The course in dogmatics I’ve just taken at my seminary was, as I’ve previously written, lacking global perspectives in general and charismatic theology in particular, but our teacher was very aware of this. He stressed that charismatic theology becomes more and more important as a result of the spread of Pentecostalism in the global South while non-charismatic Christendom is dying in the North (West), and recommended us to check out Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom, a book that I’ve now have had a look at.
Jenkins argues that Christianity has never been just a Western religion but a global one, and that the privileged position of Western Christendom is about to fall down. Today, Christianity is basically growing everywhere except Europe: in Latin America, Africa, Asia and even the Middle East millions are being saved. With the help of statistical predictions, Jenkins argue that in 2050 only one Christian in five will be white, and that proportion will probably continue to shrink.
Now, charismatic theology is very dominant among the Southern churches. Recently, Christianity Today, which traditionally has not been a big fan of the charismatic movement, argued that most Africans aren’t charismatic, emphasizing that most of them belong to Catholic, Anglican, Reformed or independent churches. But Jenkins show that most Southern Christians within these traditions have charismatic theology, even if they don’t call themselves charismatics or Pentecostals.
This is either because they use those terms to describe other denominations, or simply because they don’t understand what they mean! But belief in the supernatural, Spiritual gifts, deliverance from demons and prophetic messages is extremely common among all different church traditions in the South. To believe that just because someone doesn’t describe themselves as charismatics make them cessationists, is very wrong.
Reading Jenkins, I think it becomes evident that John Shelby Spong’s idea about that the church must adapt to secular rationalism if it wants to survive is totally wrong – it’s not even true in Western societies, since the liberal churches in particular are dying. I agree with Daniel Im in that the growing revival in the South should be the norm and influence the American and European churches, both because it’s dominant and because it’s biblical. I think it is very damaging that the power and money lies in the West rather than where the fire is, and that is why I’ve tried to develop a model where rich and poor churches and denominations share money equally.
Also, it should be recognized that theologies that don’t believe in miracles or supernatural Spiritual gifts, theologies that defend wealth and inequality, theologies that are primarily interested in Western Christianity and society; are a tiny minority and should be treated as such. The average Christian is a black Pentecostal, and I pray that her perspective will influence this blog, my life, and my church.