Quaker Universalist Voice

Speaking truth in the global public square…

Global Christian Direction

A Book Review of Brian Stanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (2019)

The book, Brian Stanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (2019) describes the 20th century experience for the Christian community in the world.  We live in a substantially Christin tradition culture, which blind us to significant changes. This book helps us all to distinguish between the forest and the trees in our own historical experience.

Some called the 20th century “The Protestant Christian Century.”  Better, it could be called “The Religion Century.”  Christianity was big, but religion was bigger.  The early anticipations of Christians for the 20th century were substantially transformed. 

Demographics make history. At the start of the 20th century Christians were concentrated in Europe, with a big majority in America and Europe and with little Christian population in Asia or Africa.  At the end of the 20th century, the large majority of global Christians were residents of Asia, Latin America, and Africa, with a huge reduction in Europe.

The big changes that were not anticipated in 1900 included nationalism, Islam, universalism, mass migrations, evangelicalism, secularism, Pentecostalism, fundamentalism, neo-orthodoxy, feminism, two world wars, the death of God, ecumenism, the prosperity gospel, sexual predation, liberation theology, and Vatican II. The author describes it all and offers a thoughtful perspective on their relative importance in influencing the century.

The author provides an index and endnotes.

Quakers: What do Quakers make of the 20th century.  It is fair to summarize the Quaker movement in the 20th century as organizational fragmentation, theological intolerance, weak vocabulary, abundant discernment practice opportunities, embrace of political conservatism and liberalism, women’s leadership, creation and abandonment of world services, new international services, and secularization of Quaker organizations.


  • In what directions did Quakers develop during the 20th century?
  • In a leaderless sect, who led Quakers in the 20th century?
  • What were the most unanticipated effects for Quakers in the 20th century?
  • What prepares and sustains Quakers into the 21st century in light of the 20th century experience?


  • Brian Stanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (2019)
  • H. Brinton and M. Bacon, Friends for 350 Years: The History of the Society of Friends Since George Fox Started the Quaker Movement (1965)
Add a Comment