Ray L. Hart

Professor of Religion and Theology
B.D. Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
Ph.D. Yale University

Ray L. Hart was born and reared on a ranch in the Panhandle of Texas. He was educated at (United Methodist) McMurry University, the University of Texas at Austin (Bachelor of Arts, 1949, triple major in Philosophy, English, German), Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology (Bachelor of Divinity, 1953), and Yale University (Ph.D. in Philosophical Theology, 1959). He has taught at (United Methodist) Drew University School of Theology, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, the University of Montana at Missoula (Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies), the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Boston University. He came to Boston University in 1989, where he served for a decade as Chairman of the Department of Religion (CAS) and Director of Graduate Studies in Theology and Religion. He has served on many university-wide committees, most recently the Trustee Scholarships Committee, and the Search Committee for the Dean of Marsh Chapel and Chaplain to the University. Over the course of the past forty seven years in five institutions he has been the mentor of well over one hundred Ph.D. students in Theology and Philosophy of Religion.

Dr. Hart is often cited as one of the primary shapers of the study of religion and theology in America in the last third of the 20th century, especially through his long involvement in the American Academy of Religion (AAR). For a decade he was the chief Editor of The Journal of the American Academy of Religion; he conceived and executed the structure of the annual meeting (which now attracts an attendance of some 10,000) which has been in force since 1973. In 1984 he was elected President of AAR, after serving as that learned society’s first Delegate to The American Council of Learned Societies, and presided over the society’s 75th Anniversary (even now he is involved in planning the 100th anniversary for 2009). When he exited formal offices in AAR, its Board of Trustees established the “Ray L. Hart Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Study of Religion,” which is awarded annually.

Dr. Hart has been a consultant to many colleges, universities and seminaries to evaluate their programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels (e.g., University of Virginia, Florida State University system, California University System, Yale Divinity School, University of Chicago Divinity School, etc.). For a decade he was primary Consultant to the Chancellor and Board of Trustees of the State University of New York for the development of a statewide program in religious and humanistic studies.

Dr. Hart is the author of the typical clutch of books, monographs, edited volumes, and articles. The most widely known of his books is Unfinished Man and the Imagination: Towards an Ontology and a Rhetoric of Revelation. Of that book he says “its only claim to fame is that it has remained in print for thirty six years, and counting.” He is presently preoccupied with writing a book on the doctrine or theory of God, but notes with a grimace “I’m unlikely to add a line until I work myself out of Deaning.”

The Reverend Dr. Hart has been an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church since 1952, and remains a member of the Northwest Texas Conference.



Editor, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 1969-1979. Volumes XXXIX-XLIX, 55 issues, 10,099 pages.

Guest Editorships

Guest Editor, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. LIII, no. 4 (December 1985): entire issue devoted to plenary addresses given at the 75 th anniversary meeting of the American Academy of Religion.

Books and Chapters in Books

Chapter in book: “Godhead, God (s), Religions, and the Christian Religion.” in Theology in Global Context. Amos Yong and Peter Heltzel, eds. New York: T & T Clark, 2004. pp. 243-263.

Chapter in book: “Godhead and God.” in Thinking Through the Death of God: A Critical Companion to Thomas J. J. Altizer. Lissa McCullough and Brian Schroeder, eds. New York: State University of New York Press, 2004. pp.47-63.

Chapter in book: “God and Creature in the Eternity and Time of Nonbeing (or Nothing): Afterthinking Meister Eckhart,” inThe Otherness of God, ed. Orrin F. Summerell, Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 1998 pp. 35-59.

Chapter in book, “Fall /Fault in Human Nature/Nurture?,” in Is There a Human Nature?, ed. Leroy S. Rouner, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997, pp. 132-148.

Chapters in book, “La négativité dans l’ordre du divin” (pp. 187-208) and “Pensées d’après Eckhart” (pp. 473-478) inVoici Maître Eckhart, edited by Emilie Zum Brunn (Grenoble: Editions Jérôme Millon, 1994).

Chapter in book: “The Dialectic of Home and Homelessness: Religion, Nature, and Home,” in The Whirlwind of Culture: Essays in Honor of Langdon Gilkey, Donald W. Musser and Joseph L. Price, editors (Meyer-Stone Publishing Company, 1988).

