Tuesday, February 13, 2007

North/South Face Off

Just finished my annual State of the Church address. I have been studying about the rise of Global South Christianity. Although the state of the Western Church is a bit discouraging, the State of the Church in the world is quite exciting.

Philip Jenkins makes several notable observations in his book, The New Faces of Christianity. He talks a great deal about the contrast of simple, believing Global South Christians and complex, educated Northern Christians. The contrast, in many ways could simply be unbelief vs. belief.

In a world where the words of Jesus take on great importance for everyday survival, he says, "The practical consequences are all too clear if we contrast the teeming congregations of Africa and Asia with the empty churches of post-Christian Europe. In the words of the Magnificat, God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty." (p. 186)

An interesting contrast for Northern Christians vs. those Christians in Asia, Africa, and South America, where manifest evil and demons are still forces to be reckoned with. "Modern optimism (of the North) means that angels remain quite acceptable to popular belief, while giving credence to demons raises doubts about one's sanity." "Yet the further Christianity moves from ideas of evil (in the North), the less intelligible doctrines such as salvation and redemption become; salvation from what?" (p. 184)

And while we are thankful for science and medicine in the West, it has become a ready excuse for unbelief. "For most Europeans and Americans, healing is a secular, medical function, and has long been so." (p. 185)

It is good for us to think about these things, trying to see them from the perspective of people who live amongst great evil and come from cultures that have lived this way for centuries. The rise of Christ in these nations gives them hope that evil can, in fact, be overcome. While we have some good things to teach them, they also have much to teach us.

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