Sociology and theology reconsidered: Religious sociology and the sociology of religion in Britain

John David Brewer

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22 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the relationship between theology and sociology on two levels. The first Is in terms of the general disciplinary closure that has marked much of their coexistence, despite the many topics on which they potentially meet. The second level is more specific and concerns the tension in Britain between religious sociology, in which sociology is put to serve faith, and the secular sociology of religion, where religion is studied scientifically. This tension has been addressed before with respect to the history of sociology in France and the United States, but the British case, hitherto relatively unknown, illustrates the potential there was for a more fruitful relationship between sociology and theology in Britain that went undeveloped as the secular sociology of religion eventually replaced early religious sociology. The existence of religious sociology has been written out of the history of the discipline in Britain, such that when theology and sociology began a more serious engagement in the 1970s in Britain and elsewhere, particularly as biblical studies discovered sociology and as theologians and sociologists first met jointly, this earlier dialogue was entirely overlooked.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-28
Number of pages22
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2007


  • history of sociology
  • sociology of religion
  • theology
  • church


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