About Dr. Junius Johnson
There are different aspects to what I do, each of them contributing to the way that I try to inhabit the world as a champion of learning (Truth), character (the Good), and wonder (Beauty).
Who I am
I was born in Louisville, KY in 1976. I was educated at Oral Roberts and Yale, where I pursued my interests in literature, philosophy, and theology. I currently reside in Memphis, TN with my amazing wife and best friend, Rebekah, and our two children.
I loved writing from an early age, and the goal of my studies was always writing, both fiction and academic. These two form the major focus of my time.
For me, fiction is a vital aid to life in a world that is manifestly broken; it calls to our deep love of Story, which I believe is a fundamental desire in all of us, our memory of a home we have not yet seen. My fiction attempts to access this, to put us in touch with the beautiful without denying the realities of the world we live in. Our hearts must be broken so that love can flow into them.
My academic work in theology can be seen as the transposition of my work in the realm of literature into a more direct discourse. Here it is the trinitarian God of Christianity (as expressed in Jesus Christ) that must be the ground of all of our thinking if we are to understand ourselves properly and have a chance to create a beautiful life that is not tragic (for tragic beauty is possible, and is no less beauty, but it is a beauty for others, not for the one who lives it and whose experience is ultimately dominated by the tragedy). This commitment is existential as well as intellectual.
Beyond all this, I a passionate professional classical musician (french horn), and an amateur at the electric bass. I find music a vital and powerful expression of the experiences of life.
I hope that something in my work resonates with your experience. If not, I hope you will offer me the grace of excusing me for indulging my belief that I am not alone in my outlook. It may be true that I do not understand you, and consequently have nothing to say to you; but I write out of the conviction that I am not so different than others, that my experiences, hopes, dreams, and fears are not so unusual, and that others out there will come to know, in reading my work, that they are not alone (Shadowlands). If they may also gain something that strengthens them for the daily struggle of earthly existence, I will rejoice all the more.
I am a scholar of theology, philosophy, and literature. I received a BA from Oral Roberts University (English Lit), an MAR from Yale Divinity School (Historical Theology), an MA (Philosophical Theology), two MPhils (Medieval Studies and Philosophical Theology), and a PhD (Philosophical Theology) from Yale University. I have served as Lecturer in Ecclesiastical Latin at Yale Divinity School (2007 – 2014), Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Baylor University (2014-2020), and am now the Executive Director of
Junius Johnson Academics.
My theological work is both historical and systematic. As a historical theologian, I have a special emphass on the Medieval period, particularly high Scholasticism (and especially St. Bonaventure), as well as on the treatment of theology in imaginative vernacular literature (Dante, Julian of Norwich). My systematic work focuses on beauty and the imagination, trinitarian theology, Christology, and the Eucharist, with special expertise in Hans Urs von Balthasar.
I am a lover of European literature, with expertise in Medieval vernacular literature of England, France, and Italy. I am especially interested in the works of Homer, Vergil, Statius, Dante, Chaucer, Tasso, and the literature
of courtly love.
My philosophical interests are primarily in metaphysics, ontology, and the history of philosophy, particularly Platonsim (of various sorts) and Aristotelianism.
I am also a linguist capable of scholarly work in 12 languages.
I am the author of 5 books: Christ and Analogy: The Christocentric Metaphysics of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Fortress Press, 2010),
Patristic and Medieval Atonement Theory: A Guide to Research (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), Bonaventure on the Eucharist: Commentary on the Sentences, Book IV, dist. 8-13
(Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations, 2017), The Father of Lights: A Theology of Beauty (Baker Academic, 2020), and
On Teaching Fairy Stories: A Guide to Cultivating Wonder in Students. I have also authored numerous academic articles.
Essays and Fiction
I write essays about various topics at the intersection of faith and culture, focusing especially on the challenges of living out faithful discipleship in our present historical moment. In my essay writing I always aim to elevate
the thoughts of my reader: to offer a glimpse of something transcendent, and to give them grounds for abiding hope.
I am a lifelong fan of fantasy, science fiction, and young adult novels, and my fiction work falls into those categories. I aim through my stories to remind readers of the deeper story that underlies our every longing, hope,
and fear, and to equip them to play their role in that story.
For over 20 years, I have been teaching. I have taught in public high school, a Classical K-12 school, at university and seminary, and in churches.
Consistent with the intuition etymologically present in the word paedagogia, I view teaching as a process whereby the student is to be lead. But leading ceases to be leading when it crosses over into coercion: rather, it aims to elicit following, and so, by coaxing of various sorts, to draw the student on. This outlines a relationship marked by mutual respect and attentiveness: the teacher above all must respect the student and be alert to the student’s particular needs and proclivities in order to set before him or a her a steady diet of well-suited material that will be effective at drawing the student deeper into the matters at hand. At times this will look like the selection or modification (mid-stream, if necessary) of course materials (texts, in my case) to better engage the student. At all times, it will look like the continual adjusting of the way material is presented and the connections made to it from other areas of human life to present to the student an attractive and compelling vision of the good of mastering the material.
And yet leading must be to some place, and, if it is to be virtuous, to some good. Here the other great classical word for education, institutio , comes into play. To institute something is to cause it stand in such a way that it endures: it aims at abiding presence. This describes the educational enterprise well because what one is doing is establishing the student as a certain kind of person, well-equipped for the challenges of personal life, family, and society at various levels. For me, the goal of teaching is not primarily the transfer of information (which lies so readily available these days), but at sharpening habits of mind that make the student prompt to see through fallacious reasoning and to find avenues of creative exploration that the student is perhaps uniquely situated to discover. As a scholar in a particular area, I necessarily must do this by a kind of analogy: by means of working in the great texts of the literary, theological, and philosophical tradition, I aim to model and instill methods of thinking that apply analogously to the student’s own aspirational area, whether it be law, medicine, experimental science, etc.
And so teaching, as a combination of paedagogia and institutio , aims at the creation of another like the teacher. This is not to be understood only or primarily in terms of disciplinary similarity, as if the goal of teaching for me as a Latinist were to make more Latinists. What I study is not the most relevant part of me as a teacher, but how I go about the task of intellectual inquiry. Rigor, expressed in precision and concision, is applicable to every area of human endeavor, and it is something I aim above all to model for my students and to develop within them. This requires high standards and challenges that push them beyond their imagined limits, but it also requires the humanization of knowledge and the intellectual process so that it can be brought into the everyday realities of lived human lives and brought to bear on the concrete challenges of the world we and the students share.
For almost 30 years I have been a professional musician on my primary instrument, the french horn. I have performed with orchestras, bands, and chamber groups around the world. I have extensive studio experience, including the
soundtrack for director Rian Johnson’s second film, The Brothers Bloom, and have performed in numerous pit orchestras for musicals.
I am a founder of the quintet
Brass, and am an honorary member of the Royal Bermuda Regiment Band and the United States Army Field Band.
I am also an amateur electric bassist.
The following images may be drawn from for publicity purposes.