Charles Mathewes

Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies

Research Interests

Christian thought, esp. Augustine and the Augustinian tradition; religious ethics, esp. comparative religious ethics; religion and culture; religion and politics; evil and sin.

Current Research

My research and teaching are broadly in the areas of Christian thought, Comparative Religious Ethics, and Religion, Culture, and Politics. I have recently written books on religion's role in public life in pluralistic democracies, and the first undergraduate textbook that attempts to compare Jewish, Christian, and Islamic ethics, putting each in conversation with the others on a variety of contested moral issues. From 2006 until 2010, I edited the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and that job gave me an abiding interest in many different issues in religious studies today, ranging from methodological issues (e.g., what do we mean when we call something a "religion"?) through material ones (e.g., how is religion changing in a globalized world? How have religions understood their relations to other traditions across history?). In 2011, I co-directed a summer NEH Seminar on "The Study of Religion" with my colleague Kurtis Schaeffer, and I continue to be interested what it is to engage in "religious studies." Together with two of our graduate students I am currently completing a four-volume "Major Works" collection for Routledge Publishers on "Comparative Religious Ethics," and I am working on a project exploring the nature of the challenges to religiously and morally sound life in our age, across several traditions. Eventually I want to write a small book for classroom use on Augustine's views on evil, and a larger book that would explore Christian understandings of what a flourishing human life is like, and how such flourishing is related to Christian understandings of salvation.

Research Projects

  • Comparative Religious Ethics--working with graduate students Mark Storslee and Matt Puffer to edit a four-volume "Major Works" collection for Routledge Publishers on "Comparative Religious Ethics."  Volumes forthcoming in 2013.
  • Theology and Political Economy--working with grad students and faculty at UVA and at Yale on ongoing conversations around theology and political economy.
  • Religion and International Law--working with graduate students Laura Alexander and Philip Lorish to run a series of conversations to bring scholars together on topics related to religion and international law.  Nigel Biggar will visit us in Spring 2011 to talk about his work on war; future visit of Luke Bretherton to talk about his work on immigration and trans-national politics is in the works.

As head of the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion, I am helping to coordinate a number of events through the center.  (Webpage for VCSR forthcoming.)


  • Understanding Religious Ethics (a comparative study of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic ethics)
  • The Republic of Grace: Augustinian Thoughts for Dark Times
  • Evil and the Augustinian Tradition (Cambridge)
  • A Theology of Public Life During the World (Cambridge)


  • Editor of The Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 2006-2010