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On a mission to gather the facts

04 January 2013

David Martin enjoys an atlas mapping the Church's prospects

The Future of the Global Church: History, trends and possibilities Patrick Johnstone

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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 Muslim migrants.

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.

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