August 17, 2020

Passings: Anselm Min, Scholar Who Helped Students See the Enduring Relevance of the Religious Past

Professor Emeritus Anselm Min, who passed away earlier this month, is seen here as he addresses an audience on the challenges that globalization presents to Christian theology during a 2017 conference.

The Catholic thinker Thomas Aquinas may have died some 750 years ago, but for Anselm Min, a longtime member of CGU’s Religion Department, Aquinas had much to teach Min’s students in our hyper-self-conscious age of social media.

“It was refreshing to read a thinker who reflects and argues rather than shouts and claims,” he wrote in his critically acclaimed 2005 study, Paths to the Triune God; “one who withdraws himself so as to let the matter speak for itself rather than intrude his own subjectivity at every available turn.”

A scholar renowned for his efforts to make historically distant theologies relevant to the present, Min passed away earlier this month at his Upland home. For nearly 30 years, he had served as a member of the university’s Religion Department.

Min had only just retired from CGU earlier this summer.

School of Arts & Humanities Dean Lori Anne Ferrell circulated a message to the SAH faculty about Min’s passing, praising “his remarkable gifts of intellect and spirit.”

On Instagram and Twitter, former colleagues and students expressed sorrow over his passing and paid tribute to Min’s warmth and scholarship.

CGU religion doctoral student Josiah Solis on Twitter described Min as “one of the most important professors I have ever studied with.”

Also on Twitter, University of Toronto doctoral student Sean Capener said Min was “almost single-handedly the reason I’ve spent the last seven years digging around in the medieval scholastic tradition.”

A Distinguished Career

Min held not one but two doctorates—one in religion from Vanderbilt University and one in philosophy from Fordham University—and helped maintain CGU’s high reputation in academic circles. He was the product of a Jesuit education and a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

At CGU, Min received many awards, including ones from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Fletcher Jones Research Grant, and he enjoyed a five-year tenure as the John D. and Lillian Maguire Distinguished Professor of Religion.

In works such as Paths to the Triune God, Korean Religions in Relation, and Faith, Hope, Love and Justice, Min worked tirelessly to show the enduring power and relevance of traditions of religious thought to our contemporary age.

Recalling his earliest years at CGU (then CGS), Min writes in Paths to the Triune God that he had taught doctoral students since 1992, and that “during this time it occurred to me that some of our students tended to be so preoccupied with things contemporary that they not only suffered a woeful ignorance of the classical tradition but also had a positive contempt for the theological past.”

Professor Emeritus Anselm Min

In his scholarship and teaching, Min sought to address this misunderstanding, explaining to generations of students and readers the “broadening and liberating experience” of understanding and appreciating past theologians while not making excuses for their errors and prejudices.

Ferrell also said in her message to the SAH community that they will honor and celebrate Min’s legacy as soon as quarantine conditions are lifted and in-person gatherings are allowed again.

Min is survived by his wife, Soonja; daughter Sophia; and son Paul.