The Future of the Global Church: History, trends and
possibilities Patrick Johnstone
Church Times Bookshop £22.50
(Use code CT719)
I HAVE spent many happy hours with this annotated atlas,
reflecting on a vast mass of (often accurate) data about global
religion in general, the advances of Evangelicalism over the past
half-century, and the stunning variety of peoples unreached by the
Christian gospel or a translation of the Bible.
Technically, this is a sophisticated operation mapping the
history of Christianity and of empires, and the contemporary
distribution of peoples and languages, with historical commentaries
and theological exhortations designed to set the present surge of
Christianity in Africa, China, and (maybe) India in the context of
its relatively marginal global presence up to the 16th century.
All this information is motivated by the desire to fulfil the
Great Commission as pursued by Operation World, the Joshua Project,
and World Evangelisation for Christ, founded by Charles Studd in
1913, before presenting our planet as a bride properly prepared for
Christ when he returns in glory. Patrick Johnstone read chemistry
at Bristol University.
I select information at random. Europe has now become "the
Prodigal continent" and, "unless God intervenes", the downward
slope brought about by syncretistic liberal theology and the
after-effects of the French Revolution, combined with amoral greed
and lack of reproductive zeal, will mean that by 2050 a large and
increasing proportion of its believers will be either Christian or
The French conceded dominance to Britain and to English in the
first global war of 1756-63, but they nevertheless won by spreading
the metric system, driving on the right, republicanism, and their
ghastly secular ideology - above all, Marxism, which reached its
apogee in 1980 and largely disappeared after 1990. Darwinism is a
quasi-religious belief-system and scientifically dubious, as is the
notion that global warming is mainly due to humans.
The Jews, in spite of being misrepresented in unprepossessing
ways, have made an extraordinary contribution to culture. The Son
of God was a Jew, and whereas Jews number a mere 15 million, they
win a ridiculously large proportion of Nobel prizes, whereas 1500
million Muslims manage only a ridiculously small proportion. (A
Pakistani brigadier once asked me whether this meant that Jews were
more intelligent than the rest of us, and I explained that
sociologists were forbidden to answer questions like that).
The Christians in Asia, from India and Burma to Taiwan, are
concentrated in tribal and excluded groups, and among the
interstitial people of Korea and the Chinese diaspora. The Indian
state of Mizoram is mainly Presbyterian; and the Chinese will take
over Siberia. By 2050, the Chinese may be the largest single group
of Christians, and Anglicans will be mainly Evangelicals
headquartered in Nigeria and Uganda.
The Sunni Muslim minority ruled Iraq until the Anglo-American
invasion made it "ungovernable", and half its Christians had to
leave. There are half a million Evangelical Christians in Iran, and
worldwide many Muslims are secretly Christians; so "It could
surprise us on the Day of Resurrection how many people could rise
to glory out of Muslim graves!"
The Revd David Martin is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at
the London School of Economics.