HISTORY 5393.02

Global Christianity


Spring 2020

Baylor University





Monday 2:30-5:15

 Tidwell 205



407 Pat Neff                (254) 710-7555


I check my e-mail regularly, so this is an excellent way to get in touch with me if you have a quick question, or if you want to make an appointment for a more substantial discussion.




Over the past two centuries, the global spread of Christianity has been one of the critical themes in world history, with revolutionary effects on Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, Latin American faith has also been revolutionized by the spread of new forms of Protestantism. The global movement also promises vast changes within the Christian faith as it is practiced within Europe and North America. In our time, Christianity, a religion born and nurtured in Asia and Africa, has decided to return home.


Themes of the course include the reasons for the success or failure of Christianity in different contexts; the relationship between religious expansion and the fate of empires; the role of globalization; the impact of culture on belief, practice, and theology; and the changing relationships between the great world faiths. Among other recurrent topics, we will touch on the impact of religious change on concepts of gender and family; and we will explore changing definitions of modernity. As far as possible within the limitations of a single course, we will strive for the widest possible global coverage.


As you will see, this is also a course about different ways of doing history. We will explore a variety of different studies, which are both top-down and bottom-up in their approach. Some concentrate on vast global trends, others on the micro-history of particular communities. Some are highly theoretical, others strictly nuts and bolts in their approach. Some are more popular, other more academic. Some of the authors will be reading explicitly think of themselves as historians, others are sociologists or political scientists. We will discuss how historical fiction can be used as a means of debating historical and theological truth.


I have a particular interest in the nature of sources, and how historians employ diverse materials to draw conclusions. Throughout, we will pay close attention to the use of documents and other forms of evidence.


A glance at this syllabus will indicate my own particular areas of interest, both themes and geographical areas. I am however flexible towards accommodating other people's interests and areas of expertise, and would encourage individuals to use their papers to pursue their own particular projects. Ideally, I would like this class to provide a foundation that you can build upon in your dissertation work.


Although this is primarily a history course, I am open to a wide variety of other disciplines and approaches, including theology, literature, art, and so on.




The study of global/world Christianity is currently a very lively field, with a huge number of publications appearing year by year, and that is just counting books, never mind journal articles. In selecting books for us to read, I want primarily to give you a sense of the scope of what is out there, and what people are working on right now. I am selecting from a possible range of literally several hundred recent books, and it might be useful to explain my selection criteria. Obviously, this list makes no pretense to be the absolute best of what is out there, and other scholars would produce totally different rosters. So why these books?

-Where possible, each book should be strictly recent in date – half the books on this list are from 2018.

-The books’ emphasis should primarily fit within a History course, although there is no reason why they should not draw on other disciplines, eg anthropology, theology, sociology…. But they should be historical, rather than contemporary surveys.

-There should be a geographical balance of emphasis between different regions (although in fairness, this course skews more to Asia than how I have done it in the past!)

-There should be a chronological balance between various periods.

-The books should approach their subjects in a variety of different ways, to illustrate the range of methodologies: microhistory, grand survey, biography, hagiography, fiction…

-Ideally, authors should tell their stories in innovative or creative ways.

-The authors should be as diverse as possible in terms of race, gender, and national origin.

With all that in mind, these are the books that I have chosen:


Shusaku Endo, Silence (Taplinger, 1980)                                   

ISBN: 0800871863, 978-0800871864

Henrietta Harrison, The Missionary's Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).           

ISBN: 0520273125, 978-0520273122


Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-and How It Died (San Francisco: HarperOne 2008)

ISBN-10: 0061472816 ; ISBN-13: 978-0061472817


Melani McAlister, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018)

ISBN-10: 0190213426 ; ISBN-13: 978-0190213428


Mark Noll, From Every Tribe and Nation (Baker Academic 2014).          

ISBN: 978-0-8010-3993-5


Dana L. Robert, Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).                                                

ISBN: 0631236201 ; 978-0631236207


Brian Stanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (Princeton University Press, 2018).

