Justin Karmann
Associate pastor of youth, family and social justice, First Presbyterian Church, Metuchen, New Jersey
Justin Karmann

Thinking on religion

Justin double majored in religion and philosophy at Northwestern before earning a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. Now, he’s an ordained pastor in the Reformed Church in America and is leading a congregation as associate pastor.

What piqued your interest in the field of philosophy?

I was immediately drawn to philosophy at Northwestern because Dr. Wacome and Dr. Jensen are leading thinkers in their fields. They are well-rounded and know how to foster creative intellect. They also had doors that were always open and wanted to teach what we wanted to learn about. This is rare in professors; they truly are student-focused. I also believe in the value of the liberal arts education and in the ability of the mind. No other major provides one with such a well-rounded perspective on our world. I am a better thinker because of my philosophy major.

How has Northwestern prepared you for your career?

My development toward my calling has definitely been unexpected, to say the least. I came to Princeton Theological Seminary expecting to leave with my Ph.D. and be like my philosophy and religion professors because Northwestern had prepared me so well for academia. But God had other plans. While at Princeton, I heard God’s call for me to go into ministry and to embrace our calling as Christians to be the hands and feet of Christ. I first learned about God’s kingdom and our calling to care for the widow, the alien and the orphan during chapel worship at NWC. Northwestern developed empathy within me to care for my neighbors. Because of Northwestern’s kingdom directive, I easily transitioned into ministry and used my philosophical background to challenge certain norms.

How did you benefit from studying both religion and philosophy?

I believe the benefit of majoring in both religion and philosophy is reflected in their own mutuality. One cannot study religion without studying philosophy and vice versa. Majoring in both gave me a broader understanding of the Christian patriarchs and a deeper respect for our philosophical quandaries about who God is and why God created us. Both fields center around why we are here and what our purpose is in life.

How has studying philosophy challenged your faith?

Philosophy has a knack for poking proverbial holes in everyone’s ideologies. I came to college expecting the world to be a certain way, and then I learned of the great philosophers and their perennial struggles with certain issues that we still wrestle with today. What philosophy does is remind us of our past, guide us throughout our present lives, and challenge us to envision a different future. Because of my philosophy major at Northwestern, I experienced a well-rounded faith that I share with the great thinkers who come before me, such as Augustine, Berkeley and Barth.

What are your future career goals?

As with most people my age, my future career goals are uncertain. For now, God is calling me to be an associate pastor in New Jersey, and I am honored and well equipped to do so. I thank Northwestern for nurturing me into the person I am today. Whatever is in my future, I know I will succeed because of Northwestern.