To Change the World The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World

Format: Hardcover
Pub. Date: 2010-04-14
Publisher(s): Oxford University Press
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Customer Reviews

Impressive  March 17, 2011
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I bought this textbook because I needed it for a course. This textbook worth every cent. This is a scholarly and thoughtful textbook with a very important point to make to Christians who are saddened, frustrated, and bereft by the direction of Christianity in America. Hunter argues that all too often these political theologies worsen the very problems they are designed to solve. The final section of the book is masterfully conceived and artfully written.

To Change the World The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World: 4 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.


The call to make the world a better place is inherent in the Christian belief and practice. But why have efforts to change the world by Christians so often failed or gone tragically awry? And how might Christians in the 21st century live in ways that have integrity with their traditions and are more truly transformative? In To Change the World, James Davison Hunter offers persuasive--and provocative--answers to these questions.

Hunter begins with a penetrating appraisal of the most popular models of world-changing among Christians today, highlighting the ways they are inherently flawed and therefore incapable of generating the change to which they aspire. Because change implies power, all Christian eventually embrace strategies of political engagement. Hunter offers a trenchant critique of the political theologies of the Christian Right and Left and the Neo-Anabaptists, taking on many respected leaders, from Charles Colson to Jim Wallis and Stanley Hauerwas.

Hunter argues that all too often these political theologies worsen the very problems they are designed to solve. What is really needed is a different paradigm of Christian engagement with the world, one that Hunter calls "faithful presence"--an ideal of Christian practice that is not only individual but institutional; a model that plays out not only in all relationships but in our work and all spheres of social life. He offers real-life examples, large and small, of what can be accomplished through the practice of "faithful presence." Such practices will be more fruitful, Hunter argues, more exemplary, and more deeply transfiguring than any more overtly ambitious attempts can ever be.

Written with keen insight, deep faith, and profound historical grasp, To Change the World will forever change the way Christians view and talk about their role in the modern world.

"How should Christians act in the world? The dominant answer in America today seems to be: through politics. But the major model of Christian political action, visible most obviously but not exclusively in the Christian Right, has been a politics fuelled by resentment and a sense of victimization, actuated by a strong will to power, and a propensity to demonize its opponents. This politics is a capitulation to the worst elements of the contemporary culture it claims to be redeeming. Hunter offers an acute end penetrating analysis of this paradoxical and distressing phenomenon, and carefully charts an alternative course for contemporary Christians, a form of 'faithful presence' within culture and society. The book is brimful of insightful challenges to our conventional understanding of things, and of inspiring suggestions for a new departure." - Charles Taylor, author of A Secular Age

"For anyone interested in American Christianity, whether believer or observer, this is an extraordinarily important and valuable book. Hunter's analysis of culture and the capacity of Christians to influence it (or not) is the most sophisticated and subtle I have ever seen, explaining why most treatments of the subject are gravely inadequate. His treatment of religion and power in the American context is similarly illuminating. Finally his theology of faithful presence offers a promising alternative to most of the approaches on offer today whether from liberals or conservatives. The encounter of social science and theology has often been vapid; Hunter shows how vibrant it can be." - Robert Bellah, co-author of Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life

"No writer or thinker has taught me as much as James Hunter has about this all-important and complex subject of how culture is changed." -Tim Keller, author of Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

Author Biography

James Davison Hunter is LaBrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory at the University of Virginia and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. He is the author of Culture Wars and The Death of Character.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Christianity and World-Changing
Christian Faith and the Task of World-Changingp. 3
Culture: The Common Viewp. 6
The Failure of the Common Viewp. 18
An Alternative View of Culture and Cultural Change in Eleven Propositionsp. 32
Evidence in Historyp. 48
The Cultural Economy of American Christianityp. 79
For and Against the Mandate of Creationp. 93
Rethinking Power
The Problem of Powerp. 99
Power and Politics in American Culturep. 101
The Christian Rightp. 111
The Christian Leftp. 132
The Neo-Anabaptistsp. 150
Illusion, Irony, and Tragedyp. 167
Rethinking Power: Theological Reflectionsp. 176
Toward a New City Commons: Reflections on a Theology of Faithful Presence
The Challenge of Faithfulnessp. 197
Old Cultural Wineskinsp. 213
The Groundwork for an Alternative Wayp. 225
Toward a Theology of Faithful Presencep. 238
The Burden of Leadership: A Theology of Faithful Presence in Practicep. 255
Toward a New City Commonsp. 273
Notesp. 287
Bibliographyp. 337
Indexp. 345
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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