Bruce Ellis Benson, Ph.D.

Professor of Philosophy
On Faculty since 1993

Phone: (630)752-5817


Ph.D. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven ll (Belgium), 1993

Ph.L. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), 1987

B.A. Wheaton College, 1983

About Bruce Ellis Benson

Bruce Ellis Benson is Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College (IL) and executive director of the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology. Dr. Benson is the author or editor of eleven books and has lectured in the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Netherlands, Belgium, and across the United States. His articles have appeared in numerous journals and books. Although trained in the analytic tradition while a student at Wheaton, Dr. Benson’s philosophical interests have been largely formed by the continental tradition. As a graduate student at KU Leuven, he was first a recipient of the Flemish Community Fellowship and then a Belgian-American Fellow. As a Fulbright Fellow in Germany, he studied at the Hegel Archives with Otto Pöggeler and had extended visits with Hans-Georg Gadamer, whose hermeneutics have greatly have influenced his thought. He has served as an editorial assistant in the Husserl Archives. He was a visiting scholar at the New School in 2002-2003 and lecturer at Union Theological Seminary in 2003. He has taught at the Center for Religious Inquiry in New York City. In 2009-2010, he returned to Leuven as visiting professor. At Wheaton, Dr. Benson has received both the Junior Faculty Achievement Award (for teaching excellence) and the Senior Scholar Achievement Award. His latest books, Liturgy as a Way of Life and The New Phenomenology: A Philosophical Introduction, highlight his interests in continental philosophy and aesthetics.

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Philosophy of the Arts
  • History of Philosophy
  • Existentialism
  • Aesthetic Theory
  • Philosophical Hermeneutics
  • Derrida and Husserl
  • Feminist Philosophy
  • Gadamer Seminar
  • Hegel Seminar
  • Heidegger Seminar
  • Levinas Seminar
  • Nietzsche Seminar
  • Christianity and Postmodernity
  • Philosophy and Postmodernity
  • Early Continental Philosophy

Membership in Professional Societies

  • American Academy of Religion
  • American Philosophical Association
  • American Society of Aesthetics
  • Centre of Theology and Philosophy
  • Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology, co-founder
  • Society of Christian Philosophers
  • Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy


Dr. Benson's research interests include the following areas. The first is the "theological turn" in phenomenology and work at the intersection of continental philosophy and theology. Not only does he write in this area, but also he is co-founder and co-secretary of the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology (1997) and a member of the steering committee of the Theology and Continental Philosophy Group of the American Academy of Religion. Graven Ideologies and The Phenomenology of Prayer are examples of work in this area. The second is the topic of hermeneutics and interpretation theory, with Hermeneutics at the Crossroads being an example of that work. A third area is aesthetics in general and philosophy of music in particular. The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue is an example of that interest. Finally, Dr. Benson's work has also turned in an increasingly political direction. Evangelicals and Empire - an analysis of American evangelicalism from the perspective of the empire theory of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri-is part of that project.

Publications (selected)


The New Phenomenology: A Philosophical Introduction (co-authored with J. Aaron Simmons). London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming September 2013.

Liturgy as a Way of Life: Embodying the Arts in Christian Worship. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

Pious Nietzsche: Decadence and Dionysian Faith. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida, and Marion on Modern Idolatry. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2002. 

Edited Books

Benson, Bruce Ellis, Malinda Elizabeth Berry, and Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Prophetic Evangelicals: Envisioning a Just and Peaceable Kingdom. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.

Benson, Bruce Ellis and Wirzba, Norman. Words of Life: New Theological Turns in French Phenomenology. New York: Fordham University Press, 2009.

Benson, Bruce Ellis and Wirzba, Norman. Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love's Wisdom. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

Heltzel, Peter and Benson, Bruce Ellis. Evangelicals and Empire. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2008.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J., Smith, James K.A., and Benson, Bruce Ellis. Hermeneutics at the Crossroads. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

Benson, Bruce Ellis and Wirzba, Norman, eds. The Phenomenology of Prayer. New York: Fordham University Press, 2005.

Book Chapters

“In the Beginning, There Was Improvisation.” In Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Edited by George Lewis and Ben Piecut. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2014.

Creatio ex improvisatio: Chétien on the Call.” In Music and Transcendence. Edited by Férdia Stone-Davis. Aldershot: Ashgate, forthcoming 2014.

“Friedrich Nietzsche.” In The Routledge Companion to Modern Christian Thought. Edited by Chad Meister and James Beilby. New York: Routledge, forthcoming 2013.

“ ‘You Are Not Far From the Kingdom: Christianity as Self-Disruptive Messianism.” In Reexamining Deconstruction and Determinate Religion: Toward a Religion with Religion, ed. J. Aaron Simmons and Stephen Minister [with postscripts by John D. Caputo and Merold Westphal]. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2012.

“‘As Radical As One Needs to Be’: A Response to J. Aaron Simmons.” In Reexamining Deconstruction and Determinate Religion

“True Religion: A Response to Drew Dalton.” In Reexamining Deconstruction and Determinate Religion

Benson, Bruce Ellis, Malinda Elizabeth Berry, and Peter Goodwin Heltzel. “Introduction.” In Prophetic Evangelicals

“Phenomenology of Music.” In The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music. Edited by Theodore Gracyk and Andrew Kania. London: Routledge, 2011.

“Improvising Texts, Improvising Communities: Jazz, Heteronomy, and Ekklêsia,v in Resonant Witness, eds. Jeremy Begbie and Steven Guthrie. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.

