Jesse D. Couenhoven


Associate Professor of Moral Theology

Department of Humanities

Villanova University

Saint Augustine Center Room 304

800 Lancaster Avenue

Villanova, PA 19085

 (215) 796-5719



Academic History           


Associate Professor (with tenure), Humanities Department, Villanova University, 2010-

Assistant Professor, Humanities Department, Villanova University, 2005-10

Gallen Post-Doctoral Fellow, Villanova University, 2004-5


Ph.D., Religious Studies Department, Yale University, May 2004

Graduate Exchange Student, University of Pennsylvania, August 2003-August 2004

M.A.R., Historical Theology, Yale Divinity School, May 1997

B.A., Psychology, Oberlin College, May 1995





Stricken by Sin, Cured by Christ:  Agency, Necessity, and Culpability in Augustinian Theology, Oxford University Press, 2013.

I offer a novel reading of Augustine’s conceptions of inherited evil and the bound will, then formulate non-volitionalist

accounts of responsibility and freedom that make it possible to retrieve central aspects of Augustine’s views, and to

recognize the humanity of his doctrine of original sin.


Predestination: A Guide for the Perplexed, Bloomsbury / T&T Clark, forthcoming. This book  will offer a historical overview

and a constructive appropriation of the doctrine. My central argument is that sharing authorial responsibility for crucial

features of our personal narratives is often a blessing, and undermines neither our freedom nor our praiseworthiness.

My work on this topic is funded by a “Big Questions on Free Will” grant from Florida State University.



Focus Issue


“The Possibilities of Forgiveness.” Journal of Religious Ethics, 41.3, 2013, 377-512. I wrote an introductory essay on

interdisciplinary and inter-religious approaches to forgiveness and edited this focus issue, based on papers written

for a conference I organized at Villanova in Spring 2012. My work was funded by a “A New Science of the Virtues”

grant from the University of Chicago.




Refereed Articles


“Fodge-ogs and HedgeOxes”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 81(3), 2013, 586-91.


“Augustine, Saint”, International Encyclopedia of Ethics, ed. Hugh LaFollette. Malden, MA: Blackwell Press,

2013, 399-407.


“The Necessities of Perfect Freedom,” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 14(4), 2012, 396-419.


“Against Metaethical Imperialism: Several Arguments for Equal Partnerships between the Deontic and

Aretaic.” Journal of Religious Ethics, 38.3, 2010, 521-44.


“Forgiveness and Restoration: A Theological Exploration,Journal of Religion, 90(2), 2010, 148-70.

               (The most-read article in the Journal in 2010.)


“What Sin Is: A Differential Analysis.” Modern Theology, 25(4), 2009, 563-87.


Retributive Justice: A Penitential Pedagogy.” Journal of Lutheran Ethics, September 2009.


“‘Not Every Wrong is Done with Pride’: Augustine’s Proto-feminist Anti-Pelagianism.” Scottish Journal of

Theology, 61, 2008, 32-50. (Among the ten most-read articles in 2008.)


“Augustine’s Rejection of the Free Will Defense: An Overview of the late Augustine’s Theodicy.” Religious

Studies, 43, 2007, 279-298. (On the ten most-read articles list from 2007 – 2013.)


 “Augustine’s Doctrine of Original Sin,” Augustinian Studies, 36:2, 2005, 359-96.


“Law and Gospel, or the Law of the Gospel? Karl Barth’s Political Theology Compared with Luther and Calvin.”

Journal of Religious Ethics, 30:2, 2002, 181-206.


“Grace as Pardon and Power: Pictures of the Christian Life in Luther, Calvin, and Barth.” Journal of Religious

Ethics, 28:1, 2000, 63-88. (On the most-read articles list from 2000 - 2013.)


“Collision or Collaboration: School-based Health Services Meet Managed Care.” Paula Armbruster, Ellen Andrews,

Jesse Couenhoven & Gary Blau. Clinical Psychological Review, 19:2, 1999.

    Reprinted in School Health Services and Programs, ed. Julia Graham Lear, Stephen L. Isaacs, and James R. Knickman.

Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2006.



Book Chapters


“The Protestant Reformation,” in the Cambridge History of Moral Philosophy, ed. Michael Pakaluk and Jens

Timmermann, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming in 2014.


“Predestination.” in Vocabulary for the Study of Religion, ed. Robert Segal & Kocku von Stuckrad, Brill

Publishers, forthcoming in 2014.


“Karl Barth’s Eschatological (rejection of) Natural Law.” in Natural Law and Evangelical Political Thought, ed.

Jesse Covington, Micah Watson, and Bryan McGraw. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012, 35-55.


“Karl Barth’s Conception(s) of Divine and Human Freedom(s).” in Karl Barth’s Ethics, ed. Daniel Migliore. Grand

Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010, 239-55.


“Dreams of Responsibility.” in Augustine and Philosophy, ed. Phillip Cary, John Doody, and Kim Paffenroth.

Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010, 103-23.



