Wiseman, James A. 1942–
Wiseman, James A. 1942–
Born February 19, 1942. Education: Georgetown University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1963; attended the University of Freiburg, 1963-64; Catholic University of America, S.T.B., 1969, M.A., 1970, S.T.D., 1979.
Home—Washington, DC. Office—School of Theology and Religious Studies, Catholic University of America, 4501 South Dakota Ave., N.E., Washington, DC 20064; fax: 202-269-2312. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]
Academic and theologian. Ordained Benedictine monk, 1970; St. Anselm's Abbey, Washington, DC, abbot, 1975-83, novice master, 1983-94, prior of the monastic community, 1990-2006; Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, visiting professor, 1985-86, assistant professor, 1986-92, associate professor, 1992-2007, professor, 2007—, chair of the department of theology, 1995-98, 2001-03, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Theology and Religious Studies, 2006-07. Visiting associate professor at Yale University, 1999, 2000.
Catholic Theological Society of America, Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, American Academy of Religion, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.
Grant, John Templeton Foundation, 1999, for courses in science and religion; development grant, John Templeton Foundation, 2000; Frederick J. Streng book award, Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, 2002, for The Gethsemani Encounter.
(Editor and translator) John Ruusbroec: The Spiritual Espousals and Other Works, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1985.
(Editor, with Louis Dupré) Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1988, 2nd edition, 2001.
(Editor, with Donald W. Mitchell) The Gethsemani Encounter: A Dialogue on the Spiritual Life by Buddhist and Christian Monastics, Continuum (New York, NY), 1997.
Theology and Modern Science: Quest for Coherence, Continuum (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor, with Donald W. Mitchell) Transforming Suffering: Reflections on Finding Peace in Troubled Times, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2003.
Spirituality and Mysticism: A Global View, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2006.
Editor of the Bulletin of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, 1998—.
James A. Wiseman is a theologian and academic. Wiseman, an ordained Benedictine monk, completed his undergraduate studies at Georgetown University and earned his doctorate at the Catholic University of America, where he later became a professor. Over the years, Wiseman has published a number of books on theological topics.
In 1997 Wiseman edited The Gethsemani Encounter: A Dialogue on the Spiritual Life by Buddhist and Christian Monastics with Donald W. Mitchell. Wiseman and Mitchell compiled the academic points discussed at a joint Christian-Buddhist conference of monks, including topics on ultimate reality and spirituality, spiritual development and growth, prayer and meditation, and community and spiritual guidance. The remainder of the book shares discussion and debate between Christian and Buddhist monks (as well as the Dalai Lama) on a range of topics. Glenn Masuchika, writing in Library Journal, "recommended" the book. Although noting that it is geared toward religious scholars, Masuchika found that "any informed lay reader will also greatly gain from reading it."
Wiseman published Theology and Modern Science: Quest for Coherence in 2002. Here Wiseman outlines the history of the debates between science and religion before discussing how biblical documents would be understood from a scientific perspective. Paul Giurlanda, writing in Interpretation, observed that "readers who are not versed in both science and Christian theology may be challenged by this book. It is not an introduction aimed at novices."
In 2003 Wiseman again edited a book with Mitchell, but partly written by the Dalai Lama, called Transforming Suffering: Reflections on Finding Peace in Troubled Times. The book, based on an interfaith conference between Christians and Buddhists, places the definitions of pain and suffering by each religion from the general consensus of the conference's participants, forty-nine of whom are included in the book. Chapters narrow the scope, by covering specific types of pain and suffering, related to each faith's understanding of it. A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that "the nature of dialogue is exploration, and the book achieves its strategic goal of being a ‘healing source of guidance.’"
In Spirituality and Mysticism: A Global View, Wiseman analyzes the mystical elements of Christian spirituality using common and infrequently cited sources. He also presents definitions of mysticism and spirituality to clarify the grounds of his study. Charles J. Healey, writing in the Catholic Historical Review, remarked that "the scope of this book forces the author to range far and wide and to be highly selective in the material chosen. He is, however, a very clear and insightful writer, and he proves to be a very competent guide. Each chapter concludes with helpful questions for reflection and suggestions for further reading and study." Francis X. McAloon, writing in Theological Studies, commented that "the text's greatest strength is also its most glaring limitation: so much material and so little space." McAloon conceded that due to the engaging discussion questions at the end of each chapter, "greater breadth at the price of lesser depth is an acceptable trade-off."
Wiseman told CA: "I had excellent teachers in both high school and college, teachers who insisted that I and my fellow students express ourselves as clearly as possible. Especially while majoring in philosophy at Georgetown University, I became very interested in trying to get to the core of one or another philosopher's thoughts and to formulate my reflections in a convincing way. Years later, when I had myself become a professor, the articles and books that I was expected to write served as a vehicle for clarifying in my own mind what I really thought about one or another topic. This was especially the case with regard to my book Theology and Modern Science.
"I believe that the major influence in my work is my presumed audience or readership. I always write with them in mind, desirous of conveying as clearly and convincingly as I can my position on the matter at hand.
"Because for the most part I write scholarly works in the fields of theology, philosophy, and social affairs, I read widely, take notes on points by other authors with whom I agree or disagree, draw up an outline of what I want to say, and then start writing.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that oftentimes something I believed was original with me had already been written about by someone else, even many years earlier. This can, of course, be somewhat discouraging, for I'd much prefer to break genuinely new ground in what I write.
"I like best my book Theology and Modern Science because such issues as the relationship between theology and theories about the origin of the universe or about evolution are not only fascinating in themselves, but very much matters of concern to people today, occasionally even leading to lawsuits (as in the Intelligent Design controversy). I also like Spirituality and Mysticism for the light it sheds on what has been going on in Asian and African Christian spirituality in recent decades.
"Many of my books are going to be read primarily by persons with religious interests. I would like, however, next to write something that will appeal to a still wider audience, dealing with issues such as environmental degradation and violence between nations and races."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Catholic Historical Review, October, 2007, Charles J. Healey, review of Spirituality and Mysticism: A Global View, p. 874.
Catholic World, November 1, 1989, Keith J. Egan, review of Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism, p. 278.
Commonweal, April 10, 1998, Lawrence S. Cunningham, review of The Gethsemani Encounter: A Dialogue on the Spiritual Life by Buddhist and Christian Monastics, p. 39.
Interpretation, April, 2003, Paul Giurlanda, review of Theology and Modern Science: Quest for Coherence, p. 226.
Library Journal, March 1, 1988, Elise Chase, review of Light from Light, p. 71; November 1, 1997, Glenn Masuchika, review of The Gethsemani Encounter, p. 78.
Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003, review of Transforming Suffering: Reflections on Finding Peace in Troubled Times, p. 65.
Theological Studies, September, 1989, Steven Payne, review of Light from Light, p. 613; June, 2007, Francis X. McAloon, review of Spirituality and Mysticism, p. 480.
Catholic University of America Web site,http://www.cua.edu/ (February 19, 2008), author profile.