DAVID CHIDESTER. Christianity: A Global History. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.
ADRIAN HASTINGS, ed. A World History of Christianity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1999.
PHILIP JENKINS. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Unbeknownst to most residents of North America and Europe, Christianity is currently undergoing a transition of historic proportions. Within the next few decades, Christianity will almost assuredly become a religion primarily of the Southern, rather than the Northern, Hemisphere. Africa and South America will each surpass Europe in total numbers of Christians. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of course, are well aware of their church’s impressive growth in Oceania, Latin America, and to some extent, Africa. But few recognize that such gains are part of a larger, dramatic watershed in the overall evolution of Christianity.
As Christianity spreads across the world, scholars are devoting increasing attention to its global dimensions. Accordingly, I find it worthwhile to examine three recent studies of global Christianity—two that focus on the past and one that looks at the present and the future. I will begin with a discussion of the importance of Christian history for Latter-day Saints. I will then examine the ways in which a worldwide perspective changes the story of Christian history. Next I will compare the three books and analyze their respective treatments of the historical Jesus and the definition of Christianity. I will follow the comparison with a discussion of various antecedents and parallels to Mormonism found in these books and conclude with suggestions for Latter-day Saint scholarship on Christian history.