Gilkey, Langdon (Brown) 1919-2004

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GILKEY, Langdon (Brown) 1919-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born February 9, 1919, in Chicago, IL; died of meningitis November 19, 2004, in Charlottesville, VA. Theologian, educator, and author. A humanist and pacifist, Gilkey was a leading Protestant theologian who often wrote on issues involving the secularism-versus-religion debate in the modern era. Earning his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1940, he was greatly influenced by the beliefs of Reinhold Niebuhr, whom he heard speak at the chapel at Harvard. Traveling to China to teach English in 1940, he was caught off guard the next year by the Japanese invasion. Captured, he spent the next five years in a Japanese interment camp. He later wrote about his experience there in his Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women under Pressure (1966). With the war over, he went back to school to study international law. Finding the subject not to his taste, however, he switched to theology and completed a Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1954. During the early 1950s, he was a philosophy and religion instructor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, as well as a lecturer in religion at Vassar College. He then joined the Vanderbilt University faculty as a professor in the Divinity School until 1963. The last phase of his academic career was spent at the University of Chicago, where he was Shailer Matthews Professor of Theology until his 1989 retirement. Liberal-minded, Gilkey was interested in social activism, the civil rights movement, and Eastern religions and philosophies; in the debate between religion and secularism he felt there was no reason why science and religion could not coexist. He was unsympathetic toward people who wished to impose their particular beliefs on school curricula, a movement that was particularly strong in the "Bible Belt" South. Gilkey published numerous thought-provoking theology studies during his lifetime, including Religion and the Scientific Future: Reflections on Myth, Science, and Theology (1970), Society and the Sacred: Toward a Theology of Culture in Decline (1981), Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock (1985), and Nature, Reality, and the Sacred: The Nexus of Science and Religion (1993).



Chicago Tribune, November 22, 2004, section 1, p. 13.

New York Times, November 26, 2004, p. C10.

Washington Post, November 22, 2004, p. B7.