Archives For culture
Philip Jenkins. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. New York City, NY: Oxford University Press. 2011. 368 pp. $15.96
In The Next Christendom, Philip Jenkins (Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities in history and religious studies at Penn State University and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University) critiques the widespread notion that, “Christians are un-Black, un-poor, and un-young” and argues instead that “the center of gravity in the Christian world has shifted inexorably southward, to Africa, Asia, and Lain America” (2). Jenkins explains Christian history has been viewed too-often and too-long through the lens of the church that developed from Rome, while neglecting the global impact of the churches developed from Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. This neglect – in addition to the incredible success of global evangelism and missions from the western church – has led to a new world in which Christianity thrives in what were once receiving nations, and Christianity is fledgling in nations that once were sending nations.
Jenkins challenges the reader to grasp a new vision of the state of the global church that accounts for the rise of Christianity in the southern hemisphere. This new understanding is much needed for the terminally-myopic western church and provides the perspective needed to comprehend the true state of global Christianity.
In developing his position that Christianity is growing and thriving in nations out of sight from his audience, Jenkins bolsters his argument with a problematic definition of Christianity. For the purposes of his book, he includes anyone “who describes himself or herself as a Christian, who believes that Jesus is not merely a prophet or an exalted moral teacher, but in some unique sense the Son of God, and the messiah” (88). While it may be argued that he is not attempting to define an evangelical Christian, but rather provide a working-definition for those under the Christendom umbrella, this definition still fails to distinguish orthodox Christianity from sects and groups that use the name of Christ in the worship of other gods. Included in his list are Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even animistic cults in Africa who include Jesus in their worship, but do not worship him alone. Whatever this is, it cannot be described as Christianity.
Even in light of this critique, Jenkins’ thrust – that Christendom has spread far beyond the borders of western Europe and North America, and is not suffering the same decline seen therein, but is thriving and growing instead – remains valid. The task of the reader, then, is to consider the ramifications of this reality.
Jenkins argues that, “if in fact the bulk of the Christian population is going to be living in Africa, Asia, or Latin America, then practices that now prevail in those areas will become every more common across the globe” (107). The western church, which has grown accustomed to her own liturgies and practices colored by her immediate culture, will increasingly be influenced by the worship practices of the developing world. While this may be most visible in terms of worship, this influence will also affect discipleship practices, evangelistic methods, and various other experiences of the church. Perhaps most importantly, the individualistic culture of the west will be overcome by the community-orientation of the global south.
Additionally, the shift in the center of Christianity places tremendous responsibility upon the next Christendom. The continued global witness of Christianity relies heavily on the growth and ability of southern Christianity to continue to thrive. The propagation of the gospel to the ends of the earth, then, is no longer merely the task of the West, but is also the task of the South – and it is clearly up to the task, already sending missionaries from what were once receiving nations to those which were once sending nations.
That means that the gospel that had been sent to the ends of the earth is returning. The United States of America (whether considered a “Christian nation” or not) has been at the forefront of sending missionaries around the world. It is now considered one of the mission fields with the greatest need in the world. The North American fields are white with harvest and the nations are sending the laborers. This is not cause for shame, but for joy.
Jenkins’ book would be strengthened by a more specific definition of what it means to be Christian. That specificity might diminish the number of those considered to be Christian during the early church in Asia and Africa, as well as those in the global South today. However, that specificity would place the author on more solid ground in making his assertions. The statistics would still reveal that the weight of Christianity has shifted to the Global South, and this shift should encourage the church as she presents the testimony of Jesus Christ to the world.
Mason, Eric. Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole. Nashville, TN.: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. 202 + xxi pp. $14.99
Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole is written to take aim at the modern epidemic of absent men. Often, even in their physical presence, this absence remains, and has become that which is characterizing an entire generation. This absence is felt in homes, society, places of work, and places of worship as another generation grows up without the help and guidance of fathers. He writes:
“Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhoods living apart from their fathers. Never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their father” (21).
The solution to such a painful reality, according to Eric Mason (founder and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is none other than the redemption of manhood. And this redemption is only possible when Jesus is presented as the example of biblical masculinity. “From beginning to end, God has a purpose for men. It’s a purpose that’s been lost but, in and through Jesus Christ, one that might yet be recovered” (4).
Mason writes in a pastoral manner that biblically identifies the problem, biblically presents the solution, and biblically reveals the results of the solution. The problem is the absence of biblical masculinity. The solution is a renewed and redeemed understanding that Jesus is “the prototype” of what manhood was intended to be (45). In his life and actions, Jesus not only reveals what masculinity looks like, but provides the means by which humanity can be restored to the very source of manhood – God the Father. This renewed understanding and restoration to the Father affect five major areas according to Mason: worldview, sexuality, vision, family, and the church.
Mason writes as a man to men, calling them to more than a monthly breakfast meeting or Bible study – calling them to give up their lives for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of their wives, for the sake of their children, for the sake of their communities, and for the sake of the church. This is not the feminized-Christianity that has arisen out of a world void of masculinity, but rather the gospel-soaked, Christ-exalting, biblical masculinity expressed in laying down one’s own life for the sake of Christ.