ISBN-10: 0691196842 ; ISBN-13: 978-0691196848


R. S. Sugirtharajah, Jesus in Asia (Harvard University Press, 2018).

ISBN-10: 0674051130 ; ISBN-13: 978-0674051133


Karin Vélez, The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World (Princeton University Press, 2018)

ISBN-10: 0691174008 ; ISBN-13: 978-0691174006


Xi Lian, Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao's China (Basic Books 2018)

ISBN: 1541644239; 978-1541644236



I could easily have used lots more collections of documents, readings, etc., but an unimaginably vast range of texts is available for free on the Internet. These cover every conceivable topic you might be researching. I would draw your attention to two resources in particular, namely the History of Missiology site at Boston University and the Dictionary of African Christian Biography. Early in the course, please get to know your way around the resources they offer.


A Note on Reading Required Books


I also offer the following list of questions that apply to any and all of the prescribed books – or indeed, to some extent, to any academic book that you might encounter:


1. First, obviously, what is the book about, and what is its central theme or point?


2. Does the author make his/her case well and clearly? Is the book well-written and well-argued? (the two points are not necessarily the same!) If not, why not?


3. The fact that the book was published indicates that somebody thought it made an important and innovative point – there’s no point in just rehashing old familiar arguments, or so we would think. What’s new about this book? Is it a controversial study?


4. What did the book tell us that was not previously known? What can we learn about how the book fits into the existing literature, yet advances beyond previous knowledge? What earlier or established position is it arguing against?


5. Why are people studying this kind of topic right now? What does this tell us about the state of historical writing and scholarship?


6. Does the author push the evidence to make it fit into contemporary concerns and obsessions? How?


7. What major questions and issues surface that relate to the topics of the present course?


8. Is the book of any interest or significance beyond the immediate scope of the study addressed?


9. Are there questions that you would like to ask that the author does not deal with, or covers poorly?


10. What can we learn from the footnotes and acknowledgments about how the author went about his/her research?





1. JANUARY 13         Introduction

Introducing themes, concepts and debates: a chronology of Christian history




2. JANUARY 27                      The West and the Rest

How Christianity’s center of gravity has shifted through its two thousand year history; how the faith has been shaped the various cultures with which it has interacted.

DISCUSS: Jenkins, Lost History of Christianity


3. FEBRUARY 3                     Missions

The forces driving mission through history, and factors making for success and failure. Past and present debates over the concept of mission.

DISCUSS: Robert, Christian Mission. See discussion questions at



4. FEBRUARY 10                   Converting the World

Christian expansion during the Early Modern period, and the first era of globalization: its triumphs and disasters.

DISCUSS: Karin Vélez The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto




5. FEBRUARY 17                   The Empires Strike Back

Different ways of telling the global story.

DISCUSS: Stanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century


6. FEBRUARY 24                   Voices from the Past

Reconstructing China’s Christian history.

DISCUSS: Henrietta Harrison, The Missionary's Curse.

See the discussion questions at



7. MARCH 2                           Hagiography as history    

Reading the lives of saints and martyrs as history

DISCUSS: Discuss: Xi Lian, Blood Letters




8.  MARCH 16                        Learning and Teaching

What Global Christianity teaches us about the larger story of Christianity; implications for teaching.

DISCUSS: Noll, From Every Tribe and Nation   


9.  MARCH 23                        Global and American

How Western evangelicalism went global, and how it was itself transformed in the process

DISCUSS: Melani McAlister, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders




10.  MARCH 30                      Fresh Eyes on the Bible   

How new African and Asian churches read and apply the Bible, and how new cultural contexts shape their religious experience.

DISCUSS: R. S. Sugirtharajah, Jesus in Asia


11. APRIL 6                            History as Fiction

Literary fiction as a means of presenting historical and theological interpretation      

DISCUSS: Endo, Silence. See discussion questions at









Hard copies of final paper drafts are due at my office in Pat Neff by Wednesday, May 6 at 10am.


In most cases, you cannot submit papers electronically. An exception can be made in rare circumstances, eg if, say, you live 40 miles out of town and driving in especially to deliver the paper would be a major personal inconvenience. (P.S. most of you do not live 40 miles out of town).




Paper                                                                                              70%

Attendance and Participation                                                         20%

Presentation                                                                                   10%






The course will take the format of a reading and research seminar.


Each week, students will come to class having read an assigned book or document. Each student should come to class with open-ended questions growing out of the general theme, around which the discussion of the readings should be organized. In each case, I will supply beforehand a general list of questions and prompts that will guide you in making your way through the readings.


