Christianity in decline?

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Mon Dec 30 2002 - 22:50:31 EST

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    Jim writes:

         "...Christianity is certainly in decline."

    That may appear to be the case in North America and Europe, but in fact
    Christianity is experiencing an explosive growth in the rest of the world,
    particularly in Africa. The locus of Christian faith is now the southern
    hemisphere. Africa, it has been predicted, will be the center of
    Anglicanism (my tradition) by the end of this century. Of the approx. 6
    billion people in the world, about 2 billion are Christians.

    Bp. John Shelby Spong wrote a book entitled _Why Christianity Must Change or
    Die_. Christianity is changing, in other ways than he hopes, and it is
    certainly not dying. What appears to be happening is that Christianity is
    becoming acculturated into a wide diversity of cultures and outlooks in the
    way it never did as a missionary religion that imposed Euro-American forms
    on native peoples. And it is taking on ever new forms; it is speciating in
    a way that seems almost Darwinian.

    So argues Toby Lester in a fascinating article in the Feb., 2002 edition of
    "The Atlantic" entitled "Oh, Gods!"
    ( Here's what he says
    specifically about Christianity in the third world:

    "One of the most remarkable changes already taking place because of new
    religious movements [NRM] is the under-reported shift in the center of
    gravity in the Christian world. There has been a dramatic move from North to
    South. Christianity is most vital now in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,
    where independent churches, Pentecostalism, and even major Catholic
    Charismatic movements are expanding rapidly. The story of Christianity in
    twentieth-century Africa is particularly noteworthy. There were fewer than
    10 million Christians in Africa in 1900; by 2000 there were more than 360
    million. And something very interesting is happening: ancient Christian
    practices such as exorcism, spirit healing, and speaking in tongues-all of
    which are documented in the Book of Acts-are back in force. In classic NRM
    fashion, some of these Christianity-based movements involve new prophet
    figures, new sacred texts, new pilgrimage sites, and new forms of worship."

    While we on the ASA list are debating, arguing, etc. some pretty
    old-fashioned issues (original sin, biblical inerrancy, etc.) and some new
    ones (ID, evolutionary psychology) on this list, there is a whole other
    world out there taking christianities (I use the plural advisedly) into
    directions that God (the Holy Spirit) only knows.

    Grace and peace,
    Bob Schneider

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