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ARDA Guiding Papers Series

Ancient And Modern: What the History Of Religion Teaches Us about Contemporary Global Trends

by Philip Jenkins


The best reason for the serious study of history is that virtually everyone uses the past in everyday discourse, but the historical record on which they draw is abundantly littered with myths, half-truths, and folk-history. Historians can, or should, provide a corrective for this. In order to suggest the potential uses of historical study, I will focus on several themes that are of lively scholarly interest today, including the character of Global South Christianity; the role of religion in building civil society; the rise of Pentecostalism; the emergence of Islamic political extremism; the cultural roots of religious violence; and the global revival of Sufi Islam. In each case, the historical reality differs substantially from the assumed narrative that has become enshrined in conventional discourse. All these examples, of course, are matters of acute relevance to policymakers. Finally, I will suggest some of the general principles that might be of use in scholarly research in religion, even (or especially) by those who do not consider themselves historians.

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Please use the following when citing this paper:

Jenkins, Philip. 2010. Ancient And Modern: What the History Of Religion Teaches Us about Contemporary Global Trends (ARDA Guiding Paper Series). State College, PA: The Association of Religion Data Archives at The Pennsylvania State University, from http://www.thearda.com/rrh/papers/guidingpapers.asp.

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is author of The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia -- and How It Died (HarperOne, 2008).