Faculty Profiles

Faculty Profile Variant

James A. Mathisen, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology Emeritus

On Faculty since 1983, Retired 2008

Dr. Mathisen was born on a farm in central Wisconsin. He then moved to Wausau, where he graduated from high school. He pursued higher education at Bryan College and graduated with a B.A. in Biblical studies in 1964. After his undergraduate work, Dr. Mathisen taught at a Bible college for several years before he began his graduate studies at Wheaton, earning an M.A. (1969) in Old Testament. Upon graduating from Wheaton, he started working as a textbook editor and it was during this time that Dr. Mathisen realized that he wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology of religion.

Because of his newfound interest, Dr. Mathisen enrolled in a joint sociology of religion program between Northwestern University and Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. He began teaching at Aurora University in the Sociology Department and continued his position for several years after his Ph.D. completion. In 1983, he joined the Wheaton College faculty and was the chair of the department from 1995-2001. He researched topics such as the Promise Keepers and American sport as a folk religion.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Mathisen was always spotted at the college's major sporting events. He and his wife, Sharon, share interests in classical music, Amish culture, and browsing through antique and second-hand stores. In 2013 he and Sharon relocated to Grafton, Wisconsin, reconnecting with their Wisconsin roots.

Northwestern University and Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, IL
Ph.D., 1979
Dissertation titled, "The Moody Bible Institute: A Case Study in the Dilemmas of Institutionalization."

Wheaton College, IL
M.A., 1969

Bryan College, TN
B.A., 1964

  • Sociological Theory
  • Sociology of Religion
  • Social Class and Inequality
  • Sociology of Sport
  • Contemporary Social Concerns
  • Senior Capstone Seminar
  • American Sociological Association
  • Midwest Sociological Association
  • North Central Sociological Association
  • Illinois Sociological Association
  • Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
  • Association for the Sociology of Religion
  • Religious Research Association
  • North American Society for the Sociology of Sport
  • North American Society for Sport History
  • American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance

Dr. Mathisen researched the role that intercollegiate sports have at universities, specifically the role sports play at Christian colleges. This project is building off of his early work in the sociology of sports, extending the argument from his co-authored book, Muscular Christianity: Evangelical Protestants and the Development of American Sport.

  • Mathisen, James A. 2005. "Sport." Pp. 285-303 in Handbook of Religion and Social Institutions, edited by Helen Rose Elbaugh. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
  • Mathisen, James. A. 2004. "Tell Me Again, Why Do Churches Grow?" Books and Culture, May/June 2004, 18-20, 41-42.
  • Mathisen, James A. 2003. "Integrating World Views with Social Roles: Supplying a Missing Piece of the Discussion on Faith-Learning Integration." Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 22 (3), 230-40.
  • Mathisen, James A. 2001. "The Strange Decade of the Promise Keepers." Books and Culture, 7: 36-39.
  • Mathisen, James A. and T. Ladd. 1999. Muscular Christianity: Evangelical Protestants and the Development of American Sport. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker
  • Mathisen, James A. and M. S. Hamilton. 1997. "Faith and Learning at Wheaton College." Pp. 262-84 in Models for Christian Higher Education, edited by R. T. Hughes and W. B. Adrian. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.
  • Mathisen, James A. 1992. "Civil Religion." Pp. 88-94 in A New Handbook of Christian Theology, edited by Donald W. Musser and Joseph L. Price. Nashville: Abingdon, 1992.
  • Mathisen, James A. 1992, "From Civil Religion to Folk Religion: The Case of American Sport." Pp. 17-33 in Sport and Religion edited by Shirl J Hoffman. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  • Mathisen, James A., 1989. "The Origins of Society: Why No Christian Influence." Christian Scholars Review,  11(1): 13-23.
  • Mathisen, James A., 1989. "A Further Look at 'Common Sense' in Introductory Sociology." Teaching Sociology, 17 (July): 307-315.
  • Mathisen, James A., 1989. "Twenty Years After Bellah: Whatever Happened to American Civil Religion?" Sociological Analysis, 50(2): 129-146.
  • Mathisen, James A., with Gerald S. Mathisen, 1988. "The New Fundamentalism: A Sociorhetorical Approach to Understanding Theological Change." Review of Religious Research, 47(4): 302-318.