More than 1/3 of Protestants and Evangelicals live in Sub-Saharan Africa (Pew study)

The latest Pew study on Global Christianity.

The number of Christians around the world has more than tripled in the last 100 years, from about 600 million in 1910 to more than 2 billion in 2010. But the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).

This apparent stability, however, masks a momentous shift. Although Europe and the Americas still are home to a majority of the world’s Christians (63%), that share is much lower than it was in 1910 (93%). And the proportion of Europeans and Americans who are Christian has dropped from 95% in 1910 to 76% in 2010 in Europe as a whole, and from 96% to 86% in the Americas as a whole. At the same time, Christianity has grown enormously in subSaharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, where there were relatively few Christians at the beginning of the 20th century.

The percentage of African Christians is even more striking when we limit it to Protestants (37%) and Evangelicals (38%). Africans also make up 44% of the world’s Pentecostals (p. 68).

Sub-Saharan Africa has both the greatest concentration of evangelical Christians (13% of sub-Saharan Africa is evangelical) and the largest share of the world’s evangelicals (38%) (p. 68). [About one-in-three evangelicals live in the Americas (33%) and roughly one-in-five reside in the Asia-Pacific region (21%).]

The majority of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa are Protestant (57%), as broadly defined in this report; this includes members of African Independent Churches and Anglicans.12 About one-in-three Christians in the region (34%) are Catholic. Orthodox Christians account for about 8% of the region’s Christians, and other Christians make up the remaining 1% (p.54)
  • Nigeria is the 2nd largest Protestant nation (after USA). 3. China, 4. Brazil 5. South Africa 6. UK  7. DR Congo 8. Germany9. Kenya, 10. India (p. 27)
  • Kenya is the 9th “largest” Protestant nation in the world; 60% of the population is Protestant; Kenyans make up 3% of global Protestants. (Including Catholics, 85% of Kenyans claim to be Christians.)
  • 73% of South Africans are Protestant.

Nigeria’s large Christian community is diverse. It includes nearly 60 million Protestants (broadly defined),
about 20 million Catholics and more than 750,000 other Christians. All of Christianity’s major groups have
grown in Nigeria since the 1970s, but the growth of pentecostal churches has been especially dramatic in
recent decades.

Orthodox Christians make up 12% of the global population. Ethiopia is the second largest Orthodox country in the world (after Russia ahead of Ukraine) with 36 million (43.5% of their population; 14% of all Orthodox.) (Spotlight on Ethiopia p. 56).

Other Christians includes groups that “self-identify as Christians” (pp. 35, 40), including American exports like Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and Christian Science, but they make up only about 1% of the global total. Zambia leads African countries (#4 globally) with just over a million “other Christians”, 8.5% of its population, followed by Nigeria (#6) with 0.5 of its population, and Kenya (1.5 % of its population) at #9, just ahead of Germany (p. 35).

The United States is the world’s third most populous country, but it has by far the largest Christian population. With nearly a quarter of a billion Christians, the U.S. dwarfs even Brazil, which has the world’s second-largest Christian community (more than 175 million). About 80% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian, and U.S. Christians represent 11% of the world’s Christians (p. 46).

CHINA: Read the section on Living as Majorities and Minorities (p. 19) There’s a considerable treatment of China (see esp. spotlight on China page 56, and Appendix C, pp. 97-110 ):
  • China has the world’s largest Christian minority population, although Christians make up only about 5% of China’s total population.
  • China probably has more Christians than any European nation except Russia.
  • India is #10 in terms of number of Protestants, but only 1.5% of the Indian population is Protestant.

The Middle East-North Africa region is home to less than 1% of the world’s Christians.13 Only
about 4% of the region’s residents are Christian. Although Christianity began in this region,
it now has the lowest overall number of Christians and the smallest share of its population
that is Christian (p. 63).

Eddie Arthur, head of Wycliffe UK (beat me to the draw with his post as I was eating dinner with my family ;-), adds the following comment:

…although the Church is growing rapidly, it is only just keeping pace with the growth in the world population. There is no place for either complacency or triumphalism in this data.

One issue which I have not seen in the report is the issue of influence. Though the majority of Christians are found in the two thirds world, most power and influence still resides in the Western Church. Our habits and attitudes have yet to catch up to the statistics. If you would like some further thought on these questions, I heartily recommend the talks by Martin Lee and Peter Oyugi at the recent Global Connections’ Conference, you can also take a look at an essay which I wrote on the subject a few years ago.

I’m curious how the stats would have looked if they had split North and South America.

Read the full Pew report for more details on these subjects:

Christian Traditions:

Related Content from The Pew Forum

Personal transitions

I’m (still!) a struggling dissertation writer, but a few other things have happened over the past year or so:

