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by Mark Noll
The Lost Is Found
After three noteworthy books that shook up perceptions of the Christian present, Philip Jenkins is now proposing to shake up the Christian past. Where his much-noticed The Next Christendom (2002) and The New Faces of Christianity (2006) charted the recent emergence of Christian movements in the non-West and introduced their dynamic engagement with Scripture, God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis (2007) suggested that much conventional wisdom about religion in contemporary Europe needed serious re-thinking. Now in The Lost History of Christianity, Jenkins turns his attention to the experience of Christians in the greater Middle East—which, he argues, has been systematically neglected in the general accounts of standard church history.
The success of Jenkins' latest effort is indicted by how effectively his narrative ties contemporary incidents into long-existing historical realities. In the cascade of news on Iraq, it has been easy to dismiss intelligence from Turkey as a mere sideshow. Only regional experts, for instance, might have noticed that the city of Urfa in far southeastern Turkey had become a center of Islamic piety and a headquarters for the Muslim political movement that in 2003 defeated Turkey's secular parties and formed a government that rules to this day. American evangelicals are more likely to recall the horrific murders of three Protestants in Malatya in eastern Turkey that occurred in April 2007. The five assassins immediately confessed that they had slain German missionary Tilmann Geske and two Turkish converts (Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel) because they saw Christian profession, especially by converts, as destroying the Turkish nation.
With Philip Jenkins' new book in hand, it is immediately obvious that such accounts, with no apparent connection to anything but the fervid antagonisms of the moment, in fact represent the latest incidents in a very long history for the part of the world that was known as "Asia Minor" ...