Diogenes Allen, a renowned scholar in the field of the philosophy of religion and the Stuart Professor of Philosophy emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, died yesterday at the age of 80 in hospice at Chandler Hall in Newtown, Pennsylvania.
Allen was an expert in the philosophy of Leibniz and Simone Weil, and on the spirituality of Simone Weil, Blaise Pascal, and George Herbert. A prolific author, he wrote books that contributed both to the world of scholarship and to the lives of practicing Christians and church leaders. One of his most well known books was Love: Christian Romance, Marriage, and Friendship, which he wrote in 1987. The book later became a video series. Allen was referred to my many of his colleagues and students as “Dr. Love” for his thinking on the subject, and his classes on the topic were often filled to capacity.
Some of his other major works include Theology for a Troubled Believer, Spiritual Theology: The Theology of Yesterday for Help Today, Nature, Spirit, and Community: Issues in the Thought of Simone Weil, Quest: The Search for Meaning through Christ, Christian Belief in a Postmodern World, Three Outsiders: Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Simone Weil, and Traces of God in a Frequently Hostile World.
Allen joined the Seminary faculty in 1967 as associate professor of philosophy, and became a full professor in 1974. He was named the Stuart Professor in 1981. He retired and was named Stuart Professor Emeritus in 2002.
Born in Lexington, Kentucky, on October 17, 1932, Allen earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in 1954, and went on to study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned a master’s degree from Oxford in 1961 and a doctorate from Yale University in 1965. Before joining the Princeton Seminary faculty, he taught at York University in Ontario, Canada. He also was a visiting professor at Drew University and at the University of Notre Dame during his career.
Allen was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), ordained in 1959 at Windham Presbyterian Church in Windham, New Hampshire. He was pastor of the Windham church from 1958 to 1961 and served several interim pastorates during his lifetime. Throughout his life, he regularly preached, taught adult education classes, and led retreats in congregations, a ministry that was as important to him as was his teaching in the classrooms of Princeton Seminary. With the Media Department of Princeton Seminary, he published a number of video resources and study guides based on his books to help congregations talk about topics from love and marriage to friendship, from suffering to sin.
Dr. M. Craig Barnes, the president of Princeton Theological Seminary and an alumnus of the school, was a beneficiary of Allen’s teaching.
“Over thirty years ago I had the high privilege of being one of Professor Allen’s many students,” he said. “He had a wonderful gift for teaching us how to turn critical thinking into a spiritual practice.”
Allen served on the advisory board of the Transatlantic Perspective at the University of Bonn, Germany; the Advisory Committee of the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton; the Executive Board of the Society of Christian Philosophers; the Executive Board of the Simone Weil Society; and the Editorial Board of the journal Theology Today. He was the co-founder of and served on the executive board of the American Weil Society.
He was awarded the John Templeton Prize for best courses in science and religion in 1995 and the John Templeton Foundation Award in science and theology in 1992 and 1993.
Allen was a priest associate at All Saints Church Princeton after his retirement. He was a friend of the Sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit in New York City.
Allen is survived by his wife, a daughter, three sons, and eight grandchildren. Contributions in lieu of flowers may be made in Diogenes Allen’s honor to the All Saints Church, Outreach Fund, 16 All Saints Road, Princeton, New Jersey 08540. There will be a memorial service at All Saints Church at a future date.