Saturday, June 6, 2009

The New Shape of World Christianity by Mark Noll

This week I received a review copy of Mark A. Noll's latest book, The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (IVP, 2009). Noll makes the following statement in his concluding Reflections which caught my attention:
The long dominance of Christianity in Europe; the extraordinary power of Christendom as a cultural, political, artistic and social ideal; the sustaining presence of the Roman Catholic Church as the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution; and the economic and political influence of Europe around the globe since the late fifteenth century--all can leave the impression that there is something intrinsically European about the Christian faith. Generations of Europeans sailing off into the world at large certainly acted as if they thought so, while generations of non-Europeans understandably received the same impression.

Similarly, in the recent past, the adolescent exuberance of the United States as the world's newest global power has often left the same impression. Where the United States has gone, Christianity defined as an American religion has gone before, accompanied or followed closely thereafter.

The impression that Christianity in its essence is either European or American is, however, simply false. Christianity began as Jewish; before it was European, it was North African, Syrian, Egyptian and Indian. While in recent history it has indeed been American, it has also been Chilean, Albanian, Fijian and Chinese. The gospel belongs to every one in every culture; it belongs to no one in any one culture in particular. (p. 191, emphasis mine)
I think that he nailed it! Get yourself a copy.

Book Excerpts

2 The New Shape of World Christianity

Mark A. Noll (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is Francis McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is advisory editor for Books & Culture and subeditor for the new Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Noll's main academic interests concern the interaction of Christianity and culture in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Anglo-American societies. He has published articles and reviews on a wide variety of subjects involving Christianity in modern history. Some of his many books include The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (2006), Is the Reformation Over? (2008), The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys (2004) and The Old Religion in a New World (2001).

Update: You can find a thoughtful review from Tim Challies here.