Philip Jenkins

Is This the End for Mideast Christianity?

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 Philip Jenkins reports that for Christians in the Middle East, 2014 has been a catastrophe.

The most wrenching stories have come from Iraq, where the nascent Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL in news reports) has savagely persecuted ancient Christian communities, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syrian Orthodox. Iraqi Christians have declined rapidly in number since the first Gulf War in 1991, but survivors long believed they could maintain a foothold around Mosul.

This past summer, that hope collapsed. In a ghastly reminder of Nazi savagery against Jews, Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter for Nazarenes—Christ followers.*

Could this get worse?

All local Christians know the answer. They look back at the experience of Jews, who flourished across the region just a century ago but have now vanished from virtually every Mideast nation outside Israel. Since 1950, Egypt’s Jewish population has shrunk from 100,000 to perhaps 50; Iraq’s, from 90,000 to a mere handful. Christian Aleppo or Damascus could easily go the way of Jewish Baghdad. 

Jenkins identifies a lesson from history:

However often we talk of churches dying, they rarely do so without extraordinary external intervention. Churches don’t die because their congregations age, their pastors behave scandalously, the range of programs they offer wears thin, or their theology becomes muddled. Churches vanish when they are deliberately and efficiently killed by a determined foe.

He also identifies signs of hope:

Over the past decade, we have heard amazing claims about new Christian evangelization in Muslim countries, usually accompanied by incredible conversion statistics.

Having said that, some specific accounts are much more believable. David Garrison’s recent book, A Wind in the House of Islam, describes the Christian appeal in diverse Muslim societies. Remarkably, Syria offers some of the most convincing examples of this trend. Garrison is a responsible and critical reporter. The problem, though, is that all such activity is clandestine, for fear of arousing persecution.

Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity, is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University. 

 * (The 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet and the equivalent to the Roman letter N pronounced “noon”. See the image above.)

 

Is This the End for Mideast Christianity?

NewImage

 Philip Jenkins reports that for Christians in the Middle East, 2014 has been a catastrophe.

The most wrenching stories have come from Iraq, where the nascent Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL in news reports) has savagely persecuted ancient Christian communities, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syrian Orthodox. Iraqi Christians have declined rapidly in number since the first Gulf War in 1991, but survivors long believed they could maintain a foothold around Mosul.

This past summer, that hope collapsed. In a ghastly reminder of Nazi savagery against Jews, Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter for Nazarenes—Christ followers.*

Could this get worse?

All local Christians know the answer. They look back at the experience of Jews, who flourished across the region just a century ago but have now vanished from virtually every Mideast nation outside Israel. Since 1950, Egypt’s Jewish population has shrunk from 100,000 to perhaps 50; Iraq’s, from 90,000 to a mere handful. Christian Aleppo or Damascus could easily go the way of Jewish Baghdad. 

Jenkins identifies a lesson from history:

However often we talk of churches dying, they rarely do so without extraordinary external intervention. Churches don’t die because their congregations age, their pastors behave scandalously, the range of programs they offer wears thin, or their theology becomes muddled. Churches vanish when they are deliberately and efficiently killed by a determined foe.

He also identifies signs of hope:

Over the past decade, we have heard amazing claims about new Christian evangelization in Muslim countries, usually accompanied by incredible conversion statistics.

Having said that, some specific accounts are much more believable. David Garrison’s recent book, A Wind in the House of Islam, describes the Christian appeal in diverse Muslim societies. Remarkably, Syria offers some of the most convincing examples of this trend. Garrison is a responsible and critical reporter. The problem, though, is that all such activity is clandestine, for fear of arousing persecution.

Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity, is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University. 

 * (The 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet and the equivalent to the Roman letter N pronounced “noon”. See the image above.)

 

More on the lost history of Christianity

According to Phillip Jenkins, the particular shape of Christianity with which we are familiar is a radical departure from what was for well over a millennium the historical norm: another, earlier global Christianity once existed. For most of its history, Christianity was a tricontinental religion, with powerful representation in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and this was true into the fourteenth century. Christianity became predominantly European not because this continent had any obvious affinity for that faith, but by default: Europe was the continent where it was not destroyed. Matters could have easily developed differently. While the Arab Muslim conquests of the seventh century subjected the Christians of the Middle East to incredible pressures, the ancient communities nonetheless not only survived, as underscored by the remarkable renaissance of the Church of the East during the patriarchate of Timothy I, but even managed to thrive. “Only around 1300,” writes Jenkins, “did the axe fall, and quite suddenly.”

The after effects of the Mongol invasions certainly played their part, by terrifying Muslims and others with the prospect of a direct threat to their social and religious power. Climatic factors were also critical, as the world entered a period of rapid cooling, precipitating bad harvests and shrinking trade routes: a frightened and impoverished world looks for scapegoats.

