Book Summary
by Bob Young


Deiros, Pablo. Protestantism in Latin America. Bethania, 1994. 196 pages.

That Deiros has written a significant book can be claimed for several reasons. Not least is that Deiros is a Latin American and is writing about Protestantism and the history and growth of Christianity in the western world-southern hemisphere from an insiders point of view. He brings to the writing task a broad historical perspective, and provides helpful statistical support for his claims, although the book is now a little outdated and in need of updating, especially in the statistical section. He writes from a larger evangelical viewpoint but is also aware of the influence and history of Catholicism in Latin America.

The book has 7 chapters. The titles provide helpful guideposts for the read, and show how Deiros develops his thoughts. The chapter titles are: Where have we come from? How have we developed? What is our profile? Where are we? Where are we going? How are we doing? What can we expect?

Deiros provides the following statistics concerning the growth of Protestantism in Latin America: 1900-50000; 1930-1 million; 1950-5 million; 1960-10 million; 1970-20 million; 1980-50 million; 2000-137 million. He predicts that growth of at least 10% per year will continue.

1. Where have we come from?
He divides the process of the ingression of Protestantism into three eras. He designates 1800-1825 as a time when problems arose in Catholicism, 1825-1850 as the time of the initial appearance of Protestantism, and 1850-1930 as a time of cultural, economic, and political dependence. He sees the close connection of Protestantism with the Latin American states as diminishing through the remainder of the twentieth century so that Protestantism is no longer subject to or dependent upon the governments.
In answering the question, "How did Protestantism come in?" he suggests factors: Protestant immigrants, Protestant Bible societies, and Protestant missionaries.

2. How have we developed?
In chapter two, Deiros cites statistics to show how the growing cities have brought a cultural milieu in which Protestantism can flourish. He identifies three diverse forms of Protestantism-historic, evangelical, and developing. He cites examples of a leveling of the nature of evangelical, protestant religion in Latin America so that distinctions formerly important have become less so. He yet sees both Anabaptist and fundamental versions of Protestantism. He identifies a historical progression in which the way in which Christ is mediated into the life of the believer has changed through the years-from the sacraments of Catholicism, to an emphasis on the word or Bible in the early stages of Protestant development, to an increasing emphasis on and reliance on the Holy Spirit in contemporary society. His view of this progression may be influenced by the fact that his own religious view aligns with the latter option.

3. What is our profile?
Again Deiros develops a progression. He says Protestants first saw themselves as defenders of the faith and preachers of truth. This view led to combative evangelism and a great zeal for the gospel. He see that through the years a more holistic gospel has developed, with an increasing emphasis on individuals, and now an eschatological emphasis.

4. Where are we?
Deiros traces the following shifts in Latin American Protestantism: to a world church rather than a regional, from sporadic growth to wide revival, from static churches to a willingness to change. He says this has occurred because of the changing face of Christianity as the center of Christianity has moved south, because of a changing world view in Latin America, and because of the relationships developed in the local congregations. The latter point is supported by increasing ministry from members, less emphasis on the clergy, and more relational supports for evangelism.

5. Where are we going?
This chapter outlines and briefly develops ten shifts: (1) From modern to postmodern, (2) From denominational to post-denominational, (3) From rural to urban, (4) From historical to charismatic, (5) From privileged to poor, (6) From foreign to indigenous, (7) From institutional to "kingdom" , (8) From introverted to militant, (9) From the minority to the majority, (10) From secular to spiritual. While one may not agree with all of the evidences or conclusions Deiros draws, his description of these shifts is worth reading, and most of these shifts must be understood and taken into consideration in developing effective mission works in Latin America.

6. How are we doing?
Deiros describes what he calls "the new religious culture" and identifies eight new needs of the churches: (1) Total evangelism-the whole gospel to the whole world for the whole person; (2) Holistic evangelism, (3) Profound discipleship, (4) Effective caring ministries, (5) Strong Christian fellowship, (6) Impacting evangelism, (7) Universal committed priesthood of believers, (8) Maximize resources.

7. What can we expect?
The final chapter is especially focused on Deiros' expectation concerning the continuing growth of the Pentecostal, charismatic branch of Protestantism. The religious background of Deiros is most easily seen in this chapter as he limits his assessment of the future exclusively to charismatic Protestantism. While the book provides some internal citation, it regretfully does not contain reference notes or a bibliography.


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Last updated March 19, 2008