Baylor professor and Jewish author whose research and writing beginning in the 1980s pioneered the study of religion, spirituality, and health
Both biomedical scientist and religious scholar, Dr. Jeff Levin is an internationally known writer, a dynamic and authoritative speaker, and a widely respected researcher working at the interface of religion, science, and medicine. His research and writing for over 35 years have been instrumental in broadening the perspectives of social scientists, physicians, and public health professionals about the connections among body, mind, and spirit.
An epidemiologist, by training, Dr. Levin holds a distinguished chair at Baylor University, where he is University Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health, Professor of Medical Humanities, and Director of the Program on Religion and Population Health at the Institute for Studies of Religion. He also serves as Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine.
Dr. Levin is a pioneer in the field known as the epidemiology of religion—the scientific study of how characteristics and expressions of religious faith and practice serve to prevent morbidity and mortality and to promote health and well-being. His most recent investigations involve study of (a) the influence of religion on population health and aging, (b) theories of healing and the work of healers, (c) social and epidemiologic research on Judaism and Jewish populations, and (d) the role of faith-based resources in public health and healthcare policy.
Through his work, Dr. Levin has sought to establish the foundations for a new paradigm in biomedical science—one he terms theosomatic medicine. According to this perspective, “everything in existence—inside and outside of our bodies, from the smallest molecule to the actions of a loving God—is fair game for research on how and why people stay well, become ill, and get better.” In his groundbreaking book, God, Faith, and Health, he presented the results of social, epidemiologic, and clinical research pointing the way to a truly integrative model of health and healing for the 21st Century.
Most recently, Dr. Levin has begun exploring themes in moral theology and applied social ethics. His first book on the subject, Divine Love: Perspectives from the World’s Religious Traditions, affirms a mutual and covenantal relationship with the divine as a solution to the current world crisis. The path of divine love as espoused by normative religion is described as a beneficent alternative to more narrow and distorted visions of religion, such as fundamentalism, materialistic humanism, and superficial engagement of an unmoored spirituality. Only a loving relationship with God within the context of the great faith and wisdom traditions of the world can fully inform and motivate the acts of love, unity, justice, compassion, kindness, and mercy for all beings that are so desperately required to counter the toxins of divisiveness, separation, judgment, indifference, antagonism, oppression, and cruelty fueled by distortions of religiousness and faith.
His latest book, Upon These Three Things: Jewish Perspectives on Loving God, is a thoughtful introduction to Jewish moral theology and applied social ethics. It summarizes what normative Judaism says about what it means to love God, how we go about doing so, and how this affects our lives and our world. Drawing on biblical and rabbinic sources and the writings of both sages and contemporary scholars, this book offers a d’rash, or commentary, on the famous words of Rabbi Shimon the just in Pirke Avot that “upon three things the world stands.” Dr. Levin discusses the importance of a life devoted to torah (learning), avodah (worship), and g’milut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness) as the truest expression of traditional Jewish morality and the surest pathway to both personal and cultural transformation. Accordingly, Jewish religious observance and social consciousness are not mutually exclusive but rather are inseparable expressions of the Jewish covenant with God.