- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press, U.S.A.; 3 edition (13 Sept. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199767467
- ISBN-13: 978-0199767465
- Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 2.8 x 15.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Future of Christianity Trilogy) Paperback – 13 Sep 2011
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Gracefully written and skillfully argued, The Next Christendom shows the many changes Christianity has undergone and its capacity to survive. (CHOICE)
About the Author
Philip Jenkins is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is the author of many books and articles, including the acclaimed The Future of Christianity Trilogy, consisting of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South, and God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis.
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I was quite surprised, for example, at the relative growth of Christianity versus Islam in sub-Saharan Africa (by the way, that is everything in Africa south of the Sahara, down to the Cape of Good Hope.) But like some of the complaints from the one and two star reviewers, there is not much said about the explanation for this fact, except to suggest that African Christianity has found its own source of inspiration, and grows on that. It is no longer driven by European and American missionaries. But there is no citation for "Liberation Theology" in the index, which I found odd. This is a sign that the author's primary interest is demographic and social, not theological.
If you order a used copy, you want to be sure you are getting the third edition. I compared the table of contents for the first and third editions, and there is much added, especially on "The Rise of the New Christianity". On a contemporary topic, you will be missing something if you don't have the latest edition.
If you are interested in world Christianity, you can hardly find anything as illuminating as this 3rd Edition popular book.
Christians have confessional reasons to be optimistic about the future of the church - Daniel 2 says the kingdom will grow, and Jesus made it clear that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church he is building. He ascended to heaven as one who has received all authority in heaven and on earth. The church's victory is along the path of suffering and death - but it is victory nonetheless. Jenkins argues that we can see this growth happening around the world. Whatever weaknesses - and even decline - we may think is present in the West, Western Christians need to fight their myopic tendencies and broaden their sense of the kingdom. We should be able to be excited about what God is doing around the world.
Philip Jenkins, the author of 24 books, and 120 book chapters and refereed articles, has been on the faculty of Pennsylvania State University since 1980, and in 2007, he was appointed as the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History and Religious Studies. He completed his undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral work all at the University of Cambridge, but it is not his work in global Christianity that got him on the faculty of Penn State. He began as an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in 1980. In fact, his early work consists of history, criminology, and pedophilia. It was not until his publication of The Next Christendom that his reputation as an expert on global Christianity came to the forefront. Since then, he has spoken widely around this topic of global Christianity [...].
The thesis of this book is that the center of Christianity has shifted southward to Africa, Asia, and Latin America (Location 36). As a result, in spite of the seeming decline of Christianity in the western world, Christianity is actually growing and flourishing in most areas around the world (Location 992).
The Next Christendom begins with an elaboration of the thesis by challenging the myth that Christianity is actually declining and disappearing in the world. It may seem like that in the western world, but soon enough, the center of Christianity is going to be Africa and Latin America (Location 170). After elaborating on that point, Jenkins begins to paint a picture of the history of Christianity and how it has expanded across the world. He makes a point to paint a picture of how Christianity was closely tied with the western imperial expansion. He then moves to explain how Christianity is flourishing in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, using many illustrations and case studies to prove his point. Throughout the book, Jenkins is subtly asking the reader to consider how this shift of Christianity should affect how one lives out one's faith. Since "Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and persecuted, while it [is] atroph[ying] among the rich and secure" (Location 3012), what needs to change in the western world for Christianity to once again flourish here? Will the global north change at all? That is the question that begs to be asked.
Although the center of Christianity is shifting south, the center of Christian thought seems to be staying in the same location - the western world. Perhaps this is because that is where the money and the publishers are. In either case, if Christianity is flourishing and growing abundantly in the south, whereas it is stagnant and declining in the western world, then would it not make sense to learn from the south?
What would happen if the western world began learning from their theologians, pastors, and Christians? Perhaps following the footsteps of southern Christianity with a deeper and more personal faith, more emphasis on "communal orthodoxy, mysticism, and puritanism, all focused on clear scriptural authority" would cause Christianity to shift and transform in the western world (Location 120)? If, as Philip Yancey states, "God goes where he's wanted" (Location 215), then should the western world not learn from the contexts that God is clearly blessing and moving in? It is precisely because of this that I love being a part of the M.A. in Global Leadership. I do pray that I would never lose sight of the fact that God is not tied to one land or one people, but that he is a God of all peoples and transcends any location. As a result, I pray that I would never be so prideful to think that I can only learn from the celebrity pastors and theologians of North America, while ignoring the work that anonymous Christians are doing in some place I have never heard of. God, please protect my heart and keep me humble, with my eyes continually focused on you.
In the end, I give this book 4 stars out of 5.