Middle East

Dying Christianities

Philip Jenkins is writing about a Christian history we don't know--and would probably rather avoid.

Philip Jenkins, one of today's authorities on the global church's past and future, has released another highly regarded - if sobering - account of Christianity outside the West. The Lost History of Christianity (Oxford, 2008) tells the winding story of the faith's rise and fall in the Middle East and Central Asia, particularly in Mesopotamia, which became the center of the early church and its wide-reaching cross-cultural missions. The theologies practiced here, those of the Jacobites and Nestorians, were later considered heretical by the Christianized Roman Empire. Yet most of today's dwindling Iraqi Christian population considers one of the strands its "spiritual ancestor," says Jenkins in his most recent CT article, "Recovering Church History."

Jenkins sat down with Beliefnet editor (and CT contributor) Patton Dodd to talk about the book. Here are some of the most provocative excerpts:

On the Eastern church:

[The] Eastern world has a solid claim to be the direct lineal heir of the earliest ...
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