The Changing World of Christianity: The Global History of a Borderless Religion

by Dyron B. Daughrity

Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 28 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006, 290 pages, 2010, $34.95.

Reviewed by Melody J. Wachsmuth, mission journalist in preparation.

The challenge of assessing the growth and global movement of Christianity over two thousand years is no small task—it requires a multi-disciplinary study such as is characteristic in missiology. Dyron Daughrity approaches his analysis of global Christianity from precisely this paradigm, thereby painting an expansive perspective on the past and present expressions of Christianity. Daughrity states his purpose as twofold: (1) to explore the question of how Christianity, blossoming out of the Middle East, became one of the largest religions in the world, and (2) to offer a sweeping portrayal of Christianity’s movement across history and geography to its present state.  

After a brief statistical and summary introduction of the major world religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam), each chapter focuses on a different geographical region, covering nine in all:  the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Latin America, Caribbean, North America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. In each chapter, Daughrity addresses the rationale behind his geographic demarcations, taking into account historical, socio-political, linguistic, cultural, and religious factors. Next, he summarizes the history of Christianity in the given area. Finally, he describes present-day Christianity and concludes with some helpful questions for analysis.   

Daughrity’s methodology offers a macro perspective of the intersection between Christianity and a surprising number of religious, socio-political, and geographical realities. This book was written as an introductory text for students, and its strengths in this regard outweigh its obvious inability to explore such complex issues in depth. As part of its comprehensive intent, the book relies heavily upon statistical data, all of which Daughrity carefully supports in his endnotes. The downside of this detailed statistical support is its inability to provide nuanced data. For example, percentages of the religious composition in a given area fail to describe how Christianity is actually defined and categorized by the individuals there.  

The author’s contribution to current scholarship is not so much in the actual content of the book, but in the form in which it is presented: an introductory text on global Christianity from a multi-dimensional perspective. Despite the limitations inherent in such an ambitious endeavor, the author succeeds in creating a balanced analysis, albeit tenuous, of both the individual strands impacting global Christianity and the overall tapestry they create. Such a text can provide an effective and helpful foundation for those beginning their research on world Christianity.  

Check these titles:
Kalu, Ogbu U. and Alaine M. Low, eds. 2008. Interpreting Contemporary Christianity: Global Processes and Local Identities. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Noll, Mark A. 2009. The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

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EMQ, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 116-117. Copyright  © 2011 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

 

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