Interview with Philip Jenkins

Philip Jenkins is one of my favorite authors and scholars. I have had the honor of meeting him personally, and his book The Next Christendom was monumental and is a must-read for anyone interested in World Christianity or missiology.

I also like that he appreciates the importance of Roman Catholicism, something which many evangelical authors simply discard as being dead or meaningless. This is, in my opinion, a grave error. While it is true that Catholics do not attend church or give money as vigorously as many evangelicals, and while the Catholic Church does not generally focus on making converts or evangelizing through preaching, and while most Catholics are sadly illiterate when it comes to knowledge of the Bible, that does not mean they are not Christians, nor does it mean that none of them are saved, nor does it mean that Catholics do not have an important contribution to make.

Are fears of a future "Muslim Europe" well-founded?

Jenkins: I don't think they are because the numbers at present are very small. And while they're going to grow, by American standards Muslim minorities in Europe are not going to be that huge. The other big issue is that when people talk about Muslim minorities, they automatically assume that everyone of Muslim background is going to continue to be a dyed-in-the-wool, hardcore Muslim in Europe.

There's a lot of evidence that they're not. If you look at Algerian people in France, they have a strong sense of ethnic identity, but there's quite a low level of religious observance. They look like Episcopalians more than anything. Now obviously, there's a small and potentially very dangerous hardcore of quite extreme Islamists, and you'd have to be a fool to ignore that. But the majority of people are very happy to assimilate to some kind of French or Dutch or German identity.
More Here.

Read it all. Also has thoughts on religion in America, Christianity under Soviet rule, and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff.

Comments

Fletcher said…
Hello Abu:

I really appreciate your blog, I check it several times a week.

About Catholicism: I am an evangelical, but have also studied Catholicism quite a bit. I personally know several Catholics whom I believe have a saving faith in Jesus, but I also know several whom I fear for. That being said, we ought not ever to "throw rocks" at PEOPLE, but rather doctrinal error. I must keep this idea in mind when I meet with two Mormon missionaries soon, for example. We are not critiquing people, but rather doctrine and church teachings. Eternity is a long time to be wrong about Jesus.

About Catholicism, there are clearly several doctrines being taught in orthodox Catholic churches that are counterbiblical, as I am sure you know more than I.

In these areas, I think evangelicals need to speak the truth in love to our Catholic freinds, but we ought not assume we know what they believe. Many Catholics are cultural Catholics and do not adhere to many RCC teachings. For example, most Catholics that I have talked to do not believe in the doctrines of purgatory and indulgences, the sinlessness, perpetual virginity, and ascension of Mary... even though this is RCC dogma.

Of course the primary issue is that of salvation by grace through faith alone, and not of works (Eph. 2:8-9, and many others). Catholicism is a works-based system in many facets, although not entirely. They will talk of the grace of God through Jesus, but they ADD works to it. A seminary professor once told me: "Jesus + anything = nothing, Jesus + nothing = everything."

Other conterbiblical issues are: Priests cannot marry, the apocryphal books are not holy scripture, papal infallability is a farce, the allowance for priests to forgive sins, sacramentalism, the exaltation of Mary, the veneration of relics, infant salvation, and baptism as a salvific prerequisite.

The one that kills me is the teaching that if you die having committed a mortal sin and had yet to make it to confession, you are eternally damned. Basically, Jesus didn't really mean "it was finished" at Calvary - which is sad.

I'm sure you know a whole lot about all of these issues but I just wanted to illustrate that Catholicism is loaded with doctrinal heresies and this should be dealt with in a kind way with our Catholic friends so that they can come to know the grace that abounds from Jesus' complete and atoning work on the cross.

My wife and I pray for your ministry in the Middle East. Your work is the only way that Islam can be reached - and I commend you for it. God bless you.
Abu Daoud said…
Dear Fletcher,

Peace be with you. You raise a number of good questions about Roman Catholic doctrine, and I am glad to discuss them one by one but in general it is not the point of the blog. (But please feel free to e-mail me if you like.)

I think the main one of course is the question of salvation. If in fact Catholicism teaches that we are not saved by grace then it is profoundly unChristian. Many evangelicals and Protestants in general say that because Catholics place such a heavy emphasis on the sacraments they are relying on works of the flesh for salvation.

This is, I assure you, entirely incorrect and not at all a description of Catholic doctrine. Sacraments may be 'works' but they are understood to be works of grace, not works of the flesh. This way of speaking is difficult for evangelicals to accept though because we are, more or less, antinomians.

But enough of my own thoughts. This document is a joint statement by Catholics and Lutherans (and later adopted by Methodists) regarding justification. It does not resolve anything, but I do view it as a very successful resolution of the central question of salvation:

Joint_Declaration

We are so thankful for your prayers. God bless you and your family.
Steve Scott said…
Abu,

You reference an insightful article. It seems conservative Christians in America are especially driven by fears of world domination by Islam in their support for the global "war on terror." They point to mass immigration of middle-easterners to the West as a foundation for a future takeover.

But I am very cautious, as it seems Jenkins is, of this because, just like how we perceive Chrisitanity in the West, radical Islam has the same problem we do: the majority of its followers are NOT radical fundamentalists, but nominal Muslims who simply seek a better life in the West. I've never met an Arab or Muslim who was bent on killing me on the spot for not converting, as is implied by Christian conservatives.

It doesn't matter as much whether Islam is a peaceful religion if a majority of its followers in the West don't take jihad seriously. I read a recent report that the majority of Arab American immigrants are non-Musilm. Other reports show a higher-than-perceived conversion rate of Muslims to Christianity than the war supporters would like us to believe. Your thoughts?

Peace in the Name of the Son,
Steve
Steve Scott said…
To make a long story short, I feel a greater threat from the bureaucracy in Washington than I do from Osama Bin Laden.
Abu Daoud said…
Hello Steve,

He is Risen!

Well, I think you are right in that Jenkins is more cautious than most. But my sense is that even nominal Muslims, when push comes to shove, will side with Islam over the country where they live. In other words, nominal Muslims who are seeking a better life in the West can be radicalized, though it would require a very specific kind of event. As long as such an event does not happen they will be, in general, constructive members of society.

RE Muslims converting to Christianity, it is a topic of great interest to me. I do think there have been a greater number of Muslim converts in the last decade than in entire centuries past. In some ways Islam is like a great dam that has some very thin, hair-line cracks. On the other hand, in some ways it is gathering strength because it feels it is on the defensive.

Not sure if any of this answers your questions, but thanks for chiming in with your opinion.
Steve Scott said…
Abu,

He is risen, indeed.

I think your comments help me. We hear all about the radical leaders, but very little about the common people. A missionary nurse from our church spent some time in Pakistan, Iraq and Khazakhstan and said that the common people had more of a folk religion than what we see on the six o'clock news.

As a religion, I find Islam more fascinating than other non-Christian beliefs.

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