Disciples of All Nations

Philip Jenkins

in The Next Christendom

Published in print May 2002 | ISBN: 9780195146165
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834341 | DOI:
 Disciples of All Nations

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This chapter addresses the myth of Western Christianity and outlines the true origins and development of Christianity, as opposed to those presented in the history books. Accounts are given of the early Eastern churches, particularly those in Ethiopia and Armenia, and of the survival of Christian traditions in Asia and Africa through the Middles Ages, and under Islamic (Muslim) rule. Next, an analysis is presented of the size of Christian communities that survived under Muslim rule in ancient and medieval times and up to the early twentieth century, and the question addressed as to why, when Christians survived Muslim conquests so successfully, they form such a small minority in the modern Middle East. Further sections of the chapter discuss the Catholic missions that took place from about 1500 and the different ways in which Christianity developed in countries beyond the reach of the European empires, where missionaries where not able to enforce their will politically, and in those countries where this was not the case; and the adaptation of the gospel to local cultures, customs, and practices in countries where there was no imperial backing is described, with particular reference to the “silk strategy” in Japan (where the priests dressed in silk in preference to cotton and thus identified themselves with the social elite, who were able to assist in the spread of Christianity), and Jesuit missions to China. The last part of the chapter looks at Protestant missions from the late eighteenth century in Africa and China.

Keywords: adaptation of the gospel; Africa; Armenia; Asia; Catholic missions; China; Christian missions; Christianity; Eastern Christianity; Ethiopia; history of Christianity; Islam; Japan; Jesuit missions; local cultures; Middles Ages; Protestant missions; silk strategy; survival; Muslim rule; Western Christianity

Chapter.  10207 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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