Selected Book Reviews


Reviews of Sarah Byers’ Perception, Sensibility and Moral Motivation in Augustine, and Timo Nisula’s

Augustine and the Functions of Concupiscence, forthcoming.


Review of Brian Stock’s Augustine’s Inner Dialogue, in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 79(4),

December 2011, 1071-4.


Review of Emilie Townes’s Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil, in the Journal of the Society of

Christian Ethics, 31(1), Spring/Summer 2011, 203-4.


Review of Gary Anderson’s Sin: A History, in Modern Theology, 27(1), January 2011, 194-197.


Review of Miroslav Volf’s The End of Memory, in PRISM, September-October 2007.             


Review of William Werpehowski’s American Protestant Ethics and the Legacy of H. Richard Niebuhr, in

Theology Today, 60:2, 2003.


Review of Alistair McFayden’s Bound to Sin, in Interpretation, 56:4, October 2002.



Work in Progress


“The Indicative in the Imperative: On Augustinian Oughts and Cans”,  to be published in a collection based on the

Big Questions in the Theology of Free Will conference.


“Immutable Freedom”, an article on God’s freedom that will be published in Free Will and Theism, ed. Kevin

Timpe and Daniel Speak (Oxford University Press, expected 2015).


“Augustine”, an article on the idea that sin is privation, to be published in the T & T Clark Companion to the

Doctrine of Sin, ed. Keith L. Johnson and David Lauber (expected 2015).


“The Problem with Original Sin: A Challenge to Several Conventions in the Free Will debates.”


A Severe Grace: Forgiveness, Sin, and Sacrifice. What is forgiveness? How does it overcome evil? And how does

it relate to justice, punishment, penance, and sacrifice? My work on this book project was funded by a "Science

of the Virtues" Grant from the University of Chicago.

Other Research Interests


“Benign Christian Relativism”: in this project I seek to marry Catholic and Protestant metaethics, along with divine command, natural law, and virtue theories by developing the idea that morality is relative to theological context (aeons), a person’s specific calling (vocation), and species-specific proper function. 


“Medical Decision-making: Patient Autonomy or Physician Paternalism?” This project unites my interest in questions about free will with bioethical conversations about end of life care. My hope is to move beyond unhelpful paradigms for clinical decision-making by attending to the virtues and practices necessary for mutual understanding of communally normed judgments.



Invited Lectures


“Sickness, Sin, and Augustine’s Compatibilism,” Florida State University ethics colloquium, March 2013.


“A Reasoned Faith: How Trust Makes Understanding Possible,” the Faith and Reason lecture, Villanova

University, April 2011.


“Virtues and Perils of Forgiveness,” given in the Science of the Virtues competition at the University of

Chicago, January 2010, and revisited in follow-up talks given in March 2011 and 2012.


“Karl Barth’s Eschatological (rejection of) Natural Law,” Westmont College, February 2011.


“Augustinian Sin and Salvation,” a class taught at Yale Divinity School, February 2011.


“Restorative and Retributive Justice,” Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Criminal

Justice, Villanova University, March 2009.


“What Forgiveness is Not: A Theological Disputation,” Meade-Swing lecture at Oberlin College, February 2009.


“Love’s Compass: An Introduction to St. Augustine,” the University of Utah, the Honors College, September




Selected Presentations


 “The Augustinian Background of Luther’s Bondage of the Will” and “Ought and Can in the Augustinian

Tradition,” American Academy of Religion, November 2013.


“Augustinian Oughts and Cans,” Big Questions in the Theology of Free Will conference, St. Thomas University,

September 2013.


“What does it Mean to Forgive?” Parts 1 & 2, blogs posted at, January 2012.



“Christian Individualism,” a talk given as part of the Society of Christian Ethics panel discussion “Christianity,

the Enlightenment, and Political Life: A Transformed Landscape”, January 2011.


“Virtues and Vices of Analytic Theology,” American Academy of Religion panel discussion, October 2010.


“What Forgiveness is Not,” a response to a talk on forgiveness by Stanford’s Frederic Luskin, Villanova

University, October 2009.


“The Origins of Evil,” the Penn Humanities Forum, University of Pennsylvania, April 2008.


“Wash Me, and I will be Whiter than Snow: A Theological Account of Forgiveness.” Society of Christian Ethics,

January 2008.


Forgiveness Among Friends: Some Suggestions on How to 'Keep No Record of Wrongs'.” Baylor Symposium

on Faith and Culture, October 2007.


“Genetic Determinism and the ‘Freedom of the Gaps’.” American Academy of Religion, November 2006.


“Augustinian Freedom and Responsibility.” Society of Christian Ethics, January 2005.