Thus “Muslim regimes and mobs now delivered near-fatal blows to weakened Christian churches.” According to Jenkins, the number of Christians in Asia fell, between 1200 and 1500, from 21 million to 3.4 million. During the same years, the proportion of the world’s total Christian population living in Africa and Asia combined fell from 34 percent to just 6 percent, and the remnant that survived virtually disappeared in the massacres of Armenians, Assyrians, Syrians, and other ancient Christian communities during the 19th and 20th centuries, which led the Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin argue for a new category of crime to which he subsequently gave the name “genocide.”

From

"The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died" (Philip Jenkins)

Exile from Babylon

Www.Aina.Org:Images:040816Cb1 image

According to Philip Jenkins there is a tragedy unfolding throughout the Middle East as an ancient Church is coming to a bloody end. Iraq's Christians numbered 5-6% in 1970. The number has fallen below 1% in the face of persecution.

Across the Middle East ancient churches — Chaldean, Assyrian, Orthodox — are survivals from the earliest history of the church. For centuries, the land long known as Mesopotamia had a solid claim to rank as the center of the church and an astonishing record of missions and evangelism. What we see today in Iraq is not just the death of a church, but also the end of one of the most awe-inspiring phases of Christian history.

Here's the full article.

Jenkins' latest book is outstanding.

“The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia” (Philip Jenkins)

HT: Dave Lawton

Philip Jenkins on the future of Christianity

Here's a nice sequel to the series on the rise and fall of Atheism in the modern world. Philip Jenkins on the future of Christianity. I read authors who change the way I see the world. So I've ordered it.

A review from Publishers Weekly:

In his highly acclaimed The Next Christendom (2002), Jenkins boldly proclaimed that the center of Christianity was moving slowly out of Europe and North America to Latin America, Africa and Asia. By 2025, he points out, Africa and Latin America will compete over which area is most Christian.

In this compelling sequel, Jenkins probes more deeply the differences between northern and southern Christianity, examining various elements that characterize Christian life, especially belief in the Bible. He argues that the mostly agrarian Christian communities in Latin America, Africa and Asia resemble early Christian communities, enabling southern-hemisphere Christians to read the Bible with fresh eyes.

Such communities read the Bible communally rather than individually, and they read it less critically and more literally than their North American and European counterparts. Explosive debates over the ordination of women and homosexuals and the authority of the Bible in various global denominations—such as the Anglican Communion—illustrate not only the stark theological differences between North and South but also the sheer size of the southern communions influencing the debate.

As part of a proposed trilogy (his book on Europe's coming religious struggle is scheduled for late 2007) Jenkins's prescient religious histories offer brilliant insights on the state of modern Christianity.

The future is not Western or white, it's global and it's African, Asian (including India), and South American. Christianity is on the rise where us white guys are in the minority and guess where the world's population is growing the fastest? We tend to miss it unless you've travelled or read authors like Philip Jenkins.

“The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South” (Philip Jenkins)

Philip Jenkins on the future of Christianity

Here's a nice sequel to the series on the rise and fall of Atheism in the modern world. Philip Jenkins on the future of Christianity. I read authors who change the way I see the world. So I've ordered it.

A review from Publishers Weekly:

In his highly acclaimed The Next Christendom (2002), Jenkins boldly proclaimed that the center of Christianity was moving slowly out of Europe and North America to Latin America, Africa and Asia. By 2025, he points out, Africa and Latin America will compete over which area is most Christian.

In this compelling sequel, Jenkins probes more deeply the differences between northern and southern Christianity, examining various elements that characterize Christian life, especially belief in the Bible. He argues that the mostly agrarian Christian communities in Latin America, Africa and Asia resemble early Christian communities, enabling southern-hemisphere Christians to read the Bible with fresh eyes.

Such communities read the Bible communally rather than individually, and they read it less critically and more literally than their North American and European counterparts. Explosive debates over the ordination of women and homosexuals and the authority of the Bible in various global denominations—such as the Anglican Communion—illustrate not only the stark theological differences between North and South but also the sheer size of the southern communions influencing the debate.

As part of a proposed trilogy (his book on Europe's coming religious struggle is scheduled for late 2007) Jenkins's prescient religious histories offer brilliant insights on the state of modern Christianity.

The future is not Western or white, it's global and it's African, Asian (including India), and South American. Christianity is on the rise where us white guys are in the minority and guess where the world's population is growing the fastest? We tend to miss it unless you've travelled or read authors like Philip Jenkins.

“The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South” (Philip Jenkins)