Monday, July 19, 2010

The lost history of Christianity

Last week I finished reading The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins, author of The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice.

The book paints the portrait of the demise of a once vibrant Christian faith in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. It tries to examine and unfold the lengthy and rich history of Christianity in these regions--which of course has implications for the history and spread of Christianity overall.

The average Joe believes that Christianity started in the Middle East in Jerusalem but almost immediately migrated West, at which point Islam took over the East and Christianity became isolated to the West.

Not so. Jenkins reveals a Christian faith very active and flourishing in the Middle East, Asia and Africa up to the fourteenth century in some areas therein, even if somewhat limited at times. Even a century ago, 10 percent of the Middle East was actively Christian. Now this percentage is zero.

Jenkins laments the loss that has taken place in the areas where Christianity thrived and grew for so long, where many mystical, theological, and other developments were made.

The question becomes: What happened in these regions? What caused Christianity to diminish so significantly? A summary of the answer to this question and the book in general is offered in an interview with the author, located here. It's not a quick read but it is a good one.