Connecting Faith and Life

Louise Pirouet: Expansion of Christianity Worldwide (1800-2000)

As stated in the introduction, this book is the fourth volume in the series of Christianity Worldwide, initiated by Theological Education Fund (TEF), particularly for the students of Christian history in the third-world countries. At best, this book is an overview of the expansion of Christianity Worldwide during the 19th and 20th centuries. In ten clearly divided chapters, the book narrates the story of Christian struggle and spreading, region by region, covering most of the world where Christianity has made its mark visible.

As stated in the introduction, this book is the fourth volume in the series of Christianity Worldwide, initiated by Theological Education Fund (TEF), particularly for the students of Christian history in the third-world countries. At best, this book is an overview of the expansion of Christianity Worldwide during the 19th and 20th centuries. In ten clearly divided chapters, the book narrates the story of Christian struggle and spreading, region by region, covering most of the world where Christianity has made its mark visible. Louise Pirouet is the writer and compiler of this volume. Four chapters are entirely her work, whereas the rest of the chapters have contributions from eminent historians and missionaries hailing from different parts of the World.

This is an extremely well written book. I would like to first enlist some of the merits of the work. First, Pirouet has done a commendable job in presenting a good summary of the status of Christianity worldwide in less than 250 pages. The selection and arrangement of materials is admirable. Although the book does not give us detailed information regarding the state of Christianity in each region, in my estimate, it fairly covers the key events and changes that have occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries in different parts of the world.

Second, the book does not merely presents the facts and figures of Christianity in different regions. Rather, it places the Christian history within the general world History. For instance, in chapter two, while discussing the Christian status in China, the author’s description of the political and cultural changes which happened in China during the 19th century helps the readers understand why Christianity could not make much progress during this period.

Third, to an extend, this book has attempted to furnish a balanced historical account about the missionary enterprise around the World. It contains both missionary perspective (western) and native Christian perspective. For instance, the section on India, highlights the work carried out by the western missionaries in India, and with equal intensity it also presents the vital role played by the native Indian church and leaders. I deem, as this section has the contribution of T.V. Philip, an Indian Christian historian, the native perspective has gained equal importance. Similarly, regarding other regions too, the choice of native Christian writers has added great value to the book.

Nevertheless, throughout the book, the contributions of western missionaries in non-western world is well acknowledged by the author. In other words, in the book, an effort is made to appreciate both the significance of deeply committed missionaries and the legitimacy of the native Christians for independence. Hence, in the book, one finds discussions on the issue of Colonialism and independence within the Church. Moreover, the book also portrays a glimpse of some of the struggles of independent native churches in various parts of the World. It also engages in discussion of the cultural and mission concerns termed as indigenization, Africanization, inculturation, or contextualization.

Fourth, the book clearly brings out the struggles and success stories of the worldwide missionary enterprise. The author has maintained professional integrity by not only presenting the victory strides of the Church, but also the failures. For instance, the recession of Christianity in North America and Europe is mentioned alongside the success story of Christianity in the Latin America and Africa. Moreover, what makes this book interesting to read is the brief but stimulating biographical accounts of missionaries and native Christians who strived hard to spread the faith.

Fifth, the book has an ecumenical flavour with regard to its contents. The author has included both Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives. She has not differentiated between evangelism and social work, nor between the organized church and anonymous Christianity. She has presented a unified Christian history and this needs to be commended. Sixth, this book can serve as a launch pad for further study. At the end of the chapters there are questions for review and discussion. These questions are thought provoking and has the potential for motivating the readers to probe further on a subject. Added to that, the book also has maps and it is helpful. Hence, it can be used as a suitable text book for beginners of Christian history.

Like any other book, this book too has a few shortcomings. At times, the author has attempted to give the readers more within a limited space and this has led to cramming of information. Some of the pages are loaded with dates, names of people, places and events. This makes reading a bit dry and tedious. Adding a few pages to the book or deleting some of the less important information, perhaps, would solve this problem.

Similarly, while analyzing and interpreting some of the historical events, the author has made strong subjective observations. For instance, in analyzing the reasons for the decline of Christianity in the West, Pirouet seem to defend the Western theologians of the 19th century. In contrary to her view, I think the theologians of the time were influenced by the western secular thought and they in turn confused the common people by their erroneous teachings.

