The Next Christendom

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Kyle Sutton
Engaging Reformation and Modern Christianity CH503-XD
December 16, 2011

In the preface, Dr. Philip Jenkins clearly states his thesis for The Next Christendom, “Far from being an export of the capitalist West, a vestige of Euro-American imperialism, Christianity is now rooted in the Third World, and the religion’s future lies in the global South”.[1] The distinctions of global North and global South describe the groupings of Europe, North American, and Japan (global North) and Asia, Africa, and Latin America (global South). [2] This ten chapter book can be divided into two major sections. In the first five chapters, Jenkins traces the historical growth of Christianity in the global South to its current relative boom status. Jenkins provides a short history of Western Christianity, noting that it found its Western foundation during the post-Constantine days of Rome, and soon after fused with European culture. Jenkins does give a nod to the fact that, in the beginning, Christianity was a new faith that was a blend of both Jewish and Greek expressions. The gospel spread throughout the Roman provinces east to China and India, north and west to Europe, and south to Africa. Although there was a multi-continent spread of Christianity, Jenkins points out that “Christianity for its first thousand years was stronger in Asia and North Africa than in Europe and only after about 1400 did Europe (and Europeanized North America) decisively become the new Christian heartland.”[3] Tensions between Western Christianity and Middle Eastern Islam have long been central to many world issues. Philip Jenkins believes tensions are high due to globalization. Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. What was once a disconnected existence, separated by oceans, is now merging borders by the manifold methods by which we now interact with other cultures. Christianity, once having its niche during the post-Constantine days of Rome, soon after became a part of European culture.[4] Then found its home in the Western American expression. Now Christianity is increasingly moving south and back to where it began.[5] He proposes that syncretism is a contributing factor for Christianity being so successful in Third World countries. A history of forced conversions to Christianity helped spread the religion outside of Europe. As a Christian nation conquered another, their religion came with them. Since the wealthy had the most influence, missionaries employed the Silk Strategy. The point was to bring the faith to the cultural elite and then their influence allowed faith to advance to the rest of the population. Jenkins then describes how militant Islam swept across Africa and western Asia and caused the church to eventually lose most of its grip in Africa and the Middle East.[6] With that being a major factor, Jenkins also suggests that other religious traditions competed with Christianity in Africa and Asia. Jenkins continues is his succinct yet expansive scope of religious history. He covers the expansion of Christianity through colonialism and modern missionary efforts, suggesting that though Christianity has been largely defined by its Western believers, there were still Catholic and Protestant churches being planted outside of European Christendom.[7] Jenkins then advances that the secularization of Western Europe has reimaged Christendom. He juxtaposes Western Europe with the nearly 50 million Protestant believers and over 400 million Catholics that exist in South America. More importantly, Jenkins makes the point that these southern church building often mirror western architecture yet their congregations reflect local cultural nuances. These nuances including political, charismatic, and syncretistic that merge with their gospel message.[8] Jenkins describes the type of...
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