Diane Obenchain

Director of the China Initiative and Professor of ReligionSchool of Intercultural Studies

Contact Information
626-304-3713
Education
BA, Drew University
MA, Stanford University (East Asian Studies)
MA, Stanford University (Philosophy of Education)
Stanford Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Study, Taipei
PhD, Harvard University

Diane Obenchain came to Fuller in July 2014 from Calvin College, where she was professor of religious studies, specializing in the religious traditions of China and Japan, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. Her area of scholarly expertise is the Ru (Confucian) tradition, now a global tradition. With a doctoral degree in comparative history of religion from Harvard University, her research interests include globalization, Chinese traditions, world Christianity and mission. Obenchain holds master’s degrees from Stanford in philosophy of education, with a specialization in Chinese philosophy, and in East Asian studies, with a specialization in Chinese linguistics. Concurrent with her master’s work, she studied the Chinese language in Taipei, equipping her to teach in Mandarin at Peking University (1988–2002), Zhejiang University (Spring 2004), and Fudan University (Fall 2004). She has also taught at the National University of Singapore (1990–1993), Waseda University (Tokyo, 1987–1988), and Kenyon College (Ohio, 1980–1989).

Obenchain is well known for her public lectures worldwide on Chinese cultural traditions, the place of “religion” in Chinese society and the world today, and Christian engagement with people of other faith. Her public lectures to date include four endowed series: (1) the W. Donald McClure lecture series at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on Christ and the Chinese Mind-heart (September 2009), (2) the Bartlett Lectureship at Yale University Divinity School on God, Confucius, and Human Rights (November 2004), (3) the Arlo Ayres Brown Lectures of Drew University on “China: What’s New?” (Spring 2001), and (4) the Frederick Neumann Lecture at Princeton Theological Seminary on “Revelations of the Dragon: Observations on Christianity and Confucianism in China Today” (April 1999).

Obenchain’s major publications include a book edited with Max L. Stackhouse, God and Globalization: Theological Ethics in a Pluralistic World, vol. 3: Christ and the Dominions of Civilization (Trinity Press, 2002); a volume of collected essays by leading Chinese philosophers (475 pages) that she edited and translated; Feng Youlan [Fung Yu-lan]: Something Exists, Selected Papers of the International Research Seminar on the Thought of Feng Youlan, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 21, September/December 1994; and a compiled reader, Christian Engagement with People of Other Faith Traditions: A Reader (2012). She has also published numerous journal articles and chapters in books.

Currently, she is project director for a Small Dictionary for the Study of Religion (in Chinese and English) funded by The Henry Luce Foundation. She is also completing an anthology for introductory courses on the study of religion in China and an introductory volume for Christians on engagement with people of other faiths.

For the better part of 15 years Obenchain lived in China (with support from the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia for ten of those years), as well as five years in Singapore, and a year in Japan, in Taiwan, and in Brazil, with travel to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. Her husband, Dennis D. Donahue, recently retired from thirty years in the US Foreign Service, with posts in India, Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, and Brazil, among others.

Courses Taught

  • IS503: The Practice of Mission
  • MR519: Christian Engagement with People of Other Faiths
  • MR541: Christ on the China Road

Areas of Expertise, Research, Writing, and Teaching

Comparative History of Global Religion; Christian Engagement with people of other faith; Chinese traditions: Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist; Christian mission and world Christianity

Publications

Books

  • Christian Engagement with People of Other Faith Traditions: A Reader, compiled by Diane B. Obenchain, printed by The Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship (CCCS) for Calvin College Faculty Workshop, June 4-7, 2012, 207 pages.
  • God and Globalization: Theological Ethics in a Pluralistic World, Max L. Stackhouse, General Editor, with Peter Paris, Don Browning, and Diane B. Obenchain. Volume Three: Christ and the Dominions of Civilization, edited by Max L. Stackhouse with Diane B. Obenchain. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002.
  • Feng Youlan [Fung Yu-lan]: Something Exists, Selected Papers of the International Research Seminar on the Thought of Feng Youlan, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Volume 21, Nos. 3/4, September/December 1994, Special editor and translator for volume of collected essays by leading Chinese philosophers (475 pages). Introduction (115 pages) and Afterword (30 pages) by Diane B. Obenchain.