  1. I’ve  joined Africa International University (AIU)‘s  Institute for the Study of African Realities (ISAR) as a research fellow.
  2. My wife Christi become a certified life coach (Awaken Coaching).
  3. We’ve become an official missionaries with Pioneers.
  4. We spent three and half months visiting friends and churches in the US and Canada (see #3)–26 states, 2 provinces, and over 50 different beds. This was the longest I’d been in North America in nine years, and it was great to reconnect with so many old friends and make new ones.
  5. A year ago, two of our kids were diagnosed with pretty serious heart murmurs attributed to “pulmonary hypertension”–due to allergies, sinus infections, etc. Both were checked again while we were in North America this summer were given a clean bill of health.  Kiara’s murmur is mostly gone, and while Liam still has a strong murmur, one a leading pediatric cardiologists in Toronto checked everything out, and his heart looks great.  Thank God!
  6. Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School (NEGST) received its university charter and is now considered the core constituent school of Africa International University (AIU).
  7. Four of my close friends received their doctorates.
  8. ALARM published an ethnicity manual we worked on together.
  9. My father suddenly retired from from being a professor at African Bible College Malawi due to a heart condition that requires close monitoring. (I packed up 20 years of their life in one week.) They relocated to Greensboro, N.C.
  10. Our two youngest got their Canadian citizenship.
  11. My mother became an American citizen at this ceremony. We got to be there, where my two little Canadians posed with members of the revolutionary militia (see below).
  12. I turned 40 and struggled emotionally through a year of  questions guys often have at mid-life.
  13. I lost a very close friend to cancer.
  14. I had some pretty significant spiritual turning points–not that anyone other than my wife would notice.
  15. My eleven-year-old daughter would like me to add that her school, Pistis, changed their curriculum, is putting on a new roof so they can have an out-door eating area, and their website is under construction.
  16. much more
All of these have long back stories, most of which we have alluded to in our newsletters. If you’d like to receive the fabulous newsletter that my wife writes, click here to send me an email.

Education at its best: collaborative, fun self-teaching and the grandmother effect (TED)

Christi and I enjoyed this TED talk last night on how kids can teach themselves. It has a lot of implications for how we view education even with adults. Some take-aways for me include seeing that good education involves:

  • a few key resources
  • strategic set-up (design)
  • fun
  • curiosity
  • collaboration
  • encouragement and affirmation (the “grandmother effect”)

BONUS: Following are a few tips from my TED watching practices for your own convenience and time saving:

  • Subscribe to the TED blog in Google Reader, so you can hear about all the new talks.
  • Download interesting talks with the Firefox add-in DownThemAll. (Click download then right click on the preferred format and save into a TED file using DownThemAll. I add a subject title for easy recall.)
  • Wait for a night when we’re too tired to work, not quite ready to sleep, but don’t have enough time for a full movie. (Thankfully, we don’t own a TV.)
  • Watch a few TED talks using VLC media player. (My favorite feature is being able to watch them at 1.25 or even 1.5 speed–for slow talkers.)

While you are at it check out this graphic on social media’s impact on education (HT: Steve Lutz):
Is Social Media Ruining Students?

potential social fallout of changing your thinking

We live in times of social upheaval (how’s that for an opening line ;-)—haven’t we always? As I’ve grown over the years, I’ve found students like me tend to wrestle with some fundamental questions, and sometimes shifts in our thinking have significant social implications.   As we learn, we become more self-consciously aware of our own identity within our social networks and institutions. I thought I’d throw out a few of the questions I have discussed with friends, particularly related to church denominations or theological perspectives we’ve grown up with and either left or stayed in as our own thinking has evolved.

  1. What are the similarities and differences between my changing values and those of my communities?
    • Which values are core and which are more peripheral?
    • How much do I value the similarities over the differences? (or visa-versa)
  2. How likely are the areas of difference to change in the direction I would like them to?
    • Is there anything I can do to help reform or change my social group in a more positive (acceptable to me) direction? How?
    • Are there others within my social group that think the same way I do?
      If so how many? Who? (Are any of these leaders or power brokers?)
    • What are the major barriers to change within my social group?
    • Are there other factors that might lead to change?
  3. If changes are not likely (at least not any time soon):
    • Is there room within my community for people that think in significantly different ways?
    • If not, will I be able to “put up and shut up”—toe the party line?
    • Do other social institutions more in line with my views exist?
    • What is the likelihood of starting a new movement (however small)?
    • What are the relational (or economic) implications of leaving my current social circles?
    • Are there other (social) factors that are more important than sharing certain worldview ideals?

“Should I stay or should I go?” If I start shifting away, what kind of ties do I want to maintain with my old community? Are these not the types of questions new believers and converts have had to ask throughout the ages?

These are still raw reflections in light of some of the social identity reading I’ve been doing (related to developments in the early church)—thinking of past trajectories in terms of identity questions. I’m curious how much this line of questioning resonates with some of your experiences. What other big questions have I forgotten? Does the transition between different religious communities (or the development of new groups, sects, denominations) tend to happen in a slow drift or result from a more cataclysmic events? What are  other key factors?

An ode to the vuvuzela

In honor of tonight’s big game and the ending of the world cup, I paste here a few paragraphs from Africa is a Country’s Vuvuzelas for everyone. It is a translation by Tom Devriendt of an article by Laurent Dubois (author of the new book, “Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France,” and editor of the Soccer Politics blog) and cultural theorist Achille Mbembe (see also his earlier essay). It was originally published in French at Mediapart.

….As always when dealing with ‘things African’, people were made to believe that this ‘trumpet of the poor’ would be an example of primitive absurdity and mass hysteria. It doesn’t emit sounds let alone melodies, but a mechanical and infernal noise, a wild cacophony as monotonous as devoid of any content and meaning. The predominance of the vuvuzela would have contributed to the disappearance of other animated traditions of the football games. Folk songs, for example, would have been replaced by pure noise.

It was time to ban it – as one does with the burqa or the minarets in many European countries – some have gone so far as to demand its abolition.

The most important fact of this tournament is nevertheless clear. Against the predictions of many prophets of doom, South Africa has organized one of the most successful world cups in the history of this competition…Of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who have flocked into the country, none, at least so far, has died at the hands of criminals. On the contrary, to varying degrees, all have experienced a hospitality that many say they haven’t received in Korea nor in Japan (2002), and even less in France (1998) and Germany (2006).

