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The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins

Updated on October 30, 2015


Philip Jenkins has two main purposes within his book. One f his main points is that “anyone familiar with Christian history has read of planting rise, and development of churches, but how many know accounts of the decline or extinction of Christian communities or institutions?” (Jenkins, pg. 2). In simpler terms this quote means that many Christians know about a lot about how the Christian church rose, but they do not know a lot about how they fell. So, in Philip Jenkins book he discuss a lot of ways the that the Christian church as failed in certain aspects. Philip Jenkins also has another point within his book. This second point is more or less the opposite of this first point, in which the author shows a lot of good things that have happened within the Christian church. Philip Jenkins describes many good events in Christian history that have help to make Christianity stronger.

Content Summary

The author in my opinion is trying to convey one's message. This message is that there are many aspects of Christianity that people do not know about. These aspects whether good or bad still influence and impact Christianity today. A quote by Phillip Jenkins really shows what the content of his book The Lost History of Christianity is all about:

"When they think about Christian history, most modern Westerners follow the book of Acts in concentrating on the church's expansion west, through Greece and the Mediterranean world, and on to Rome. But while some early Christians were indeed moving west, many other believers-probably in greater numbers-journeyed east along the land routes, through what we today call Iraq and Iran, where they built great and enduring churches. Because of its location-close to Roman frontier, but just far enough beyond it to avoid heavy-handed interference-Mesopotamia or Iraq retained a powerful terms of the number and splendor of its churches and monasteries, its vast scholarship and dazzling spirituality, Iraq was through the late Middle Ages at least as much a cultural and spiritual heartland of Christianity as was France or Germany, or indeed Ireland." (Jenkins, pg.6)

The entire quote shows an example of the spread of Christianity and it's influence in many different countries and places around the world.


Focal Points

One of the author's main arguments is the title of the first chapter which is The End of Global Christianity. This is a good argument to make because hundreds or more Christianity was the main belief system in America and also around the world. Now that we are in the twenty-first century Christianity, although it is still very popular in not as common is it once was. The United States of America was founded on Christian beliefs and doctrines. But, now it seems as though God and any mention of anything about Christianity is being thrown out the window.

Philip Jenkins lays claim to his first argument is “Religions die. Over the course of history, some religions vanish altogether, while others are reduced from great world faiths to a handful of adherents... Christianity, too, has on several occasions been destroyed in regions where it once flourished” (Jenkins p.1-2). This claim defends Philip Jenkins argument by showing that religions are constantly changing and shifting depending on the era of the time period. Another way that Philip Jenkins defends his first argument is my saying that:

"these episodes of removal or mass destruction have profoundly shaped the character of the Christian faith. In modern times, we are accustomed to thinking of Christianity as traditionally based in Europe and North America, and only gradually do we learn the strange concept of the religion spreading to the global stage as Christian numbers swell in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, So grounded is Christianity in the Western inheritance that it seems almost revolutionary to contemplate this kind of globalization, with all its potential impact on theology, art and liturgy..." (Jenkins, pgs. 2-3).

This quote in essence describes how even though Christianity may not be the main religion all around the world, it is still known a lot throughout the world. So, over the centuries Christianity has obviously changed and shifted by being known brought up in a lot of different mediums such as theology and art. Our society today just has trouble mentioning God in a lot of ways because they may be in fear of what people may say or what people may think of them. This is one of the reasons why Christianity is not known around the world, like it once was.

Another main argument that Philip Jenkins has is the way that Christianity had trouble being spread from one place to another. One way this is explained is during the 1260's there was a lot of conflict between many of the middle eastern nations. The conflict there was “the new Muslim militancy had dreadful consequences for the network of smaller Christian states that had existed on the fringes of the Muslim world- Armenia, and Georgia, Ethiopia and Nubia” (Jenkins, p.132). Knowing this information helps to see that there was a lot of tension in the middle east between Christians and Muslims. During the main wars and battle that happened there were a lot of nations that fell and moved away from Christianity, particular during the sixteenth century. The quote also says that those who were Christians faced a lot of persecution such as prison time and even death for their belief in God and for Jesus Christ dying on the cross for their sins. The two main arguments in Philip Jenkins book The Lost History of Christianity are that Christianity is not known as much around the world as it use to be, and that the spread of Christianity was having trouble being spread from one nation or country to another nation or country.


Interesting Concepts

There is a lot that I found interest within this book. The main thing that I found interesting is the way the Christianity has been spread from country to country. It is also very interesting for me to see how much Christians have gone through with the past couple of centuries. It is nice for me to see that people did anything that they could to defend Christ. There are two good examples where this is mention. One example is in 1 Peter 2:21 “for to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, tat you should follow His steps” (NKJV) and the other example is in Matthew 16:24-26:

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (NKJV)

These two verses both show how we as Christians should act and how we should carry ourselves. This also shows what people who are Christians will have to do. Some may die because of being Christians and others my be an outcast in their communities, families and friends. This are the main things that Philip Jenkins pointed out in The Lost History of Christianity that I found particularly interesting.

Christianity from Judaism to Constantine: Crash Course World History #11

A Reflection

The usefulness of this book would be good I feel for a good study of the Bible not as much for the entire church. My reasoning behind this is that some of these concepts may be difficult for an entire congregation to understand. This book would be good for a small group because the small group would be able to unpack everything that the book has to offer.

Works Cited

Jenkins, Philip. The Lost History of Christianity. New York: HarperCollins E-, 2008. Print.

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