Outlook not so bad for God after all?

Fascinating interview from Lateline’s Tony Jones with secular economist John Micklethwait, author of “God is Back” (Hat Tip to Steve Addison).

One reason is the Government has cleverly hit on the one formula to make religion grow. It’s something the ancient Romans did to Christianity, and it was a brilliant way inadvertently to cause religion to grow. The Chinese have set a limit on the number of people that can meet in a place, basically 25. Once you reach 25 people meeting in one of these house churches, which take place in somebody’s home, once it’s at that level the church has to split and start again. Automatically it’s almost a formula for amoeba-like growth.

What’s interesting though is as Christianity spreads throughout China, really incredibly quickly. I think China will certainly become the world’s biggest Christian country and probably become the world’s biggest Muslim country. It’s already more Muslims there than there are in Saudi Arabia.

via Lateline – 30/06/2009: John Micklethwait discusses global faith revival.

It’s interesting to see a fairly neutral observer professing the same theories that Hirsch and Frost have been putting out there for some time – in terms of the “amoeba-like growth” of the church in China. This is a fascinating interview, and you should read it all, but I wanted to highlight one more quote:

Our guess, which is against the experience of the 20th century, is that Islam will have a tougher 21st century than Christianity, and one reason why is that we think evangelical Christianity, and Christianity in general, have had more the acids of modernity, if you want to call it that, it’s been tempered by that, it’s easier to get on with it. And Islam faces some limitations in terms of being able to spread around the world, not least the fact that you can’t translate the Koran in the same way that you can translate the Bible, and it doesn’t have the same degree of flexibility. Obviously it’s dangerous to predict anything about religion, but it would seem from our perspective at least that Christianity is the one which is forging ahead.

That’s a fascinating thought: that the process of Christianity being able to “get on with” modernity means that it is ideally placed to push forward in the 21st century. I’m not sure how much I agree with that: in one sense I feel that it is often the ways in which Christianity has allowed gospel to become compromised by the modernist culture that has seen our decline, but equally I think that there is an element to which the contextualisation of Christian theology in the past leaves us in a good position to continue to contextualise the message of Jesus into the next century and beyond.

As I say – fascinating interview and you should read (or watch) all of it.

2 Replies to “Outlook not so bad for God after all?”

  1. Hey geoff,
    I’m interested by this concept because I’ve been hearing a bit recently about how Islam is spreading so quickly that it’s in a good position to be taking over from Christianity in Europe and North America (let alone asia). It’s encouraging to think that Christianity is in a better position but I’m not convinced we’re doing enough to get there.
    On a side note, did you know google is putting up scientology ads on your rss feed, maybe they are going to take over the world one google ad at a time!

    1. Gillian, thanks for the heads up on the adsense ads: I was aware that the ads are often quite amusing – I figure I’ll just leave them there until I come up with a good reason to get rid of them (plus if you click them I get cash, though I certainly couldn’t advocate visiting the Scientologists!).

      Micklethwait does say that his theory is going against the trend in the 20th century: but it’s certainly food for thought. And I think that regardless of how the rest of the world is travelling, there is very little doubt that Christianity in Australia is still on a steepening decline. So there’s plenty of work to do!

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