They thus had to be found elsewhere, those signs of chaos and ‘African violence’ heralded by the false diviners. And so the vuvuzela has become the metaphor of disorder and mass trance which the most stubborn think are the essential characteristics of the continent.


….In South Africa, and perhaps elsewhere too, a game of football first of all is a liturgical event…[description follows]

…Football is neither an ecstatic cult nor a possession cult. It is an act of communion that offers its members the opportunity to share, with countless pilgrims from around the world, the moments of a unique intensity.

In South Africa, the sound of the vuvuzela offers these pilgrims who share neither language nor songs the possibility to participate in the production of a sonic geography of the stadium. Newcomers in South Africa for the World Cup understood it quickly. They quickly embraced it…

Keep reading: Vuvuzelas for everyone.

Only two approaches to the biblical text are coherent (Schenck)

Ken Schenck has started writing a paper in which he states that

…in the end, only two approaches to the biblical text are coherent: 1) a historical-contextual approach and 2) reader-centered approaches that locate meaning (or “experience” of the text) in relation to specific readers and communities of readers. The spectrum of hermeneutical models currently in play are all varied combinations of these two broad categories, however they might self-describe.

I’m still chewing on this, but my first reaction is that it resonates with what I’ve been discerning recently as far as categorizing hermeneutical approaches. However, I’m not sure that I would try to argue that any reader-centered approach can claim to be fully “coherent,” unless you want to say that it is trying to making some kind of attempt at internal coherence (perceived coherence?).   Not that anyone will necessarily agree on the results of the historical-contextual approach, but we can probably admit that anything we do after that–any other approach or tradition that we subscribe to–is in reality some form of a “reader-centered” approach.   Any way you look at it, the big questions still remain:

….Are some reader vantage points more appropriate than others? Is there a specifically Christian vantage point from which to read Scripture as a whole? How proximate are the “original” meanings of individual biblical texts to the most appropriate holistic vantage points? To what extent does this paradigm cohere with evangelical fundamentals?…

Read more of Ken Schenck’s Bridging Lessings Ditch.

Bottom line: if you want your theological reading to “represents the current pinnacle of progress,” you’d better subscribe to my approach ;-).

Onesimus Online: a blog to stir your thinking (Bill Black)

UPDATE: Onesimus Online no longer exists.

Ask any of Bill Black’s students here about him, and they will probably say: “he provokes; he really challenges us to think.”   Thankfully, for the rest of us, Bill blogs at Onesimus Online: history, theology, culture, the church, and other dangerous stuff. If you are at all interested in theology, theological education in Africa, global Christianity, missions, evangelicalism, American cultural Christianity, and other related topics, you might enjoy his blog–and having your thinking provoked and deepened. I know Bill appreciates the broader dialog.  Bill and his wife are both pastors, graduates of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, PhDs from Cambridge, and teachers here at NEGST.  Previously, they taught in Ethiopia. Plus, they are a lot of fun to talk to;  I’ve learned a lot from them.

Here are a few “sound bytes” from some of Bill’s posts to whet your appetite:

The passing of evangelicalism

…We Western Evangelicals thought we were the center of the Christian universe, only to discover that the glory seems to have departed and moved south to Africa, Latin America and Asia. Those tongues-speaking, hallelujah-shouting, other-side-of-the-tracks-dwelling so-called Pentecostals, even more derisively labeled as ‘holy rollers’ by the upstanding Christians in my home church who, of course, knew better, have become the most explosive force in the global expansion of Christianity ever. There is not a single individual person in my systematic theology class who would not identify themselves as either Pentecostal or Charismatic. On the ‘mission field’ at least, the old paradigms of missionary Christianity are in the process of being leap-frogged entirely. ..
…Anyway, the point of all of this is that things have changed. Radically. Decisively. The old verities and polarities don’t work anymore (if they ever did). The systems and structures which we created to manage the world as we knew it are being pressed into service beyond their capacity to cope. This is not a call to somehow change Evangelicalism. It’s actually too late for that. Its day has passed and cannot be recovered. Instead, …

A Plea for Civility, Sanity and Integrity in Theological/Political Debate (3 personal examples)

Theology is not safe:

…there is another reason why I am undertaking this blog. Theology is a dangerous thing. Theology that attempts to reduce God to what I can understand about God is an attempt to tame God. But the God revealed in the Christian Scriptures is untamable. Our Western theological traditions, both Catholic and Protestant, are attempts to mount God onto a specimen board, attempts to dissect and label God’s constituent parts, attempts to deduce divine physiology from divine structure. But efforts to catalogue the parts fails to apprehend the whole. Our orthodoxies miss the point…

…This blog then is becoming increasingly like my own incident at the fords of the Jabbok, my own wrestling with the one who refuses to be named and categorized…

The Western Captivity of African Christianity

…Not only are we forcing Western Evangelical categories on African students as the measure of all that’s true in the world, but we have simply assumed that our model of theological education itself is the baseline for all subsequent thinking on the matter…

…We theological educators in Africa are doing a bang-up job of reproducing North American Evangelicals for Africa, replete with our ways of thinking about and practicing Christianity. But in doing so, I’m not at all certain that we are either being true to New Testament Christianity or engaging effectively with the people of this continent as they really are…

Brain tumors, theological education and the church

The human brain is an unimaginably complex piece of work…Though my extended parable may be like the tumor it describes – a malignant profusion of words that obliterates the intended purpose – the purpose itself remains. The concern of this post is with theological education as it is actually practiced, especially at the higher levels, and its relationship with the church it’s intended to serve. My concerns come from my own experience as one who has benefitted from theological education and who has gone on to serve several churches in a professional ministerial capacity, and from my observations of theological education in actual practice…

