By Sumner, George
International Bulletin of Missionary Research , Vol. 31, No. 1
The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South. By Philip Jenkins. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006. Pp. 272. $26 / £16.99.
It has become a truism that the center of gravity of the Christian religion has shifted south, and also that the present century will be one of global Christianity. While these observations have been commonplace in missiological quarters, Philip Jenkins, a historian and sociologist of religion at Pennsylvania State University, served to bring this insight to the attention of a general audience with his book The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity (Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), a work at once popular and credible for scholars. Jenkins's The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South, a continuation of this same research project, refocuses the same phenomenon with relation to interpretation of the Bible.
Jenkins seeks to challenge several widespread prejudices about Southern Christianity. First, it is commonly rejected as "fundamentalist." Jenkins's balanced account is not uncritical of more judgmental features of Southern Christianity. Still, such an adjective is not useful to describe the complex appropriation of the Bible by Southern Christians. Undergirding Jenkins's argument is his point that Northern, historical-critical readings of the Bible assume that Southern interpretations are narrowly premodern. But one can readily turn the tables and say that the former hermeneutics is narrowly unable to hear wide swatches of the biblical witness. …