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John Kelsay

Distinguished Research Professor


Departmental Area: Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy
Research Areas : Comparative Religious Ethics; Political Ethics; Religion and War

Address: Department of Religion
641 University Way / P.O. Box 3061520
The Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520
Office: 206D Dodd Hall
Email: jkelsay@fsu.edu
Office Hours: By Appointment

Curriculum Vitae


John Kelsay (Ph.D. '85, University of Virginia, Ethics) John Kelsay (Ph.D. '85, University of Virginia, Ethics) focuses on religious ethics, particularly in relation to the Islamic and Christian traditions. His current work deals with religion and politics.

Research Interests

  • Comparative Religious Ethics
  • Political Ethics
  • Religion and War

Selected Publications



  • “Alberico Gentili,” in Cian O’Driscoll and Daniel Brunstetter, eds., Just War Thinkers (New York: Routledge, 2018): 118-127.
  • “On Fighting as an Individual Duty,” in The Muslim World 106/2 (April, 2016): 374-383.
  • “Neighbor Love in Muslim Discourse,” in Frederick Simmons and Brian C. Sorrells, eds., Love and Christian Ethics (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2016): 360-374.
  • “Political Practice:  The Nexus Between Realisms and Just War Thinking,” in Soundings:  An Interdisciplinary Journal, 98/1 (2015):  38-58.
  • “Nigel Biggar’s In Defence of War:  A Review Essay,” in Studies in Christian Ethics 27 (November, 2014):  490-498
  • “Just War Thinking as a Social Practice,” Ethics and International Affairs 27/1 (2013):  1-20
  • “The Present State of the Comparative Study of Religious Ethics:  An Update,” Journal of Religious Ethics 40/4 (2012): 583-602

Current Research Projects

  • Articles and a book on just war, jihad, and U.S. foreign policy
  • Articles and a book outlining an approach to the comparative study of ethics

Teaching Specializations

  • Religious Ethics
  • Christian and Islamic Political Thought

Recent Graduate Students and Placements

  • John Samuel Houston (Ph.D., 2017), Department of Religious Studies, Stetson University
  • Rosemary Kellison (Ph.D., 2013), Department of Philosophy, University of West Georgia
  • Rosemary Kellison (Ph.D., 2013), Department of Philosophy, University of West Georgia
  • James Broucek (Ph.D., 2012), Department of Religious Studies, Iowa State University
  • Shannon Dunn (Ph.D., 2012), Department of Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
  • Matt Hagele (Ph.D., 2011), Department of Religion, Kirkwood Community College
  • Nahed Artoul Zehr (Ph.D., 2011), Department of Philosophy and Religion, Western Kentucky University

Recent Courses

Spring 2017

REL4491-1 / RLG5497-1  SEM: Modern Muslim/Xtian Pol Thought
The topic for this combined undergraduate/graduate seminar will be God and Politics in the 20th and 21st centuries. In the first part of the course, we will read and discuss the work of several examples of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinking about the topic: for Judaism, and especially religious Zionism, Rav Abraham Kook; for Christianity, Reinhold Niebuhr and John Courtney Murray, S.J.; for Islam, a selection of authors from Princeton Readings in Islamist Political Thought.
In the second part of the course, we turn to some contemporary issues. A book entitled Our Separate Ways considers the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Israel alliance, while William McCants’ The ISIS Apocalypse will serve as a springboard for discussions related to the Islamic State group.

RLG5937-2    Special Topics: REP Colloquium

RLG6176     SEM Ethics/Politics: John Brown’s Body
The topic for this graduate seminar will be the “reception history” of the life and career of the abolitionist John Brown.  From the time of his death by hanging Dec. 2, 1859, the stories of Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, along with his earlier exploits in Kansas Territory, have been debated by generations of Americans (and to some extent, residents of Europe and the British Isles).  Our material will be a number of standard biographies of Brown, each of which tells the story with a normative point of view.  (We’ll also read S. Oates’ biography, which may be the only dispassionate study of these matters).  Along the way, we’ll consider the question:  how do societies deal with instances in which individuals and small groups claim the right to take up arms without authorization by a government or other formal political institution?

Fall 2016

REL3430-1     Christian and Muslim Political Thought  
This course focuses on developments in Christian and Muslim thinking about politics.  Beginning with the foundational narratives presented in the New Testament and in the biographies of Muhammad, we will proceed to discuss the ways in which interactions between the two traditions (as in the Crusades and the Muslim expansion into south and central Europe) affected political thought.  For the Fall 2016 term, we stop at the beginnings of modernity in the seventeenth century.  A subsequent course scheduled for Spring 2017 will deal with modern developments. 

RLG5937-1    Special Topics:  Religion, Science, Conflict                                             Drs. Kelsay & Ruse
The focus of this seminar (co-listed with PHI 5934) will be on religious and biological explanations of conflict.  Our prime case study will be the First World War, in which appeals to Christian tradition served both to legitimate and to criticize the efforts of Allied and Axis powers, as did appeals to understandings of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

RLG5937-5    Special Topics:  Christian/Muslim Political Thought