10 Historical Myths About World Christianity

Brian Stanley presented what he perceives as the top ten historical myths about World Christianity.

Indigenous cultures were not static entities: to suggest that they were is characteristic of western modernity. Missionaries often displayed what we would term cultural blindness, but their message, once translated into the vernacular, acquired indigenous cultural overtones. Missionary contributions to the inscription and study of indigenous languages have helped to preserve or enrich such cultures.

  1. Christianity is a western religion.
    It neither began in western Europe, nor has it ever been entirely confined to western Europe….
  2. Christian missions operated hand-in-glove with the colonial powers.
    Sometimes they did, but frequently they didn’t.…
  3. Christianity was imposed by force on non-western people.
    If this were true, it would reduce non-western Christians – even today – to the status of passive recipients of western ideological domination….
  4. Protestant missions began with William Carey in 1792.
    John Eliot’s mission work among the Native Americans of New England began as early as 1646….
  5. Missionaries destroyed indigenous cultures.
    Indigenous cultures were not static entities: to suggest that they were is characteristic of western modernity….
  6. The nineteenth century was the great century of Christian missions.
    It was the great age of western missionary expansion, but not the great age of indigenous conversion and agency: that was the twentieth century….
  7. ‘Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization’ was an imperial creed.
    It was essentially an anti-slavery humanitarian creed, associated especially with David Livingstone (though he didn’t invent it)….
  8. We live in a post-missionary era.
    No, we don’t. There are approximately 426,000 foreign missionaries in the world today….
  9. We live in a post-colonial age.
    We certainly don’t live in a post-imperial age….
  10. To proclaim the unique saving value of the Christian gospel is to be intolerant of other religions.
    This is to confuse a theological position with an attitudinal stance….

Read More