Theology and Society in Three Cities: Berlin, Oxford and Chicago, 1800-1914

By Mark D. Chapman

An exercise in the history of theology, showing how social, political and cultural change in the 19th century influenced three major theological centres.

ISBN: 9780227679890


Berlin, Oxford and Chicago were extraordinarily dynamic centres of theology during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, significant differences in the political climate and culture of each location bred strikingly divergent theological approaches in the universities of each city. Mark Chapman offers a highly original exploration of the subjection of their theologies to the changes and developments of educational policy and national and international politics, shedding light upon the constraints that such external factors have imposed upon the evolution of the discipline.

Chapman highlights the efforts of theologians and churchmen to relate the true core of Christianity, a lived religion free of shibboleths, to their rapidly changing world. The opinions of conservative and liberal theologians are skilfully balanced to reveal the problems of critical history, of political authority, of increasing global awareness and of the need for social amelioration, which profoundly shaped the ways in which theology was conceived during the period.

New ground has been broken in this inter-disciplinary study of the social, political and ecclesiastical contexts of Western theology. This book will be invaluable to any reader interested in the use of theology as part of the wider quest for social integration and meaning in an increasingly fragmented society.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 160

 |   | 

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Mark D. Chapman is Vice Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon and Reader in Modern Theology in the University of Oxford. He has written widely on the history and theology of Anglicanism as well as in Church History and Political Theology. He is also assistant priest in three rural Church of England parishes. He is a member of the General Synod of the Church of England.



1. Introduction: On Compromise
2. Theology and Society in post-Napoleonic Berlin
3. Reaction and Theology in Berlin and Oxford
4. National Education and the Rise of Oxford Theology
5. Sociology and Theology in Chicago
6. Conclusion



Endorsements and Reviews

There are many competent histories of modern theology, but few that take historical context seriously. Chapman gives us, not a series of talking heads, but portraits of three cities, and shows us how theologians wrestle with and are shaped by their academic, political, and social locations. A great project, and Chapman is a witty and engaging writer to boot.
Theodore Vial, Associate Professor of Theology, Iliff School of Theology, Denver

This is a first-rate book by one of our leading historians of theology. Chapman’s ability to interweave narrative and analysis and his focus on three national contexts makes this book essential reading for students of modern theology as well as for intellectual and cultural historians.
Thomas Albert Howard, Director, Center for Faith and Inquiry, Gordon College, Wenham

Chapman’s engaging chapters bring together on the common ground of ‘place’ critical reflections on the importance of geographical location for theology’s development.
Clive Marsh, in Journal of Theological Studies, Vol 66, No 2

… this slender volume contains a wealth of information that even advanced scholars will find worthwhile … Those interested in the history of theology will find this book rewarding, but so will anyone who thinks seriously about the many challenges that Christianity faces in the modern world.
Christopher Adair-Toteff, in Theological Studies, Vol 76, No 3

This ambitious and thoughtful book … is the result of many years of research in three different cities. It offers robust criticisms of the conservative theological approach of John Webster and the cavalier dismissal of the sociology of religion by John Milbank. There is much to enjoy here, especially for readers of Modern Believing.
Robin Gill, in Modern Believing, Vol 57:1

Chapman has written a book that is stimulating, clearly argued and, in my opinion, persuasive.
Hugh McLeod, in Theology, Vol 118, Issue 4

Theology and Society in Three Cities gives strong reasons, with wit and historical depth, to continue challenging those who nostalgically long for an age of pure theology. It deserves a wide readership, not least among those calling for the foundation of new Christian universities.
Daniel Inman, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol 67, No 2

This is an important, concise book, deserving of a wide readership. … Chapman’s portrait of theology in three quite different locations shows us anew, with great creativity and erudition, how important context can be.
Zachery Purvis, in Journal of Anglican Studies, Vol 14, Issue 1

… well composed, eminently readable and pleasantly focused.
Benjamin Dahlke, in Theologische Literatur Zeitung, Jahrgang 141, Heft 5

This is a rich and thought provoking book.
John Riches, in The Expository Times, Vol 127, No 9

The book is well-written and even the end-notes are chock full of insightful observations. I warmly recommend it.
Jordan Litchfield, in Theological Book Review, Vol 28, No 1