Bridging the Local and the Global
Dana L. Robert, Christian Mission: How Christianity Became A World Religion (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase world religion? Historian Dana Robert insists that we think of Christianity as a world religion, too. After all, she insists, a third of the world's people are Christians, nearly two-thirds of all Christians live outside of Europe and North America, and Christians are more diverse in how they practice their faith than the adherents of any other great world religion. This book's main task is to explain how Christianity came to be that way. Since its very early days, Robert shows, Christianity crossed cultural boundaries. Indeed, she says, cross-cultural movement is basic to Christianity's nature. It lifts people's gaze beyond their local horizons; at the same time, it helps them fashion godly lives in a huge variety of cultural settings.
In four brief chapters, Robert shows how Christianity spread. Its followers moved quickly around the Mediterranean world and into the regions south and east, such as Arabia, Babylon (Iraq), Egypt, Ethiopia, and the lower Nile (today's Sudan). Churches proliferated in the Persian Empire, and missionaries went as far as India and China by the seventh century. By the fifth century Christianity was moving north into the tribal reaches of Gothic, Celtic, and Slavic Europe. While the rise of Islam in the seventh century brought stress and contraction to Christianity in Africa and the Middle East, Christian influence solidified in Europe.
When Europeans ventured in Asia, Africa, and the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries, and throughout the long era of European overseas trade and empire, Christian churches and missionaries came along. Protestants were ...