The Critique of Modernity: Theological Reflections on Contemporary Culture, with Julian N. Hartt and Robert P. Scharlemann ( Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1987).

Trajectories in the Study of Religion, Ray L. Hart, editor (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986, 317 pp.).

Unfinished Man and the Imagination (New York: Herder and Herder 1968, 418 pp.). Re-issued in paperbound in the Seabury Library of Contemporary Theology (New York: The Seabury Press 1979, 418 pp.); Second edition, paperbound (Atlanta: Scholars Press 1985).

Chapter in book: “American Academy of Religion,” A Report to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Humanities (New York: The American Council of Learned Societies 1985, 244 pp., pp. 1-16). Cited and condensed in Reauthorization of Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act of 1985, Serial no. 99-64 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office 1986, pp. 411-419).

Article: “Thomas J. J. Altizer,” in Encyclopedia of World Biography (New York: McGraw-Hill 1985).

Chapter in book: “The Poiesis of Place,” in Hermeneutics and the Worldliness of Faith, edited by Charles Courtney, Olin M. Ivey and Gordon E. Michalson (Drew University Press 1975, pp. 229-240).

Editor, ______________ (Selections from Thomas Aquinas), translated into Chinese by N. Zia, [Christian Classics Library, 1st Series, no. 15] (Hong Kong: The Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia, in association with the Council on Christian Literature for Overseas Chinese 1966, 642 pp.).


Religious and Theological Studies in American Higher Education: A Pilot Study [Originally published in Journal of the American Academy of Religion LIX, no. 4] (Atlanta: Scholars Press 1992, 112 pp.).

Report, State University of New York National Planning Committee for Religious Studies (Stony Brook: 1974, 59 pp.).

Religious Studies in the State University of New York (Stony Brook: 1973, 152 pp.).


“Religious and Theological Studies in American Higher Education: A Pilot Study,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. LIX, no. 4 (December 1991), pp. 715-727.

“To Be and Not To Be: Sit Autem Sermo (“Lógos) Vester: Est, Est: Non, Non,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. LIII, no. 1 (March 1985), 5-22.

“JAAR in the Seventies: Unconcluding Unscientific Postface,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, XLVII, no. 4 (December 1979) 509- 516.

“Hellenic Theopoesis,” Religious Studies Review, vol. V., no. 3 (July 1979) 181-184.

“The Structure of the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting,” Bulletin of the Council on the Study of Religion, vol. LIII, no. 1 (January 1973) 36-47.

“The Poiesis of Place,” Journal of Religion, vol. LIII, no. 1 (January 1973) 36-47.

“Schubert Ogden on the Reality of God,” Religion in Life, vol. XXXV, no. 4 (Winter 1967) 506-515.

“Plato on Immortality,” (a review article: Robert Leet Patterson, Plato on Immortality, University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press 1965). International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. V, no. 3 (September 1965) 436-46.

“The Imagination in Plato,” International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. V, no. 3 (September 1965) 436-461.

“Heidegger’s Being and Time and Phenomenology,” Encounter, vol. XXVI, no. 3 (Summer 1965) 3-21.

“Imagination and the Scale of Mental Acts,” Continuum, vol. III, no. 1 (Spring 1965) 3-21.

“Apostles,” “Bible,” “Dead Sea Scrolls,” “Devil,” and “Trinity,” Britannica Junior Encyclopedia.

“Recent Tillichiana,” The Drew Gateway, vol. XXX, no. 2 (Winter 1960) 98-106.

“Fellowship and Circumcision: The Doctrine of the Church,” The Drew Gateway, vol. XXVII, no. 3 (Spring 1957) 161-164.

Editorial Articles and Notes

“The Journal of Changes,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. XLIX, no. 3 (September 1979) 1-3.

“The Presence of the Journal of the Future,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. XLV, no. 1 (March 1977) 3-10.

“In Lieu of a Bicentennial Issue: The Restitution of True Religion and the Institutions of Sidney E. Mead,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. XLIV, no. 1 (March 1976) 3-5.

