book "Kirtland Temple"

Book description: The only temple completed by Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith Jr., the Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio, receives 30,000 Mormon pilgrims every year. The site's religious significance and the space itself are contested by distinct Mormon denominations: its owner, the relatively liberal Community of Christ, and the larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"A groundbreaking biography of one of Mormonism's holiest shrines.  The only temple completed by Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith Jr., the Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio, receives 30,000 Mormon pilgrims every year. The site's religious significance and the space itself are contested by distinct Mormon denominations: its owner, the relatively liberal Community of Christ, and the larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  David J. Howlett sets the biography of Kirtland Temple against the backdrop of this religious rivalry. The two sides have long contested the temple's ownership, purpose, and significance in both the courts and Mormon literature. Yet members of each denomination have occasionally cooperated to establish periods of co-worship, host joint tours, and create friendships. Howlett uses the temple to build a model for understanding what he calls parallel pilgrimage--the set of dynamics of disagreement and alliance by religious rivals at a shared sacred site. At the same time, he illuminates social and intellectual changes in the two main branches of Mormonism since the 1830s, providing a much-needed history of the lesser-known Community of Christ." University of Illinois Press.

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Dr. Calvin Lane
Pickering and Chatto Publishers, 2013

Dr. Lane, a 2010 PhD graduate of the University of Iowa, as of 2015, serving as Affiliate Professor at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, WI.

Cover for the book "The Laudians and the Elizabethan Church"

Book description:  Notions of religious conformity in England were redefined during the mid-seventeenth century; for many it was as though the previous century's reformation was being reversed. Lane considers how a select group of churchmen – the Laudians – reshaped the meaning of church conformity during a period of religious and political turmoil. He emphasizes the Laudians' use of history in their arguments, particularly their creative appeal to common sensibilities about the reign of Elizabeth I as a 'Golden Age'. This book assesses the way historical claims functioned within the discourse of religious and political legitimacy in early modern England.  On the basis of this monograph, Dr. Lane was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London.

'a novel and truly useful approach that is a welcome addition to studies of Laudianism and seventeenth-century English religion ... will prove fascinating to anyone interested in seventeenth-century England'  - American Historical Review 

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