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on September 22, 2002
Prof. Alister McGrath is a moderately conservative theologian and an ordained minister of the Church of England. He has written a large number of works, some of which are quite technical and others which are more introductory in nature.
This book is part of Blackwell's "Manifesto" series. As Prof. McGrath tells us, the purpose of this series is to encourage "discussion of important issues." The topic is the future of Christianity, and Prof. McGrath takes a wide swath, dealing with Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Catholicism (although he spends a fair amount of time on the current situation of Anglicanism.)
I've long been impressed with Dr. McGrath's ability to churn out books, but I'm starting to wonder whether he is trying to write too many books. This work is interesting and contains many interesting facts and vignettes, but it reads like a number of short articles pasted together. The book jumps from subject to subject, hitting theology, sociology, history and other topics. For example, on pages 135-140, there is a section entitled "The Longing for Spiritual Authenticity," which seems somewhat out of place. Much of this is taken from McGrath's 1999 work, CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY (pages 26-28), also published by Blackwell. The work lacks the focus that one would expect when dealing with this subject.
Like all of Dr. McGrath's works, this is worth reading. However, I think Philip Jenkins' work, THE NEXT CHRISTENDOM, is a more thoughtful reflection on the future of Christianity.
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on August 9, 2002
McGrath's witty style is delightful, although unnecessary to keep one captivated by a very readable analysis of the present megatrends in world Christianity.
While coming to the same general conclusions as Philip Jenkins in "The Next Christendom," McGrath adds perspective regarding theological training that, if not heard, will doom many of the oldline theological institutions.
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on July 2, 2013
Read this book for a course I am taking. The writer did a good job explaining several aspects impacting the future of Christianity. There were many insights I had not considered before, including the impact of European and American culture upon the church.

The American church has a more market mentality, to Erich the church readily and easily adapts to change in culture. New churches spring up all the time, old churches who have lost their cultural relevance die. In Europe, churches are more entrenched with government or other structures, impeding their ability to change with culture. The system was doomed to kill Christianity in Europe, while the American system provided for continuous renewal. For this reason the author is optimistic about the future of Christianity in America. As new independent churches spring up in Europe, new life is arriving there too.

The writer got off onto a soap box a few times, such as in the last chapter discussing practical theology vs theology being taught in many schools which has little practical application. Sometimes I felt the history of Christianity was a bit long winded too. Some of the historic perspective is his own unique view-interesting to read, none-the-less.

At times, I did not know how to interpret some of the history he presented. He seemed biased on a few aspects-potentially anti-Pentecostal at times, yet pro at other times. Maybe I was trying to read too much into it, but I had problems interpreting what he was trying to 'really' say about several subjects. It felt like he had an opinion about certain aspects of history - which he was dancing around without ever fully coming out and expressing.

All in all, I am glad I read the book. It was a worthy read, and the author has much to say what is worth reading and absorbing.
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on June 25, 2009
In this book, the British professor McGrath, discuses what he sees as the future trends in Christianity culminating in an interesting chapter on the growing irrelevance of academic theology. Basically, Christianity is incredibly successful in the Third World while it will continue to stagnate in the West. The Evangelical and Pentecostal movements will factor in significantly in the next century, displacing the older mainline Protestant denominations. He also predicts that Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy will continue to be strong forces in global Christianity. He noted an interesting phenomenon in that some Evangelicals are converting to Orthodoxy. He thinks this is the case because Evangelicalism is a recent addition in the Christian family and that some evangelicals want to have a stronger sense of attachment to historical Christianity and thus become Orthodox.

Most of the book was merely interesting, not rising to a very insightful discussion since McGrath only had 155 pages to write in this Blackwell Manifesto. If it was longer, I probably wouldn't finish the book. This was the first McGrath book that I actually finished since he does have a tendency to get a little dry at times. The main weakness of this book is that McGrath tends to tell me things that I already know. This either means that McGrath ought to be more original or that his target audience isn't as well read as I am which is entirely possible.

The last part of the book that discussed the irrelevance of academic theology in the life of the Christian laity was particularly fascinating. McGrath outlined the biases of academia and how the assumptions of the laity and academia are in many instances diametrically opposed. For example, in academia, the gospels are thought to tell us about the specific gospel writers and their particular communities of faith while for the common Christian, the gospels tell us about Jesus. Basically, the academic theologians and those in biblical studies largely have secular assumptions that are not accepted by most Christians outside of the academy. McGrath outlines well how the pressures of the academy don't necessarily coincide with the interests of truth, academic excellence and faith. In fact, according to McGrath, theology is trapped in a cerebral box that makes Christianity into a set of intellectual ideas and concepts rather than a holistic way of life. The picture that McGrath paints about academic theology is quite grim but to his credit he does outline a brief idea about how to fix this problem.

McGrath speaks of the need for "organic theologians" or people that tackle theology in the context of their faith communities and to evangelize to people outside the Christian faith. These would be people who use their intellect to engage with the Church and everyone else rather than theologians who only write for other academicians in a language that only they can understand. He cites C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers as examples of people who effectively did this. None of these were professional theologians but they all helped communicate theology to Christians.

Overall, this book is merely okay. It isn't by any means really bad but it isn't really good either.
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on December 30, 2014
I like someone who thinks outside the box.
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on February 9, 2016
i like it
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