Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Next Christendom 1

I am reading Philip Jenkins' The Next Christendom, so I expect to share some of it on this blog from time to time. Jenkin's basic thesis is that "Christianity was as authentically African or Asian as European" and that "far from being an export of the capitalist West, a vestige of European-American imperialism, Christianity is now rooted in the Third World, and the religion's future lies in the global South."(1)

He offers a couple of interesting tidbits in support of his thesis early in the book.

Of the five ancient patriarchates of the chruch, only one, Rome, clearly stood in the West. The others were at Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria--three on the Asian continent, one in Africa. If we can imagine a Christian center of gravity by 500, we should stil be thinking of Syria rather than Italy...(2)

When we refer to Christianity forming a relation with the secular state, Western historians think first of Constantine, who granted toleration within the Roman Empire in 313. Far less celebrated are the other early states that established Christianity as their own official religion in the fourth century, namely Ethiopia and Armenia. Almost certainly, Armenia was the first state anywhere to establish Christianity as an official faith, which it did around the year 300. (3) [bold mine]
For good measure, Jenkins plainly states that "monasticism is an Egyptian invention." I expect to gain a more balanced view of the history and direction of Christianity through Jenkins' work and I will try to pass along any jawdroppers that I encounter. I am about 50 pages deep, and I can already highly recommend this book.

1. Jenkins, xi.
2. Ibid, 21.
3. Ibid, 22-3.


Brandon Andrew Miles said...

Seriously one of the best books I ever read.

James Miller said...
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James Miller said...

I am interested in what you think of the book.
It is interesting how much we assume because of Rome's influence on us. The other 4 were and still are Orthodox. Our Mission is actually under the Antiochian patriarchate (See) until North America gets a patriarchate.
The Armenians and the Ethiopian Churches are very interesting.(As it turns out I belive our churches current Liturgical cross is Ethiopian.) Another interesting study is the Indian Church of Thomas.

Monastery of the Transfiguration.(Sinai)

November 23, 2008 8:36 AM