Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A litmus test - what do you think about the current rapid growth of Christianity in Africa, China, the Arabian penninsula?

While the situation of Christianity in The West is dire, whichever way you look at it, there are places in Africa, Asia (especially China) and in some Arabian countries where Christianity is growing fast and Christians are active, devout, energetic - to the point that the numerical decline of The West is approximately balanced by expansion elsewhere.

From:https://discipleallnations.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/the-top-20-countries-where-christianity-is-growing-the-fastest/

So - What do you think abut this growth?

This is a litmus test issue, because of the nature of the churches that are growing - on the whole this massive growth is among what is termed 'Renewalist' churches - that it to say Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

What distinguishes this low church Protestant tradition is therefore a perspective which emphasises a renewal of the person following (but not usually simultaneous with) conversion - as evidenced by what may be termed gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In the case of Petecostalism, there is the focus on speaking in tongues, but the worldwide phenomenon is not so tightly defined - a range of gifts are recognized and important such as healings, prophecy, miracles, visions - all manner of what might be termed 'supernatural' evidences.

In Africa, this work of the Holy Ghost and a life of faith is apparently often linked to worldly success - health, happiness, prosperity, marriage, children etc. These are taken to be the rewards of faith and also evidence of faith.

This world phenomenon ought to make Western Christians confront the nature of their own faith.

Is this growth of Christianity something to be celebrated by Western Christians, despite that it is happening among churches and people who - if they were located in the West - would be regarded with dismay, and indeed strongly disapproved of, by most Christian commentators from most of the major Western denominations?

In a phrase: is the actual worldwide growth of Christianity A Good Thing, or not? 

This question leads onto a consideration of who counts as a Christian - or more exactly, when is identifying as a Christian beneficial, and when is it harmful (it could hardly make no difference at all!). National surveys focus on 'self-identified' Christians - yet no actual serious Christian believes that everyone on the world who says (or claims) they are 'A Christian' really is one. 

(Many mainstream Christians would not regard me as a Christian, after all, since - although I am not a member of the CJCLDS - my beliefs are Mormon. They must them decide whether Mormon Christians are, on the whole or in my case, a good albeit imperfect thing, or a bad and dangerous thing. Assuming my beliefs 'make a difference' to me and my behaviour - they must surely be one or the other - beneficial or harmful.)

My impression is that people distinguish between a type of Christianity that is appropriate for African or Chinese in their own nations - and what is appropriate for the West, so they can celebrate growth of types of Christianity in other places that they would argue vehemently against in the West. But with unprecedented world population movements this attitude may not be viable - aside from the fact that  it seems evasive to the point of dishonesty.

The question Western Christians need to ask themselves - from their perspective as devout and serious Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, Orthodox, or from being a Jehovah's Witness, a Mormon or whatever - is whether they personally would approve of a Western Christian revival IF it was of the same type as actual recent and current Christian growth in other parts of the world? 

If Pentecostal and Charismatic churches of many shapes and sizes began to spring up in The West with a focus on personal supernatural experiences - if these churches changed people's lives, lent them enthusiasm, courage, energy... would you be pleased, or dismayed? 

Because such a phenomenon could not be a matter of indifference. Sooner or later you, like everyone, would need to take sides and decide: Are such Christian churches to be encouraged, or suppressed? 

This makes a valuable, and educative, thought experiment - one from which you might learn something about yourself and your faith - and maybe even change yourself. 

10 comments:

Cui Pertinebit said...

Well you were right: it comes down to "who counts as a Christian?" In my view, strictly speaking, only Catholics are Christians. More broadly, the Orthodox and Copts retain much of the Christian sensibility. Every Protestant and derivative sect is of a fundamentally different ilk.

I have noticed the same phenomenon with Mexicans; many of them are embracing one know-nothing sect or another (my grandmother's Mexican nurse is always coming to the farm in great confusion because her cousins are speaking like Jack Chick to her). In no wise do these sects emphasize "renewal of the person." I would say that they discourage renewal of the person by chasing superficial emotional phenomena with a zeal not according to knowledge. The real zeal for renewal of the person will come where there is serious teaching on penance, prayer and ascesis.

How do I view this phenomenon? I view it as the natural conclusion to the phase of preparation for the Antichrist. The Greek term "anti" means "in the stead of," and thus Antichrist is that (type of) person who, rather than ignoring Christ altogether, substitutes a false christ for the Real. This reached its apex in Protestantism, which is proto-Leftism; the Modernist/Liberal heresy in our day is the full development of the Protestant philosophy. It has now penetrated to the heart of Christendom (i.e., even the Vatican is an hotbed of Leftist heresies), and fittingly lays its foundation abroad. The effect this will eventually have, there, will exactly mirror the effect it had, here: fostering the neglect or hatred of truth, destroying a real sense of the sacred, fomenting the fleshly and rebellious mind under the guise of personal, spiritual empowerment, etc.

stephens said...