…I think there are likely a number of reasons contributing to this fundamental dysfunction in our churches. First,…

….The breathtaking irony of all this is, having created such an institutionalized system for training our leaders (the theological education industry), a system that has succeeded in taking us further and further afield from that which Christ is calling us to be, we heedlessly presume our institutional model to be the most effective way to train Nigerians or Indians or Chinese or Ethiopians for the ministry…

Africa, Spiral Logic, Systematic Theology, and the Perils of Theological Education

The Indefensible Evangelical Habit of Shooting Our Wounded

Last week there was a gun battle outside our gate. Four gangsters had hijacked cars and shot drivers and the authorities finally caught up with them just over the fence from my house. In the ensuing firefight, two of the carjackers were killed outright, one escaped over the fence (and through my garden!), and the fourth lay wounded on the road…

Believers Baptism vs. Infant Baptism, Must it Matter?

Evangelicalism Inc.

…Not only are the Western Prosperity gods raking it in, but developing-world prosperity-god-wannabees are trying desperately to get in on the cash…Dare I even mention the Evangelical publishing industry, which seems to have taken on the role of God in conservative academic and popular religion circles, raising up this one and ignoring that one, and on the grounds of whether or not it is ‘marketable’. I can’t imagine Jeremiah being able to secure a publishing contract from this crowd…

…Then there are the incredibly large and wealthy Christian aid organizations poised globally to respond immediately to the latest front page disaster and who must raise gazillions of dollars not only to feed the starving, but to buy the planes and Toyota land cruisers and computers and iPhones and Blackberries and pay the travel fees for all the conferences and meetings and consultations that must happen in the background for the hungry to be fed…

Does this bother anybody else?

…I do not deny the good intentions of most (I hope) of my fellow Christians involved in these so-called ‘ministries’. But I can’t help but thinking that we Evangelicals have become like addicts hooked on methamphetamine. We’ve got to have more, more, more. We’ve got to be successful, or at least appear successful, because if we are or appear so, more people will be drawn to our ‘ministry’ which will make us all the more successful. But like the meth addict, this stuff is destroying us…We dare not take a genuinely prophetic stance on anything, because if we do, someone will be offended and we will lose support. We’ve become like Ahab’s court prophets, cunningly discerning which way the wind is blowing before committing ourselves on any issue, and viciously smacking down anyone who does not toe the party line.

We Evangelicals are seriously compromised. And seriously compromised people are like salt that’s lost its savor…

And much, much MORE.

My Book

my bizarre blog stats; peeling back the curtain for friends

You, my friends (especially my wife and my supervisor) know that I’m not blogging these days; I try to focus on my dissertation– with exception of a helpful link or quote here and a brief reflection there. Since I’m extremely small fry in the blogging world, I don’t get too excited about my stats. I do, however, check occasionally to amuse myself and to see what kinds of things people are reading and linking to. Today, I was struck by the stats for the last three days.

  • Monday: 170
  • Tuesday: 170
  • Wednesday: 170 (exactly; no fudging)
  • Thursday/Today: will surely break the chain (70 more to go as I as I write).
  • Last Thursday: 169
  • Last Friday: 171

In case you are curious, the most popular post almost every single day is a cartoon – “What financial crisis?” rural Africans. (Posted 27 October 2008).

In case you don’t know, I’m also an ugali expert.  Anywhere from 5-10 people every single day find me in their quest for ugali. Along the same lines, I’m apparently a source of information for Buckingham Palace – Buckingham Palace’s new Dinka guard (photo), malaria’s 3 stages, and  Dubai airport–see here and here.

Oh yeah, last month I was apparently one of the 20 hottest blogs in east africa. Timing is everything. According to Afrigator,  I was the #12 most popular blog in Kenya the day she posted–that made me #18 in East Africa. Today, I’m #29 (#351 in Africa).

In case you are curious, all this makes me #143 in the biblioblogging world for September.  (My only top 50 appearance was in February (#49), thanks mostly to my crisis cartoon.) Hope that provides a good boost to everyone’s self-esteem ;-).

Perspective on Patriarchy

A few weeks ago, I had noticed (filed but not read) the August 23, 2009, issue of The New York Times Magazine: A Women’s Crusade (Kristof), but today, this reflection on the article got my attention.

…I was struck by how these articles were able to document in detail the detrimental effects of patriarchy—not just the psychological but also the physical, economic, and social. Too often in current political and religious debates, the role of women is treated as a matter of taste, a lifestyle choice.  This issue underscores the old maxim that the personal is the political.  Patriarchy starves people.  Aborts people.  Batters and rapes people.  And 100 million human beings are missing because of it.

Julia O’Brien, Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary: 100 million missing women.

Bibliobloggers and NT social identity formation-a comparative study?

Social identity formation and boundary identification can be relatively complex affairs. Here in Kenya issues of ethnic identity were the hot topic during the recent census. Should people have to list their ethnic group? For what purposes? Do kids take the ethnic identity of their father or mother? Should everyone here just call themselves Kenyans instead of listing their specific ethnic group?

On a much lighter note, I’ve been enjoying the recent discussion about the essential nature and fuzzy boundary markers of the biblioblogging group.  When it comes to group identity, dialog between necessary essence and fuzzy boundary markers can be fascinating. Two recent posts got me thinking about biblioblogging in terms of social identity. Who’s “in” and who’s “out”! What makes “us” us and “them” them.

