Luke Bretherton

Luke Bretherton

Professor of Theological Ethics

External address: 
The Divinity School, 407 Chapel Drive, Duke Box #90968, Durham, NC 27708-0968
Internal Office Address: 
Duke Box #90968, 407 Chapel Drive, Durham, NC 27708-0968
(919) 660-3497


Professor Bretherton’s primary areas of research, supervision and teaching are Christian ethics/moral theology, the intellectual and social history of Christian political thought, political theology, the relationship between Christianity and capitalism, missiology, and practices of social, political and economic witness. Before joining the Duke faculty, he was reader in Theology & Politics and convener of the Faith & Public Policy Forum at King's College London. He has worked with a variety of faith-based NGOs, mission agencies, and churches around the world, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. 

His first book, Hospitality as Holiness: Christian Witness Amid Moral Diversity (Ashgate, 2006) explores the theological responses to moral pluralism in critical dialogue with Alasdair MacIntyre’s moral philosophy. It develops a constructive, theological response to the issues identified via the motif of "hospitality" and uses euthanasia and the hospice movement as a case study through which to examine the implications of this response. Other previous work has focused on faith-based organizations, the church’s involvement in social welfare provision, community organizing, the treatment of refugees, and fair trade. This was drawn together in Christianity & Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of Faithful Witness (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), winner of the 2013 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing. 

His more recent research focused on the intersections between Christianity, radical democracy, globalization, responses to poverty, and patterns of inter-faith relations. Developed out a four year ethnographic study of community organizing initiatives, this research is published in Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship and the Politics of a Common Life (Cambridge University Press, 2015). The book addresses debates about the relationship between democratic citizenship, religious beliefs and practices, and the power of money.  

He was recently awarded a Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology to begin a new project entitled "A Constructive Theology of Conversion” in which he will reconsider the nature and form of conversion, which is central to Christian self-understanding. Conversion is a much contested phenomenon and debates about it touch on issues of the day such as free speech, moral and religious diversity, and the nature of secularity. At its heart, the project will draw on ancient and modern theological and philosophical conceptions of conversion as a prism through which to reimagine and re-narrate moral and political understandings of change, contrasting conversion with many of the ways change is currently framed such as “development,” “emergence,” and “revolution.”

As well as academic articles published in journals such as Modern TheologyJournal of the American Academy of Religion, and Studies in Christian Ethics, he writes in the media (including The GuardianThe Times and ABC Religion and Ethics) on topics related to religion and politics.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of London (UK) 2001

Selected Grants

Soil, Soul and City awarded by Association of Theological Schools (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2018

Soil, Soul and City awarded by Yale University (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2018

Bretherton, L. “State, Democracy and Community Organizing.” Companion to Public Theology, edited by S. Kim and K. Day, Brill, 2017.

Bretherton, L. M. “Vision, Virtue and Vocation: Notes on Blue Labour as a Practice of Politics.” Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics, edited by I. Geary and A. Pabst, I.B. Tauris, 2015.

Bretherton, L. “Orthodoxy, consociational democracy and the move beyond phyletism,.” Christianity, Democracy and the Shadow of Constantine, edited by A. Papanikolaou and G. Demacopoulos, Fordham University Press, 2014.

Bretherton, L. “Tolerance and Hospitality.” The Blackwell Companion to Religious Diversity, edited by K. Schilbrack, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

Bretherton, L. M. “Sovereignty.” Oxford Handbook of Theology & Modern European Thought, edited by N. Adams et al., Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 255–76.

Bretherton, L. “Sharing Peace: Class, Hierarchy & Christian Social Order.” Blackwells Companion to Christian Ethics, edited by S. Hauerwas and S. Wells, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2011, pp. 329–43.

Bretherton, L. “Constantinianism & Divine Command Ethics.” The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, Cambridge, 2011.

Bretherton, L. “Pneumatology, Healing and Political Power: Sketching a Pentecostal Political Theology.” The Holy Spirit in the World Today, edited by L. Jane Williams, Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2011.

Bretherton, L. “Generating Christian Political Theory and The Uses of Ethnography.” Perspectives on Ecclesiology and Ethnography, Studies in Ecclesiology and Ethnography, edited by P. Ward, Eerdmans, 2011.

Bretherton, L. “Religion & the Salvation of Urban Politics: Beyond Cooption, Competition, and Commodification.” Exploring the Postsecular: The Religious, The Politicial, The Urban, Brill, 2010, pp. 205–21.


Bretherton, Luke. “Democracy, society and truth: an exploration of Catholic social teaching.” Scottish Journal of Theology, vol. 69, no. 3, Cambridge University Press (CUP), Aug. 2016, pp. 267–80. Crossref, doi:10.1017/s0036930616000284. Full Text

Bretherton, Luke. “Democracy and the Criminal Justice System.” Political Theology, vol. 16, no. 3, Informa UK Limited, May 2015, pp. 273–78. Crossref, doi:10.1179/1462317x15z.000000000138. Full Text

BRETHERTON, L. U. K. E. “COMING TO JUDGMENT: METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ECCLESIOLOGY, ETHNOGRAPHY AND POLITICAL THEORY.” Modern Theology, vol. 28, no. 2, Wiley, Apr. 2012, pp. 167–96. Crossref, doi:10.1111/j.1468-0025.2012.01736.x. Full Text

Bretherton, Luke. “Alinsky and Augustine: Connecting Organizing and Theology.” International Journal of Public Theology, vol. 6, no. 4, Brill, 2012, pp. 528–45. Crossref, doi:10.1163/15697320-12341246. Full Text

Luke Bretherton, J. “The Political Populism of Saul Alinsky and Broad Based Organizing.” The Good Society, vol. 21, no. 2, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012, pp. 261–261. Crossref, doi:10.5325/goodsociety.21.2.0261. Full Text

BRETHERTON, L. U. K. E. ““LOVE YOUR ENEMIES”: USURY, CITIZENSHIP AND THE FRIEND-ENEMY DISTINCTION.” Modern Theology, vol. 27, no. 3, Wiley, July 2011, pp. 366–94. Crossref, doi:10.1111/j.1468-0025.2011.01683.x. Full Text

Bretherton, L. “A Postsecular Politics? Inter-faith Relations as a Civic Practice.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 79, no. 2, Oxford University Press (OUP), June 2011, pp. 346–77. Crossref, doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfq084. Full Text

Bretherton, L. “How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? A response to the symposium.” Political Theology, vol. 12.3, 2011, pp. 358–69.

Bretherton, L. “Response to Lynda Tyson's review of Hospitality as Holiness.” Conversations in Religion & Theology, vol. 6.2, 2008, pp. 204–16.

Bretherton, L. “Oliver O'Donovan's political theology & the liberal imperative.” Political Theology, vol. 9.3, 2008, pp. 265–71.


Bretherton, L. M. A Post-Secular Pope? Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), 2013.

Bretherton, L. Is Britain a Christian Nation? 2012.

Bretherton, L., et al. “Fast Food: A Critical Theological Perspective.” Food Culture & Society, vol. 14, no. 3, 2011.

Bretherton, L. The Politics of People Power. 2011.

Bretherton, L. M. Facebook as the Opium of the Masses. Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), 2010.

Bretherton, L. Big Society and the Church. 2010.

Bretherton, L. M. Immigration and the Moral Status of Borders. Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), 2010.