A Message from the Dean

Welcome to the University of Chicago Divinity School, a space and a community dedicated to some of the most important, most exhilarating, and most humbling questions of humanity.

David NirenbergImportant, because the religions we study here have moved and continue to move so many of the thoughts and aspirations of humanity, and this even when it is least aware of their impetus, or insists most stridently on its emancipation from them.  From our behavior toward our loved ones to our politics and our economies, there is very little in our world that is not somehow shaped by religions past and present.  

Exhilarating, because the questions we work on at the Divinity School—including the very question of what makes a question “religious”—have attracted so many brilliant minds across centuries and cultures, have produced so many fascinating answers, and yet remain so challenging, so pressing, and so open.  

And humbling, because our Divinity School has since its founding cultivated a distinctive approach, simultaneously critical and constructive.  The School is animated by two impulses seldom found together: by the critical study of religious traditions, objects, and ideas, and by the implications of those traditions and ideas for how faith might be practiced, life might be lived, and community might be realized.  The co-existence of these two approaches, and the resulting conversation and argument between them, enriches both by imparting upon each a humility, an awareness of the need to explain itself and its claims. 

The conjunction of these approaches in a Divinity School situated at the very center of one of the world’s great research universities has produced many scholars, teachers, leaders, and ideas that have had a profound effect upon the possibilities for thinking about religion, and thereby a profound effect upon the world.

My colleagues and I invite you to join us in one of our multiple programs of study—the BA, MA, AMRS, MDiv, and PhD.  Attend one of our frequent public events.  Participate in our multiple explorations of the past and present possibilities of religion. Should you visit Swift Hall over the course of this coming year, I trust that you will find the entire building—from the student-run “Grounds of Being” coffee shop at our foundations to the wood-carved angels soaring above our third-floor lecture hall—united in this common task. 

With warm regards,

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David Nirenberg

Dean of The Divinity School and the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor, Committee on Social Thought, Department of History, The Divinity School, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Center for Jewish Studies, and the College; Executive Vice Provost, University of Chicago