Professor of Theological Ethics
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 Theology, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and Studies in Christian Ethics, he writes in the media (including The Guardian, The Times and ABC Religion and Ethics) on topics related to religion and politics.
Bretherton, L. Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship & the Politics of a Common Life. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Bretherton, L. Christianity and Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of Faithful Witness. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Bretherton, L, Walker, A, Chartres, R, Walker, A, and Bretherton, L. Remembering Our Future : Explorations in Deep Church: Explorations in Deep ChurchRemembering our future: explorations in deep church. London: Paternoster, 2007.
Bretherton, L. Hospitality as holiness: Christian witness amid moral diversity. Ashgate, 2006.
Bretherton, L. "State, Democracy and Community Organizing." Companion to Public Theology. Ed. S Kim and K Day. Leiden: Brill, 2017. (Chapter)
Bretherton, LM. "Vision, Virtue and Vocation: Notes on Blue Labour as a Practice of Politics." Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics. Ed. I Geary and A Pabst. London: I.B. Tauris, 2015. (Chapter)
Bretherton, L. "Orthodoxy, consociational democracy and the move beyond phyletism." Christianity, Democracy and the Shadow of Constantine. Ed. A Papanikolaou and G Demacopoulos. Fordham University Press, 2014.
Bretherton, L. "Tolerance and Hospitality." The Blackwell Companion to Religious Diversity. Ed. K Schilbrack. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.
Bretherton, LM. "Sovereignty." Oxford Handbook of Theology & Modern European Thought. Ed. N Adams, G Pattison, and G Ward. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 255-276. (Chapter)
Bretherton, L. "Pneumatology, Healing and Political Power: Sketching a Pentecostal Political Theology." The Holy Spirit in the World Today. Ed. 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. Ed. P Ward. Eerdmans, 2011.
Bretherton, L. "Sharing Peace: Class, Hierarchy & Christian Social Order." Blackwells Companion to Christian Ethics. Ed. S Hauerwas and S Wells. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2011. 329-343.
Bretherton, L. "Constantinianism & Divine Command Ethics." The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge, 2011.
Bretherton, L. "Religion & the Salvation of Urban Politics: Beyond Cooption, Competition, and Commodification." Exploring the Postsecular: The Religious, The Politicial, The Urban. Leiden: Brill, 2010. 205-221.
Bretherton, L. "Democracy, society and truth: an exploration of Catholic social teaching." Scottish Journal of Theology 69.03 (August 2016): 267-280. Full Text
Bretherton, L. "Alinsky and Augustine: connecting organizing and theology." International Journal of Public Theology 6.4 (January 1, 2012): 528-545.
BRETHERTON, L. "Coming to Judgment: Methodological Reflections on the Relationship Between Ecclesiology, Ethnography and Political Theory." Modern Theology 28.2 (2012): 167-196. (Academic Article) Full Text
Luke Bretherton, . "The Political Populism of Saul Alinsky and Broad Based Organizing." The Good Society 21.2 (2012): 261-278.
Bretherton, L. ""Love your enemies": usury, citizenship and the friend-enemy distinction." Modern Theology 27.3 (July 1, 2011): 366-394.
Bretherton, L. "A postsecular politics? inter-faith relations as a civic practice." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79.2 (June 1, 2011): 346-377.
Bretherton, . "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? A response to the symposium." Political Theology 12.3 (2011): 358-369.
Bretherton, L. "The duty of care to refugees, Christian cosmopolitanism, and the hallowing of bare life." (2008): 143-163.
Bretherton, . "Response to Lynda Tyson's review of Hospitality as Holiness." Conversations in Religion & Theology 6.2 (2008): 204-216.
Bretherton, LM. "A Post-Secular Pope?." (2013).
Bretherton, LM. "To Vote or Not to Vote? Bipartisan Culpability and the Defence of Society." (2012).
Bretherton, L. "Is Britain a Christian Nation?." (2012).
Bretherton, , Grumett, D, and Holmes, S. "Fast Food: A Critical Theological Perspective." Food Culture & Society 14.3 (2011).
Bretherton, L. "The Real Battle for St. Paul's: The Occupy Movement and Milennial Polticis." (2011).
Bretherton, L. "Blue Labour's Openness Embraces Tradition." (2011).
Bretherton, L. "The Politics of People Power." (2011).
Bretherton, LM. "Facebook as the Opium of the Masses." (2010).
Bretherton, L. "Big Society and the Church." (2010).
Bretherton, LM. "Immigration and the Moral Status of Borders." (2010).