Remembering Robert Bellah

by William Storrar, Director

The Center of Theological Inquiry joins countless scholars, students, and friends of Robert Bellah in mourning his recent death, and expressing our sincere condolences to his family.

CTI was honored to invite Dr. Bellah to be one of its leading contributors at an international symposium it held last October at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. We discussed his magnum opus, Religion in Human Evolution, within a larger conversation on the idea of spiritual progress, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. A podcast of his remarks on that occasion can be heard below.

Robert Bellah was one of the great scholars of our time, a man of commanding physical and intellectual stature whose writings have had a global influence and whose personal modesty and gracious manner blessed all who met him. It was fitting that another speaker at our Philadelphia Symposium, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, was so moved to meet the sociologist who had so influenced his own work that he spontaneously prayed the Jewish blessing for a sage.  In later correspondence with CTI’s Director, Bellah wrote:

Perhaps the most amazing moment in the Philadelphia event was the blessing I received from Chief Rabbi Sachs.  It took me completely by surprise and I was very touched by it, not least that he used the revered term "sage" for me, which I am sure that I don't deserve.

Robert Bellah was indeed a sage, and his life and work will continue to enlighten us.