Coming to Terms

Philip Jenkins

in The Next Christendom

Published in print May 2002 | ISBN: 9780195146165
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834341 | DOI:
 Coming to Terms

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This chapter discusses the impact of demographic change (Southern population growth and Northern population decline) on the form of Christianity that is likely to be practiced in the future and points out that claims that the Southern churches have strayed from older definitions of Christianity are greatly exaggerated. However much Southern Christian types have diverged from older Christian orthodoxies, they have in almost all cases remained within recognizable Christian traditions. The first part of the chapter looks at various aspects of inculturation (interpreting the Christian proclamation in a form appropriate for particular cultures) in relation to determining what are the core beliefs and what are the cultural accidents of Christianity; these aspects include architecture, liturgy and religious language, changes in patterns of worship and their underlying beliefs, and the implications of the emphasis on popular belief and tradition for the veneration of the Virgin Mary in Southern Catholic communities. The second part of the chapter discusses patterns in the emerging Southern churches that go beyond familiar Christian traditions, even as far as a thinly disguised paganism, which is manifested in belief in spirits and spiritual powers (which have their strongest impact on terms of healing and miracles and exorcism) and the concept of spiritual welfare (confronting and defeating demonic forces). The third part of the chapter discusses the cultural conflict over literal interpretations of exorcism and spiritual healing in the Bible, the acceptance by the Southern churches of the Old and New Testaments as documents of immediate relevance, their emphasis on aspects of Christianity that have become unfamiliar, and their revival of ancient customs. Last, the Southern churches – the ‘new’ Christianity – are discussed in terms of their sectarian character, and how this is likely to change in the future as they grow and mature, and become more like the major churches.

Keywords: ancient customs; architecture; Christian traditions; core beliefs; cultural accidents; cultural conflict; demographic change; demonic forces; exorcism; healing; inculturation; literal interpretation of the Bible; liturgy; miracles; paganism; patterns of worship; population growth; religious language; sectarianism; Southern Catholicism; Southern Christianity; spiritual healing; spiritual powers; spiritual welfare; veneration of the Virgin Mary; Virgin Mary

Chapter.  14112 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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