Articles

  • “Christians’ Response to Confucianism,” Current, publication of Educational Resources and Referrals – China (ERRC), Winter 2010, pp. 1-3.
  • “Deepening the Dialogue: A Response to Zhang Qingxiong’s “Sin and Evil in Christian and Confucian Perspectives,” chapter in Christianity and Chinese Culture, edited by Miikka Ruokanen and Paulos Huang (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010). [This is a substantially revised English version of Chinese paper published in 2004; see below.]
  • “Rudolf Otto’s Contributions to the Scientific, Historical, Phenomenological Study of Religion,” Preface (13 pages), to Zhu Donghua’s On the Phenomenological Characteristics of Rudolf Otto’s Numinology, Beijing, China: Peking University Press, 2007.
  • Renzhe de zhiyin: Zhang Dainian de jiaoyu zhi dao (Leading by Benevolent Example: Remembering Zhang Dainian’s Way of Teaching),” in Bu Xi Ji: Huiyi Zhang Dainian Xiansheng (Unbroken Threads: Essays in Memory of Professor Zhang Dainian), edited by Chen Lai. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2005 (4), pp. 346-351.
  • Huiying zhiyi” (“First Response to Zhang Qingxiong’s ‘Sin and Evil in Christian and Confucian Perspectives’’’) trans. by Zhang Feng, in Zhidu Zongjiao yu Zhongguo Wenhua (Christianity and Chinese Culture: A Sino-Nordic Conference of Chinese Contextual Theology, Lapland, Finland, August 13-17, 2003), edited by Miikka Ruokanen and Paulos Huang. Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2004, pp. 42-56.
  • Youtaijiao—Jidujiao shengyue shehui yu rujia shehui: yu tian tong gong”(“Judeo-Christian Covenant Community and Ru (Confucian) Community: Co-partnership with Heaven”), trans. by Shin Yun, in Jidujiao Wenhua Yanjiu (Christian Culture Studies), August 2003, 30 pages.
  • “Jewish and Ru Moral Community: Compatibilities and Contributions to the Modern Era,” Edition Chōra: Verlag Fur Philosophie und Kulturwissenschaften (Series for Asiatic and Comparative Philosophy, eds. Gűnter Wohlfart and Rolf Elberfeld) (Cologne, Germany: Spring 2002).
  • “The Study of Religion and the Coming Global Generation,” in God and Globalization: Christ and the Dominions of Civilization, ed. Max L. Stackhouse with Diane B. Obenchain (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002), 59-109.
  • “Revelations of the Dragon: Observations on Christianity and Ru (Confucianism) in China Today,” The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 21.2 (July 2000), pp. 161-195.
  • “Spiritual Quests of Twentieth Century Women: A Theory of Self-Discovery and A Japanese Case Study,” in Self as Person in Asian Theory and Practice, edited by Roger T. Ames, et. al. (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994); 40 pages.
  • “A Western Scholar Looks at Chinese Traditional Culture,” Bulletin of Kiung Chow Hwee Kuan (Hainan Clan Society); No. 27, 1993, seven pages in Chinese. First ever non-Chinese Guest Speaker at this highly recognized clan society in Singapore in June 1993; publication of full presentation in Chinese.
  • “Kong Zi and Ru: A Re-assessment of the So-called ‘Victory’ of Confucianism during the Former Han,” Journal of Peking University 1991.4, 83-90 (15 pages in Chinese).
  • Review of Kenneth J. DeWoskin, trans., Doctors, Diviners, and Magicians of Ancient China: Biographies of Fang-shih, in Philosophy East and West (1986.7).
  • “Kung-sun Lung’s Chih Wu Lun Semantics of Reference and Predication,” with Kao Kung-yi, in Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 2 (1975), 285-324; 30 pages.

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