Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Handbook for Revolution

As John Carpenter writes in this month's Books & Culture:

A recently rediscovered religious text is making huge waves in the world today. With stunning power, it is driving the largest religious change in human history. This book is subversive, revolutionary, and transformative in its approach to good and evil; spirituality; politics; wealth and poverty; race, ethnicity, and social status; gender and sexuality; and health and healing. It also reveals long-hidden truths about Jesus of Nazareth. What is this book? Is it the Gospel of Thomas? No. How about The Da Vinci Code? Hardly.

It's the Bible.
With that, Carpenter goes on to review Philip Jenkin's new book, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South.

In his earlier book, The Next Christiandom: the Coming of Global Christianity, Jenkins had pointed out that the majority of Christians today live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America -- and in both theology and mores, they much more "orthodox" and "conservative" than the churches of North America and Europe.

Notice, however, the quotation marks around "orthodox" and "conservative." Far from being a copy of our own Fundamentalists, these Christians have been extremely creative in contextualizing the Gospel -- and its just this contextualization that Jenkins goes on to explore in The New Faces of Christianity.

As Jenkins points out, believers in Africa and Asia live in a world where the Bible makes sense -- and what's more, the Bible helps them make sense of their world. Poverty, idolatry, injustice, and spiritual warfare are not exotic concepts that must somehow be "translated" into modern life; they are the day-to-day reality of these believers.

Jenkin's The New Faces of Christianity is probably one of the ten most important books I've read in my ministry -- and I know for a fact that all the Conference presidents in the North Pacific Union Conference got together to read it and discuss it. But if Carpenter's review is any guide, this book is even better.

(Click on the title of this post for the link to the article.)

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