Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 19:1 (Winter 2010)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews


Mark R. Stevenson

The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith By Mark A. Noll, Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009, 212 pages, hardcover, $25.00.

In 1900 more than four out of five of the world’s professing Christians were white by race and over 70% resided in Europe. What a difference a century makes! Clear majorities of both cultural and practicing Christians are now outside Europe and North America. Until recently histories of Christianity understandably focused on European developments, with a side-glance at the irregular situation in America.

While lamenting the decline of vital Christianity in Europe, evangelicals rejoice as they become aware of their rapid growth in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But as it is said “nothing under the sun is ever truly new.” Philip Jenkins in his The Lost History of Christianity (2008) reminds us that as late as the eleventh century “Asia was still home to at least a third of the world’s Christians and perhaps a tenth of all Christians lived in Africa.” The spread of Islam soon changed these proportions. Jenkins and others in many recent books, and now Noll in this one, are making us aware that we are again in the situation where Europeans (and those of their number who have emigrated) are no longer at the center of the Christian story. And given the recent surge in population growth and evangelism, Noll informs us that “close to half of Christian believers who have ever lived are alive right now.”

American Christians who are impacted by Asia’s growing economic strength (which is also a return to the earlier, pre-industrial and pre-colonial period) can be consoled by how this growth also affects positively the spread of the gospel to and from other continents. Noll

devotes a whole chapter to Korea, pointing out that it has now passed Britain, Canada, Germany, and Scandinavia as the second largest sender of evangelical missionaries.

Noll is a very distinguished church historian and author, having taught at Wheaton College for twenty-seven years before switching to Notre Dame in 2006, the same year in which he was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Bush. The previous year Time named him one of the twenty-five most influential American evangelicals

It is important to recognize what this important book is not attempting. Don’t let the title lead you to expect a survey of Christianity around the world, for it just gives selected highlights. The subtitle, “How American Experience Reflects Global Faith,” alerts one to expect a lot of the conten...

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