I was perilously close to becoming an agnostic—at least about certain statistics. Specifically, I really didn’t know the data on Christians in China, and for a while I was not sure if anyone did. Only now, perhaps, do we have the glimmerings of an answer to one of the most pressing questions in global religion: just how many Chinese Christians are there?
This question matters enormously because of China’s vast population—now over 1.3 billion—and its emerging role as a global superpower. If Christians make up even a sizable minority within that country, that could be a political fact of huge significance.
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.