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Comparing Modernities: Judaism, Christianity and Islam


Admission requirements

Modern Christianity I


In the 19th and 20th centuries believers of various world religions saw themselves confronted with the question how to deal with modernity. While some preferred to distance themselves as much as possible from almost anything related to modernity, others rather saw the need for adapting their faith to the modern world and set out to reconcile modern historical scholarship, Darwinian theories of evolution, and new insights from the social sciences with their beliefs. The modern recasting of the religious message did not only occur in the intellectual domain but also included such matters as practices, rituals, liturgy as well as social and political convictions. Remarkably the program of adjustment to modernity was shared by representatives of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alike. Due to these liberals or modernists as they were commonly called modernism developed into both a trans-national and trans-religious movement.

In this MA-Seminar the modernist ideal of Jews, Christians, and Muslims will be studied from a comparative perspective. The focus will be on four major themes: 1) religion and the critical mind; 2) religious authority and modern science; 3) the sacred and the secular; 4) the quest for authenticity. The comparative analysis of such issues will help us to identify both the similarities and the differences in the coping with modernity by members of three world religions.

Course objectives

The MA-seminar will confront students with basic topics concerning the relationship between faith and modernity in a formative period of religious history. They will study the material from a comparative perspective urging them to rethink traditional views on similarities and dissimilarities between major world religions.


See Time table

Mode of instruction

The seminar will meet once a week during the semester.

Assessment method

Reading assignments, presentations and class discussions (50%)
Essay (50 %).



Reading list

  • R. Scott Appleby, “Church and Age Unite!”. The Modernist Impulse in American Catholicism (Notre Dame-London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992 ISBN 0-268-00782-9) – Arnold Eisen, Rethinking Modern Judaism. Ritual, Commandment, Community (U. Chicago Press 1998) – William R. Hutchison, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (Durham-London: Duke University Press 1992 (pb)) – Darrell Jodock (ed.), Catholicism contending with modernity. Roman Catholic Modernism and Anti-Modernism in Historical Context (Cambridge: C.U.P., 2000 (repr. 2011)) – Charles Kurzman, Liberal Islam: A Source-Book (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) – Charles Kurzman, Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Source-Book (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002 – Jack Wertheimer (ed.), The Uses of Tradition. Jewish Continuity in the Modern Era (Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Harvard U. Press 1992)

For other reading material, see Blackboard (two weeks before the beginning of the semester)


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in blackboard.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs via


Please contact prof.dr. E.G.E. van der Wall before signing up for this course (