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The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity

Closer to home for North Americans, The Next Christendom argues that in spite of the geographical, political, and theological shift of concentration of Christians to what it broadly labels “the South,” that “America remains today substantially what it has always been, a Christian country.” However, he immediately makes clear that this does not translate into “partisan or intolerant” views of “some extremists” regarding government-controlled religion. He believes that “religion flourishes best when it is kept farthest away from any form of government intervention, even the best-intentioned.” He only means to affirm that while “the United States is home to a remarkable number of religious denominations, overwhelmingly, these are traditions within the broader stream of Christianity.” Though immigration has brought into the United States people of non-Christians faiths, it has also brought in many Christians from other countries. Accordingly, percentage wise Christianity is still by far the most common religion. Jenkins, however, predicts surprising cross-cultural alliances and international relations as North American, Latin American, African, and Asian Christians interact and inform each other in dynamic, fluidic ways. Wide ranging rearrangements of formerly closely classified conservative-liberal, personal-social interests and issues will likely occur.

A note of warning, one sounded by Jenkins as well, regards what one might call the unpredictability of predictions. Jenkins’ data about current trends leads to certain clear conclusions. In fact, what is occurring currently is what is most clear. What happens if current trends continue or increase is less than clear but still recognizably logical. What is least clear is how unforeseen events may affect outcomes in unexpected ways. In fact, the latter category is perhaps the venue of inspired prophecy only. One should note that Jenkins often confessedly speculates extensively about the future of the Christian faith with other faiths and their relations among themselves and with others in the realms of economics and politics. The lessons he gleans from history and from contemporary developments are invaluable. However, they are not inevitable. That being said, one observation that one can hope is certainly accurate is Jenkins’ conviction that “whether we look backward or forward in history” Christianity has an amazing ability to transform itself and to flourish. This book is highly recommended for clergy and laity, for scholar and student.

Reviewed by Tony Richie

 

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Category: Fall 2008, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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