"Are such Christian churches to be encouraged, or suppressed?"

Encouraged definitely and welcomed.

The lady vicar on Radio 2 this morning (so near to Christmas) managed to avoid mentioning Christ completely, just wouldn't it be great if we could all be nice.

And where exactly is this greatly improved "being nice" supposed to come from? Not from our own unaided endeavours I hope!

In a society so devoid of the Christian message that is a total and utter fail as a supposed representative of a Christian denomination. Almost anything would be an improvement.

I cannot believe that the man made organisation that you choose to worship in when you come to Christ is anything like as important as your own personal sincerity.

Also if Churches become corrupted (Borgias for example) by having various denominations there are there are external voices to hold the corruption to account.

I believe it's a great thing and a Christian revival will do far more to improve a society than throwing money at it.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said in "Voice from the Gulag" :-

"Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.'”

Nathaniel said...

Where once I thought third-world population growth was bad (because it is unsustainable, less adaptable, etc.), the fact that the West tries so hard to kill its own children, and wants the third-world to do the same, indicates that wherever there is life and growth may rather be a good thing. Wherever one finds oneself agreeing with mainstream secular stratagem, it means it's time to deeply consider those assumptions.

One can hope that maybe the growth of Christianity on those regions in combination with other factors is a good thing or part of God's plan.

I really hate to see the West die, or disappear, but it is trying rather hard to commit suicide and blasphemy God...

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nancy - I'd prefer not to go into that here - but it is simply that I would not at present be able to make the necessary committment and would therefore not be eligible. In other words, my only reservations are concerned with myself.

Observing said...

Definitely a good thing, and that is just what should be in the West.

Christians for some odd reason have turned against the Bible, especially so in the West.

In the West it's become a kind of status game for certain types who have achieved slightly upper middle class status by being bishops, 'priests', etc. These types don't want what they see as crasser, lower class church types to prevail.

Yet the Bible is clear. It's the supposedly lower who are doing it right, who have the energy, who are seeing things as they are.

Bring it on!

ajb said...

"Many mainstream Christians would not regard me as a Christian, after all, since - although I am not a member of the CJCLDS - my beliefs are Mormon."

Well, one of the main reasons Catholics talk of Mormons as not being Christians is that they believe Mormon baptism is not valid. However, since you were baptized by the Anglican church (I presume), you would be Christian in that sense.

A heretical Christian, perhaps.

My definition of Christian would be 'someone who attempts to follow Jesus of Nazareth's teachings, and considers him in some relevant sense the Christ'.

So, Mormons are Christians. The rest are details, to be sorted out preferably without too many abstract, theological lines of argument.

ajb said...

This article has results from a 2007 Pew poll of Americans.

http://www.pewforum.org/2007/09/26/public-expresses-mixed-views-of-islam-mormonism/

In section 2, the results have 52% of non-Mormon respondents saying Mormons are Christians, 31% saying they aren't. So, about 63% of those having an opinion said Mormons were Christians.

The only sub-group listed where a majority of those expressing a opinion said 'no' was 'white evangelical Protestants', at 40-45. White mainline Protestants were 62-23, so 73% saying Mormons are Christians.

My guess is that those saying Mormons are Christians has increased in the intervening 8 years.

Cui Pertinebit said...

@ajb

Have you ever tried to "sort out" a theological problem without abstract reasoning on theology?

Good luck!

Imnobody said...

I am a Southern European man living in Central America. Devout Roman Catholic. But I don't think that non-Catholics are not Christians.

[Non western churches have] a focus on personal supernatural experiences - if these churches changed people's lives, lent them enthusiasm, courage, energy... would you be pleased, or dismayed?

What is the bad thing in that? The fact that they don't fit Western sensibilities? Why should they, since they are not Western?

Is people remaining Muslim, animist or atheist better than being an imperfect Christian? Is there a "perfect" Christian?

When the northern Europe was Christianized, most people were only pagans in disguise. I remember a survey during the Middle Ages (I think it was in England). Most parish priests didn't know that the author of the Lord's Prayer was Jesus. This is the level of Christianity in Western Europe some centuries after conversion. So why should we demand purity from churches that are only some decades after conversion?

Not to mention those Popes that had children, some centuries later. The Borgias. They came from my homeland and they were a model of corruption. But the Church slowly purified itself. It took centuries, though. But it is easy to watch with contempt other churches and demand instant perfection when one has had 2000 years to achieve that.

These non-Western churches are not perfect, but, when you are converting masses of non-Christians, it is a huge first step. More time and more study of the Bible will purify these churches.

whether they personally would approve of a Western Christian revival IF it was of the same type as actual recent and current Christian growth in other parts of the world?

Do you mean as opposed to our current suicide cult (Leftism)? Bring it on!

ajb said...

@CP,

Note words 'too many'. Emphasize empirical, practical, experiential lines of argument.