Christians, Christians Everywhere

Recently a commenter named B.A. Worldchanger chimed in to the discussion in the Why I Deny the Virgin Birth post. His argument for Christianity starts like so:

… Christ says that “This gospel will be preached as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” That day is approaching. Most people aren’t fully aware that Christianity, up until the late 1800′s, was centralize in Europe. Now, not a single continent on earth can lay claim to that title, as the gospel has literally spread to all nations in some form or another. Even closed nations.

I constantly hear variations on this theme, usually from evangelicals. They’re always proud of the inroads that Christianity has made amongst the Muslims in the middle east or against the government in China. I’m never sure why it’s supposed to be impressive. I suppose because the writer rarely has any grasp of history.

For example, why is it impressive that Christianity is now being preached in the middle east? Christianity was BORN in the middle east. There are groups of Palestinian Christians that believe themselves descended from the first generation of Christians. Christianity has always been preached in the middle east.

China? India? Persian Christians followed the silk road to the eastern edge of China. In The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — and How It Died, Philip Jenkins reproduces some back-of-the-envelope calculations suggesting that one third of all Christians were living in Asia around 1,000 CE.

Africa? There’s a reason that so many of our ancient manuscripts are found in Coptic. The Egyptian church claims to have been founded by the evangelist Marc. Christianity spread through Africa, settling in places like Aksum (Axum) in modern Ethiopia.

It really is a history for Christians to be proud of. The early church, despite (or perhaps because of) all its factions, was a dynamic and vibrant faith. Of course, that means facing the fact that it was outdone by Islam in most of its territory, leaving only the rump in Europe.

Christian missions reached from Ireland to China, but the heartland was in Asia and northern Africa. Christianity was not “centralized” in Europe, it survived in Europe. It most other places it was diminished by the coming of Islam, although even then it took many centuries for it to fade. It still survives in pockets today, like the Coptic Churches or the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

So what folks like B.A. Worldchanger are actually saying is not that Christianity is approaching its zenith. Christianity is finally regaining the geographic spread that it had in the seventh and eighth centuries. If you’re looking for a time in which Christianity is preached all over Africa and Eurasia, you’re more than 1000 years too late.

Bob Cargill on the Holy Grail
Atheists in the Evangelical Mind
Being Agent Scully
So Long, And Thanks For All The Memories (From Dan)
  • Buckley

    That’s a great distinction. While the “new world” existed it was unknown to the early Christians and therefore could claim at that early stage to have spread all over the world. Apologetics will obviously remind everyone that the early Christians were wrong because they did not know about the “new world” and only god knew. There is little point in arguing with the Apologetics.

    • evodevo

      Especially the ones who are grammatically challenged.

  • Ben Schuldt

    So…Christianity had it all in the bag in the 7th and 8th century, then Islam? Is this a matter of Jesus and Satan going into 13 centuries of overtime…or what?

  • evodevo

    I especially like Philip Jenkins’ “Jesus Wars” – gives you a good insight into the internecine warfare between innumerable Xtian factions from ~100AD on. Good reading!

  • Artor

    Wow, Xians are ignorant of history? Who knew?

  • watcher_b

    What I think he is saying is not that “Christianity” in general is spreading to all the world, but his personal version of Christianity is spreading to all the world. And his personal version is the right version because… well… because he believes it is!

  • GubbaBumpkin

    The late 1800s? The Spanish/Portuguese takeover of South America with enforced papism was complete well before then.

  • KBM

    What I find interesting is the mindset of christians in the West. They make many assumptions about how christianity is understood in much of the world. My wife is Taiwanese and raised Buddhist. She had not idea who Jesus was or any inkling of the Bible. She was not bombarded with christian messages and themes her whole life as people are in America. Noah, Moses, Elijah, David, Solomon, and Jesus were as foreign to her as the Man on the Moon. It is hard for many to conceive that that is the case in much of China and Asia in general. Needless to say, it is difficult for them to understand Shakespeare because of his ubiquitous use of biblical references :)

    But no..there is not much “penetrating” of the gospel that I am aware of in China, no matter what the mission organizations say.

    • WillBell

      TBF Taiwan is not China no matter how much they wish they were.

      • KBM

        No matter how much they..the Chinese or the Taiwanese …wish they were Chinese or Taiwanese? Most Taiwanese do not want to be Chinese and it is a major point in every Presidential campaign. China of course still considers Taiwan part of China. Interestingly enough, Taiwan whose first President Chaing Kai-Shek was fervent Protestant has a smaller percentage of Christians then does China.

        • WillBell

          If I remember correctly Taiwan is still the “Republic of China” and still claims to be the legitimate government of all of China. Admittedly bad joke, ignorant of the political climate in Taiwan but not necessarily wrong, I’ll think twice before commenting at 1AM in the future. ;)

          • KBM

            Ha…now it is 1 AM here! I best be careful. No one in Taiwan seriously thinks Taiwan is the legitimate government, well apart form the wacko’s. As an aside, I am always a little ticked when during the olympics, the few Taiwanese olympians have to compete under the Taipei Chinese Flag and not the Taiwan flag. This is because China brings so much pressure on the Olympic committee to not recognize Taiwan. To this day, even America, does not maintain and official Embassy in Taiwan, so the US capitulates on that issue as well.

  • lawrence090469

    A classic case of standards/technology lock in. The serial port connector that shipped on every PC made from the ’80s until the ascendance of USB, that particular widget, one among many designs available, was on sale the week IBM built their first batch of PCs. Reminds me of how this cult from Judea happened to catch the eye of a man who was shopping for a new State Religion for the late Roman Empire.

  • Ben

    They’re ignoring also the massive losses of belief in Christianity in Europe.

  • Jesse Cooper

    Holy shit, Vorjack posted about my argument! Never expected to see that on here.

  • Jesse Cooper

    Also, thanks for responding way better than I’m equipped to.


    One could make pretty much the same claim for Elvis. I don’t worship him either.

  • Paul Timothy

    What’s the harm of little blaspheming idi*ts?