Participants will write a substantial research paper on a topic of their choice. Possible topics could include issues raised by the course readings, or any other themes of interest in the history of global Christianity. Students should base their research on primary sources from the period and scholarly secondary sources, either books or journal articles. I am flexible about possible themes, and am happy to assist you in developing a workable topic and a list of sources. I discuss this issue of paper topics in more detail here.


By the week of February 3, I need to know the title and topic of the paper you will be writing. Obviously, I need to approve your choice before you proceed with writing it.


Undergraduate papers should be between 5,000 and 6,000 words, including footnotes. Graduate student papers would be between 6,000 and 8,000 words, including footnotes. You should follow Kate Turabian’s A Manual For Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations as a style guide. Grading will of course take account of issues such as grammar and punctuation.


By the week of March 23, I will expect you to submit a preliminary draft, which I will then discuss with you on an individual basis during office hours. The draft by the way, is a full-length version of the paper, fully referenced, as opposed to a two or three page “concept paper”, and it should thus be in connected prose, not in point form. This draft will then be revised to create a final version due for presentation in the final examination period. That gives you plenty of time to do any necessary fine-tuning.


Choosing a Paper Topic


This is an important theme that I have addressed at some length at this page:




Do please consult that. I have also included suggestions for presentations, when that time of the semester rolls around.




Deadlines matter, and I intend to enforce them strictly. If you miss a deadline without getting an extension in advance, you get a grade of F on that particular paper or project. Do not get in touch with me after the fact to explain why you missed a deadline, unless you produce a proper medical note or other documentation. Valid reasons include medical problems and the like.


“Attendance and participation" carry a substantial 20 percent of the grade. I expect you to do the readings for every class, and I reserve the right to call on people individually through the term to comment or respond on particular texts, or issues arising from them. If you do the readings, and take a full and regular part in class discussions, then that will have a major positive impact on your grade. On the other hand, consistently not participating, not doing the readings - or repeatedly being absent from discussions - is equivalent to failing to do the term paper.


I don’t necessarily expect a 100 percent attendance rate, but repeated absences or consistent non-participation will have serious consequences. It does not just mean that you will receive a slightly lower grade: just like refusing to do a paper or an exam, it means that you would simply have not completed the class, and would therefore receive a grade of F for the entire course. It's important to spell out that expectation from the outset. If you are not prepared to do the readings and participate fully, then please drop the class now.



The university recommends that the following very important information be included on every syllabus:

Academic Integrity


Plagiarism or any form of cheating involves a breach of student-teacher trust. This means that any work submitted under your name is expected to be your own, neither composed by anyone else as a whole or in part, nor handed over to another person for complete or partial revision.  Be sure to document all ideas that are not your own. Instances of plagiarism or any other act of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Honor Council and may result in failure of the course. Not understanding plagiarism is not an excuse. I expect you to be intimately familiar with the Honor Code at: http://www.baylor.edu/honorcode/


Students Needing Accommodations


Any student who needs academic accommodations related to a documented disability should inform me immediately at the beginning of the semester. You are required to obtain appropriate documentation and information regarding accommodations from the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation (OALA). Contact Information:  (254) 710-3605 - Paul L. Foster Success Center, 1st floor on the East Wing of Sid Richardson.


Title IX Office – Title IX Coordinator


Baylor University does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender in any of its education or employment programs and activities, and it does not tolerate discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex or gender. If you or someone you know would like help related to an experience involving sexual or gender-based harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, intimate partner violence, or retaliation for reporting one of these type of prohibited conduct, please contact the Title IX Office at (254)710-8454 or report online at www.baylor.edu/titleix.  


The Title IX office understands the sensitive nature of these situations and can provide information about available on- and off-campus resources, such as counseling and psychological services, medical treatment, academic support, university housing, and other forms of assistance that may be available. Staff members at the office can also explain your rights and procedural options if you contact the Title IX Office. You will not be required to share your experience. If you or someone you know feels unsafe or may be in imminent danger, please call the Baylor Police Department (254-710-2222) or Waco Police Department (9-1-1) immediately. For more information on the Title IX Office, the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Interpersonal Violence policy, reporting, and resources available, please visit the website provided above.