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Caleb Hendrickson

PhD 2020


  • PhD (Religious Studies), University of Virginia 
  • MDiv, Yale Divinity School
  • BA (Religion and Studio Art), St. Olaf College


  • "Paul Tillich and Franz Rosenzweig: Picturing Revelation"

    • Co-directed by Asher Biemann and Paul Dafydd Jones.

My dissertation is a comparative study of the thought of the German Protestant theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965) and the German Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929). It focuses on visual-pictorial aspects of their theologies, specifically their views of revelation and religious knowledge. For both Tillich and Rosenzweig, I argue, revelation is mediated by a picture held in the collective consciousness of the religious community – for Rosenzweig "the still and silent image" of Jewish existence, for Tillich the "real picture of the Christ." In these pictures are concentrated entire fields of perception, through which the eternal and absolute God may become visible within the limits of finite existence, and, in turn, the whole of reality may be re-perceived (and re-cognized) in light of the absolute. The dissertation expounds the philosophical constitution of Tillich's and Rosenzweig's ideas of revelation, with primary reference to German romantic idealism and neo-Kantian epistemology. It thus locates Tillich and Rosenzweig in a shared philosophical tradition. It also puts these pictorial renderings of revelation in conversation with some modern art theory (Heinrich Wölfflin, Clement Greenberg, Susanne Langer) as well as some voices in contemporary visual and image theory (W.J.T. Mitchell, Richard Wollheim, Lambert Wiesing). I argue that: 1) much like a modernist painting (e.g., a Kandinsky or Malevich), the pictures at the center of Tillich's and Rosenzweig's theological imaginations appear in a purely visual domain, with an imaginary or virtual kind of objectivity of their own, and 2) they bear a purely presentational quality, meaning they have their objective sense within self-prescribed horizons of meaning, as perceptual wholes; their truth content cannot be expressed in a symbolic order other than the picture itself, thus cannot be formulated discursively, as a proposition. 

The question pressed throughout the dissertation is an epistemic one: whether the presentational quality of pictorial perception, when made to mediate revelation and religious knowing, renders God and God's truth mere projections of the subject (Feuerbach), or whether the pictures engendered by religious consciousness may vouchsafe "objective" knowledge of a God beyond the “I”/eye. I conclude that, for Tillich and Rosenzweig, on their own terms, revealed truth must appear phantasmically and through a process of projection. Further, the truth had in these pictures cannot be objectively verified vis-a-vis some fixed point outside the picture. Whether Tillich's "picture of Christ" or Rosenzweig's "Star of Redemption," the picture of revelation is not a picture of anything outside the picture. It is, rather, a perceptual whole that becomes the perceiver's medium for intuiting and cognizing the whole of the real, absolutely. However, this does not mean that these pictures of revealed religion cannot be judged objectively credible. Their objective credibility, I argue, rests on their re-appropriation by the all-encompassing, collective forms of religious life that give rise to them. In other words, revelation is a picture that is lived into its truth; and its truth is made credible in the life and performance of the picture. While overly stylized and abstract, Tillich's and Rosenzweig's visions of revelation, I argue, continue have value as contemplative focal points for religious, social, and ethical creativity. 

Research Interests

  • Theology, philosophy, their correlation in modernity

  • Christian thought

  • Modern Jewish thought 

  • Religion, art, and aesthetics

  • Image theory, visual theory


  • Lecturer in Religious Studies, University of Virginia

    • Faith and Doubt in the Modern Age

  • Head Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Virginia

    • Theology, Ethics, and Medicine

  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Virginia

    • Introduction to Media Studies

    • The Kingdom of God in America

    • Introduction to Western Religious Traditions

    • New Testament and Early Christianity

    • Religion in America Since 1865

    • Theology, Ethics, and Medicine

  • Teaching Fellow, Yale Divinity School

    • Faith, Morality, and the Law


  • Peer-Reviewed

    • "'That God of My Youth': Correlations of Franz Rosenzweig and Heinrich Wölfflin." Jewish Studies Quarterly. Forthcoming, 2020. 

  • Other

    • "Imaging 'The Indian': Religion, Art, and Questions of Recognition." The Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab at the University of Virginia. Forthcoming. 

    • Book ReviewProphetic Interruptions: Critical Theory, Emancipation, and Religion in Paul Tillich, Theodor Adomo, and Max Horkheimer (1929-1944) by Bryan Wagoner. Reading Religion, April 2018. 

Papers Presented

  • "Repicturing Franz Rosenzweig in Light of Heinrich Wölfflin's Formalist Aesthetics." Assocation for Jewish Studies Annual Conference. San Diego, December 2019 (upcoming).

  • "The Eye of The Star of Redemption: Rosenzweig's Views of Redemption." Internationale Rosenzweig-Gesellschaft Biannual Meeting. Jerusalem, February 2019.  

  • "The Demonic Arts & The Politics of Critique: Discerning the Spirits of Visual Culture with Paul Tillich." American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. Boston, November 2017.  

  • “The Theology of the Cross: The Past and Present of God’s Death, Seen Through the Theology of Eberhard Jüngel.” University of Chicago and Notre Dame Joint Graduate Conference. University of Chicago, October 2016.

  • “Rosenzweig on Death and the Neighbor.” Psychology and the Other conference. Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. October 2011.

Selected Fellowships and Awards

  • Dean’s Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia (2019-2020)
  • Rachel Winer Manin Interdisciplinary Jewish Studies Fellowship, University of Virginia (2017-2020)
  • Harriet Jackson Eli Prize for Theology, Yale Divinity School (2013, 2014)
  • The Junia Prize for Distinction in the Study of Religion, St. Olaf College (2009)


  • "Pamunkey: Fractures and Reconstruction of Memory." Two-part film regarding the political and cultural recognition of the Pamunkey tribe of eastern Virginia, produced in collaboration with Federico Cuatlacuatl and Ethan Brown for the Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab at the University of Virginia, 2019.

  • "Freedom's Hat: The U.S. Capitol Building’s ‘Statue of Freedom’ and the Antebellum Debate over Slavery.” Eight minute audio piece written and produced for the Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab at the University of Virginia, 2018. Available here