It’s not a new discussion; way back in ancient 2005, Mark Goodacre provided this often quoted gem:

…bibliobloggers are largely rebels who do not conform to the norms of the “biblical studies community”. The conversations are not limited to those with tenured academic appointments; the bulk of biblioblogdom is populated by independent scholars and graduate students and one of the joys of the scene is its fundamental democratic impulse. In this respect, it imitates the better e-lists, which have the same democratic ideal in which it is the academic quality of the post that is the guide. So I’d say that far from perpetuating the framework and power structures in the “real” biblical studies community, we are counter-cultural, risky and rebellious. (Cf. among many other posts, Identity, Schmidentity @ Deinde; Death of the Biblioblog?; Stop obsessing about biblioblogging; and a great round-up on Hypotyposeis, Sans-biblioblogue).

As much as I would love to, I can’t prioritize writing a detailed analysis of the current social identity/boundary formation process currently taking place for biblioblogs from a Social Identity Theory perspective. (I’m in purgatory). My goal here is to put the bug in someone else’s mind; it would make a fascinating read. Someone with a bit of wit could have a field day.

Complex social identity and boundary formation happens all the time, but often we aren’t consciously aware of them until some “crisis” brings it to our attention–e.g. a census, a political campaign, or someone asking, “how come there aren’t that many women listed in the biblioblogs top 50. (See Tim Ricchuiti’s comprehensive and updated list of the discussion of women’s marginalization in the biblioblogging world.). I’m not going to enter that discussion (I’m in purgatory, remember? No thoughtful posts for now; just parasitic blogging.) For what it’s worth (cue self-aggrandizing alert), my contribution to “the system” was to split the small-child-raising era with my wife. I went first and was a full-time, stay-at-home dad for four years. Three of those years were in chauvanistic France where the moment I told someone what I was doing, their mouths dropped open in shock–end of conversation. Getting to where I could actually enjoy that exchange made a real man out of me;-).

A couple of other thoughts:

  • Consider that the majority of posts from the grand pooba of biblioblogging –the quintessential #1 (now chair of SBL biblbiobloggers)–are about human depravity and cats.
  • I consider myself a marginal biblioblogger at best. I do follow and participate in the community conversations (social component), and I have written academic biblical studies posts in the past — and planned future (the essentialist component), but…
  • We need to articulate our “myth of origin” … “In the beginning, there was Goodacre, West, Davila, and … (I bet Goodacre has a post about that somewhere.) UPDATE: See McGrath’s (new) ancient GilgaWest Epic. Now all we need is a couple of other versions and a few redactors.
  • We could also start reshaping the collective memory–2008: The Wrong Year; 2009: The population explosion; ( and the beginning of the monthly census ritual)…

As for social identity in the New Testament, a great place to start our comparative study is with Brian Tucker’s identity formation blog. (He’s been a bit pre-occupied with Greek lately, but if you look at some of his older posts, he’ll set you straight.) For those of you who will be at SBL this year, my supervisor James C. “Jim” Miller will be giving two related presentations on Social Identity and Paul:

See also Miller’s Ethnicity and the Hebrew Bible: Problems and Prospectus CBR 6.2 2008 [Abstract]. An article on ethnicity in the NT is forthcoming.

I’ve added short starter bibliographies for Social identity and Social Identity in the Bible to my list of bibliographies (top tab)–see also related bibliographies for Diaspora and Early Christianity and Judaism. (Which reminds me, I really need to update my Luke-Acts references.)

Any takers?

Click “read more” for some bibliographies (100+ entries for social identity in the Bible). Jenkins isn’t a bad place to start. The rest of them are listed here just to give you an idea of the kinds of things people are doing with social identity.

Social Identity:

This is a short “starter” list of some social identity works I have used – by date. (See also ethnicity.)

  1. Jenkins, Richard. Social Identity. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2004.
  2. Capozza, Dora and Rupert Brown eds. Social Identity Processes: Trends in Theory and Research. London: Sage, 2000.
  3. Turner, John C. “Some Current Issues in Research on Social Identity and Self-categorization Theories.” Pages 6-34 in Social Identity: Context, Commitment, Content. Edited by Naomi Ellemers, Russell Spears and Bertjan Doosje. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.
  4. Ellemers, Naomi, Russell Spears, and Bertjan Doosje, eds. Social Identity: Context, Commitment, Content. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.
  5. Romanucci-Ross, Lola and Continue reading

The origins of Alpha and Omega

“You are Alpha and Omega” might be the Christian anthem here in Kenya. In the most recent article from the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, David Lincicum speculates on the origin of this title for Jesus:

…John, during the period of long gestation that must have preceded such a learned work as his Apocalypse, reflected on the meaning and deeper significance of various divine names. Steeped in the already considerable Christian tradition of identifying Yahweh’s predicates and actions with those of Jesus, often by means of the Greek translation of Yahweh as ‘Lord’ (kurios), John wondered what it might mean to identify Jesus by means of that alternative rendering of the tetragrammaton into Greek, IAW. He held IAW in his mind while reading or hearing Isaiah 40–48 and the temporal merisms there applied to Yahweh, ‘the first and the last’ and ‘the beginning and the end’. Knowing by Christian conviction that IAW ultimately was to be referred to Jesus, he was struck by the alphabetical merism, that is, the alpha and omega, included in the divine title, and with how well this might express and stand in continuity with the other two merisms derived from Isaiah. This left the initial iota unaccounted for; might this have been a divinely ordained reference to the initial letter of Jesus’ name? Thus: Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. Especially in tandem with the two other merisms gleaned from Isaiah, John now had a rich triad of compact statements expressing the ultimate divine identification and sovereignty of the risen Lord Jesus, and employed them accordingly in the writing of his Apocalypse…

The Origin of ‘Alpha and Omega’ (Revelation 1.8; 21.6; 22.13): A Suggestion (6 pages pdf.)

neurononsense and neurotheology (Scruton)

Like many others, I’m extremely curious about new developments in neuroscience and their implications for faith. Philosopher Roger Scruton busts a bit on this impulse in More than meets the MRI (Sunday Times.)

