Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual: "The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible In the Global South" by Philip Jenkins

(For an explanation for the title of this feature, please see the short article of 3/11/08 on this blog.)

For several of the past Friday evenings, "The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South" by Philip Jenkins ( ), has occupied my attention. This book is a sequel to Jenkin's groundbreaking book "The Next Christendom" ( go to link above and scroll down to "Most Frequently Purchased Together") which was reviewed on this blog last year (3/5/07). "The Next Christendom" chronicles the spread of Christianity mainly in South America, Africa and Asia, a region Jenkins refers to as "the Global South"; Jenkins makes the case that the population centers and power in the Christian Church will shift from North America and Europe to the Global South. In "The New Faces of Christianity," Jenkins goes into greater detail concerning the differences between Christians in the Global South and the Global North:

Christians in the Global South read the Bible more literally than most Christians in the North.

Christians in the Global South ascribe to the Bible greater authority in all areas of life than Christians in the North.

Christians in the Global South are more likely to believe in and seek Divine healing for sicknesses.

Christians in the Global South believe in a supernatural realm where Satan reigns and from where Satan and his demons tempt and torment humanity. These Christians believe that curses on people are real and must be broken in the power of the Holy Spirit. They also practice the exorcism of demons.

Many Christians in the Global South blame the poverty they suffer from on personal and national sin rather than on man-made economic systems.

This last point will come as a surprise to many Christians in the North who blame the ills of mankind upon unjust economic, social and political systems. This mindset, which the Church in the North has adopted from secular thought, causes Northern Christians to believe that while many Christians in the North are focused on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, Christians in the South are more concerned about poverty, disparities of income, criminal business behavior by multi-national corporations and Third World debt. While it is true that such concerns are held by many Christians in the Global South, these concerns are not the top concerns of the majority of Southern Christians. The poverty and sickness that these Christians face everyday causes them to be more aware of their mortality and makes them more concerned about where they stand with God: they are more concerned that sin does not keep them from Heaven. Their approach to the Bible causes them to place the blame for their circumstances on personal sin and the work of Satan rather than on the economic systems devised by men. Such beliefs cause them to be less politically minded than some Northern Christians.

The differences between Northern and Southern Christians listed here are not by far all that Jenkins covers, yet they are among the most important ones.

"The New Faces of Christianity" provides more of what I had hoped "The Next Christendom" would: sources from Christians in the Global South: including sermons, theological works, websites and histories and biographies of past and current Southern Christians. These sources should give us a good picture of what Southern Churches believe and practice, how they interpret and apply Scripture and where their beliefs and theology will take them and the entire Church in the future. Some of what I have gleaned from Jenkin's book is cause for celebration, such as Southern Christians' view of Scripture. Yet some of what I read is disturbing. For instance, many Southern Christians believe that Scripture has been corrupted by powerful elites in Europe and America and that the true Scripture must be discovered and what is false be purged. Some construct elaborate yet faulty theology by selectively focusing on selected Biblical verses. I am sure that some of these readings of God's Word are the seeds of future Church conduct that will bring shame to the Church of Christ. Yet many of the faults of Christians in the Global South are to be found in the history of the Church in the North, and yet God used the Northern Church to fulfill His purposes. Christians in the North have no need to dread the rise of a Global Southern Christianity.

This book deserves a longer review on this blog. The number of issues it raises is amazing, and each issue needs to be covered in more detail. This book has relevance even for issues discussed mainly in the North, such as the inerrancy of God's Word. Yet I have chosen just to post only one article for the present. Either next Fall or next Winter, I will examine these issues in greater detail. This is truly a most important book.

Since July the Fourth is approaching, the next book to be featured on "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual" will be Michael and Jana Novak's "Washington's God." Have a blessed day.

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