“Continental Philosophy of Religion (1980-1995).” In Post-Postculturalism, edited by Rosi Braidotti, vol. 7 of The History of Continental Philosophy, edited by Alan Schrift. Stocksfield, UK: Acumen, 2010.

“Introduction,” in Words of Life: New Theological Turns in French Phenomenology.

“Chrétien on the Call that Wounds,” In Words of Life: New Theological Turns in French Phenomenology.

“Appropriating Westphal Appropriating Nietzsche: Merold Westphal as a Theological Resource.” In Gazing Through a Prism Darkly: Reflections on Merold Westphal's Hermeneutical Epistemology, edited by B. Keith Putt. New York: Fordham University Press, 2009.

“Stealing Licks: Recording and Identity in Jazz,” in Philosophical Reflections on Recorded Music, edited by Mine Dogantan-Dack. London: Middlesex University Press, 2008.

“Paul and the Economies of Knowledge and Love.” In Transforming Philosophy and Religion.

“Continental Philosophy of Religion." In Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues, edited by Paul Copan and Chad Meister. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.

“Call Forwarding: Improvising the Response to the Call of Beauty,” in The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts, edited by Daniel J. Treier, Mark Husbands, and Roger Lundin. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007.

“The Improvisation of Hermeneutics: Jazz Lessons for Interpreters.” In Hermeneutics at the Crossroads.

“The Prayers and Tears of Friedrich Nietzsche.” In The Phenomenology of Prayer.

“‘Now I Would Not Have You Ignorant’: Derrida, Gadamer, Hirsch and Husserl on Authors’ Intentions.” In Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics, edited by Vincent Bacote, Laura C. Miguelez, and Dennis Okholm. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2004.

Articles/Reviews/Dictionary Entries

Review of Saving God: Religion After Idolatry by Mark Johnston, Christianity and Literature 60 (2011): 479-83.

“Gibt es ‘musikalischen Dialog’?” Journal Phänomenologie 33 (2010): 27-41.

“A Response to Smith’s ‘Continental Philosophy of Religion: Prescriptions for a Healthy Subdiscipline,” Faith and Philosophy 26 (2009): 447-54.

“Radical Democracy and Radical Christianity,” Political Theology 10 (2009): 247-59.

“Strange Similarities” [a response to On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art by James Elkins], Books & Culture (May/June 2009): 22-23.

“Which God Can Save Us?” [a review of Heidegger’s Philosophy of Religion: From God to the Gods by Ben Vedder], Research in Phenomenology 38 (2008): 447-54.

“The Dance of Thought” [a review of Nietzsche and Music by Georges Liébert]. Books & Culture (September/October 2007): 32-3.

“Nietzsche’s Musical Askesis for Resisting Decadence,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 34 (2007): 28-46.

Review of Minimal Theologies: Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas by Hent de Vries. Christianity and Literature 56 (2007): 520-23.

Review of Artistic Truth: Aesthetics, Discourse, and Imaginative Disclosure by Lambert Zuidervarrt. Philosophical Review 116 (2007): 118-21.

“The Fundamental Heteronomy of Jazz Improvisation.” Revue internationale de philosophie 60 (2006): 453-67.

Review of Continental Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction by Andrew Cutrofello. International Philosophical Quarterly 46:3 (2006):387-8.

Review of Jean-Luc Marion: A Theo-logical Introduction by Robyn Horner. Worship 80:4 (2006): 383-4.

“Jacques Derrida,” “Michel Foucault,” and “Postmodernity.” In The New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, edited by Gavin McGrath, W.C.Campbell-Jack, and C. Stephen Evans. London: IVP, 2006.

“Jazz: L'Autre exotique.” Horizons philosophiques 16:1 (2005): 86-100.

“Poststructuralism” and “Structuralism.” In Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of Scripture, eds. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Craig R. Bartholomew, N.T. Wright, and Daniel J. Treier. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2005.

“Paul and the Knowledge that Puffs Up: A Taste for Idolatry.” Journal of Philosophy and Scripture 2 (2005): 11-22.

“Text Messages: Gadamer, Derrida, and How We Read.” The Christian Century (March 22, 2005): 30-32.

The ‘Thinking-after’ of Metanoia: On Breton’s The Word and the Cross. Philosophy and Theology 16 (2004): 217-28.

“Tearing Down the Wall: Rethinking the Relation of Artist and Community.” Mars Hill Review 23 (2004): 45-56.

“Scandalous,” a review of Stanislas Breton, The Word and the Cross.” Books & Culture (January/February 2004): 12-13.

“Choosing the Matrix,” review of The Matrix Reloaded. Mars Hill Review 22 (2003): 173-77

“Jean-Luc Marion: Love is a Given.” The Christian Century 120 (February 8, 2003): 22-25.

“What is this ‘theological turn’ in recent phenomenology?” review of Dominique Janicaud et al. Phenomenology and the “Theological Turn”: The French Debate. The Christian Century 118 (November 14, 2001): 34-35

“Postmodernism.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001.

“The End of the Fantastic Dream: Testifying to the Truth in the ‘Post’ Condition.” Christian Scholar’s Review 30 (2001): 145-61

“Traces of God: The Faith of Jacques Derrida.” Books & Culture 6:5 (September- October 2000) 42-45 (reprinted in The Australian Financial Review (25-28 January 2001) in “Review” section, 8-11).

“Master of Questions,” review of Rüdiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil. The Christian Century 115 (November 18, 1998): 1105-1109.

“The Harmony that Creates Community.” Kettering Review (Summer 1996): 46-53

“Ingarden and the Problem of Jazz.” Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 55 (1993): 677-93.

“Erasmus and the Correspondence with Johann Eck.” Trinity Journal 6ns (1985): 157-65

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