Book Review: The Future of Christianity

Mu-tien Chiou

McGrath, Alister, The Future of Christianity. Blackwell Publishing, 2002. 184 pages

9780631228141

For the past generations, religions in general have undergone substantial change to the extent that many would wonder which religion, if any, will survive in the time to come; –and if so, what will it look like? To these challenging questions, renowned evangelical scholar Alister McGrath has written The Future of Christianity with an attempt to show that Christianity is indeed a religion of the mind and heart founded on the word of God.

Here are some important issues the author addresses

1) First, there is a crisis in confidence within western Christianity. In European countries, this degradation of confidence is demonstrated in the continued diminishing of Christian influence on their culture. The modernistic secularist agenda subtly led us to either reject religion or to assign it to a private area of life,

2) Within Christian circle, there are two typical responses to this loss. One is the consciousness of fundamentalism, awaken by the fear that secularism is out to eliminate religion.

3) Others, on a different note, anticipate the death of Western denominationalism is inevitable. Paying special attention to the current situation of Anglicanism, McGrath also suspects whether traditional Protestant denominations are likely to survive in their present form. The rise of various forms of post-denominational Christianity sees in itself a deliberate effort to play down the institutional aspects. This new ecumenical spirit emphasizes putting aside doctrinal differences by concentrating only on « evangelicalism », which is transdenominational.

Dr. Alister McGrath poses for a picture while ...
Image via Wikipedia

4) Still some ecumenists would have gone further so as to let go not only the theological professions, but religious ones as well. In this McGrath has smelt a renewal of interest in the pursuit of spirituality, which is broadly identified as a central characteristic of the postmodern era. Many new religions that claim to supplant the old ones by cutting a global-wide swath of religious perspectives are in fact an « amalgam, constructed to taste » of bits and pieces from different religions.

5) The work, on the other hand, documents a resurgence of Christianity in non-western countries. The demographical shift of Christian center from the west to Africa and Asia also brings forth new forms and expressions of Christian faith that are foreign to westerners. When coupled with the new fault line between Christianity and Islam, it would be really intriguing to ask ‘what is the future of Christianity?’

6) Finally in contrast to what is emerging in non-western societies, there is a Post-Enlightenment gap between academic theology and the church life that needs to be filled up. As a result, the West could risk isolating itself if it fails to understand that for many parts of the world, emerging Christian societies or Islamic countries in the 10-40 windows, religion is an integral part that guides that all the remaining aspects of their public life, including political actions.

Accessibly written, this book is very good read for Christian believers who expect to obtain a general concept about the current issues and developments consisting in the global ecology of religion. However, the author does not express a firm stance concerning the question, « what forms of Christianity are likely to emerge from the complex forces that will shape the twenty-first century? » Readers who are interested in a stronger perspective might also wish to read R. Stephen Warner‘s A Church of Our Own: Disestablishment and Diversity in American Religion, Philip Jenkins‘s The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity after this.

2828116908_e504488bd0 Alister McGrath (Source of Image: image at: flickr.com/photos/49502985388@N01/2828116908)

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