It would have been good if the author had furnished some more information in the form of facts and figures regarding the state of Christianity in Western Europe and North America. Although Pirouet presents an analysis of the factors that led to the recession of Christianity, nothing is mentioned about the state of churches and denominations in the 20th century. Instead, the writer seems to have gone into a mode of preaching and moralizing. I think there is still a significant Christian presence in these regions. I would have been interested to know a little more about that. Nevertheless, the merits of the book greatly outweigh some of the shortcomings listed here. Overall, this volume, along with the rest of the series would offer invaluable resource for the students of Christian history. Delhi: ISPCK, 1993. Pp. 1-246

is the writer and compiler of this volume. Four chapters are entirely her work, whereas the rest of the chapters have contributions from eminent historians and missionaries hailing from different parts of the World.

This is an extremely well written book. I would like to first enlist some of the merits of the work. First, Pirouet has done a commendable job in presenting a good summary of the status of Christianity worldwide in less than 250 pages. The selection and arrangement of materials is admirable. Although the book does not give us detailed information regarding the state of Christianity in each region, in my estimate, it fairly covers the key events and changes that have occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries in different parts of the world.

Second, the book does not merely presents the facts and figures of Christianity in different regions. Rather, it places the Christian history within the general world History. For instance, in chapter two, while discussing the Christian status in China, the author’s description of the political and cultural changes which happened in China during the 19th century helps the readers understand why Christianity could not make much progress during this period.

Third, to an extend, this book has attempted to furnish a balanced historical account about the missionary enterprise around the World. It contains both missionary perspective (western) and native Christian perspective. For instance, the section on India, highlights the work carried out by the western missionaries in India, and with equal intensity it also presents the vital role played by the native Indian church and leaders. I deem, as this section has the contribution of T.V. Philip, an Indian Christian historian, the native perspective has gained equal importance. Similarly, regarding other regions too, the choice of native Christian writers has added great value to the book.

Nevertheless, throughout the book, the contributions of western missionaries in non-western world is well acknowledged by the author. In other words, in the book, an effort is made to appreciate both the significance of deeply committed missionaries and the legitimacy of the native Christians for independence. Hence, in the book, one finds discussions on the issue of Colonialism and independence within the Church. Moreover, the book also portrays a glimpse of some of the struggles of independent native churches in various parts of the World. It also engages in discussion of the cultural and mission concerns termed as indigenization, Africanization, inculturation, or contextualization.

Fourth, the book clearly brings out the struggles and success stories of the worldwide missionary enterprise. The author has maintained professional integrity by not only presenting the victory strides of the Church, but also the failures. For instance, the recession of Christianity in North America and Europe is mentioned alongside the success story of Christianity in the Latin America and Africa. Moreover, what makes this book interesting to read is the brief but stimulating biographical accounts of missionaries and native Christians who strived hard to spread the faith.

Fifth, the book has an ecumenical flavour with regard to its contents. The author has included both Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives. She has not differentiated between evangelism and social work, nor between the organized church and anonymous Christianity. She has presented a unified Christian history and this needs to be commended. Sixth, this book can serve as a launch pad for further study. At the end of the chapters there are questions for review and discussion. These questions are thought provoking and has the potential for motivating the readers to probe further on a subject. Added to that, the book also has maps and it is helpful. Hence, it can be used as a suitable text book for beginners of Christian history.

Like any other book, this book too has a few shortcomings. At times, the author has attempted to give the readers more within a limited space and this has led to cramming of information. Some of the pages are loaded with dates, names of people, places and events. This makes reading a bit dry and tedious. Adding a few pages to the book or deleting some of the less important information, perhaps, would solve this problem.

Similarly, while analyzing and interpreting some of the historical events, the author has made strong subjective observations. For instance, in analyzing the reasons for the decline of Christianity in the West, Pirouet seem to defend the Western theologians of the 19th century. In contrary to her view, I think the theologians of the time were influenced by the western secular thought and they in turn confused the common people by their erroneous teachings.

It would have been good if the author had furnished some more information in the form of facts and figures regarding the state of Christianity in Western Europe and North America. Although Pirouet presents an analysis of the factors that led to the recession of Christianity, nothing is mentioned about the state of churches and denominations in the 20th century. Instead, the writer seems to have gone into a mode of preaching and moralizing. I think there is still a significant Christian presence in these regions. I would have been interested to know a little more about that. Nevertheless, the merits of the book greatly outweigh some of the shortcomings listed here. Overall, this volume, along with the rest of the series would offer invaluable resource for the students of Christian history.

Delhi: ISPCK, 1993. Pp. 1-246

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