A. James Reimer
|A. James Reimer|
August 10, 1942|
Morris, Manitoba, Canada
|Died||August 28, 2010
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
|Main interests||Mennonite Theology, Systematic Theology,
20th Century German Protestant Thought
Allen (A.) James Reimer (August 10, 1942 – August 28, 2010) was a Canadian Mennonite theologian who held a dual academic appointment as Professor of Religious Studies and Christian Theology at Conrad Grebel University College, a member college of the University of Waterloo, and at the Toronto School of Theology, a consortium of divinity schools federated with the University of Toronto. At the University of Waterloo's fall 2008 convocation, he was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus, an honor seldom bestowed on retired faculty.
Early Life and Education
Reimer was born and raised in small-town southern Manitoba. As a teen, he was baptized in the local Mennonite church. He held undergraduate degrees from Canadian Mennonite Bible College (1963; now Canadian Mennonite University) and the University of Manitoba (1971); he also spent a year studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York City (1971–72) before moving to the University of Toronto, where he earned an M.A. in History (1974) and a Ph.D. in Theology (1983), the latter degree conferred by the University of St. Michael's College. His doctoral dissertation, directed by Gregory Baum, was a comparative and contrasting study of the political ramifications of theology in the respective thinking of Emanuel Hirsch and Paul Tillich.
Reimer's own theology was not typically Mennonite (vis-a-vis John Howard Yoder), in that his point of departure was not the Sermon on the Mount but the classical imagination of trinitarian orthodoxy. Though he was deeply concerned with Christian social ethics, he insisted that ethics must have a ground external to itself. The triune God, for Reimer, constituted such ground. Whereas Mennonites have been historically critical of the dominant culture, Reimer's later work sought to develop a positive understanding of culture, law, public life and civil institutions.
While writing his doctoral dissertation, Reimer became deeply troubled and conflicted about the theology of Emanuel Hirsch, a German Christian nationalist and Nazi sympathizer. Fearing that he was being swayed by Hirsch's arguments, Reimer sought to offset Hirsch's influence by aligning himself more concretely with left of center politics. He joined the New Democratic Party and was an active party member for several years before finally resigning his membership over certain of the party's socio-ethical positions, particularly a woman's right to choose. Today, Reimer's overall political vision remains left of center. Though he is a pacifist, he has argued that God's activity in the world cannot be reduced to any one ethical ideology; otherwise transcendence becomes domesticated.
Reimer was quite productive as an academic. He published numerous articles in various journals; select articles have been compiled to form the content of two of his books: Mennonites and Classical Theology, and Paul Tillich: Theologian of Nature, Culture and Politics. His very first book was a revision of his doctoral dissertation, titled The Emanuel Hirsch and Paul Tillich Debate: A Study in the Political Ramifications of Theology. He also coedited a compendium of essays on the Frankfurt School of critical theory. His areas of expertise included Anabaptist-Mennonite theology, Christian ethics of war and peace, and nineteenth and twentieth century German Protestant thought (including the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Tillich, and the German church struggle during the Nazi regime). Over the years Reimer directed several theses and dissertations on these and other related topics.
A. James Reimer was an active churchman who accepted many preaching and teaching assignments in the Mennonite Church for over forty-five years, and was actively engaged in ecumenical and inter-faith encounters. In 2007, a Festschrift was published in honor of Reimer.
On August 28, 2010, Reimer died at his Waterloo home. He is survived by his wife Margaret Loewen Reimer, an academic with a Ph.D. in English, and a former editor of the Canadian Mennonite, and their three children.
- A. James Reimer, The dogmatic imagination. The dynamics of Christian belief (Waterloo, ON; Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2003), 1.
- Cf. Reimer, "Mennonites, Christ and Culture: The Yoder Legacy," The Conrad Grebel Review 16, no. 2 (Spring 1998): 5-14; also Reimer, "Anabaptist, Mennonites and Paul Tillich: Can the Prophetic Spirit be Institutionalized?, in Brücken der Versöhnung: Festschrift für Gert Hummel zum 70. Geburtstag 2003, ed. P. Haigis, D. Lax(Münster: LIT Verlag, 2003), 150-165.
- Reimer, "Trinitarian Orthodoxy, Constantinianism, and Theology from a Radical Protestant Perspective," in Faith to Creed: Ecumenical Perspectives on the Affirmation of the Apostolic Faith in the Fourth Century, ed. Mark Heim (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 129-161; see also Reimer, "Hauerwas: Why I am a Reluctant Convert to his Theology", Conrad Grebel Review 20, no. 3 (Fall 2002):5-16.
