Lance Nelson

Lance Nelson
Phone: (619) 260-4054
Fax: (619) 260-2260
Office: Maher Hall 277

Professor, Theology and Religious Studies

  • Ph.D., McMaster University, Religious Studies
  • M.A., University of San Diego, Religious Education
  • B.A., State University of New York at Albany, Philosophy

Lance E. Nelson, PhD, is professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies.  He teaches courses in world religions and religious traditions of Asia.  Nelson’s research specialization is in Hindu religious history, focusing on classical systems of Hindu theology and the relation between Hindu religious practice and environmental concern.

Areas of Expertise

Medieval Hindu theology, particularly Advaita Vedanta and Gaudiya Vaishnavism and their respective Sanskrit commentarial traditions

Scholarly Work

Nelson’s primary area of scholarship is in medieval Hindu theology, particularly Advaita Vedanta and Gaudiya Vaishnavism and their respective Sanskrit commentarial traditions. Recent publications in this area in include the essays “Krishna in Advaita Vedanta: The Supreme Brahman in Human Form,” in Krishna: A Sourcebook (Oxford, 2007), “Theological Politics and Paradoxical Spirituality in the Life of Madhusudana Sarasvati,” in the Journal of Vaishnava Studies (2007), “The Ontology of Bhakti: Devotion as Paramapurusartha in Gaudiya Vaishnavism and Madhusudana Sarasvati,” in the Journal of Indian Philosophy (2004).

Nelson has also done considerable work on the relation between religion and environmental awareness, with emphasis on the Hindu tradition. His publications in this area include his edited volume, Purifying God’s Earthly Body: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India (State University of New York Press, 1998), as well as the essays “Cows, Elephants, Dogs, and Other Lesser Embodiments of Atman: Reflections on Hindu Attitudes towards Nonhuman Animals,” in A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics” (Columbia University Press, 2006) and “Reading the Bhagavad Gita from an Ecological Perspective,” in Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water” (Harvard University Press, 2000).

Nelson is a board member and past-president of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.

A number of Dr. Nelson's publications are available online via SelectedWorks,, and Zotero. Please email him if you need a copy of an article not on one of those sites.

Areas of Interest

Nelson regularly teaches the department’s lower-division world religions survey (THRS 112), as well as the upper-division Hinduism course (THRS 312).  He has taught a variety of courses, including courses in Buddhism and Asian spirituality. In addition to teaching departmental classes, he has participated in several team-taught courses for the Honors Program, including Love and Spirituality: Medieval Vision East and West and Sound and Spirit in Monsoon Asia. Nelson has also taught comparative religious ethics in the Peace and Justice M.A. program.