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Books

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, by Philip Jenkins

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 Contents - Sep 2004AD2000 September 2004 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: 2004 Fighting Fund launched - Michael Gilchrist
Morwell: Vatican decision backs parish priests who uphold Church teachings - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World
Pulp Fiction: Religious illiteracy and 'The Da Vinci Code' - Fr Martin Tierney
Books: Exposing 'The Da Vinci Code' fraud - James Hitchcock
Iraqi bishop: positive developments despite the violence and bloodshed - Bishop Rabban Al-Qas
Terrorist attacks on Iraqi Christians - Catholic World News
Mass Attendance: Where have all the worshippers gone? - Fr Martin Durham
Sydney Catholic Adult Education Centre courses prove popular - Peter Holmes
Mission: Sydney seminary's evangelisation program revitalises parish - Bishop Julian Porteous
Events: Carnivale Christi Melbourne to celebrate Graham Greene's centenary - Liam Houlihan
Why not a little Latin in the liturgy? - Angus Sibley
Adult education: Latin language course in Melbourne
Letters: Thank you from East Timor (letter) - Fr Marcos de Oliviera SDB
Letters: Mass translation? - Philip Holberton
Letters: NRSV Bible - Mrs M.A. Ross
Letters: Liturgy abuses - Peter Lynch
Letters: 'King Arthur' an anti-Catholic movie - Fr Brian Harrison
Letters: Permissiveness - Ena Makaus
Letters: State Aid - George Caruana JP
Letters: Maronite Church - L.L. Booth
Letters: Support given - Barry O'Brien
Letters: The Power of One - Carola Morgan
Letters: AIDS in the Philippines - Christopher Rule
Letters: Freedom to be Born pro-life march - George F. Simpson
Letters: Moral relativism - Tim Coyle
Books: The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, by Philip Jenkins - John Barich (reviewer)
Books: The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America, by David Carlin - Fr James Schall SJ (reviewer)
Books: Interrupted Journeys: Young Refugees from Hitler's Reich, by Alan Gill - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
Books: Catholic Family Catechism: 2004 Disciples Edition with 50 Questions and Answers - Fr Peter Murphy
Books: More new titles from AD Books
Reflection: Why the priesthood is absolutely necessary - Fr John O'Neill

THE NEXT CHRISTENDOM: The Coming of Global Christianity
by Philip Jenkins

(Oxford University Press, 2003, 270pp, $29.95 PB $55.95 HB. Available from AD Books)

Philip Jenkins, who is a Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University, challenges the opinion of people such as Samuel Huntington, who believe that "in the long run ... Muhammad wins out", and Bishop Spong, who has called for Christianity to abandon its "outmoded supernatural doctrines and moral assumptions."

Jenkins quotes the World Christian Encyclopaedia's prediction that by 2050 there will be three Christians for every two Muslims and counters Spong by showing that in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Christianity is growing very fast, while his secularist approach is passť.

The centre of gravity of the next Christendom will move away from Europe, where it has been for the last 1000 years or so, and move to Africa and Latin America. This is nothing new since for the first 500 years Christianity was more Mediterranean and Byzantine than European. While Rome was the centre, most Catholics lived in the Middle East, and Northern Europe had not been evangelised.

Bible-based

The new Christianity would, of necessity, absorb some of the local African and Latino practices and be more Bible-based, especially amongst the Protestants and evangelicals. Jenkins illustrates this by reference to the debate on homosexuality which finds little acceptance amongst them unlike their co-religionists in the West.

Like Huntington, he considers the possibility of conflict between Islam and Christianity and devotes a whole chapter to "The Next Crusade." This would seem to imply a Christian-initiated action, whereas what we are witnessing, and he writes about, is Muslim fundamentalism erupting in a number of countries, e.g., Nigeria and Indonesia.

On the other hand Muslims and Christians have been collaborating on moral and family issues, especially at the UN. The World Congress of Families - 1997 Prague, 1999 Geneva and 2004 Mexico - were attended by substantial Muslim delegations. Geneva was addressed by Madam Sadat, the widow of Egyptian President Sadat, and she received the only standing ovation of the Congress.

Jenkins can see a dangerous dichotomy emerging with a secular, rationalist over-tolerant North and a primitive, fundamentalist South. This would make the North anti-Christian and the Christians in these countries having to make a difficult choice - support moderate Muslims and run the risk of giving help to fundamentalists; or let the secularists remove all vestiges of Christianity in our institutions, e.g., no reference to Christianity in the EU Constitution.

The book provides an excellent coverage of the emergent situation but suffers from unexamined theological opinions on such matters as women clergy and the ordination of homosexuals. Jenkins' analysis of the composition of the College of Cardinals and the Vatican's clear opposition to syncretisms made interesting reading especially at a time when the Catholic Church is on the verge of selecting a new leadership group in Rome.

John Barich is WA State President of the Australian Family Association.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 17 No 8 (September 2004), p. 17

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