…Thanks to these techniques, scientists can link highly specific mental operations — intending to lift your hand, thinking of your mother, hearing music in your head — to precisely located neural activity…Philosophers, psychologists and neurosurgeons have all weighed in to take charge of these incredible discoveries…[saying] There is a “God spot” in the brain that is activated by thoughts of the divine, and which is located in a part of the middle frontal gyrus known to be associated with positive emotions, hence the God idea is an adaptation that has promoted our survival in times of trial…

…I am reminded of the street evangelist who cries “Jesus is the answer”, but who never defines the question. In the same way, we have an accumulation of answers, with no questions asked. Take any aspect of the human condition in which people have invested their hopes and fears — the love of God, of neighbour, of beauty, of virtue — boil it down to a few neurons, and tell the whole story in Darwinese, and you create the impression that some part of the human mystery has been solved. The amazing and puzzling qualities that distinguish us from the rest of nature are merely adaptations, and all are “hard-wired” in the brain.

…the neurononsense that I have summarised tells us nothing about the self, about free will, about God or about beauty. It associates ideas with parts of the brain; but it does not tell us what the ideas mean, or what they refer to. It tells a story about neurons, which cause my arm to rise; but it says nothing about what I do when I raise my arm. And the talk of “adaptations” turns out, on inspection, to be trivial. It tells us that the love of God, of neighbour, of beauty and virtue are not dysfunctional from the point of view of reproduction. Otherwise they would have all died out. Big deal.

The advances in neuroscience have led to a new academic disease, which one might call “neuro-envy”. Old disciplines in the humanities, which relied on critical judgment and cultural immersion, can be given a scientific gloss when rebranded as “neurophilosophy”, “neuroethics”, “neuroaesthetics” and the like. I have come across “neuromusicology”, “neurotheology”, and even “neuroarthistory”, …

Brain imaging won’t help you to analyse Bach’s Art of Fugue or to interpret King Lear any more than it will unravel the concept of legal responsibility or deliver a proof of Goldbach’s conjecture; it won’t help you to understand the concept of God or to evaluate the proofs for His existence, nor will it show you why justice is a virtue and cowardice a vice…

Scruton – More than meets the MRI (5 July 2009)

Technorati Tags:

The nuts and bolts of Bible translation

During a Bible class at the seminary here, one of the professors asked his class how a certain key word was translated in each of their languages. One student replied, “I haven’t decided yet.” Turns out he was the head of the Bible translation team in his area, and they were still debating which word would best convey the concept. That’s about as cutting edge as it gets.

David Ker (of the new high-speed internet connection) has been live blogging this week about some translation checking he is doing.  Here’s Tuesday:

…In conversation yesterday I learned that the reason there are so many truck wrecks on our highway is that certain villages do magic ceremonies to cause tipovers so that the villagers can carry off the cargo. I also learned that tuberculosis has two causes. The first is genetic. You get it from your family. The second is drinking impure homebrew alcohol.

Pamwepo Iye adaimirira acicosa bzakubvala bzace, adatenga nguwo yakupukutira acimanga m’ciuno mwace.

Then he stood-up removing clothes his, he-took sheet cleaning tying on-waist his.

The Nyungwe reviewers had suggested that this be changed to “his outer clothing.” That change made, we still had to discuss what kind of cloth he wrapped around himself. Was it a towel? Or a capulana like the colorful pieces of fabric that women tie over their skirts to keep them clean? Looking at us from the outside you would see three men sitting at a desk intensely concentrating on the Word of God. It is a scene from my missionary fantasies. Little did I know back then that the men sitting at the sacred translation desk were discussing how to make it sound like Jesus wasn’t naked and vigorously debating whether pronouns should be capitalized when they refer to Jesus.

Here’s Wednesday’s tongue twister:

bzinthu bzangu bzentse ni bzanu, ndipombo bzinthu bzanu bzentse ni bzangu, mwa ibzo ndapasidwa mbiri

Everything that is mine is yours, and everything that is yours is mine, in this am I given glory.

Check in again for week 2.

Eddie Arthur did something similar twenty years ago when he wrote about his experiences during their First Five Weeks in a Kouya village. If you want to actually see translation checking happening you can watch a short video of his wife Sue in action in Madagascar. [It’s in French.]

You can read Eddie’s posts on why he thinks Bible Translation is important here, here and here.

Feeling Lucky

We got to take part in the Kenyan census yesterday, which was an hour-long question and answer session about all the basics and luxuries in Kenyan life. I [Christi] felt particularly lucky, being able to answer positively to many of the questions, knowing there are people all around us who can’t. We were at my parent’s house near Daystar, so some of the answers would have been different if we had been at home. Here were some of my favorites:

Q – Is your husband married to one wife, or is he polygamous?
A – Only me!

Q – Where do you get your water?
A – We were all set to complain about how you never know if city water is actually going to come, or whether it will come from the Daystar campus, or what. But then we realized we had the best of the possible answers–it comes through a pipe (as opposed to carrying it in a bucket from who knows how far away).

Q – Where do you go for your “calls”? (as in: when nature calls)
A – We have a flush toilet and a septic system.

