Monday, August 20, 2007

The New Faces of Christianity

Over the weekend I finished Philip Jenkins' 2006 book THE NEW FACES OF CHRISTIANITY. While not as world-changing as his earlier work, THE NEXT CHRISTENDOM (which is a must read, so get it if you haven't read it!), there are some interesting insights. The main thrust of the book is how the Global South--Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America--interpret the Bible.
Chapter 4, titled "Poor and Rich" was the best of the book for me. Jenkins outlines the various ways in which Global South Christians resonate with the Scriptures--in particular the Old Testament--precisely BECAUSE of their life context being so close to biblical culture. How can an American understand the parables that discuss farming in the pre-modern world, or stories about a man selling himself into slavery to pay off a debt? We need 14 commentaries to tell us about mustard seeds! The Global South cultures are still there, and are much more able to grasp the original intent of the writer.
This is true virtually across the board: issues of politics, health, economics, theology, and so much more make the Global South a completely different place for interpreting the Bible. And while I don't want to romanticize it too much, it would do me and most other USAmerican Christians well to exegete the emerging Global South Christian world for a better understanding of the Bible. Not to mention an understanding of the people who are on pace (if not already there) to outrun us in pursuing the Way of Jesus.

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