LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
January 30, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
“Amazon” sent me a request to review Rodney Stark’s latest book copyrighted last year entitled “THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH.” Stark is a sociologist teaching at Baylor University. He has produced several books dealing with the rise of Christianity from a sociological viewpoint including “How the West Was Won” and “The Victory of Reason.” In the present volume he seeks to correct the notion that Christianity, and religion in general, is losing out in the modern world to secularism and atheism.
I did a brief review for “Amazon” which you can find on line. However, this is a book anyone interested in the state of religion in today’s world should read. The book runs about 250 pages and is written in an easy style. It is filled with charts that set forth the statistical information in a way that makes it easier to comprehend the picture Stark is trying to present.
Chapter one presents what Stark calls “A Global Portrait of Faith.” One central fact is that Christianity is held by over a third of the world’s population and is followed by Islam at twenty-two percent. The more insightful information is the location of and the depth of commitment of these Christians. The exploding numbers of believers is not to be found in Europe and even in the United States, but in Latin America and Africa.
These Southern Hemisphere Christians are committed at a level that often exposes the shallow faith of Europe, and likely the United States. They believe the Bible. They show up for worship every week and often several times in between Sundays. The statistical data is interesting and often humbling. Much of the statistical data in Stark’s book is drawn from the Gallup Origination’s “World Poll” which covered 163 nations and 97 percent of the world’s population. More detail concerning the poll is included in the book, but it has made possible very accurate information on the religious landscape of our present world.
One story which I heard recently highlights the distinct difference in a commitment to orthodoxy in African Christianity and that of Europe. An African Bishop was in conversation with a European cleric. Finally the African Bishop in frustration with his colleague remarked, “If the Bible is not true, why did you bother to bring it to us in the first place?” The African Church has no doubt about the authority of the Scriptures.
In Stark’s book there are separate chapters on Latin America, Africa, China, Japan, the United States and Europe. It also covers some information about Islam and Hinduism.
“The Triumph of Faith” is encouraging, and at the same time challenging. We are so often overwhelmed by the bad news of shrinking congregations and shrinking interest in faith. Stark opens up the reality that clearly demonstrates that the world is more religious today than ever before. Perhaps it is the United States that needs to catch up to the rest of the world.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs