RIP: Diogenes Allen

Posted Jan 17, 2013

1-16_allen.diogenes200w[Episcopal News Service] Dr. Diogenes Allen, a distinguished scholar in the field of the philosophy of religion, and the Stuart Professor of Philosophy emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, died on Jan. 13, 2013, at the age of 80 in hospice care at Chandler Hall, Newtown, Pennsylvania.

He 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, according to a seminary press release. He retired and was named Stuart Professor Emeritus in 2002.

Allen was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on Oct. 17, 1932. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Kentucky in 1954, and went on to study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned a B.A. (1957) and later an M.A. (1961) from Oxford. He earned the B.D. (1959), the M.A. (1962) and the Ph.D. (1965) from Yale University. His thesis for his Ph.D. was titled “Faith as a Ground for Religious Beliefs.”

Before joining the Princeton Seminary faculty, he taught at York University in Ontario, Canada, from 1964 to 1967. He also was a visiting professor at Drew University and at the University of Notre Dame during his career.

Allen’s scholarly interests focused on 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. His major volumes include Theology for a Troubled Believer (2010); Spiritual Theology: The Theology of Yesterday for Help Today (1997); Nature, Spirit, and Community: Issues in the Thought of Simone Weil (1994, with Eric O. Springsted); Quest: The Search for Meaning through Christ (1990); Christian Belief in a Postmodern World (1989); Love: Christian Romance, Marriage, and Friendship (1987); Primary Reading in Philosophy for Understanding Theology (1992); Philosophy for Understanding Theology (1985); Mechanical Explanation and the Ultimate Origin of the Universe According to Leibniz (1983); Three Outsiders: Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Simone Weil (1983); Traces of God in a Frequently Hostile World (1981); Between Two Worlds (1977); Finding Our Father (1974); The Reasonableness of Faith (1968); and Leibniz’s Theodicy (1966). He also wrote many articles in academic publications, and lectured regularly as guest lecturer at colleges, universities, and seminaries.

It was as a caring teacher that many Princeton students and graduates, and members of churches across the country, knew Allen. He 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. These included video series titled Love: Christian Romance, Marriage, and Friendship; The Significance of Suffering; Temptation; and Eight Deadly Thoughts.

Dr. M. Craig Barnes, the president of Princeton Theological Seminary, 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 contributed to the life of the academy through service 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 Theology Today. He was the cofounder of and served on the Executive Board of the American Weil Society. He was a member of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, the Society of Christian Philosophers, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Theological 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, who was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2002, was a priest associate at All Saints Episcopal Church Princeton after his retirement. He was a friend of the monastic Episcopal Sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit in New York City.

Diogenes 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. A memorial service will be held on February 2, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. at All Saints’ Church.


Comments (7)

  1. Steve White says:

    I took 2 courses from Dick Allen in the late 90s and later was a preceptor for a course he taught. He was a dear friend and I had the honor of being his sponsor when he was received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop David Joslin in 2000. His lectures were like sermons and his sermons were like lectures and they were amazing. We’ve lost a giant, but the conversations around the table at the heavenly banquet just got a lot more lively. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

    1. Ron Choong says:

      Dick Allen first introduced me to philosophy in 1996 and he encouraged my quest for truth ever since. I had the privilege of taking every course and seminar he taught at Princeton and served as his teaching fellow in 2000, when he took ill. He encouraged me in my doctoral studies and as Steve said, his lectures and sermons were almost indistinguishable. He has earned his rest with his Lord.

  2. George Allen says:

    Friends of Dr Allen will be pleased to know that his final days in hospice were inspirational. As long as he remained conscious he was cheerful and full of hope and faith. Never did I see him express a shadow of doubt or fear about his approaching death or what would follow. His only concern was to share time with and express love for those he was leaving behind. He suffered very little physical distress and was well cared for during his week or so in hospice.

  3. Chudi Udokwu says:

    I am so sad to hear the passing of Diogenes Allen. I am so sad, I am very proud to be blessed to be in the audience of many a sermon delivered by Diogenes Allen.
    A wonderful man, I remember him welcoming me and my family to the Church. I am so sad to hear this news.

  4. Wallace Marshall says:

    I was privileged to be a student of Dr. Allen during his final three years of teaching philosophy at Princeton Seminary before his retirement. At the end of that third year (2002) my fellow students and I presented him with the following inscription on a marble plaque:

    To our beloved professor,
    Diogenes Allen
    Who enlightened our minds with his learning,
    taught us the hard discipline of virtue,
    and encouraged us to seek our Maker.

    From his grateful students, on his last
    day of teaching before his retirement

    April 25, 2002
    The lips of the righteous feed many. -Prov. 10:21

  5. Rick Smith says:

    Belated though my observations may be I wanted to convey my deepest regrets to the Allen family. I had the opportunity to meet Mr Allen but one time but I found him to be a remarkable man, no less so than his two sons with whom I had the wonderful opportunity to study with at Cornell. I’ve often thought of the spirited discussions we had regarding the less serious subject of baseball on several occasions. My attempts to swing him over to the Red Sox never met success but I Enjoyed our interactions no less. Again, my deepest sympathies for the loss of this man to his fine family.

  6. Ken D. Thompson says:

    The widely recognized accomplishments of Diogenes Allen are made even greater by the early years in which Dicky Allen was my neighbor in Lexington, KY. In 1939 when we were two young boys. I was about thirteen and he was a bit younger. His Greek immigrant parents, George and Vasalikka spoke limited English but owned a downtown restaurant where they spent most of their time. My mother reached out to Dicky and helped him with his school work with which his parents were incapable. I cite all this only to illustrate how far he truly came in his chosen field.
    Little did I know then that both Dicky and I would become Episcopal priests.

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