David Carlson, Ph.D.

“What do you want out of life? While there are a lot of possible answers to that question, every human being’s deepest desire is to achieve a meaningful life. This is where religion and spirituality come in. Religions are very different, but each one promises to provide meaning to our life journeys. Encouraging students to take their life journeys seriously and to pursue a meaningful life are passions in my life and why I believe religious studies is an essential part of a college education.”


Professor of philosophy and religion

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., King’s College – University of Aberdeen, Scotland
  • M.A., American Baptist Seminary of the West – Berkley, CA
  • B.A., Wheaton College – Wheaton, IL

Year joined Franklin



Old and New Testament studies; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; church history; theology, literature and film; interfaith relations; religion and violence

What are interfaith friendships and why are they important?

We live in an increasingly diverse world where religions will either build walls of separation or bridges of understanding. I am involved in various groups and initiatives that build these bridges of understanding. As citizens of a democracy, we need to remember that much of the world’s pain and suffering would be lessened or eliminated if people of diverse faiths came to know and appreciate one another. But there is another more personal benefit of interfaith friendships. Contrary to what some people assume, a person’s commitment to her or his own faith is more often deepened and strengthened when they experience the depth of faith in friends of different religions.

How do students in religious studies get prepared for success in graduate school?

Success in graduate studies is the result of a number of key factors. One, graduate students must know how to conduct research. Two, graduate students must be able to not just read a great deal of material, but also be able to identify the main points of what they read and the ramifications of what they are studying. Three, graduate students must always remember that the chief motivation for learning is curiosity. Even as a toddler can drive her parents crazy by asking “Why? Why? Why?, so also successful graduate students continually ask similar questions of what they read and study—“Why?” and “How Do We Know That?”

An undergraduate major in religious studies encourages all three of these traits: ability to conduct research, identifying the main points and ramifications of what is read and studied, and remaining curious. It is not surprising that the majority of students with an undergraduate degree in religious studies do well in graduate school.

Selected Professional Accomplishments

Faculty Excellent Award, Franklin College

Dietz Award for Faculty Excellence, Franklin College

Author of the following non-fiction:

Peace Be with You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Press), 2011.

Countering Religious Extremism: The Healing Power of Spiritual Friendships (New York: New City Press), 2016.

Author of the following fiction:

Enter by the Narrow Gate: A Christopher Worthy/Father Fortis Mystery (Seattle: Coffeetown Press), 2016.

Let the Dead Bury the Dead: A Christopher Worthy/Father Fortis Mystery (Seattle: Coffeetown Press), 2017.

Let These Bones Live Again: A Christopher Worthy/ Father Fortis Mystery

(Seattle: Coffeetown Press), 2018.

In My Spare Time…

In my spare time, I love writing detective fiction/mysteries that include a religious dimension. I am also an active member of several interfaith groups that promote understanding and support for one another.

Summer time finds me also fishing, sailing, and kayaking, when I am not writing.