The program on religion and Late Modernity

The American Christianity and Late Modernity Project

Christianity is the religious faith most closely associated with the emergence of the modern world—in early modern capitalism, the building of Western nation-states, modern individualism, and so on—and, in its diversity, has generated countless strategies for addressing modernity’s many challenges. In the context of late modernity, Christianity continues to face extraordinary pressures, not least in the United States. Though the number of Christians remains relatively high, Christianity has evolved from the dominant faith at the center of public and private culture to one that has moved to the margins of cultural influence. What is more, it has become deeply fragmented within itself. What are the subtle ways Christianity, in its diversity, accommodates—or experiences pressure to accommodate—to the spirit of the age? What are its strategies of resistance? How do these tensions play out in Christians’ self-understanding, in the exercise of authority, in the ways they seek to engage (or disengage from) the contemporary world? How can Christians successfully pass on their traditions to succeeding generations? How can they retain faithfulness with their past, authority within their community, and integrity with their historic identity and mission in the world around them?

The American Christianity and Late Modernity Project studies the relationship of Christianity to late modernity, including the challenges to its authority; the weakening of communal habits, rituals, and meanings; and the emergence of a fundamentalist impulse. While this project focuses on American Christianity, it does so with the understanding that the widespread resurgence of Christianity in many areas of the world make it a major feature of globalization. However, many developing countries have not yet faced the full impact of modernity as seen in first-world countries. Consequently, this line of inquiry is both timely as well as critical to understanding the dynamics of politics and economics in the emerging global context.

View a list of select publications >>


Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford, 2010.

Mathewes, Charles. A Theology of Public Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Mathewes, Charles and Christopher McKnight Nicols. Prophesies of Godlessness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Mathewes, Charles. The Republic of Grace: Augustinian Thoughts for Dark Times. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Hearing the Call: Liturgy, Justice, Church, and World. Ed. Mark R. Gornik and Gregory Thompson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Justice in Love. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Justice: Rights and Wrongs. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture is an interdisciplinary research center and intellectual community at the University of Virginia committed to understanding contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences, training young scholars, and providing intellectual leadership in service to the public good.

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