- Cf. Reimer, "God (Trinity), Doctrine of.", in Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (retrieved 13 September 2010); A Postliberal Metaphysics for Christian Ethics: The 1925 Dogmatics of Karl Barth and Paul Tillich, in Études sur la Dogmatique, 1925, de Paul Tillich, ed. A. Gounelle, J. Richard, R. P. Scharlemann (Presses Université Laval, 1999), 403-427. Also Reimer, “God is love but not a pacifist,” in Mennonites and classical theology. Dogmatic foundations for Christian ethics (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press  2001), 486-492.
- For example, see Reimer, Pacifism, Policing, and Individual Conscience, Conrad Grebel Review 26, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 129-141; "Constantine: From Religious Pluralism to Christian Hegemony," in The Future of Religion: Toward a Reconciled Society, ed. Michael R. Ott (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 71-90.
- A. James Reimer, Mennonites and classical theology. Dogmatic foundations for Christian ethics (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2001).
- A. James Reimer, Paul Tillich: theologian of nature, culture and politics (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2004). See also Reimer, "Tillich's Christology in Light of Chalcedon," in The Theological Paradox / Das theologische Paradox, ed. G. Hummel (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), 122-140; "Metaphysics and Communication: The Logos-Ontology of Paul Tillich and Habermas' Theory of Communicative Practice," Being versus Word in Paul Tillich's theology?, ed. Gert Hummel (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999), 194-205; Reimer, "Mysticism or Spirituality? The Concept of Prayer in Tillich's Theology," in Mystisches Erbe in Tillichs philosophischer Theologie, ed. G. Hummel and D. Lax (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2000), 314-329; Reimer, "Paul Tillichs Theology of Culture: An Ambivalence toward Nineteenth Century 'Culture Protestantism", in Religion et culture: actes du colloque international du centenaire Paul Tillich, ed. M. Despland, J.-C. Petit, J. Richard (Laval, Quebec: Presses Université Laval, 1987), 251-269.
- A. James Reimer, The Emanuel Hirsch and Paul Tillich debate. A study in the political ramifications of theology (Lewiston, NY; Queenston, ON: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1989). (See also German translation).
- A. James Reimer, ed., The Influence of the Frankfurt School on Contemporary Theology: Critical Theory and the Future of Religion - Dubrovnik Papers in Honour of Rudolf J. Siebert (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992).
- A. James Reimer, Christians and war. A history of practices and teachings (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010); cf. also Reimer, "An Anabaptist-Mennonite Political Theology: Theological Presuppositions," Direction 38, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 29-44.
- For example cf. Reimer, "Prayer as Unio Mystica: Tillich's Concept of Prayer in Contrast to Barth's Christological Realism and Hirsch's Pietistic Personalism," in W. Schüssler and A. J. Reimer, eds., Das Gebet als Grundakt des Glaubens, vol. 2 Tillich-Studien (Münster: LIT, 2004), 109-136; Reimer, "Tillich, Hirsch and Barth: Three Different Paradigms of Theology and its Relation to the Sciences," Natural Theology Versus Theology of Nature? Tillich's Thinking as Impetus for a Discourse among Theology, Philosophy, and Natural Sciences, ed. G. Hummel (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1994), 101-124; Reimer, "Theologians in Nazi Germany," in The Twentieth Century: A Theological Overview, ed. G. Baum (New York: Continuum, 1999), 61-75; Reimer, "Paul Tillich and Karl Schmitt: The Political Nature of Theology," in Religion und Politik , ed. C. Danz, W. Schüßler, E. Sturm (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2009), 67-80.
- For Reimer's contribution to the Shia Muslim-Mennonite Christian dialogue, see "Shi’i Muslims and Mennonite Christians in Dialogue: Two Religious Minority Groups Face the Challenges of Modernity" and "Public Orthodoxy and Civic Forbearance: The Challenges of Modern Law for Religious Minority Groups," Conrad Grebel Review 21, no. 3 (Fall 2003): 3-13, 96-111; also "Revelation, Law, and Individual Conscience," Conrad Grebel Review 24, no. 1 (Winter 2006): 12-31.
- Jeremy M. Bergen, Paul G. Doerksen, and Karl Koop, eds., Creed and Conscience: Essays in Honor of A. James Reimer (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2007). Other secondary literature includes Paul C. Heidebrecht, "A Prescription for the Ills of Modernity? Understanding A. J. Reimer's Approach to Theology," Mennonite Quarterly Review LXXX, no. 2 (2006); Thomas Finger, "A. James Reimer," A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), 70-72.