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The New Faces of Christianity

Publisher: Oxford University Press • 2008 • 272 pages
The New Faces of Christianity

In Europe and North America today, Christianity appears to be a spent force. Europeans, in particular, seem indifferent to the faith of their fathers: church membership and attendance is at rock-bottom, and only a small minority even bothers to identify itself as Christian. In America, such vitality as there is comes mostly from outside the “mainstream” denominations, a few of which – notably the Episcopalians — are in a state of near-collapse. What’s the problem? Liberals point to the alleged failure of church leaders to keep pace with modernity by taking the Bible less literally, especially on matters of sexual morality. But as Philip Jenkins reveals in “The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South,” the phenomenal growth of Christianity in Africa and parts of Asia suggests the opposite is the case: the fastest-growing Christian churches in the world are those where God is taken at His Word.

In his previous work, “The Next Christendom,” Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University, called the world’s attention to the little-noticed fact that Christianity’s center of gravity was moving inexorably southward – and that, indeed, Africa may be soon be home to the world’s largest Christian populations. Now, in this brilliant sequel, Jenkins attempts to explain this development. His findings are as surprising as they are encouraging to conservative Christians. Among his insights:

Why the faith of the global South is first and foremost a Biblical faith, where Scripture is taken as the rule of faith and the basis of morality

How, in the global South, many Christians identify powerfully with the world portrayed in the New Testament–an agricultural world very much like their own, marked by famine and plague, poverty and exile, until very recently a society of peasants, farmers, and small craftsmen

How in many parts of the global South — such as Nigeria, Indonesia, and Sudan — Christians are persecuted just as early Christians were, strengthening their biblical faith

Why the Bible speaks to the global South with a vividness and authenticity simply unavailable to most believers in the industrialized North

Why believers throughout the global South are reading the Bible with fresh eyes, reaching conclusions that are often distinctly fundamentalist – yet also socially liberating, especially with respect to women’s rights

How this North/South split is reflected in English-speaking denominations that are swelling with migrants from the South (a situation that is especially acute in the global Anglican Communion)

Implications of these trends for the major denominations, for Muslim-Christian conflict, and for world politics

“An engaging book that invites — no, compels — rethinking the future of the global Christian movement.” — Father Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-Chief of First Things

“Philip Jenkins has written another essential book. Finally, we have a place to turn for a clear, balanced, and comprehensive explanation of the ongoing revival in the southern hemisphere. I cannot imagine a better rendering of these issues.” — Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals

“Much food for thought … persistently challenges the Northern/Western Christian to confront the question, not of “Why do those people believe this about Scripture?” but rather, ‘Why don’t we?’ “—Amy Wellborn, Open Book

“An important new book by one of the preeminent scholars of contemporary Christianity. Perhaps more than any other church historian in the affluent north, Philip Jenkins understands how the church of the global south will transform Christian faith in the world. … Like his ground-breaking The Next Christendom, this is absolutely essential reading for all who are seeking to understand the future of the church in the 21st century.”— Jim Wallis, Editor of Sojourners

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