Robert Shedinger

Evolution of His Career

Shedinger earned an undergraduate degree in civil engineering technology from Temple University in Philadelphia. But after working in engineering for about eight years, he felt called to ministry so decided to attend seminary.

“Seminary opened me to the world of biblical scholarship and the study of Greek, Hebrew, and ancient biblical manuscripts, which I fell in love with,” he says. “I decided that instead of ministry, I was being called to teach religion in a college or university setting, so I went back to Temple to earn my PhD in religious studies. That calling led directly to my job at Luther College.”

Shedinger feels fortunate he landed at Luther, saying, “I can’t imagine ever working outside the liberal arts context because of its emphasis on broad interdisciplinary education.”

Researching What People Take for Granted

In addition to continuing his study of the textual and linguistic traditions of the Bible, Shedinger also teaches a course on Islam. “September 11, 2001, happened during my second year at Luther and propelled me to make Islamic studies a bigger focus of my work to help dispel negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. I eventually wrote two books about Jesus and Islam,” he says. “More recently, I took over teaching a course on science and religion and have become fascinated by debates about evolutionary theory and intelligent design. I also do work on scientific and religious approaches to mental health.”

All of his areas of research are drawn together by an interest in raising critical questions about what many people take for granted. “Is evolutionary theory settled science? Is mental illness a primarily biological disease? Is Islam an inherently violent religion? How much can we really learn about God by reading the Bible?” he says. “My research teaches me that ideas most people take for granted often turn out to be much more complex and interesting than we think.”

His Book Project

Shedinger will publish a book this spring titled The Mystery of Evolutionary Mechanisms. “It provides a nuanced approach to the relationship between evolution and religious thought and tries to get past the acrimonious nature that this debate often takes,” he says. “Because of my interest in evolution, I’ve become fascinated by the figure of Charles Darwin and am currently in the process of reading through about 5,000 pages worth of his correspondence. I’m trying to figure out exactly who he was and what made him tick.”

Students Make Career Rewarding

Shedinger says he can’t think of anything better than getting paid to hang around with smart and interesting young people and contribute to their intellectual and personal growth. “I never tire of being in the classroom or meeting with students one-on-one, hearing their stories, and getting to know them as unique individuals,” he says. “The relationship-building opportunities that are so central to Luther’s identity as a college are what makes this such a rewarding vocation.”

His Career Path

“I can’t imagine ever working outside the liberal arts. I have every intention of retiring from Luther.”

—Robert Shedinger

Outside of the Classroom

“I like choral singing and am a member of the Decorah Chorale. One of the highlights of my life was traveling with the chorale in 2001 to an international choir festival in Innsbruck, Austria, and singing Mozart’s Requiem and some American anthems under the direction of Weston Noble.”

—Robert Shedinger