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Jews, Muslims, Christians Confronting Modernity: Religious Transnationalism 1900-2000


Admission requirements

Description In the 19th and 20th centuries believers of various world religions saw themselves confronted with the question how to deal with modernity. While traditionalists preferred to distance themselves from modernity, progressives wished to adapt faith to the modern world, attempting to reconcile modern historical scholarship, Darwinian theories of evolution, and new insights from the social sciences with their religious convictions. This recasting of the religious message also included such matters as religious 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. Religious liberalism or ‘modernism’ thus developed into a transnational and transreligious movement.

In this MA-Seminar the modernist ideals of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the 20th century will be studied from a comparative perspective. The focus will be on three major themes:
1) authority and authenticity
2) science and religion
3) orthodoxy and modernism
The comparative analysis of these issues will help us to identify both the similarities and the differences in the coping with modernity by members of three major world religions. In a broader sense it will shed new light on transnational religious history.

Course objectives

The MA-seminar will confront students with basic topics concerning the relationship between religion, modernity, and transnationalism in recent 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 %).


Yes, Blackboard

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 a few weeks before the course starts.

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 (