To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and  Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World  -     By: James Davison Hunter
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To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World

Oxford University Press / 2010 / Hardcover

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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.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 368
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2010
Dimensions: 9.30 X 6.20 (inches)
ISBN: 0199730806
ISBN-13: 9780199730803
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

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.

Author Bio


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.

Endorsements

Tim Keller
-Author of Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters
"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."

Charles Taylor
-Author of A Secular Age
"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 fueled 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."


Andy Crouch
-Books & Culture: A Christian Review
I celebrate the possibilities opened up by this book. It is groundbreaking, it is comprehensive, and it is visionary. Above all, it is wise, both sociologically and theologically. No Christian entrusted with institutional leadership or cultural power should miss the chance to read it. It will be provoking better Christian conversations about culture for years to come, and may well help our secular neighbors understand what Christians really are, or should be, aiming for—even when we use slogans like "to change the world."

-Peter Wehner
-Politics Daily
"Hunter is a thoughtful man, measured in his comments and fair minded in his analysis."

Christian Smith
-Author of Soul Searching and Souls in Transition
"Insightful, creative, refreshing, challenging, realistic, and calm but hard-hitting, To Change the World offers a sharp critical and constructive vision for American Christianity that simply must be engaged by all sides. Hunter gives us big-picture, alternative thinking at its bets. His deft interrogation of the Christian political left, right, and center in America nails it, just as his constructive, alternative vision rings true in its promise. A rare achievement and a must-read for people of faith in these times."

Robert Bellah
-Co-author of Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life
"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."

-Publishers Weekly
To change hearts and minds has been the goal of modern Christians seeking to correct a culture deemed fallen and morally lax. Hunter (Culture Wars), a distinguished professor of religion, culture, and social theory at the University of Virginia, finds this approach pervasive among Christians of all stripes and in every case deeply flawed. It can even undermine the message of the very gospel they cherish and desire to advance. In three essays—groups of chapters developing a concept—Hunter charts the history of Christian assumptions and efforts, investigates the nature of power and politics in Christian life and thought, and then proposes a theologically sound alternative: what he calls the practice of faithful presence. This practice has benevolent consequences... precisely because it is not rooted in a desire to change the world... but rather it is an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth. Well reasoned and thought provoking, Hunter's corrective argument for authentic Christian engagement with the world is refreshing, persuasive, and inspiring.

Editorial Reviews


"The most important book on religion in recent years." --Richmond Times-Dispatch


"Hunter's corrective argument for authentic Christian engagement with the world is refreshing, persuasive, and inspiring." --Publishers Weekly


"Hunter is a thoughtful man, measured in his comments and fair minded in his analysis."--Peter Wehner, Politics Daily


"James Davison Hunter's latest work, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World is a fascinating study of cultural transformation."--Jim Denison, Associated Baptist Press


"The year's most widely discussed Christian book." --David Skeel, The Wall Street Journal


"Hunter addresses important and relevant issues that all Christians in the U.S. need to consider. His ideas and analyses are frequently insightful and helpful, and his style is provocative and engaging."--Christian Century


"Brilliant."--John A. Coleman, America


"The structure of this book is quite simple....I found his three-fold typology to be useful at a desciptive level, but I was dissatisfied with the solution that he proposes"--Donald E. Miller, University of Southern California


"There's much in these pages to debate, but the church will be better for the conversation."--Winn Collier, Religious Herald


"Ambitious and impressive...Hunter's call for a more institutional and broadly public understanding of social change is a welcome and important insight. Readers of this journal will find his nuanced sociological arguments to be a rich resource in moving theological interpretations of culture from the narrow confines of political theology to the more open conceptual riches of public theology."--International Journal of Public Theology


"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


"Insightful, creative, refreshing, challenging, realistic, and calm but hard-hitting, To Change the World offers a sharp critical and constructive vision for American Christianity that simply must be engaged by all sides. Hunter gives us big-picture, alternative thinking at its bets. His deft interrogation of the Christian political left, right, and center in America nails it, just as his constructive, alternative vision rings true in its promise. A rare achievement and a must-read for people of faith in these times." -- Christian Smith, author of Soul Searching and Souls in Transition


"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


"It is groundbreaking, it is comprehensive, and it is visionary. Above all, it is wise, both sociologically and theologically. No Christian entrusted with institutional leadership or cultural power should miss the chance to read it. It will be provoking better Christian conversations about culture for years to come, and may well help our secular neighbors understand what Christians really are, or should be, aiming for-even when we use slogans like 'to change the world.' Bravo."--Andy Crouch, Books and Culture


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