“ The Future of the Journal and the Journal of the Future: How Far JAAR?” Bulletin of the Council on the Study of Religion, vol. VI, no. 5 (December 1975) 6-9.

“Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Editor’s Report, 1975,” Bulletin of the Council on the Study of Religion, vol. V, no. 5 (December 1974) 6-8.

“Of Fast-Writing, Fast-Reading Youths,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. XL, no. 1 (March 1972) 54.

Selected Items from Secondary Literature on Professor Hart’s Work

Major Essays and Essay-Reviews

John Dillenberger, “Contemporary Theologians and the Visual Arts,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. LIII, no. 4 (December 1985) 599-615.

Giles Gunn, “The Literary and Cultural Study of Religion: Problems and Prospects,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. LIII, no. 4 (December 1985) 617-633.

Fritz Buri, “American Philosophy of Religion from a European Perspective: The Problem of Meaning and Being in the Theologies of Imagination and Process,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. LIII, no. 4 (December 1985) 651-673.

Fritz Buri, “Eine Schaustellung amerikanischer Theologie,” Kirchenblatt für die reformierte Schweiz, 141 Jahrg., Nr. 6 (21 März 1985) 92-93.

Matthias L. Neuman, O.S.B., The Imagination in Theology, Ch. III, “Ray L. Hart: Imagination and Revelation (Rome: Pontificum Athenaeum Anselmianum 1976) 20-32.

Walter J. Ong, S.J., “Another View on Theological Style: Ray L. Hart’s Unfinished Man and the Imagination,” Soundings, vol. LIII, no. 4 (Winter 1970) 450-455.

John W. Dixon, Jr., “Theological Style and Theological Criticism: Unfinished Man and the Imagination by Ray L. Hart,”Soundings, vol. LIII, no. 3 (Fall 1970) 323-338.

Amos N. Wilder, “Unfinished Man and the Imagination,” Interpretation, vol. XXIV, (April 1970) 252-256.

Walter J. Ong, S. J., “Hart’s Unfinished Man and the Imagination,” Interpretation, vol. XXIV (April 1970) 252-256.

Thomas D. Parker, “Unfinished Man and the Imagination” McCormick Quarterly (November 1969) 74-77.

James B. Wiggins and Daniel O. Dugan, “Unfinished Man and the Imagination,” Continuum, vol. VII, no. 3 (Autumn 1969) 493-500.

Edward Farley, “Can Revelation by Formally Described?” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. XXXVII, no. 2 (September 1969) 270-285.

W. J. McCutcheon, “Unfinished Man and the Imagination,” Cross Currents (Summer 1969) 364-367.

Robert J. O’Connell, “Open-ended Humanity: Hart’s Unfinished Man and the Imagination,” The Catholic World, vol. 209 (May 1969).

Brief Reviews – Unfinished Man and the Imagination

  1. By David Fisher, New Blackfriars, 1969, 611-613.
  2. Theology Today, vol. XXVI (October 1969) 346-347.
  3. By Joseph D. Bettis, The Christian Century, vol. 86 (3 September 1969) 1139.
  4. By Robert P. Roth, Lutheran Forum (May 1969) 39-40.
  5. Times Literary Supplement (20 March 1969) 363.

Books (Partial List) Examining and Referring to Unfinished Man and the Imagination

Unfinished…Essays in Honor of Ray L. Hart, Mark C. Taylor, editor (Chico, CA: Scholars Press 1981) 188 pp.

Kathleen R. Fisher, The Inner Rainbow: The Imagination in Christian Life (New York: Paulist Press 1983).

William Mallard, The Reflection of Theology in Literature: A Case Study in Theology and Culture (San Antonio: Trinity University Press 1977).

Urban T. Holmes III, Ministry and Imagination (New York: Seabury Press 1976).

Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Introduction to Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1976).

Earl D. C. Brewer, editor, Transcendence and Mystery (New York: IDOC/North America 1975).

Edward Farley, Ecclesial Man (Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1975).

James M. Gustafson, Can Ethics Be Christian? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1975).

David Tracy, Blessed Rage for Order (New York: Seabury Press 1975).

Charles E. Winquist, The Transcendental Imagination (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff 1972).