Sell yours for a Gift Card
We'll buy it for $17.30
Learn More
Trade in now
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Dying of the Light Paperback – June, 1998

See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
$49.11 $35.99

Award-Winning Historians
Browse books by celebrated historians including Joseph J. Ellis, Lawrence Wright, and more. Learn more

Editorial Reviews Review

The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches, by James Tunstead Burtchaell, charts the history of 17 American colleges and universities that were founded by Christian denominations. Burtchaell's history shows that each school abandoned its religious roots for remarkably similar reasons. The modern conflict between Christ and culture, he argues, resulted in widespread capitulation by Christians to prevailing secular standards of knowledge. The Dying of the Light offers no advice for contemporary Christians who seek to do faith-based scholarship. "The failures of the past, so clearly patterned, so foolishly ignored, and so lethally repeated, emerge pretty clearly from these stories," he writes. "Anyone who requires further imagination to recognize and remedy them is not up to the task of trying again, and better." Burtchaell's book is lively, readable, and long (more than 800 pages). The author has done his homework so well that when he lays down his gauntlet, the reader's natural response is to rise to his challenge. --Michael Joseph Gross

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 888 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (June 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802844812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802844811
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 3 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By John P. Rooney on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Dying of the Light" by Fr. James Tunstead Burtchaell. This is an enormous book, some 868 pages long. Fr. Burtchaell deals with the secularization of the Christian colleges, which, as with Harvard and Yale, changed from a church-started, church-supported institution into secular, non-sectarian schools. His method is to pick one, two or three institutions in the particular denomination and deal with the history of the changes from a religious school into a secular institution. Fr. Burtchaell has a chapter for the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics and Evangelicals. The author's irony borders on humor once in awhile, as when he wonders why the Presbyterians found it so difficult to report the number of attending Presbyterians to church boards, but now find it so easy to report to the Federal government the racial make-up of the student body, down to the last Samoan. In the preface, Fr. Burtchaell notes that the reader will probably go directly to the section dealing with his/her religious affiliation. I did, but mainly because I was working on an MA thesis on Catholic colleges in the United States. I would recommend this encyclopaedia work to any one truly interested in the recent wave of secularization of church-related colleges in the US. Many details and stories from around the nation make this an interesting micro-history....
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
31 of 43 people found the following review helpful By william g. condon on April 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Antidisestablishmentarianism in contemporary Catholic religious-community sponsored colleges might well be a subliminal message in Fr. James Burtchaell's incisive disection of the historical disengagement of colleges and universities from their Christian Churhes. The biting humor and irony in Burtchaell's style counterpoints the euphemistic rationale vaunting past and current disengagement from the specific founding church's credo and etholgy. The present widespread disengagement by many Catholic colleges and uni-versities is the legacy of the historic, passive, submission of church related schools beneath whelming financial and enrollment pressures.
The Vatican might well use "The Dying of the Light" as its primer to argue the case for rescuing Catholic institutions from modern-day disengagement by means of episcopal appropriation.
In his asessment of the disengagement of seven-teen representative colleges and univer-sities, the author delved deeply into their ar-chival and historical references and posits a commonality of purpose, basically driven by economic necessity.
Is "greed" the dysphoric, but correct, syn-onym for what Burtchaell records? Is "naivete" an, assuaging, palliative for moral incom-petence? Is "hierarchic megalomania" being masked by ecclesiastical dogmatism? The answers to these questions are interpretable from Burtchaell's data. The answers are not easy. The information is complex, but the pattern is quite simple, money requires compromise. The issue becomes: is the loss worth the cost? Is the price of freedom too high? Is skewed pedantry inevitable with church involvement in education? Can academic excellence be acheived without academic freedom?
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Supertradmum on April 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it first came out and have recommended it again and again. It should be reprinted. The lack of leadership skills seen at all levels of American society is directly related to the lack of faith in institutions so clearly documented by Burtchaell. This book could be one all educators who want to renew faith-based education in the States use.

I hope it can be republished.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again