The Reformation of the 16th century was a revolution of mythic proportions. Scholars and pastors with fresh scriptural insights took advantage of revolutionary changes in the arts, science, humanities, politics, travel, and commerce to turn the Western world upside down. It marked both a return to biblical roots and a leap into the future. In the 21st century, what major changes in the church should Christians be hoping and working for? In the final installment of the Global Conversation, four key leaders from four continents reveal their hopes.
One big surprise of the 20th century was the dramatic growth of churches in the non-Western world. A bigger surprise was that the fastest-growing churches were strongly supernaturally oriented. "In this thought world, prophecy is an everyday reality, while faith healing, exorcism, and dream visions are all basic components of religious sensibility," religion historian Philip Jenkins has noted. This is true of African Initiated Churches, Pentecostal churches in Latin America, house churches in China and India, and numerous others.
I grew up in a thought world where ancestral spirits, demonic powers, "gods," and miracles of all kinds abounded. Modern education, the most powerful force behind secularization, almost succeeded in getting me to toss out everything as superstition. Some of these supernatural elements clearly are, but not all. A careful reading of the Bible and the sheer weight of empirical evidence eventually brought me back to a supernatural Christianity. In this, I found myself out of sync with much of Western theology. Here liberals were at least consistent, but not evangelicals. Most liberals denied the supernatural both in the Bible and in the present; evangelicals fought ...1
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