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God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis (The Future of Christianity) Paperback – April 6, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jenkins loves to skewer headlines, to the point that each new book seems to present nothing less than a paradigm shift. The Next Christendom and The New Faces of Christianity announced that Christendom is moving south, its face now less European than African, South American and Asian. Here he looks back at the old Christendom, and finds there a story more complicated than fading Christianity and triumphant militant Islam. Sure enough, many great cathedrals and once-charming village churches are spackling over the cracks on the state’s nickel. But a host of grassroots-based Catholic religious organizations are flourishing. Ours, Jenkins asserts, is actually a golden age of religious pilgrimage. And it is not only Muslims pouring into Europe’s borders: African Pentecostals lead thriving congregations across their adopted continent. Poles pack England’s Catholic parishes, and priests from Zaire and Cote’Ivoire bring new life to age-old churches in French villages. Despite world-transfixing incidents of terror, Jenkins says that Islam’s dramatic growth in Europe is actually largely a success story of integration and growth in toleration. Conservative and liberal cultural commentators each have their reasons for trumpeting Christianity’s demise and militant Islam’s growth in Europe. They’re not wholly wrong—the story just needs nuancing. And who but Jenkins could enliven this storyline with an ocean of sociological data poured into a novel-like book that’s impossible to put down? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* From the future of Christianity in The Next Christendom(2002; rev. ed., 2007) and the current growth of Christianity in The New Faces of Christianity (2006), Jenkins turns to the state of religion on the continent most identified with historic Christianity. Common knowledge has it that European Christianity is sick unto death, and falling church attendance, baptisms, and church weddings bolster that notion. Yet in Europe independent congregations are mushrooming, a sizable proportion of new immigrants are Christian, and the trend of population growth indicates that Christianity will remain the majority faith in Europe for the foreseeable future. Jenkins also inspects Islam in Europe, analyzing the same cultural clashes that Bruce Bawer presented with literate alarm in While Europe Slept(2006), and he confirms Bawer's observation that Western European political elites have been monumentally insensitive to the complaints of ordinary Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In addition, Jenkins thoroughly discusses the moderate, peacable Islam most Muslims practice and argues that European Muslims well may settle into amicable coexistence as their incomes and comforts rise. This immensely informative, quintessentially balanced, utterly lucid volume completes Jenkins' Future of Christianity trilogy magnificently. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Future of Christianity
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (April 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195384628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195384628
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 1 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Jenkins is the author of The Lost History of Christianity and has a joint appointment as the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities in history and religious studies at Penn State University and as Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He has published articles and op-ed pieces in The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe and has been a guest on top national radio shows across the country.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first half of the book, on the state of Christianity in Europe, is outstanding. It contains a great deal of important and significant information that I have not seen reported anywhere else, indicating that Christianity is not quite so moribund in Europe as is commonly reported.

The second half of the book, on Islam in Europe, is uneven. Jenkins begins with a number of generalizations to the effect that the common stories of the threat of Islam in Europe are overblown and unwarranted. But then he spends the rest of the book giving extensive detail and analysis to the effect that Islam is indeed a grave threat to European culture and Western security. It's an odd disconnect.

In all, an excellent book and well worth the read.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the third in Jenkins' fascinating series looking at global Christianity and it follows "The Next Christendom" and "The New Faces Of Christianity" but this time focusing on Christianity in Europe and the perceived threat of Islam. Reading this book was an enjoyable experience and a welcome antidote to the paranoia often seen in the media and in churches, at least with regard to the future of Christianity. Jenkins shows, using statistics and with a look through the history of Christianity in Europe, that despite the increase in secularisation and the reduction in numbers of believers, Christianity is still overwhelmingly the majority religion in Europe and likely to stay that way. He wonders whether the Islam of those who make their homes in Europe might also become more secular and tolerant and that the Islam that we fear, that of the fundamentalists, might not be as prevalent as we fear.

The second half of the book looks more closely at Islam, discussing terrorism and the French riots, showing how some people are radicalised and giving a history of many of the terrorism events of the last twenty years. He also describes some of the changes taking place in European Islam, particularly with regard to women's rights. The assumption that Islam is a monolithic faith in which there is no variation is patently false and it was encouraging to read of many of the Muslim men and women who are working as a force for good, at least as we would see it. However the overall tone of this part of the book was less positive and left the reader with the sense that Islam is very different from the liberality of most Europeans and not that willing to accommodate in most cases.
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Format: Hardcover
Jenkins is a dissenter from the opinion of many author's that Europe faces such a demographic onslaught from Muslim immigrants that the continent will become Eurabia where Islam dominates and all non-Muslims are mere dhimmis. He thinks the demography will change and immigrant families become smaller. He also thinks that Islam will change and adapt in Europe. He is also an optimist about the future of Christianity. He thinks Christianity is far from a dying influence. It will adapt though numbers will reduce. This is the judgment of a liberal academic. I would not be so rash as to prophesy but I do not share his optimism over the future as regards Islam .
But as to the present facts of religion in Europe, Jenkins paints with a broad brush but I think he is fairly accurate, with the glaring exception of the assessment he gives to John Calvin. He certainly gives a balanced picture of Islamic diversity in Europe and also good reasons why European governments have been extraordinarily tolerant of the kinds of activities and organisations which Islamic governments persecute and ban. This is a book informative on now. As to the future, we shall have to wait and see.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jenkins' analysis of the state of Christianity and Islam in Europe is thorough and realistic. If he does have a bias it is that he likes to surprise people with new, little-known facts to shade your opinion. Although the subject matter is religion, the book is chock full of information and modern history, and yes, a little philosophical speculation. It is one of the best books available on one of the most important problems facing the 21st century.
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God's Continent makes a convincing case that the decline of European Christianity and the rise of Islam in Europe are not reaching quite the apocalyptic heights feared by so many. Islam is growing, but it is in many ways capitulating to the same forces of modernism and secularism that have weakened European Christianity. At the same time, the immigration trends that are bringing Islam to Europe are also bringing to the continent the vibrant Christian faith of Africa and Asia - a faith that has not capitulated to modernism's insistence upon a deep divide between the sacred and the secular, between the religious and the political. Jenkins argues that this growing Christian faith is often ignored - not because it isn't real or vital, but because it is found primarily in immigrant communities. Old-stock Europeans see immigrants from Asia and Africa and simply assume that Islam is on the rise - when, in fact, many of those immigrants are bringing a Christian faith that is often quite orthodox and vibrant.

Jenkins certainly grants that the rise of Islam is a real challenge for Europe, and he devotes quite a bit of effort at describing a way forward. Too much of his proposed solution, it seems to me, involves hoping that both Islam and Christianity make their peace with Western secularism, embracing a deep divide between the sacred and the secular, the religious and the political. The rise of Islam is exposing the bankruptcy of Western culture's gods of pluralism and multiculturalism. The solution is not for the church to defend those gods. Rather, we have much to learn from global Christianity's embrace of the communal and public character of Christian faith.
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