The Lost History of Christianity | Book Review


“Religions die,” writes Philip Jenkins in The Lost History of Christianity. “Over the course of history, some religions vanish altogether, while others are reduced from great world faiths to a handful of adherents” (p. 1). While contemporary Christians might like to think that this statement applies to other religions—after all, who worships the Greek pantheon today?—the sobering truth is in history, Christianity has experienced reduction in the historic heartlands of its faith. As Jenkins shows, for a thousand years, Christianity was the dominant religion in the Middle East, North Africa, and western Asia, but now it is at best a minority faith in those lands, if it survives at all. The Lost History of Christianity is a narrative of its rise and fall, as well as a richly textured explanation of why this happened. A valuable, insightful book!

Book Reviewed
Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and How It Died (New York: HarperOne, 2008).

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Advertisements

On the 50th Anniversary of the Six Day War


Today is the 50th anniversary of the start of the Six Day War. In this article, historian Michael Oren, author of the excellent ‘Six Days of War,’ explains what that war meant to both Israel and the broader Middle East. He writes:

All wars in history inevitably become wars of history. No sooner do the guns grow silent then the debate begins over whether the war was justified and its outcome positive. The arguments surrounding the Civil War, for example, or even World War II, fill volumes.

But few wars in history have proved as contentious as the Six-Day War. On American campuses, students and faculty members still lock horns on the question of Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria — the West Bank’s biblical names — and the Palestinians’ demand for statehood in those areas. U.S. policy-makers, meanwhile, devote countless hours to resolving the war’s consequences diplomatically. Obsessively, it seems, the media focuses on the realities created by those six fateful days.

And never have the disputes surrounding the Six-Day War been bitterer than now, on its 50th anniversary. The battle lines are clearly drawn. On the one side are those who insist that the Arabs never threatened Israel seriously enough to provoke her territorial expansion. The war resulted in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the building of Israeli settlements. Rather than a victory, the war transformed Israel into colonial, apartheid state.

The other interpretation maintains that Israel had no choice but to fight and that this defensive war provided the state with secure borders, vital alliances, peace treaties and a renewed sense of purpose.

Read the whole thing! Then read the book!

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, June 7, 2011


A pacifist college bans the national anthem from sporting events. “The Goshen College Board of Directors announced today that it has asked President James E. Brenneman to find an alternative to playing the Star-Spangled Banner that fits with sports tradition, that honors country and that resonates with Goshen College’s core values and respects the views of diverse constituencies.” Needless to say, the Armed Forces are not one of those diverse constituencies.

_____

“God’s Politics? No Such Thing.”

As Christians we will always live in some tension with the way in which our nation navigates history. If we do not have the same sense of tension with the world around us, in fact, we are probably not paying attention to God, the world, or both. We can and should engage political question, but we will often be forced to do the complex work of evaluating secular priorities in light of the tra nscendent claims that God makes on our lives.

God’s politics? No such thing.

In fact, we will also discover that more often than not, it’s not about God-given government—it’s more often about government that acts too much like God. But that shouldn’t trouble us too much. We aren’t called to nation building. We are called to participate in the reign of God.

_____

“Following court ruling, Texas student prays at graduation.” This seems like a straightforward First Amendment to me. If a student wants to include a prayer in her speech, then if her speech is protected, so is her prayer. The key issue is that the school itself did not mandate the prayer.

_____

Do you want to make a mainline church more theologically and ethically conservative? Promote ethnic diversity. That’s the lesson of the United Methodist Church, at any rate.

_____

“No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel”: That’s the title of a Christianity Today editorial. Yesterday, I linked to the CT article on the evangelical debate over the historicity of Adam and Eve. This complements that.

_____

“Missing faith: Getting religion in the newsroom.” Religion is a huge part of the lives of most Americans, although you wouldn’t know it from the news. This articles explains the disconnect and offers suggestions for reconnection.

_____

A minister and a rabbi write an op-ed… No, that’s not the beginning of a joke. It’s the background to “What’s right in the Middle East?” Answer: Israel. The answer might’ve been more complex had they added an imam to the conversation.

_____

From National Geographic: “We used to think agriculture gave rise to cities and later to writing, art, and religion. Now the world’s oldest temple suggests the urge to worship sparked civilization” (emphasis added). It’s always nice when archaeologists catch on to what the religious have known for years.

_____

“Where Are the Mainline Protestant Candidates for President?” They’ve done what droves of mainliners have done over the years: decamped for evangelical and Catholic churches, or none at all.

This video has absolutely nothing to do with religion, but this is my blog, so I’m posting it anyway.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Pure bluegrass awesomeness! And from the looks of it, these boys shop at Bass Pro.