This is what has been missing in so many churches and cities around the world. Pick up a copy. Read it. Give it away. And jump in with both feet.
Eric Mason, Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole
I received this book free from the publisher through the B&H book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
The 3801 Lancaster Film Project is an ongoing documentary series about Kermit Gosnell, the Women’s Medical Society, and the cover-up by state and local oversight agencies.
As we continue to follow the story, there are three goals:
First, to make the public aware of what happened at the Women’s Medical Society. Second, to give Gosnell’s victims an outlet to tell their stories. Third, to help find and shut down clinics that continue to operate in the same manner as the Women’s Medical Society.
God have mercy on us.
“Do you know that one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas.”
“If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime, and would achieve nothing.”
“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
Oh how our nation could use your bold wisdom today.
Rest in Peace ma’am.
“And they two shall become one flesh.” -Ephesians 5:31
“Marriage can be but between two, one man and one woman, for it is impossible that more than two should as nearly and firmly be joined together as man and wife are. Almost every word in this law proves this doctrine. For it says ‘a man,’ not men; to ‘a wife,’ not to wives; to ‘his’ wife, not to another’s wife; ‘two,’ not more than two; ‘they’ two, not any two; and ‘one flesh,’ not many fleshes.”
William Gouge, Building a Godly Home, Vol. 1 A Holy Vision for Family Life
“If you tell a child that somebody has to be their friend, I suppose you can force the child to say, ‘This is my friend.’ But it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend.”
Recently, author Rob Bell announced his support of same-sex “marriage.” This does not necessarily come as a shock to anyone who has been paying attention to the trajectory he has been on ever since his book, Velvet Elvis, he is yet another in the swarm of public figures announcing this support of late.
And while I completely disagree with his position on the matter, my ultimate concern is the manner in which he comes to his conclusion. Regarding Evangelicalism, he says,
”You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people.”
Bell argues that Evangelicalism needs to change or die. Culture, he posits, has changed. Christianity, then, must change as well or get left behind. This line of thinking is not new to this subject, or frankly to any other controversial subject that finds Christianity opposed to contemporary culture. This is mere cultural relativism. In Bell’s understanding, what is the anchor – the tether – to which Christianity or Evangelicalism is pictured as being tied to? We must adapt or die. Does that sound as though we are “held captive,” as the Reformer Martin Luther wrote, to the Word of God, or as though we are bound to the culture in which we live?
Have we misunderstood God’s Word for 2,000 years concerning God’s design for marriage? Is the notion of one man and one woman for life simply an archaic design thrust upon the text by Christendom and defended to the death? Or rather, are there many today like Bell who interpret God’s Word through a acceptable, cultural grid in order to determine what is and what is not acceptable teaching? Will culture receive someone who opposes same-sex unions, who maintains that God establishes order in the home and in the church, who believes that those opposed to God will receive eternal punishment for their rebellion?
Bell is not as much a voice crying out from the wilderness as much as from behind a political lectern.
Bell’s “Christianity” is harmless and powerless to confront those apart from Christ. There is no need to change, nor is there power to do so. His Jesus more closely resembles a harmless Ghandi (who is in hell, despite what Bell has argued) than the Nazarene. The scandal of Christianity – authentic Christianity – is not that we are “more loving, compassionate people,” but that we are fallen, sinful people who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
We believe that God’s intended design for marriage is for a husband (male) and wife (female) in covenant with God because that is what the Scriptures demand we believe. Anyone who teaches contrary to that design must redefine and re-interpret the text in order to make it say the exact opposite of what the words say.
In the Garden, when God created a mate for Adam who was, “fit form him,” He created a woman. At the conclusion of this first wedding, the author of Genesis under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24 ESV)
This first marriage is the model to emulate. Otherwise, the author had no reason to include, “a man shall leave his father and mother.” Adam was created from the dust of the earth and had no father or mother. The writer is clearly establishing a model for the reader.
- Marriage is instituted by God. Marriage cannot be defined by culture because it was not created by culture. It matters very little what culture deems acceptable or unacceptable when culture is not the authority to which one appeals. God’s Word, for the Christian, must be the authority to which we submit.
- Marriage is designed to be monogamous for life. Marriage involved forsaking and holding fast. Husband and wives must forsake all other suitors and distractions and cleave, to use the KJV term, to their spouse. No one and nothing should separate them, for they are to become “one flesh.”
- Marriage is designed to be between one man and one woman. They become “one flesh” which depicts ultimate intimacy – sexual, emotional, and otherwise. God has designed even the human anatomy to complete one another and become one. This is only true of “traditional” marriage.
We must not be swayed by popular opinion, political correctness, or those who snarl beneath their sheep’s clothing. If we are not, like Luther, held captive by the Word of God, we can be certain that we will be swayed to conform, perhaps even to evolve, in such a way as to oppose that very Word.
May God give us the resolve to cling to His Word.
What do you get when you add the creator of Buffy the Vampire,Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and Firefly to one of William Shakespeare’s greatest plays?
I cannot wait.