New Shape of World Christianity

How American Experience Reflects Global Faith

By Mark A. Noll

IVP Academic. Downers Grove, Illinois

 

"The book's major argument is that Christianity in its American form has indeed become very important for the world. But it has become important, not primarily because of direct influence. Rather, the key is how American Christianity was itself transformed when Europeans carried their faith across the Atlantic. The American model rather than American manipulation is key." (pp. 11-12) 
 
Noll's main points of the book are:
  1. To understand the U.S. in relation to world Christianity, we need to understand the U.S. in the late 18th century.
  2. Highlighting the significant volunteer missionary work that was accomplished
  3. The change from Christendom to voluntary Christianity was different in the U.S. than it was in Europe
    • more Bible oriented
    • more pragmatic
    • looked to entrepreneurs than designated leaders
    • invested in the building of Christian communities creatively
    • strength was in the middle classes
    • affinity with free-market initiatives
  4. American developments had both positive and negative results
    • increased lay participation
    • increased ingnorance of Christian history

Noll stresses that the "new newer regions of recent Christian growth (are) following a historical path that Americans pioneered before much of the rest of the Christian world embarked on the same path." (14)
 

 

Recent Changes to consider

  • Possible more people attended church on recent Sundays in China than Europe; more Anglicans attended church in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the U.S. (combined); more members of Brazil's pentecostal Assemblies of God at church than the two largest U.S. Pentecostal denominations (combined). (20)
  • "the Christian church has experienced a larger geographical redistribution in the last fifty years than in any comparable period in its history (except for its very first years)" (21)
  • "More than half of all Christian adherents in the whole history of the church have been alive in the last one hundred years. Close to half of Christian believers who have ever lived are alive right now." (21)
 
 
Impact of Bible Translation: conservative, ironic, liberating and chaotic
  • Prior to 1900, Christian Scripture had been translated into about 700 languages. "In the past century alone, more than 1600 new languages have received at least part of the Bible." (23)
  • "While the spread of Islam has drawn ever-increasing numbers to the globalizing influence of Arabic, the spread of Christianity binds ever-increasing numbers to their own local languages." (24) 
  • Missionaries faced challenges when local African cultures found support of polygamist practices in the stories of Abraham and David.
  • Local believers often find liberation when they are able to hear the message of God in their own language.
  • The chaos comes from local believers, in their own languages, who may be affiliated with local churches but not to larger bodies nationally or worldwide.(24)
  • "Translation implies that the receiving cultures, with their languages, histories and assumptions, are worthy of God's attention; they are valuable entities that the entrance of God's word can change into something even better." (26)

Books by Mark A. Noll

 

 

 
 
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