From: Robert Schneider (email@example.com)
Date: Mon Dec 30 2002 - 22:50:31 EST
"...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!"
(http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2002/02/lester.htm). 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,
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