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‘The Next Christianity’—Growth and Mutation

“It’s very likely that in a decade or two neither component of global Christianity will recognize its counterpart as fully or authentically Christian,” wrote Jenkins.

“We are at a moment as epochal as the Reformation itself—a Reformation moment not only for Catholics but for the entire Christian world,” wrote Jenkins, distinguished professor of history and religious studies at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Pennsylvania State University. “Christianity as a whole is both growing and mutating in ways that observers in the West tend not to see.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Jenkins said, “The twenty-first century will almost certainly be regarded by future historians as a century in which religion replaced ideology as the prime animating and destructive force in human affairs, guiding attitudes to political liberty and obligation, concepts of nationhood, and, of course, conflicts and wars.”
 
According to Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, the Christian population is shrinking in the liberal West (the United States and Europe), which he referred to as the Northern churches. At the same time, the Southern churches (those in Africa, Latin America and Asia) are growing relentlessly.
 
In 1900, about nine percent (10 million people) of the African population was Christian. “Today the Christian total stands at 360 million out of 784 million, or 46 percent,” Jenkins wrote. “By 2025, 50 percent of the Christian population will be in Africa and Latin America, and another 17 percent will be in Asia.”
 
Accompanying these demographic changes are changes in religious practice.  Individualism, tolerance, modernization, rationalism and biblical authority broadly characterize Christianity in the United States and Europe. Communalism, mysticism, puritanism, apocalypticism and spiritual revelation characterize Christianity in the Southern churches.
Jenkins illustrates the differences between these two approaches to Christianity with a discussion of how they interpret healing passages in the New Testament. The Northern church reads these passages in a non-literal way. The Southern churches interpret these passages literally and take more seriously Jesus’ conflicts with demonic powers.
 
In fact, one of the marks of Christianity in the Southern church is faith healing. Another is exorcism, the casting out of demons.
 
“And it’s very likely that in a decade or two neither component of global Christianity will recognize its counterpart as fully or authentically Christian,” wrote Jenkins.
 
Click here to order Jenkins’ book, The Next Christendom.

Click here to read an interview with Jenkins at The Atlantic Online.