Dr. William E. Abshire
The Anna B. Mow Endowed Professor of Philosophy and Religion
In junior high school, Dr. William Abshire chose a class on the great literature of the world not knowing that Scripture would be part of the works examined. Before taking this class, his experience with the Christian Bible was in piecemeal fashion, regarding most of its contents as ethical rules or examples to follow. By studying the Bible with all the characteristics of any other literature, and understanding its meaning by aid of an understanding of genre, plot, symbolism authorship, history and context, he gained a deeper understanding of the narratives and realized a depth dimension that he had not appreciated before.
As a senior in high school, Abshire was first attracted to philosophy through an English class. The course, a study of the history of drama and literature from ancient Greece and Rome up to the Restoration and the 18th century, examined each period in detail. Abshire says he was enthralled with early modern philosophers’ writings that put sincerity and depth of meaning together to form great achievements of insight to, and expression of, the thoughts and feelings of humans.
Through these experiences, Abshire realized that both religion and philosophy are at work in what matters most in the lives of humans. “They are what humans take to heart as most reliably real and valuable,” he says. “I learned that religion and philosophy are relevant to living issues.” Together they give full meaning to life experiences.
His high-school English teacher, William Montgomery, had an infectious enthusiasm for literature’s great ideas, which helped inspire Abshire, along with his enjoyment of reading and interpreting literature, to pursue a career in the classroom.
One of Abshire’s hobbies is reading and he has incorporated that enjoyment into his teaching. He says most of his courses have multiple texts that are required reading; therefore he is constantly on the lookout for new material. Recently, he read Paul Barz’s novel I Am Bonhoeffer: A Credible Life for possible inclusion in the Contemporary Christian Thought class.
Abshire’s two young adult children provide him with perspective on college-aged student’s mindsets and offer advice on pedagogy, course content and classroom management.
Keeping in touch with students after they graduate is important to Abshire. He does this in many ways including e-mail, social networking sites and departmental receptions during Homecoming.
Abshire received a B.A. degree from Bridgewater College in 1984, a master of arts in historical theology from Bethany Theological Seminary and his doctorate in philosophical theology and the philosophy of religion from the University of Virginia.