Renown historian, Philip Jenkins, is at it again. He has followed his monumental book, The Next Christendom, with another striking volume, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South. Jenkins has written a great deal on the increasing influence and power of the new global South (for the parochial, this is not Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, etc.). The global South is a term used to describe those nations in Africa and South America, even those of Asia, where Christianity is aflame with passion and power, unlike evangelical Christianity in America where it is lethargic, self-centered and myopic.
In The New Faces of Christianity, Jenkins notes that believers in the global South are more akin to the early believers than they are their American counter-parts. And what is the impetus of this difference? People in the global South read, study, believe and obey the Bible.
In a Books and Culture (May/June 2007) book review written by Joel Carpenter, Director of the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin College, Carpenter captures Jenkins spirit and the spirit of the global south when he writes,
“A recently rediscovered religious text is making huge waves in the world today. With stunning power, it is driving the largest religious change in human istory. This book is subversive, revolutionary, and transformative in its approach to good and evil; spirituality; politics; wealth and poverty; race, ethnicity, and social status; gender and sexuality; and health and healing. It also reveals long-hidden truths about Jesus of Nazareth. What is this book? Is it the Gospel of Thomas? No. how about The Da Vinci Code? Hardly.
It’s the Bible. All over the global South – in Africa, Asia, and to a large extent in Latin America as well – people are reading, believing, and living out of the Bible in ways that make it a very different book from the one known in the North Atlantic realms. Not only that, but because
of unprecedented migration, this new Christianity is close at hand in the North as well. In The New Christendom, historian Philip Jenkins sets out to take a much closer look at the Christianity of the global South. What he finds is a deeply biblical faith that understands the Scriptures in strikingly different ways than are common in the global North.”
I love this! Yet, we have Americanized the Bible to a degree where we treat it in a compartmentalized fashion. We use the parts that bolster and support our ambitious lifestyles and ignore the more difficult passages, labeling them politically incorrect, harsh, outdated and narrow, too doctrinaire. In essence, while believers in the global South have had the Bible unleashed in their lives, Christians in the West have chained the Bible with our erudite opinions and sophisticated spiritual prerogatives. May God allow us to re-discover what we already have – a book that is flammable, transformative, powerful.
May we be like the Berean believers of Acts 17:11, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character (holy) than the Thessalonians, for they received the message (ideas/concepts) with great eagerness (passion) and examined (diligence) the Scriptures (God’s Word) every day (faithfulness) to see if what Paul said (judgment/discernment) was true (truth).”