Professor of Theology;
on faculty since 2008
Keith Starkenburg, professor of theology, is drawn to thinking about the forces that form Christian communities. Perhaps it was his upbringing on the edge of the west, Rapid City, SD, a place fluid with a diversity of racial, religious, and economic backgrounds. It could be his engagement with the various families of Reformed Christianity. Or, his years spent in a vibrant University community where students and professors brought their varied faith commitments to bear on their academic life. Wherever it began, Starkenburg has an affection for the heart of Christian communities, the boundaries that Christian communities cross, and the borders they share with other communities. That affection is rooted in his belief that ”experiences with people of backgrounds other than my own (non-Dutch, non-Reformed, non-American) help me enter God’s love.”
He credits his alma mater, Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where he received a B.A. in humanities, with helping him learn “to love Jesus with my heart, soul and mind.” Reflecting on his decision to attend Northwestern, he says he chose it “because it appeared safe. But while there, I encountered a vast world of revolutionary ideas and practices, which showed me that God is in the process of redeeming and perfecting the whole creation.” Starkenburg adds that his life as an undergraduate at Northwestern propelled him toward a vocation as a scholar/teacher of theology, in which he could participate in the life of the mind alongside students curious about how faith informs our common life.
Desiring to enrich and enlarge his understanding of Reformed thought, he attended Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before transferring to Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. Western gifted him with the profound experience of a community worshipping and practicing spiritual disciplines together daily. Upon receiving a M.Div. from Western, Starkenburg made his way to the University of Virginia to pursue a M.A. and Ph.D. in religious studies, where his faith and thought entered what he calls “a helpful ecumenical conversation.”
Ordained in the Reformed Church in America, Starkenburg is grateful to teach and do scholarship at Trinity because “a Christian liberal arts education is a practice whereby participants cultivate their knowledge of God in Christ, God’s creation and the relationship of the creation to God in Christ. Insofar as they do this, Christian scholars, scientists, artists and their students aim to enrich and empower their love of God and God’s creation.”
According to Starkenburg, “the study of theology (and other disciplines undertaken from a Christian perspective) is more than distinctions and arguments. I believe that teachers, whether we like it or not, shape students in a host of ways.” He sees his work life as “a site of God’s presence,” and considers academic work at a Christian liberal arts college to be a “shared wonder at God’s creation.”
“I have no pretensions that studying theology makes my life more exemplary than others. ” The contexts in which I have studied theology helps me realize that God is indeed active outside the boundaries of the Christian community and that Christian communities must “ provide a wide witness to the kingdom of God.”
Starkenburg is married to Rebekah Starkenburg, who serves as the vice president of student development and retention at Trinity. The Starkenburgs have two children, Samuel and Mia, and reside in Homewood, IL. The family worships together at Hope Christian Reformed Church in Oak Forest.
Ph.D., University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2011
M.A., University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2008
M.Div., Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan, 2002
B.A., Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa, 1996
Courses and Publications/Research
- Biblical Foundations: The Old Testament and its Fulfillment
- The Church and Christian Traditions
- The Nature and Ministry of the Church
- Pentateuch Studies
- Religion in America
- Basic Teachings of the Christian Faith
Papers Published and/or Presented
“Tibi placent in nobisResurrection and Relics,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Christian Theological Research Fellowship, November 2007.
“Forgiveness as Unfulfilled Hope and Expectant Possibility in Hannah Arendt,” Annual Meeting of the South-Eastern Commission for the Study of Religion, March 2007.
“Assuming the Cross: Beyond Isolation in Von Balthasar,” Annual Meeting of the South-Eastern Commission for the Study of Religion, March 2006.
“(Re)Learning Gratefulness: Jean-Luc Marion’s Gift Phenomenology in Light of John Calvin,” Annual Meeting of the South-Eastern Commission for the Study of Religion, March 2004.
Awards and Memberships
Professional Society Membership
- American Academy of Religion