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Religious studies Professor delves into Christian history


By Langley Advance
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Trinity Western University is presenting a series of controversial lectures examining Christianity as a non-western religion.

It might be surprising to learn that more than 60 per cent of Christians in the world today are not Europeans or North Americans, but rather are Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans.

For some, accepting that these Christians are more likely to be people with darker skin colours and from poor nations, as opposed to the stereotypical white person in rich western nations, can be difficult.

Is this a major shift in the very nature of Christianity itself, or is it the renewal of what is, in reality, a non-western religion?

These questions will be explored as Trinity Western University's Masters in Interdisciplinary Humanities program hosts a controversial series of public lectures starting at the end of the month.

Trinity is a Langley-based not-for-profit Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4,000 students.

The lectures will explore the nature and growth of non-western Christianity. Taking place from January through to March, the lectures are part of the course "History of non-western Christianity," taught by Abbotsford resident and TWU professor Dr. Bob Burkinshaw.

"The lecture series offers an opportunity to confront the reality of Christianity as it appears today in our modern world," said Burkinshaw.

"Who are calling themselves Christians today and what does this tell us about the nature of Christianity? Things have dramatically changed since the mid-20th century," he said.

Old stereotypes no longer work and Burkinshaw felt it was important to allow a forum for this discussion to occur.

"Many historians argue that what we are seeing is primarily a return to the non-western basis of Christianity," Burkinshaw said.

"Before 1400 A.D. Christianity was more based in Asia and Africa, and then from the 1400s to the mid 1900s, Europe (and North America) became the dominant heartland of Christianity. But explosive growth throughout the 20th century shifted the balance back to non-western nations," he said.

Experts throughout the seminars will speak on topics including Islam and Christian relations in the medieval period, Christian minorities in the Middle East, Christianity in China, Christianity in several regions of Africa, and the 'explosion' of Pentecostalism in Latin America.

The first lecture taking place on Thursday, Jan. 31, features Dr. Gordon Nickel of ACTS Seminary, whose lecture is entitled Authentic Engagement: Christians meet the Muslim conquerors. Christianity and Islam, 8th to 12th Centuries.

More information on the lecture series can be found by visiting




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