Awards & Grants                           


“Big Questions in Free Will” research grant, for a project on “Praiseworthy Lack of Control”, from the

Department of Philosophy at Florida State University, $74,000, 2012-13


“Analytic Theology” Fellowship, a research grant from the Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion,

$75,000, 2012-13 (declined)


Veritas research Grant, Villanova University, $4,900, Summer 2012


“A New Science of the Virtues” research grant, for a project on “Virtues and Vices of Forgiveness,” from the

University of Chicago’s Arête Initiative, $80,000, March 2010-2012


Mellon Fellow, University of Pennsylvania Humanities Forum, $3,000, 2007-8


Veritas research grant, Villanova University, $10,000, 2007-8


John Perry Miller Dissertation Research Award, Yale University, Summer 2003


Harvey Fellowship, funded by the Mustard Seed Foundation, $42,000, 2001-4


Civitas Fellow, Center for Public Justice, funded by the Pew Foundation, Summer 2001


Yale Divinity School Dean’s Merit Scholarship, August 1996


The Dahl Philosophy Award at Oberlin, May 1995

Teaching Experience


Courses taught at Villanova University:


“Faith, Reason, and Culture,” an introduction to Christian thought aimed at first and second year

students in the honors program.

“Predestination, Freedom, and Moral Effort,” a graduate seminar on the ways in which Augustine’s

doctrine of predestination has and should be appropriated.

“Theories of Atonement” and “Augustine and Politics,” graduate reading courses.

“Punishment, Grace, and Freedom,” a theological engagement with philosophical and legal

approaches to what punishment is for, the propriety of blame, and nature of free will.

“Forgiveness: Personal and Political,” a philosophical, theological and psychological discussion

of revenge, hate, forgiveness, and their place in politics.

               “God,” Departmental Gateway Seminar, an introduction to Christian theology that engages

the relation of faith and reason, revelation, prayer, and the nature of divine perfection.

               “Introduction to Ethics,” a survey lecture course on metaethics, bio-ethics, just war theory,

global warming, the role of punishment, and questions of human rights.

               “Sexuality, Sin, and the Self,” upper-level theology survey of modern theological and

philosophical anthropology from David Hume to Pope John Paul II.

“Fate, Guilt, and Luck,” and “Love and Friendship,” writing intensive first-year seminars focusing on

classical and medieval texts.


Teaching Fellow, Yale University


Introduction to Modern Philosophy (Philosophy Dept., Prof. Robert M. Adams), Spring 2002

    Epistemology and Metaphysics in Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant

History of Christian Ethics (Divinity School, Prof. Margaret Farley), Fall 2001

    Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin on, e.g., grace, sexuality, just war, and politics

Modern Moral Issues (Religious Studies Dept., Prof. Gene Outka), Spring 2001

Abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, pacifism, and multiculturalism

Bioethics (Political Science Dept., visiting Prof. William May), Fall 2000

    An introduction: abortion, euthanasia, human research, health care, and environmental issues


Outpatient Clinical Coordinator, Yale Child Study Center, August 1997-May 1998



Selected Professional Service


Reviewer for:                    Augustinian Studies

                                             Journal for Justice and Peace Studies

International Journal of Systematic Theology

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Journal of Religious Ethics

Modern Theology

Blackwell Press                                               Fortress Press

Oxford University Press                                 Rowman & Littlefield Press


Convener, “Christian Ethics in Historical Context”, Society of Christian Ethics Interest Group, 2013 -  

               Our January 2014 panel will feature Diana Cates, Thomas A. Lewis, and Elias Sacks.


Convener, “Freedom and Necessity in the Augustinian Tradition,” American Academy of Religion philosophy of

religion panel with Darlene Weaver, David Hunt, Adam Eitel, and myself, November 2013.


Co-organizer, “Big Questions in the Theology of Free Will” conference at St. Thomas University, September

2013. Funded by a grant from Florida State University. Speakers included Michael Almeida, Derk

Pereboom, Oliver Crisp, Kevin Timpe, Brian Leftow, Matthewes Grant, Hugh McCann, David Hunt,

Peter van Inwagen, Katherin Rogers, and myself.


Moderator, “Conscience and the Moral Epistemology of Divine Command Theory”, at the Challenges to

Religious and Moral Belief conference, Purdue University, September 2012.


Moderator, The Human Person as Communicative Event: Jonathan Edwards on the Mind/Body Relationship

at the Logos 2012 conference at the Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion, May 2012.


Organizer, “Possibilities of Forgiveness”, an interdisciplinary, inter-religious conference, hosted at Villanova

University, February 2012. Funded by a grant from the University of Chicago. Speakers included

Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Anthony Bash, Anas Malik, Louis Newman, Daniel Philpott, Margaret Urban

Walker, Michael Wohl, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. 


Augustinian Institute Advisory Board, Villanova University, Fall 2009 -


Moderator, Reconsiderations conferences on Augustine, Villanova University, Fall 2009, 2012.


Ethics Program Advisory Board, Villanova University, Fall 2005 -


Organizer, bi-weekly luncheon meetings, with financial help from the Yale Gerber Fund, discussing

interdisciplinary issues in Religious Studies, 2002-2003.


Attended, presented and read work in progress, Yale Philosophy of Religion reading group, 1996-2003.


Organizer, bi-weekly Religious Studies Inter-disciplinary Colloquium, with financial help from the

Yale Dean’s colloquium fund, discussing methods in the study of religion, 1999-2001.