Q – Do you have ACCESS to any of the following electronic devices (not do you own–but does your neighbor have one you could use in an emergency). Radio, TV, cell phone, land line, computer, car?
A – Yes to all. To ALL? Yes. (As opposed to the States, where the survey would have asked how many TVs, how many cars, how many iPods, how many laptops, how many desktops, DVD players, TiVo, etc, etc, and forget about borrowing from a neighbor)

Q – How often do you use the internet, and where do you access it?
A – We answered this question for each family member, and it was shocking to note that our 5- and 8-year-olds know how to use the internet and do so on a weekly basis from home. As opposed to our friends also answering the census with us, whose 13- and 14-year-olds have never used the internet.

Q – How many deaths of your children in the past 12 months?
A – None, thank God! (But so many of my friends can’t answer this question the same way).

Q – How many livestock do you own? Cows, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, etc, etc.
A – None. What?? None? Not even a CHICKEN???

Q – I’m going to ask questions about your last-born, NOT that I’m saying that he is your last-born meaning that you will never have any other children. I’m just saying your last-born until this time. Was your last-born born alive, and  is he alive to this day?
A – Yes (and I’m thankful as visions of the time I found him floating in a lake, and the time he drank a whole bottle of children’s Tylenol flashed through my brain.)

Lucky us.

The magnitude of change in the global church (Noll)

In Chapter 2 of The New Shape of World Christianity (IVP). Book excerpts are available on-linePDF 2 The New Shape of World Christianity, Mark Noll writes, “A series of contrasts can underscore the great changes [of global Christianity] of the recent past:

  • This past Sunday it is possible that more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called “Christian Europe.” Yet in 1970 there were no legally functioning churches in all of China; only in 1971 did the communist regime allow for one Protestant and one Roman Catholic Church to hold public worship services, and this was mostly a concession to visiting Europeans and African students from Tanzania and Zambia.
  • This past Sunday more Anglicans attended church in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the United States combined—and the number of Anglicans in church in Nigeria was several times the number in those other African countries.
  • This past Sunday more Presbyterians were at church in Ghana than in Scotland, and more were in congregations of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa than in the United States.
  • This past Sunday there were more members of Brazil’s Pentecostal Assemblies of God at church than the combined total in the two largest U.S. Pentecostal denominations, the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ in the United States.
  • This past Sunday more people attended the Yoido Full Gospel Church pastored by Yongi Cho in Seoul, Korea, than attended all the churches in significant American denominations like the Christian Reformed Church, the Evangelical Covenant Church or the Presbyterian Church in America. Six to eight times as many people attended this one church as the total that worshiped in Canada’s ten largest churches combined. This past Sunday Roman Catholics in • the United States worshiped in more languages than at any previous time in American history.
  • This past Sunday the churches with the largest attendance in England and France had mostly black congregations. About half of the churchgoers in London were African or African-Caribbean. Today, the largest Christian congregation in Europe is in Kiev, and it is pastored by a Nigerian of Pentecostal background.
  • This past Sunday there were more Roman Catholics at worship in the Philippines than in any single country of Europe, including historically Catholic Italy, Spain or Poland.
  • This past week in Great Britain, at least fifteen thousand Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing the locals. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.
  • And for several years the world’s largest chapter of the Jesuit order has been found in India, not in the United States, as it had been for much of the late twentieth century. (20-21)

In a word, the Christian church has experienced a larger geographical redistribution in the last fifty years than in any comparable period
in its history, with the exception of the very earliest years of church history. Some of this change comes from the general growth of world
population, but much also arises from remarkable rates of evangelization in parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the islands of the South
Pacific—but also from a nearly unprecedented relative decline of Christian adherence in Europe.

The result of population changes—in general for the world, specifically for the churches—is a series of mind-blowing realities: More than half of all Christian adherents in the whole history of the church have been alive in the last one hundred years. Close to half of Christian believers who have ever lived are alive right now [see the tables on page 22].

Implications for theology:

Now, when the gospel is being appropriated by multiplying new populations—when it is being seen through new eyes—believers wherever they live have the opportunity to reconsider the priorities of doctrine. The three questions that follow hint at the challenges of theological rediscovery posed by the church’s recent history around the globe, but of course there are many more (33).

  1. How close is the world of spirits to the everyday world?
  2. What is the unit of salvation? [individual vs. community]
  3. How should believers read the Bible?

How to become a great storyteller; people still love a LONG, well-told story; will patronage return to save print media?

Jack Hitt, interview in the Atlantic: PART 1, Part 2

PART 1: the present and future of story telling

. . . I hear a lot about how television destroyed our attention spans 25 years ago with MTV and paved the way for the micro-information age of the internet. But that same lights and wires in a box has now given us the Wire, the Sopranos, the Shield, Deadwood, and Mad Men. If Charles Dickens were alive today, wouldn’t he be collaborating with Richard Price or Barry Levinson? Half the plots on TV today owe a full frame screen credit to Jane Austen. This is not the fin de siècle of the long form; this is its siglo del oro.

As to the internet, a word that now means far less than what it is, doesn’t it all depend on where you look?

I’m currently following a debate about science and religion between Chris Mooney and Jerry Coyne and many others. By word count alone, it’s probably closing in on the Lincoln-Douglas debates. . .

Patrons might be back:

. . . And the newest idea from Clay Shirky involves something vaguely resembling NPR’s ten percent audience share that does voluntarily contribute to a “free” radio which will emerge organically from, say, among the most-read blogs, the Huffington Post aggregate sites, the columnists like Glenn Greenwald with devoted readerships, and reporting sites like But it may also be that we go all the way back to the future. I’m talking about: Patrons. Not micro-financed patrons of a penny a piece. I’m talking about well-financed lovers of newspapers, magazines, and blogs and the rest. . .

