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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 321

Jenkins predicts in his book The Next Christendom that in the year 2050 the world will observe a form of global Christianity. However, he importantly notes that this will differ greatly from what the West understands Christianity to be contemporarily. He attempts to use data to back up his prediction. He is skeptical of some of the data provided by churches and believes that they may exaggerate their membership. As such, he defines a Christian as anyone who self-proclaims to be one.

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He argues that in the coming years Latin America and Africa will see a sharp rise in self identifying Christians. He maps the geographic epicenter of Christianity over time and identifies that Europe did not become a central location for the religion until the 1500s. Jenkins explores the role of colonization and religion. He acknowledges that Christianity gained a reputation of being a religion for middle class whites. He believes that missionary work converted minorities into this framework. He believes that Christianity became a place of refuge for oppressed peoples and that new converts did the work of further spreading the religion.

Jenkins expresses frustration with the church for its failure to recognize the number of new Christians that exist. He notes how academia and the church focus their time and energy on the ancient history of the religion and not on the new changes that have been made to it. He sees this as the church not placing any importance on minority converts. He acknowledges the ways in which minority church members are changing the religion as the text gets translated to different languages and then reinterpreted. He predicts there will be much disagreement among Western Christians and non-Western Christians over the coming years regarding the “right” way to practice religion. In addition, he believes there will be a rise in conflict between Christianity and Islam, as he believes these will be the two largest religions in the world.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1934

Philip Jenkins bases his projections in The Next Christendom on an analysis and synthesis of geographic and demographic data from a wide range of sources. As his subtitle suggests, he predicts that by 2050 the world will see The Coming of Global Christianity, a Christianity very different from what his audience, presumably American-born and European- born Christians, has experienced.

The raw data behind Jenkins’s text does not always cohere well in his prose. Chapters have frequent subheadings which add clarity, but often his information has a chunky rather than a cumulative feeling as he presents it. Nonetheless, journeying through this rough style is worthwhile, for his suggestions about the immediate future of Christianity are worthy of consideration.

Jenkins uses a broad definition of Christianity as he works his way through his data. Thus, he accepts as a Christian anyone calling himself or herself a Christian and believing that Jesus is both the son of God and the Messiah. He admits that some of the numerical data, especially that from official church sources, might exaggerate church membership. He sees the pitfalls in what he is trying to do: project future religious trends when such trends, past experience shows, sometimes take unexpected turns. Still, he makes a firm claim that the growth of Christianity in the Southern Hemisphere will continue, until by 2050 Africa and Latin America will contain half of the Christian population of the world and that this younger Christendom, in concert with similar growth in numbers of Muslims, has the potential to bring about global religious and political conflicts among Christians and between Christians and Muslims.

In his first four chapters, Jenkins looks at earlier shifts...

(The entire section contains 2255 words.)

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