. . . The truth is that there are all kinds of good reasons (and bad ones) for wealthy Americans to buy an ailing magazine or newspaper. . .

. . . The creative destruction of the internet will carry on with open source solutions and distributed communications and adding great new voices to ongoing cacophony that has always been American journalism. But generating new business models, ab ovo, might not be quite as easy as a patron with an interest in being a publisher. . .

Part 2: How to be a great storyteller (it has some resonance with how to become a good dissertation writer.)

I have spent a long time looking for short cuts to the answer to this very question. But I haven’t found any. So, begin by over-reporting and over-researching everything. If the story involves talking to people, talk to them as long as they will stand to have you around and then talk to them some more. Keep reading. Outline a structure to the piece. Set that aside for now. Realize you don’t know enough. Go over all your interviews and research notes again, only this time, make a laundry list of all the great details, large and small, along with the best quotes. Look at that list a lot. Begin the process of re-reading all of your research. Bail out of re-reading all of your research by convincing yourself that what you really need is a long walk to think about “structure.” Walk toward your shoes and look at them. Blow off the walk altogether. Descend into a shame spiral. Now, catch up on your HBO tivo’d backlog. After several hours, take another ride on the shame spiral. Lumber over to the desk and go over the interviews again. Make notes of your notes in tiny scrawl so that they can fit on a single sheet of paper. Look at the details. Write down the big ideas that form the superstructure of the piece. Realize you are a pompous git for thinking that ideas have anything to do with it and go back to that list of details. Set it aside. Read some blogs.

The next day, re-read the single sheet of paper with the notes of your notes and wonder, what does this sh[ee]t even mean? Then outline a structure.  Indulge in a nice long afternoon of intense self-loathing. Start to write according to that outline. Throw that draft away. Write a new outline. Go over your notes. Re-. . .

One of my favorites: Realize that you’ve misunderstood the point of the entire story all this time.

Technorati Tags: ,

More reasons not to get a PhD

Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go

It’s hard to tell young people that universities view their idealism and energy as an exploitable resource


As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:

  • You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living for yourself or provide for anyone else.
  • You come from that small class of well-connected people in academe who will be able to find a place for you somewhere.
  • You can rely on a partner to provide all of the income and benefits needed by your household.
  • You are earning a credential for a position that you already hold — such as a high-school teacher — and your employer is paying for it.

Those are the only people who can safely undertake doctoral education in the humanities. Everyone else who does so is taking an enormous personal risk, the full consequences of which they cannot assess because they do not understand how the academic-labor system works and will not listen to people who try to tell them.

Targuman (Chris Brady) put it this way:

. . . If you are fully funded and, in the worst case scenario, are willing to “lose” 5 years of your life then fine. But there are very few guarantees. I have likened it to this: Imagine you want to buy a $100,000 Ferrari. You give Ferrari all that money and then you have to get the car around the track in a certain time. If you don’t make that cut they keep your money and the car. Same thing with the doctorate. You give the university your money and if you don’t complete the dissertation or thesis to their satisfaction they keep the money and the degree. . .

A quick reference to biblical studies journals available on-line (EBSCO, JSTOR, Cambridge, Oxford, etc.)

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a quick reference document to help me streamline the process of searching for on-line articles. Whenever I identify an article through a bibliography, footnote, or the ATLA religion database, I scan the attached “Quick Reference” and decide where (and if) I can obtain the article from EBSCO, JSTOR, Oxford, Wiley, Cambridge, University of Chicago, or even free from an on-line website).

**On-line journals – biblical studies (PDF) (Word)

Journals for church, missions, Christian education, Linguistics, Africa, and social sciences–less comprehensive (PDF)(Word)

Tyndale House Library has a more comprehensive list of biblical studies journals here–about 550 journals. (They include all the ones that are only available by hard-copy library subscription.)

(Note also: BTB, ExpT, JSNT, JSOT, JSP and other biblical studies journals are often available for FREE from Sage publications 2x a year – usually in November and sometime in the spring.)

The document looks something like this for 170 different journals:

AUSS Andrews University Seminary Studies
Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics EBSCO/ATLAS
Association of Jewish Studies Review
JSTOR 1976-2002Cambridge: 2002-
Athenian Agora JSTOR 1953-1998
Baptist History and Heritage EBSCO/ATLAS
Bib Biblica – WEBSITE 1998-

I’ve posted this as a brief example (click on attached links for the full document in word or PDF.)

On-line journals – biblical studies (PDF)

On-line journals – biblical studies (Word)

This quick reference will be most valuable students and staff of institutions that subscribe to EBSCO, JSTOR, Oxford, Cambridge, University of Chicago, and Wiley but don’t have an integrative web search.

For those of you who live in the land of fast “instant-response” internet, this probably isn’t an issue, but some of us in the rest of the world cannot afford to wade through multiple searches trying to find a particular journal.


  • EBSCO – Now includes ATLAS*. Dates listed for EBSCO are starting dates only.
  • JSTOR– (most recent articles not normally available; 3-5 year moving wall)[1]
    – holdings on Classical Studies, Literature (not fully listed here)
  • Oxford – normally last 10 years available.
  • Websites: available to the general public (all others through authorized server only).

[Last updated December 2008; Please e-mail errors, additions, and changes to Ben Byerly]

* ATLAS references with a “*” are missing some titles.

[1] The majority of journals in the JSTOR archive have moving walls of between 3 and 5 years, but publishers may elect walls anywhere from zero to 10 years. In other words JSTOR availability will need to be updated each year. – e.g. an end date of 2002 (6 year moving wall) will be 2003 next year (in 2009).